the mouseyblog - V2.0

more rants, raves, and ruminations from the mind of mouseywerks

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Moving Day

Funny how when you ignore the messages that your blog has exceeded its 10MB space and you figure out how to force it to keep accepting posts? It's only a matter of time until it throws a hissy-fit and no matter what you do all it will say is "No-no-no-you-can't-make-me-I'm-not-gonna!!!!!" and then you find yourself deleting eight months worth of posts and pictures just to save the previous two years of work.


Dear Jay was worried that we'd lose our Big Camping Quadrilogy. No, Dear, it's just here now.


Fortunately I'd saved the text and photos on the trusty ol' laptop so I was able to resurrect what I deleted and put it on the mouseyblog version 2.0.




So, here they are.




December 30, 2007


Big Camping, Part Four


It was about 8:30 am, and the rhythmic roar of the wind through the trees and crashing of the waves had been joined by the pitter-patter of raindrops. Earlier that week, they’d forecast thunderstorms Sunday and Monday, and sun for the rest of the week. So, of course, since it was Wednesday, it was raining. I don’t know why it always ends up raining when we camp. It may be a conspiracy; all those raindrops hanging around inside a cloud spot that bright pink nylon, leap into the sky, and take aim at our tent, laughing maniacally all the way to earth. It’s like they can’t resist.


I got enough of a fire going to heat water for hot cider. Dear Jay stayed in the tent. But by mid-morning the wind was so strong that we decided it was time to take a little day trip. So we zipped up the campsite and headed off to Bailey’s Harbor, because you can’t have a DD named Bailey without going to a town with her name in it, ya know?


So we drove east and we saw a lot of farms – yes, farms in the middle of Door County.  When you’re at ground level and halfway between tourist central Fish Creek (on the Green Bay side of the peninsula) and Bailey’s Harbor (on the Lake Michigan side), you can’t see either bodies of water and it looks like you’re anywhere in Wisconsin, except the street signs are wood and painted pea green and have names like “Little Marsh Road” and “Cattle Lane” router-ed into them. The farther east we drove, the harder it rained. By the time we got to Bailey’s Harbor it was coming down steadily, but not enough to dissuade us.


The main drag in BH isn’t very long, and we drove the length of it and back before Dear Jay saw a road off to the right. “Let’s see what’s down that road,” he suggested. I was a little dubious but thought “what the heck”. As we rounded the corner, I saw a sign for the Cana Island Lighthouse. “Did you know there was a lighthouse out here?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “I just picked the road on a whim.”


Well, the lure of a real-honest-to-God lighthouse was more than we could stand, so we followed the signs along the twists and turns of Highway Q and Cana Island Road, past lanes marked “Private”, and eventually ended up at a dead end with “No Parking” signs along the side. So we slotted the car in amongst the twenty or so others that were parked there and joined the other hardy souls in the rain.


We dodged rocks and puddles and made our way across the causeway to the island. And we were rewarded by a classic white lighthouse nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan. I was glad my silver hooded jacket was waterproof. My camera survived because I kept it tucked up my sleeve.


it was raining.

Well, not the entire time.  I did take some pictures.


Then we headed back to BH for lunch and souvenir hunting.


There weren’t many restaurants to choose from, so Dear Jay used his spidey-sense again and picked one called Weisgerber’s. His instincts were spot-on. You know a little diner is good when the local utilities truck is parked in the lot, and the delicious aroma of burgers permeates the air even when it’s raining steadily. It didn’t take long for us to get on the outside of some hot and hearty chicken dumpling soup, and then we smacked our lips over our perch baskets. $6.50 for a perch basket, people! Six pieces of freshly fried perch, a mound of fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce, a slice of lemon and even a hunk of rye bread with real butter on it. Heaven! No wonder this place has been frying perch since 1926.


Two happy tummies then searched out BH souvenirs. It took my spidey-sense to find them, though; that and disappointing a nice lady in her custom clothing shop when I asked for help and then left without buying anything. (Maybe since I don’t think the price of a sweatshirt should have three digits in front of the decimal point.) We should have known; like just about every small town there’s one place everyone goes when they need to buy something. No, not Wally-world; the hardware store. In this case, Nelson’s True Value Hardware store. We found a BH t-shirt for DD, a BH sweatshirt for Dear Jay, and I got a t-shirt that said “Camp Door County” with a serene campsite depicted on it. It was perfect, as it did triple-duty: as an article of clothing, as a souvenir, and as an inside joke, the last because that day our campsite had been anything but serene!


We left BH and headed back across the peninsula to Egg Harbor, because while eating lunch we’d looked through one of those free tourist guides and Dear Jay had seen an ad for a gift shop called “Made In Britain”. Yeah, in Door County. I guess Illinois-ans (Illinois-ites? Illini?) don’t care if their souvenirs are not from the place they actually visited… What we found was a really neat shop chock-full of all the cool stuff we loved about England, right down to Guinness and Strongbow bar towels, real imperial pint pub glasses, all sorts of things with the Tube map imprinted on them, and imported food – tea, biscuits, chocolate digestives, Crunchie bars, and some scrummy sticky toffee sauce that you could sample with a pretzel stick and seriously threatened to become addictive.


