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Archive for November, 2003

A ColorJoy Sky

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Well, Today was a lovely day outside. It was in the 50’s F, sunny and slightly windy. I went to work at JoAnn at 9am and got sent home early at 1:45 because we had too many cutters to do the work. I was not upset. I do like the work, but it’s hard physically and my feet were delighted at the idea of a rest.

The early check out meant I got to run a few errands and go home and knit my legwarmers in a sunny window. I did end up going out around 4:45 or so, and I encountered a gorgeous sky… the kind of sky that makes it hard to drive safely because you want to just stare at the colors.

This picture I took from Tony’s neighborhood, facing toward Ulyana’s neighborhood. Notice the three smokestacks (Board of Water and Light, our municipal water/electric company)? That is very close to Ulyana’s house (she’s a bit to the left/south of the smokestacks). I live a little bit almost exactly to the left/south of this photo, actually about 1.3 miles from here (I measured the distance once, when I was trying to figure out how far I had ridden my bicycle).

Isn’t the sky pure ColorJoy? It was for me. I hope you enjoy looking at it as well.

My Cat, Muffett (1979-1996)

Saturday, November 29th, 2003

My mother wrote me a comment today, after seeing the picture of me blowing out the candles on my cake when I was 16. I finally told her a few years ago, that the only thing I ever wished for on a birthday cake, was a cat. If I were to be more specific, I wished most of the time for a white cat named snowball. I honestly don’t remember wishing for anything else.

Well, on April 13 of 1979 I got my wish. I had left college and moved back to the Lansing area where I had a restaurant job. I got a tiny efficiency apartment in a complex that would allow me to have a cat if I paid a special fee up front. I was delighted. I moved in to that apartment in January, and by April I had my kitty.

I went with a friend to the animal shelter. She was the type of person who would walk down the street, and cats would come out of hiding to follow her. I felt it would be good for her energy to be with me when I got my kitty.

It was a pretty depressing place, near the wastewater treatment plant. The building was old and mostly cement. They took me to the room where there were perhaps a dozen or 20 cages with kittens and cats in them. The woman let a handful of kittens out to play around on the floor. My friend and I started “trying out’ the kittens to see who had the best personality. She picked up a little scrawny black thing right away, and he climbed up on her shoulder and purred into her ear.

I found myself trying out all the “pretty”ones. There were no white ones, but there were several with tortiseshell markings who were beautiful. But my friend encouraged me to hold this tiny runt of a black furball, and he just sat on my shoulder and purred into my ear, rubbing his face against my head. He had the best personality of all of them, by far. It was clear who was going to come home with me.

I had never had a pet before, so I had spent several months reading up about how to take care of a kitten. For example, it never would have occurred to me that a kitten would have baby teeth. I was very happy to have read good information on my “baby” before jumping in head first.

I named the kitty Muffett, after my grandmother. I had been told he was a she at the shelter, but I guess at about 5 weeks you really can not tell boy and girl kitties apart. Grandma’s whole name was Illa Muffet Caldwell Bakken. Her father was a bit of a “card,” as mom would say, and he tried valiently to get his wife to name their first child Little Miss Muffet. He got as far as Muffet for a middle name. (He also talked his wife into getting married on Leap Year Day, telling friends that he would only need to remember his anniversary every 4 years.)

At the time I got Muffett, my grandmother was living in East Lansing and she was not doing very well. Her Parkinson’s disease was getting the upper hand. But she was staying at a private care place, and I asked if I could bring the kitty in to see her. They agreed.

I brought my kitty in to “Gramma Illa’s” hospital bed, and he walked around on her and purred. I told her that I had named the kitty after her. She was just waking up and not all the way with it, but tried to touch him a little. After we left, my mother went to see Gramma, and Gramma asked if I had perhaps brought in a kitten, if she remembered that right. My mother told her that yes, indeed, I had, and that I’d named the cat after Gramma.

My Gramma Illa didn’t live much longer, and the cat was a comfort at that time for me. And then Muffett got very ill, suddenly. I took him to the vet and she said that he had probably picked up a respiratory virus when he had been in the shelter. She warned me that he might not make it through the night. I was just devastated. I stayed up with him as much as I could… and somehow he made it through.

Muffett was very tiny, he had been weaned too soon. He never weighed more than about 8.5 pounds, and when he was that big he looked nearly pregnant. He usually was more like 7.5-8 pounds most of the time. For about 10 years we lived in a place where he could go outdoors during the day and come in via a cat door in a window if it was bad weather. He was a very good hunter, once bringing home a mole, ugh. But what a prize that must be for a cat, to wait for a mole to come up? Wowie. I didn’t like his presents much but hey, he was a cat, the answer to my dream after all those years.

Once during those outdoor days, he went away and didn’t come for two days. When he did come home, he was missing a bit of his tail. I speculate he got caught in someone’s garage or something. After that, we couldn’t tell when he was getting irritated as you can with most cats, when the little tip starts flicking back and forth. You only got warning when the tail went Whop! Whop! wholeheartedly. We learned to back off quickly at that point.

In 1991 I moved into the city and didn’t let Muffett out any more. However, once in 1995 he walked away, somehow getting out of the front door and wandering away. By then his eyesight was not good at all, and once he got too far he couldn’t find his way home. He found his way to a porch two doors down, where he could hide from the weather. He was gone two days again. I was sick with worry and finally put up a sign. A neighbor across the street had seen him and was feeding him, knowing he was a pet. He didn’t have a collar at that point since he never went out. I was sooo glad to get my baby back!