We managed to avoid temptation and returned to our campsite at about 3:30 pm. Dear Jay climbed into the tent to try to take a nap, but by this time the wind was blowing at a steady 25 mph with gusts up to 40, and the tent wall was blown concave and lying mostly on his side of the air mattress. We realized that there was no way we were going to be able to sleep in the tent that night. We also realized that there was no way we were going to be able to sleep in our small car, either. The fact that a tree on our campsite had blown down while we were in BH only reinforced our decision to bail.


good thing it didn

It was so windy I couldn’t even stand still to take this picture.


The wind and the waves were so loud that we had to shout to hear each other as we took the tent and gazebo down and stowed everything in the car. We left the rest of our firewood for the folks at a neighboring campsite (how their tent was staying upright, we never did find out; they weren’t there when we left) and headed south.


We’d passed Sturgeon Bay when I blurted “I don’t want to go home. We still have two days of vacation left, and if we just go home it will feel like it’s all over. Let’s get a hotel room in Green Bay. We can take hot showers and go out for dinner and watch a movie on cable TV.” I think I’d convinced Dear Jay when I said “hot showers”. We checked in to our “regular” hotel (the cheapest in town) and, freshly scrubbed and warm for the first time since lunch, headed down to Sammy’s.


Then we plopped our pizza-stuffed selves (nothing like happy tummy twice in one day) onto the giant king-sized bed and searched for a movie on cable. We ended up watching Godzilla, the 2000 version with Matthew Broderick – you know, the one that is so incredibly bad that it’s actually entertaining, kind of like the way that watching a beauty-pageant contestant tripping on her dress and tumbling down the stairs on live TV is entertaining. Then we fell asleep in a room where the walls weren’t going whappity-whappity-whappity. It was lovely.


The next morning we woke up late, ate the free continental breakfast, and stopped at the Cheapo Depot where we used to work. We talked with Jeff, one of our former assistant managers, and then headed home.


We promised each other that next time we’d rent a camper. One with walls that don’t go whappity-whappity-whappity.


I’m sure that as long as it isn’t bright pink, the weather will be perfect.




November 25, 2007


Big Camping, Part Three


The sound of rattling crockery was enough to wake me sometime in the wee dark hours of Tuesday morning. Not enough to wake Dear Jay, not even enough to make me peek outside the tent, but enough for me to listen, silently, for a minute or two. I knew it wasn’t a bear, or a snake, or Bigfoot.  It was just the raccoons taking care of our leftovers.


When we did emerge from our little pink cocoon later that morning, we found that although Door County raccoons may be smart enough to unzip a tent, they obviously were never taught how to put things back where they found them. You’d think after we so very kindly left them a midnight snack – and Franco-American at that, not some cheap store brand tinned pasta – they would at least have the decency to put the empty mugs back on the rock. But no-o-o-o-o, they had to leave them scattered all over the place. Maybe they were mad because we’d hung our garbage bag in a tree.  Maybe they were only emulating those drunken Bear fan campers. Who knows; I wasn’t about to ask – the raccoons or the Bear fans. But at least it made doing the dishes a whole lot easier!


Breakfast was another coup de grâce: pancakes. And not the frozen-reheat-in-the-microwave kind, but real cooked-over-an-open-flame pancakes. I’d found the perfect thing at the grocery store; you just added ⅔ of a cup of water to the little bottle of pancake mix, screwed the cover back on, and shook the thing until you had batter. Pour into a well-buttered frying pan, pray the wind doesn’t blow too many ashes into it, and flip when the edges firm up.  Slide off onto a plate and douse liberally with syrup. Watch Dear Jay’s eyes light up as the delicious cakes take the express route to his tummy. Then impress him even more when you get the pan clean in less than a minute. And it was not a non-stick pan, either.


Then it was off to the showers. For the uninitiated, bathing at a state park in October is an eye-opening experience. The good part is that there are indoor showers with hot and cold running water. The bad part is that there are indoor showers with hot and cold running water. First you load up everything into a backpack and hike down to the shower building. Then you hope no one else is in there. (Yes. I hated showering after gym class. How could you tell?) Next you enter the little shower stall and put your backpack on the shelf and try to ignore the spiders. Then you remove your clothes and cuss really loudly when you realize you didn’t bring shower shoes or flip-flops and the floor is tile that’s colder than a polar bear’s behind.  Next you push the button on the wall, and cuss even louder when the water that sprays out is as cold as the floor.  After shivering for a minute or two, the water shuts off automatically and you have to push the button again. Three pushes later, you realize that “hot and cold running water” means exactly that: you never know if the water is going to run hot or cold. So you take a deep breath and shower with speed to rival an army recruit going through basic training, until you hear someone enter the building and use the toilet. Then you’re tempted to offer the Good Samaritan twenty bucks to stand there and flush every three minutes, since apparently that’s the only way to ensure the shower water runs consistently hot.