During Muffett’s last few years, I had a lot of days off from work. In good weather, I would make a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea, and Muffett and I would go out on the porch for breakfast. I would sit in my hammock and he would sit on my lap, purring. I would eat my breakfast and he didn’t go anywhere. He couldn’t see far enough to jump down on the porch floor so he sat contentedly on my lap. I still sometimes miss him when I’m on my hammock, even though now I have a new porch and a new hammock.

In the end, we were fortunate that Muffett had only one bad day. He had very severe kidney failure and Brian and I stayed up with him at night. Brian is very allergic to most cats but he did better with Muffett. He held Muffett long enough for me to get dressed so we could go to the vet. The vet had no good news for us and so I sadly decided to have him euthanized. That part of pet ownership had not been in any of the cat books I had read. I still have deep pain about the loss and how it all went at the end. I told Muffett I loved him, and I know he knew.

It’s funny. I didn’t know how much I anticipated seeing my furry friend each day until he was gone. I would start thinking about him as I turned onto the street where I lived. Slowly it would change, where I’d think of him as I turned into the driveway, and later when I opened the door. He was so constant for me, I had him before, during and after my difficult first long relationship/marriage, and during my single days and my engagement to Brian.

I really think that Muffett held on as long as he could, because he was making sure I would be OK. When he could tell Brian would take good care of me, he could let go. He was an old man cat by that time, 17 years old. I had to feed him baby food twice a day for the last 6 months (because he had bad teeth), and it was worth it. You do what you must, for someone you love.

When Muffett was first gone and I was grieving, I wrote a poem to express my loss. It does contain a few strong words, but it does accurately reflect my feelings at the time. I still cry when I read it.

The photo here I took in the last 3 or 4 years of Muffett’s life. I tried so many times to take pictures of him, but it was like trying to take a picture of black velvet. You need good light, and a camera’s flash is not a good light for that sort of thing. Somewhere I have a picture of him riding around on my shoulder when he was a wee thing, a terrible picture of me but I adore the pose of my kitty. If I find it I’ll have to endure embarrassment so you can see the sweet furbaby on my shoulder.

Happy Birthday to Me and ColorJoy!

Friday, November 28th, 2003

Well, today is my 45th birthday, and my weblog’s 1st birthday. I celebrated so far by getting our drains cleaned and watching Teletubbies. I love Teletubbies but since I never seem to remember to turn a TV on, I hadn’t seen them in about two years. It was good fun.

Tony called and so he’s stopping over here to show me a few hats he has knit, for a few minutes before I go to JoAnn’s for my first 8 hour shift. It will be great to see him, although I’m sorry we can’t hang out longer.

Everyone have a wonderful day. If I were not working the retail thing, I’d stay home all day. Check out the “Buy Nothing Day” page at adbusters if you are interested in an alternative way of spending today. You will have your own opinion on this, I’m sure, and it’s OK if we disagree.

This picture I believe is my 16th birthday. I got glasses when I was 14, so I was at least 15 and no older than 17. Mom loved taking pictures of us with our birthday cakes every year. We called this type of cake “chocolate dribble cake” because there was a glaze on top that dribbled down the sides. The filling was chocolate whipped cream, yum!

A Low-Key Thanksgiving Day

Thursday, November 27th, 2003

A Good Day Off
I love quiet holidays. For our holiday meal, we reheated food I got yesterday from Altu’s restaurant and I made pumpkin sauce for my soy ice cream. I totally enjoyed the feast, and I didn’t have to look at tables full of food that I can’t eat. We didn’t have to spend hours fighting holiday traffic, either. For this peace and quiet, I am very thankful indeed.

Today I didn’t even leave the house. Brian took a long walk to Scott Woods park but I need to save my feet for standing behind the cutting counter the next few crazy holiday-shopping days at JoAnn’s. I am working 8 hours Friday and 8 hours or so on Saturday.

Resting Now, Anticipating a Hectic Weekend
Last night I worked only from 6 to close, but close ended up being 11:15. I hadn’t had dinner other than a little snack before I started work, because the other times I’d closed I got out at 9:30. My feet were very clear I had made them work more than usual. I had my chicken soup and then fell asleep on the heatvent on the floor (a comfort place for me, I must be a cat) about 12:30 or so. I woke up at 7am and tripped up to the bedroom, and continued to sleep until around noon today. I really needed that!

Tomorrow (Friday) I work noon until 8pm. That is a good shift, neither opening nor closing. I can sleep in a bit before I go in. Tomorrow is my birthday so I’m trying to think of a way to wear a little crown or something for fun. We’re having a potluck in the break room tomorrow, because there will be so many customers it will be hard for any staff people to get out of the building for a meal. I’m going to bring a fava bean salad. I’ve never made one, but my friend Marlene Cameron makes a really fabulous one and I’m going to do my best to emulate her style.

A Surprise
One fly in the Thanksgiving ointment tonight. Since we were home I was doing domestic things, such as a long hot bath and then running the dishwasher. I overloaded our drain system and we had a flood in the basement, the area where I dye my yarns. Now, I dye yarns there because I can hose off the cement floor into the drain right there… but it was standing water about 3″ deep in one spot.

A few hours later it had drained, slowly, so that there was no standing water at all. I just overloaded it with my bath plus the dishwasher. I guess that is the cost of trying to stay clean!!! We have called a drain cleaner to come first thing in the morning. It was much more costly to have them come out at 8pm on a holiday, than a regular work day such as tomorrow. We survived the shock of it all.

What is it with holidays? I remember my mom’s furnace going out on Christmas morning when I was in High School. And I know when I worked at an appliance parts place, the day after Thanksgiving was the busiest day, with people bringing in burned out stove/oven elements. I think that was explained by folks who only use their stoves/ovens a few times a year.

In the end our little house-crisis worked out just fine, but finding the flood was a big surprise! I figure, though… really, in the scheme of things it’s not a terminal illness, it’s just typical maintenance for a house. On a holiday, but typical maintenance. A pain but that’s life. Tomorrow we’ll be just like new.

Leisure Time to Knit
Oh, in knitting news I did start my Sally Melville maximum legwarmers. Except of course I changed them. I’m doing them bottom to top rather than top down. I will put ribbing on top and bottom. I cast on fewer stitches and will be increasing less often. But I’m using her plan for stripes which makes it Sally’s design for sure.

I still prefer looking at Kureyon yarn in the skein over any project it can be knit in (it does a decent entrelac, though… not that I’ve done it yet). And it has far too many knots for my taste but I’m surviving. I am sure that when I’m down in the dumps because the outdoors is gray gray gray, I can wear these and cheer myself up (and maybe the neighborhood as well).

I’m knitting both legwarmers at the same time. The finished legwarmers are supposed to be 24″ tall and I’ve knit 11 inches on both pieces. That sounds like I’m nearly halfway done and I mostly only worked on them today. Whee! Of course, I won’t have a lot of time to knit them in the next two days, but I’ll keep plugging and probably will have a new project done in the next week or so. Yippee!

(Picture is one I took last winter, but the flowers and vase/pitcher look the same as the ones on my table right now, for today’s quiet holiday feast. Thanks to Brian, who knows I love carnations and brought them home for my party last Saturday.)

Tomorrow my blog is one year old. Imagine that!

Giving Thanks, for Chicken Noodle Soup (and My Marriage)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003

Wowie, what a day! I had to get my license plates for my car renewed, because my birthday is Friday and the offices aren’t open until Monday again because of the Thursday/Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If you pay late, you pay an extra $10 so I went, with a zillion other people, today. I sat there 55 minutes waiting for my number to be called. I’m glad I had my knitting with me. I’m almost ready to turn the heels on a hot fuschia pair of sox for myself.

The license plate thing made me a bit late to Foster Center but I didn’t have a lot of kids today. Some schools were already closed today and so some kids were traveling already. My three homeschool girls who usually come on Wednesday, had family coming in to town and knew they would not be coming.

When I showed up, though, I had one boy who said “Are you knitting now???” with excitement in his voice. He finished up his game in the game room and then came over. We could not find his project anywhere (I think he took it home) so he decided to start a new project.

New Yarns for CityKidz
We lucked out, one of the members of the Mid-Michigan Knitting Guild donated several bags of very nice yarns this week and some of the yarns are just perfect for wristwarmers. It’s a sort of bulky acrylic and in all sorts of kid-friendly colors. The boy decided he wanted one wristwarmer in green/white and one in black/white (it’s sort of a ragg wool look, one ply in one color and another in another color). He worked for a short while until someone came to whisk him off to home.

Then I had two sisters come in (also wristwarmers from the same donated yarns… the younger girl wants to knit for her baby sister and the older girl wants to knit for herself, at least today). Finally an 11-yr old who is dropped off by her mom’s friend (who I’ve known socially for perhaps a dozen years) came in. Later the woman who brings her, came back early and sat with us and knit for a while herself… on a baby blanket. It was very fun.

Altu’s Food for Thanksgiving
After Foster I stopped by at Altu’s restaurant briefly. Altu’s brother-in-law, Charles, works with her. Charles’ kids were there when I got there. They are both preschoolers, the youngest, a boy, is a toddler. The oldest is a girl who adores me, and the adoration is mutual. We love to dance together to whatever music there happens to be. I met her at a wedding shower about two years ago when she was small enough to not talk much, but we danced and danced with the other women in the room, and we have loved each other’s company ever since. I figure if a child adores you, maybe you did something right. It was good to get a few kiddo hugs.

I got some food from Altus to go, so that we can eat her food for Thanksgiving. This will be my only day off for a while, and I intend to keep my feet up as much as possible. If I feel like it, I may make buckwheat/cranberry muffins for breakfast. If I don’t I’ll make toaster waffles!

If I feel like it, I’ll make a pumpkin pie. If not, Altu’s food is as good as it gets. Who needs anything else? I guess I could also choose to make pumpkin sauce which I like on my soy ice cream as a sundae. That’s a little less bother than the pie, so I could do that and still get a little pumpkin into my holiday. We’ll see. I’m only doing what I feel like doing tomorrow. Sleeping in will be a priority, as will a bubble bath and some handknitting.

A Late Night at Work
I was scheduled to work at JoAnn’s from 6pm to close (was on the schedule officially till 10). Well, we got out about 11:15 because there was much to be done, both because it was busy today but also because we are preparing for the annual holiday-shopping hordes. I haven’t been one to do the shopping thing for over a dozen years now, and so it seems sort of an odd thing. I do remember it was big entertainment to me at one time. These days I’m more likely to stay clear if there is going to be a mob anywhere.

Comfort Food with My Feet Up
So anyway, I got home really really late. I was famished, and had to put some sort of fuel in me that wouldn’t keep me from going to sleep at a reasonable hour. So I cooked some excellent free-range chicken broth I get at the health food store, and I put some quick-cooking soba noodles in it, from the asian food store, and some dill weed. Boiled it 3 minutes and then put it in a bowl, drizzling good olive oil on it. Instant food! This broth has a surprisingly high protein content and that will get me through till morning. It was just the ticket for the end of a very long day.

Maximum Legwarmers
I did cast on today for a pair of Sally Melville’s “maximum legwarmers” from her Knit Stitch/knitting experience book. I finally have my two colorways of Noro Kureyon ready to go, and I got some wonderful bamboo double pointed needles with my discount at JoAnn’s (I’m quite impressed they have Clover bamboo needles, which I like for larger double points).

So I cast on, nothing else, but I’m excited that this will be my knitting project for Thanksgiving. I doubt I’ll finish, but I can get a long way on these because they are straight knit stitch in a circle. Actually I am going to rib the top and bottom, they will fit better that way, but I am using her stripe concept and her general sizing (I have to do it smaller for my legs or they’ll fall down, but am adjusting for that).

Slowly Returning Voice
My voice was almost gone this morning again, and at Foster I ended up whispering a lot. However, by the time I was done at JoAnn’s, I was able to talk a bit, in quiet tones. I really think the tide has turned there, and I’m grateful. I really miss singing.

My Gratitude
May those who celebrate it, have a pleasant and satisfying Thanksgiving. I think it is a good thing, going into this season of incredible over-consumption, to start it off with a day being grateful for some of what we already have.

I’m thankful for much, but the most significant of all is my husband, Brian. (Photo above is Brian at a jam session, at Midwest Ukefest.) Other things are also good, but my marriage is the biggest blessing I have in my life, bigger than I ever imagined I would experience. I’m grateful.

Phaedra’s Creative Costuming

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

Well, it’s cold today and I worked at two grown-up places (computer client and JoAnn) so don’t have great knitting-kid stories to tell. I’m sort of feeling blah about my day, so it’s a great day to dig through old photos I haven’t showed you yet.

The first photo is Habibi Dancers dancing at Renaissance Festival in the late summer. From left to right is Taahira, Eudora (me), Sara, Phaedra and Mahtaab. Yes, we really dance with baskets on our heads. No, they are not glued or otherwise fastened to our heads. Yes, it’s hard to learn… that is why they call it “practice.”

If you recall, Phaedra was in the photos of my party a few days ago. She was wearing a deep red outfit in a couple of the jam session shots.

Phaedra loves costuming. Many of the Habibi Dancers hire her to sew our costumes for us. She is very involved in any troupe costumes we put together, choosing fabrics and styles, and spending hours and hours of unpaid work, a labor of love.

In a “previous life,” I also sewed as my primary artform, although not costumes. I really understand what it takes to do what Phaedra does. She often says yes out of enthusiasm… and I wonder how often she ends up with too much on her plate. She’s a very quiet and private person so she often ends up with a lot going on, while others don’t necessarily notice. I know she enjoys it, but there must be times she wonders what she got herself into! Deadlines are rough when there are about 20 of us to dress.

Anyway, last year I remember thinking on my way to the Habibi holiday party, “I wonder whose name Phaedra drew this year?” She does such a nice job. Well… I was the lucky recipient that time. She made me a beautiful long purple and silver dress (pictured here from one of my performances at New Aladdin’s Restaurant) and also a two-piece combination of two-panel skirt with vest, out of the same fabric and heavily beaded with clear/silver glass beads. Breathtaking. I think she said she got the fabric on her trip to Egypt. Lucky me.

In addition to those items, she also gave me a very fun pink silk fabric wrap with tons of pink feathers, sort of like a feather boa. I keep the wrap in my classroom at Foster Center for occasional fun with my knitting kidz.

Can you see the amazing sleeves on the costume pictured here? They have beaded edging so that gives them weight, and when I move, they fly! It looks great as I dance.

By the way, this type of dress is sometimes called a beledi dress. Beledi is a dance rhythm (as is waltz, polka, tango, etc.). It can be spelled several ways since Arabic doesn’t translate easily to English… but it is always pronounced “BELL-uh-dee.”

I theorize this rhythm was one reason the type of dance I do, called “oriental dance” by many of its practitioners, is called “Belly” dance in the US and the western world. Of course, calling it that definitely helped the promoters fill auditoriums early on… but I wonder if the name of the rhythm, the one we perhaps use most often, inspired the misnomer. After all, most of our moves are in the hips, very few in the belly. And in many performance situations we are sure to cover our bellies out of respect to the culture of our audience. But “Belly Dance” sure catches the ear, doesn’t it??? It is no wonder the name has caught on.

Snow, a Lost Voice, and a Photo Shoot

Monday, November 24th, 2003

Snowy Day
Today it looked outdoors like it will for months and months now. It snowed, and kept snowing lightly much of the day. It is fluffy, and not difficult to remove from the car’s windshield. However, since it was warm just yesterday, the roads were full of black ice and the traffic was horrible for those needing to use the highways. It seems the first day of snow is always a bad day on the road. People just forget about driving slower, for some reason.

The sky was gray, the ground was white, the trees looked colorless, and the sun tried to shine through layers of clouds. This is what always makes me question whether I live in the right location, once this stuff starts.

The Voice Flew Away
In related news, last night I totally lost what I had left of my voice. It has been getting progressively weaker since late October. In fact, when we sang at the Midwest Ukefest, I had to choose songs that were in a more limited range so that I could do a good job, I had lost several notes at the top of my range already. I did have a small bit of voice during my birthday party, and I sang three songs that night, but Sunday night it was all over.

This is not terribly uncommon for me, though it has not happened this thoroughly in a good long while, maybe years. It is not painful this time, it’s just weak from allergies (to mildew, and since it has been warm and wet all month it has been too much to battle). I know that if I just listen to my body, it will heal. And since it is finally frozen outdoors, perhaps the mildew load will lighten up and I’ll get my voice back soon. I’m glad that my Foster Center class that typically meets on Thursday, will not meet this week because of Thanksgiving. I’m guessing by next week I’ll be set to go (I have a portable microphone I use in class, anyway).

So, for the first time in years, I celebrate the snow. Yippee! Come on, voice! Come on, snow!

Photo Shoot
So… this morning a photographer came to take pictures of me and my handknit socks. We had a fun time.

In fact, he walked in and noticed a block print I have on my wall (it was the basis for my purpletree design logo, see above but minus the drop shadow) and he said, “Hey, I have that print, too!” He bought it when it was on display with a bunch of other female artists’ prints, several years ago. They were being sold as a portfolio/collection of 10 prints, and he got one collection. Then he invited nine friends to meet him at a local eatery, and they each chose one print as a celebration of their friendship. How cool! And he has mine, even more cool!

Well, now we all have proof of my vanity. The porch is one of the more colorful places in our home, and so I sat on the porch with a cotton sweater and no coat, in order to have my photograph taken (actually, many photographs). Sit this way and that way, smile, move, change foot position (most of the photos made sure to show off the socks I was wearing), take more pictures. In the snow. Me… the cold-phobic. I’m definitely vain.

You know, the newspaper business is a very complex and interesting one. My grandfather had an award-winning small weekly newspaper in Minnesota from about 1950 to the 1970s, and my uncle had one there, too (both on my father’s side). My father had a PhD in Journalism. I am more aware of the odd bits about this business than most. It’s pretty hard to get all the facts right, in any article. In addition, honestly, I’ve never been a great follower of the paper that is now so interested in me (this week, anyway).

Nevertheless, I have had a wonderful time with the two folks that came to my house for this article- the reporter and the photographer. I think we clicked and had a great time. If the article reflects half of the fun we felt working together that very short while, it may turn out to be an OK article. Of course, you don’t even know if it will go to press until you have it in your hands, but I am letting go of that.

They think the article will either be next week Wednesday or the week after that. I’ll let you know when I’m sure it is for real.

The young photographer has my print! Imagine that. Makes me feel really good…

Sara’s Birthday

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

My Goddaughter, Sara, turned 18 yesterday. It is just a joy to watch her grow into a lovely young lady. She has a lot of inner enthusiasm, which many of us lose by her age. She also is a gutsy person, who knows herself pretty well. She is often willing to try new things and even to risk failure sometimes, in order to move toward a goal. I admire her for that.

Today I gave Sara a scarf I made for her on my Singer HK-100 knitting frame. I used Cha-Cha yarn I got at JoAnn fabrics. The color is perfect for her, it goes wonderfully with her hair. She liked the scarf, which I count as quite a success. She said she had been looking for a scarf lately and apparently mine stood up to the test.

Sara and I took a trip to Montreal in August 2001, and we are now planning another trip, to Vermont (we stopped there on the last trip, and that was her favorite part of the journey). This trip will probably be late July or early August, this upcoming summer. We are both very excited about going.

I am totally thrilled that an 18 year old girl would want to spend time with me! I adore this child from every pore in my body, and I am confident she knows that. What a blessing and a treat it will be to spend a week with her this summer!

A Wonderful Party

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003

Well, we had a party and it was just wonderful. It was almost really three parties, as people came and went during the 4pm – 1:30am timeframe. Great music, great food, great friends. At times it was hard to move from room to room, but that just makes for a better “scene” so to speak. I loved every minute.

Of particular note in the first picture, is my friend Altu. She is at the bottom right of the picture wearing a Michigan State shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever had a picture of her on my blog yet. She worked a very long day and I was really pleased she came by after closing the restaurant.

The cake was made for me by Barbara Abbott. She is the fiddle player in the first picture at the far left. She and Brian have played music together in the Abbott Brothers band for a good long while now.

The cake was wonderful, a moist chocolate with vanilla frosting. What a treat to have something from someone’s kitchen for a change! I appreciated the time it took to make me something by hand, that is one way to show love, indeed.

The third picture is more jamming, with Brian’s dearest friend, Dorsey, in the red hat at far left. Dorsey plays four-string tenor banjo in a style that is rarely played these days.

Dorsey is 94 years old, I think, and he was the most enthusiastic musician there last night, I think. He loves playing music so much that he exclaims “Yeah!” out loud at least once every tune. His enthusiasm is so contagious, he definitely made the party more joyful with his presence. He doesn’t get out much these days so it was a wonderful thing to have him here, for us as well as for him.

The portrait here is a closeup picture of Dorsey in a quieter moment. This photo was taken by Drew Howard. Thanks, Drew.

Next picture, more jamming. In the center of the photo in red, is Phaedra, one of the Habibi dancers who is an incredible costumer. She made me two
costumes last year (plus a hot pink feather wrap) when she drew my name in the Habibi Christmas gift exchange. It was an extravagant gift, as we are supposed to keep things low key. She knows I really value her talent, and she found this wonderful purple and silver fabric she knew I would love, so she went overboard. I really lucked out, the costumes are gorgeous.

The next photo is of our kitchen, with young Sofia spinning yarn on my spinning wheel in the background. Sofia spins on a drop spindle a lot (I taught her around Christmas 2001), but doesn’t get a chance to use a wheel very often. She enjoyed it, and did a very good job.

Sofia’s mother, my friend Ulyana who I mention often here, is there on the right peeking around the corner. My friend Sue is the one with her back to us. I met Sue years ago when she took classes from me at Foster Center. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so I was delighted that she and her hubby, Bob, came by.

You can see our “kitchen collection,” particularly my teapots, on the far left wall. The toasters and other chrome gadgets I talked about yesterday, live on the top shelf.

The last shot is of the jam session in the living room later in the party. There was also a smaller group jamming on the front porch part of the time, as it was very warm for November… around 60 degrees F.

In this last photo, with a moon on his shirt, is Art Cameron, the designer of that wonderful grass garden at MSU that I took pictures of this summer. He and his wife/my friend Marlene, are just masterful at creating gatherings of their own. (In fact, Marlene is a particularly artful cook.) We have attended several music parties at their home, and it was great to have them at ours this time.

Preparing for Friends

Friday, November 21st, 2003

Well, as you know, my philosophy is that there are many forms of art. One way of being artful is to create a space within which people you love can connect and enjoy one another. Tomorrow we are having a party. We have invited many creative people, friends and family, to come together in our small, colorful home… to make music and let friendships grow.

Brian and I are cleaning and preparing for the party together today. The stuff we are doing now is not the glamorous part. But if our home is as tidy as possible, this will make friends more comfortable. On a basic level, if people can tell they are welcome to sit on this or that chair, they will feel comfortable being here.

I’m a very messy person from day to day. I’m very visual, and I can forget something if it is not on my computer or within eyesight. That means I tend to leave things out on any surface that will attract my view. Leaving things out works for me on a work week at home alone. However, it will not make my friends comfortable. So I am doing a tidying up which is good for not only my friends, but Brian and I as well.

I’m dusty and a little tired from climbing stairs up and down all day, and I’m definitely not done yet. But I can see that if people walked in right now, the space would be inviting and we would have a good chance at the art of community.

It has been warm and sunny here today, in the lower 50’s. I had the door open for a little while to get fresh air and it was wonderful. It may drizzle tomorrow, but if it does not, folks may choose to enjoy our wonderful porch for playing music. I’m really crossing my fingers on that one. OK, it’s November in Michigan, but I can hope.

The photo here is a jam session at an artful party this March. Cynthia and Doug threw a birthday party for Bonnie. It was crowded and the house was full of music… and a young dance troupe even performed two numbers right in the entryway! I hope for the same sort of good times at our home tomorrow.

Back to the broom and washing machine!

Toaster Museum

Thursday, November 20th, 2003

Sunbeam Model T-20 ToasterWell, today was lovely. I slept in just a little, and then did some housecleaning until the reporter came to interview me. She said she would need one hour but she stayed nearly two, and we laughed a lot. I hope the piece she writes up reflects the fun we had, at least a little bit.

The reporter was fascinated with all the STUFF we have in this house. I’m not a very good housekeeper or paperwork person, but I have been fairly good at collecting fun things, particularly in past years. So our shiny-chrome kitchen museum and my teapot collection were a point of discussion, in addition to my sock collection (that sounds quite odd, doesn’t it?) and a handful of other interesting items Brian and I have picked up in our years on this earth.

I love it that you can not tell who collected what. When I met Brian, I found that he had collected one of the exact 1960’s chrome kitchen items I had collected. I was so thrilled to find someone who understood my sense of style! Now we have combined our chrome toasters/iron/egg cooker/juicer and you can’t really tell whose is whose, which delights me. Even our furniture is mostly chrome. He had a chrome kitchen set and I had chrome living room furniture. How cool is that?

The picture is a Sunbeam T-20 toaster, which is very like my Sunbeam Vista, the one toaster of five in our house that actually functions as a toaster (well, I have one single-slice toaster that also works). If you click the picture here you will be taken to the Cyber Toaster Museum. Really. They are also in the process of fundraising to make a physical Toaster Museum. I would love to go!

The long, pleasant interview made the rest of the day hectic, as I ran to Foster to teach knitting to the kidz again (I had four today, and it was relaxed and comfortable). Then I had to run to JoAnn to get my schedule followed by running back to Foster Center to teach a class on Spreadsheets and Databases. Very fun class! The people are just wonderful, and we are having a good time.

My Beloved Sara
Oh… the coolest thing happened today. My Goddaughter, Sara, called me out of the blue and said she wants to go back and visit our friend Elizabeth (in Vermont) again before she starts college in the fall. That is very OK by me! I’ve been to Elizabeth’s house three times, once with Sara (in 2001, see Marvelous Montreal travelogue if you are interested). Sara will be 18 on Saturday.

I am just delighted beyond what I can express, that an 18 year old (a very special one) would ask to spend about a week with me this summer traveling. I adore that young lady, we really connect in many ways, and a road trip with her makes me very happy. I must have done something right, for her to still find me a decent travel partner.

She doesn’t travel well in a car, so we will have to plan the trip better this time. (Last time we stopped in Niagara Falls which is 6 hours from here, but then we had a very long drive, I think 10 hours, to Elizabeth’s.) Last time I planned the trip (she was only 15) but this time I am going to ask her to help me figure out what our agenda might be. Sigh… I’m very happy about this. She has always called me “My Lynnie.” She even corrected her brother (Michael, my Godson) once when they were little, when he called me HIS Lynnie. Of all the nerve! Too cute. She shares me better these days.

Plans for Tomorrow
Tomorrow we will be doing the preparation for my sort-of-birthday party we will be holding on Saturday (birthday is the day after Thanksgiving, the 28th, and having a party that day would mean many people couldn’t make it). There is a lot to do, and I’m glad I mostly have the day off. Our house is a little too small for the size of crowd we expect. It has been pretty warm for November this week, and today was even sunny, so if we are lucky some people will choose to have a jam session on the porch. Othewise we will just cram ourselves into the living room and do our best to play tunes without fiddle bows bonking guitar players in the head, or whatever.

Off to sleep, I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow.

Another Busy Day

Wednesday, November 19th, 2003

I have had my share of busy days lately. One big reason is that I realized my classes at Foster were going to slow down almost to a halt until the second week in January, so I decided to go looking for a retail holiday job. Since last Friday I have been working the cutting counter (cutting lengths of fabric) for JoAnn Fabrics, the same store where I have been teaching knitting for two terms. So now I’ve changed my status there from contractor to employee, at least for six weeks.

It’s sort of amazing, I thought I would just sort of do the job as a constructive way of filling the slow times. I had no idea I would really love it! It is hard when there is a long line, I always want everyone taken care of instantly, but with cutting fabric you learn that you must do it properly and that sometimes takes more time than we might like it to take. Yet we have quilters come in and if I cut the fabric 1/4″ too short, they may not be able to do their project. Even 1/8″ can mess things up. So I’m learning to just do a good job for the customer and hope they appreciate the care I’m taking.

What is great about this job is that I get to interact with so many people who are doing creative projects. I’m supposed to ask people what they are making. Knowing what they are making can perhaps help me do a better job for them, and surely it makes them feel more listened to.

The stories I hear, they are wonderful… a woman today was making gifts to be auctioned at her church for charity. Another woman was making a quilt from cotton flannel for her sister who had moved to Colorado. One woman was making a little fun purse for a granddaughter, another woman was making a quilt for a grandson. A man bought a *lot* of red cotton velveteen for a new Santa suit since his last one had worn out in the lap area from kids climbing up and sliding down.

Everyone has a story and I enjoy hearing every one. It isn’t even like it takes longer to serve someone when they are talking with me, because I can let them tell me all about their project while I’m cutting their fabric.

So my feet may hurt a bit more for a month. I’m getting less sleep… I have had two days that were 12 long hours away from home because I am juggling my Foster Center work, my yarn dyeing/shipping, my computer consulting and my holiday job at JoAnn’s. Just the same, I love working, I really love working. I can deal with it for six weeks, and then things will slow down for me in January.

CityKidz Fill the Room
This afternoon I had fourteen knitters again at Foster. I’m sorry that the early kids left before I snapped this photo, but I just had to brag. The girl in the front left chair is holding her first project knit in the round. She is making a Christmas stocking and will be ready to learn how to decrease for a toe next week. After that we’ll be adding an afterthought heel.

The girl behind her is wearing her newly finished purse around her neck. The yarn was a gorgeous purple/hot pink/cobalt/emerald acrylic variegated yarn someone donated (thank you, whoever you were). She worked it on a small set of needles and took her careful time putting it together well. Today she started a water bottle holder in hot pink Encore and some sort of furry yarn, a very odd kind of chenille. That is her first knitting in the round project, too. I’ll be teaching her I-cord for the handle of this next project, as it is strong enough to hold a bottle of water without detaching from the body of the pouch that holds the water bottle.

All the kids have a story I could tell, or two or three, but I won’t tell them all today. I do love these kids and I wish you could see the ones who left early. Of the kids you see here, four walk to Foster and six are specifically dropped off just for knitting, and picked up again. The kids who left earlier are also neighborhood kids who walk. Tomorrow I will have a different group of kids who are dropped off, but the walkers often come two or three times a week. I love that!

A Smiling Sweetheart of a Toddler
At Habibi Dancers’ rehearsal tonight, one of the dancers brought her daughter who is such a cutie. She loves coming to dance with us, her mom gives her a scarf or veil to dance with while we dance, and she has a lot of fun. Well, when she got ready to go she looked so adorable in her red hat and coat I had to take a picture. She knows about pictures, as soon as she saw the camera she gave me this lovely big grin. Isn’t she just adorable?

Connecting with Tony
I finally connected with Tony, my best knitting friend, yesterday. He is still knitting different swatches with different hemp yarns. I’m learning a lot from him in that department, since I’m such a wool fan. I’m hoping he’ll pop by on Saturday (we are having a bit of a party, sort of for my birthday which is actually the day after Thanksgiving and therefore a bad day for having a party). I’m getting excited to have all sorts of good friends and musicians here for much of a day this weekend. Now if I can only find places to put the huge quantities of yarns and wool, somewhere other than the living room where they usually reside!

Project on Hold
I tried to make some handwarmers from a sort of old fashioned pattern I found but the first one turned out way too big for my little hands. I love the yarn (washable worsted-weight in hot blue-purple), so I really hate to use it for something so big I might end up selling it at my art fair on December 6. I really wanted this yarn for me. Now I need to think about it all.

Tomorrow I’m being interviewed by a newspaper reporter for a sort of profile article on me. She found me through my blog, kinda cool. I’m always afraid of being misquoted, but I told her so up front and she made me feel that she would get it right. We’ll see. It’s flattering that someone thinks me interesting enough to interview, you know???

Off to go to sleep hours and hours earlier than usual. I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. See you soon.

Mid-Michigan Knitting Guild

Tuesday, November 18th, 2003

Well, I had another jam-packed day. I got to see my friend Diane, who I somehow hadn’t seen since spring. Then I worked for a computer/Access database client for a few hours, had dinner at Altu’s restaurant, and then went to Mid-Michigan Knitting Guild.

My one big disappointment with this guild is that it is so successful that there are too many people to greet and speak with, and I always miss talking with someone I wanted to connect with. Last time I missed seeing Daphne‘s Charlotte’s Web shawl she made from Koigu yarn, and this time I did talk to her but she had not brought it along. She said she’d bring it in December. Let’s cross fingers that I’ll be able to make it that night.

I did a little trading tonight. Sarah Peasley brought me back some yarn for my “maximum legwarmers” out of Sally Melville’s knit stitch book, from Threadbear. So she gave me that package. I gave Sharon P. some knitting needles. She and I share some kids between our kids’ knitting projects and I had a few pair that could really help her out. She said one of my kids ran to her Monday (after learning from me how to knit on Saturday) and asked her if she knew “Ms. Lynn.” Of course, Sharon doesn’t know me as Ms. Lynn, so it took a minute for her to figure it out, but she finally remembered me writing about teaching one of her kids in my blog. This blog has so many purposes!

I have many thank-yous to express to guild members for donating more fun stuff for my kids. For a long time I had way too much yarn to fit in my room but now we’re using enough of it for me to almost fit in my corner. In any case, bright colors will move out of my room at lightning speed and I thank the several folks who donated again. (I do still need canvas bags, even with advertising on them, for kids to carry their knitting without losing knitting needles on the sidewalk on the way home… but yarn and needles are mostly in good supply right now.)

Oh, and the best thing tonight was that I won the door prize. I got a copy of Marcia Lewandowski’s book, “Folk Mittens.” It is just wonderful! I had not purchased it before, mostly because I don’t wear mittens much and I already had the wonderful mitten book from Anna Zilboorg. However, this book has great history and background, and many inspiring patterns. I could use some of the colorwork patterns on socks as well as mittens. I am of Norwegian descent, and so I really am excited with how many of the pieces were inspired by Norwegian knitting.

If I could pick one pair, it would be the Norwegian mitten with “lice” patterns and a fancy cuff with 8-pointed stars (lice are tiny single stitches that look like dots, sparsely and evenly distributed over the surface of the fabric). Maybe I’ll do a pair of sox inspired by these someday. Not for a while, though, I think I will be pretty jam-packed busy through the beginning of the new year. I’m not complaining but it does change how I live. I am not reading as many emails from my knitting lists, and not as many blogs either, these days.

And with that note, I definitely want to get some sleep. I need to be somewhere at 8:45am, a time when I am normally sleeping. See you tomorrow.

Alison’s Fast Florida Footies

Monday, November 17th, 2003

Alison J./Brainylady sent me a picture today of some Fast Florida Footies she made with Regia Crazy 6 ply (sportweight) yarn. Because the yarn is not as stretchy as Fixation, she cast on 54 stitches instead of the 44 I specify in my pattern. She also grafted her toes closed instead of the finish I specify in my pattern.

She said she made them to cheer up a friend, and I’d say these will probably accomplish that goal! Thank you for sharing your picture with me, Alison. You did a great job.

Oh, and thanks to Charlotte for sending a fried sage recipe I could adapt to my needs. I fried sage leaves in olive oil (the recipe called for butter) and then because I needed some protein and can’t eat the parmesan it called for, I added some soy sausage (it’s good for spicing things up but is not like other sausages), and then tossed the whole thing with some good pasta. It really did hit the spot on a day when I was gone from home about 12 hours. And it was twice as good because it was partly from our little (1 foot by 2.5 feet), meager garden.

I miss my friend Tony. He keeps calling here when I’m gone, and we have very different schedules so it’s hard for me to return his calls (he wakes up early, I get home after he typically goes to bed). When I have new knitting news I want to tell Tony first, and I’m full of little ideas these days… plus I want to show him my new batch of yarns.

Sunday I finished the pieces of my toddler sweater on the knitting machine. I finally figured out it will fit a dance friend’s little girl if just a bit too large, and the colors are perfect for her. It’s a lightish blue-turquoise with a springlike hot green (Plymouth Encore yarn). I used stripes in the body and one sleeve is turquoise, one green. It will be adorable when I get around to putting it together. There are tons of ends to work in with all the stripes, too.

I’m so busy I get home in time to sleep and then get up and go again. It’s a good busy, but I really am looking forward to a day or two where I can sleep a bit more. Of course, I could go to bed earlier when I have to get up earlier but i find it very hard to sleep when I try that. Plus, I must admit, I have a hard time letting go of my after-midnight hours. I love the middle of the night. It’s quiet, and the lamp light is emotionally much better for me than mid-day where the sun is so hidden behind clouds that we need to turn on the lights inside, as I did today.

On the plus side, I love working… and I am working a lot more. I’m happy about that.