On the way back from the showers, I met one of the park natives.  He was slithering along the side of the road in the same direction that I was walking. I stopped in my tracks and stared down at him. (At least I think it was a him. I wasn’t about to pick him up and check, and I wouldn’t be able to tell a he snake from a she snake anyway.) He stopped and swiveled his head around to look up at me.  I said (out loud, because I don’t think snakes can read minds) “Um, you go your way, and I’ll go mine. Okay?” A moment later, he started slithering off to the right, and I took a left towards our campsite, trying to shake off the creeps.


Freshly scrubbed and wider awake than we’d been in years, we decided to explore the park. First up was the Eagle Tower, a 75-foot structure built in the 1930’s and 250 feet above Green Bay.



Dang.  That's tall.


The view was spectacular, once us old geezers caught our breath from the climb. The fall colors were at their peak, and whitecaps frosted the blue water.



Looking south.  Wow.


We joked with the other folks that had climbed to the top; the most frequent question “Why in the world did we climb all the way up this thing?” we answered with “Because it was there!”


Ignore the gray hair, please

It's much easier going down the stairs.  Even with a headwind.


We stopped on the drive back our campsite so Dear Jay could take some pictures of the Niagara Escarpment. It wasn’t as big a deal to me – as a kid my cousins, sisters, friends and I had played on a different section of it that ran behind my grandparents’ cottage – but he hadn’t known it was the same ridge of stone that Niagara Falls goes over. Them’s some real old rocks. Then we went down to another campground in the park where there was a breakwater and a great view across an inlet of the bay towards Fish Creek to take even more pictures. It was windy and beautiful.


We ate a late lunch back at our campsite, then decided to go down to Sturgeon Bay to look for a new camping radio to replace the one that had gone to the great electronic graveyard in the sky the night before.  Sturgeon Bay is a pretty cool place, and we saw pretty much all of it as we drove around looking for a Radio Shack. I saw one yarn store, then two, then three (!) …but no Radio Shack. It was then that I made Jay a bet: if we found a Radio Shack, I’d get to go to a yarn store. I mean what riches!  Sturgeon Bay has a population of about 9,500, and it has three yarn stores.  If there was a yarn store for every 3,166 people in Madison, that would equal over 70 yarn stores. Holy cow. You wouldn’t be able to swing a dead cat in Madison without hitting a yarn store… that is, if you were the type of person that didn’t get totally grossed out by hurling feline corpses around willy-nilly.


We drove and drove and drove and finally when we were on the far southern edge of town we saw an Ace Hardware, and next to the entrance was a Radio Shack sign. Suffice it to say, I was doing the yarn-acquisition-happy-dance while Dear Jay was purchasing his new radio. Although it took two stops to get yarn; the first store was “downtown” and snooty and carried yarn I could have purchased back home. We knocked around the main drag for a bit, shooting pictures of the harbor and the boats and the Door County Maritime Museum, which we will have to come back and check out someday in the future. Then we found the second shop, Apple Hollow Farm. I scored some of their house yarn, a lovely merino-mohair blend in light blue, and didn’t even mind that it was hand-spun for them all the way down in Monroe (!). It was souvenir yarn, you know, the kind that will probably never be knit up but only taken out once in a while to pet and coo over as we reminisce over the great time we had in Door County, when we’re old and have forgotten all the nasty parts.


When we got back to the campsite, it was getting dark and the wind had picked up even more. Fortunately we’d taken advantage of the Dollar Menu at Mickey D’s in Sturgeon Bay so, stuffed on double cheeseburgers and fries, we huddled over the campfire for only an hour or so before deciding to retire to the little pink cocoon and read by flashlight. Despite the lack of luxury, the vacation was going great. We were relaxed and enjoying ourselves. Between the blankets and the sleeping bags and the fleece pullovers we were nice and toasty warm.


We were asleep by 10:45 pm, lulled there by the rhythmic roar of wind through the trees and crashing of waves.




October 27, 2007


Big Camping, Part Two


Have you ever awakened at oh-dark-hundred on a day that you didn't have to get up that early to go to work and you feel like you've been sleeping on a rock all night? And you get up and turn on the flashlight and realize that your dear sweet other half has tossed and turned so much that you are now laying flat dab on a naked, uninflated air mattress and although the sun hasn't come up yet it feels like it's 85°F out and it is the second week in October?


Ask me how I know what that is like. And don’t say you weren’t prepared for my answer.


Yeah.  We were up before the sun.  It was too-dark-to-see-the-clock am.  And the tent was stifling.


Dear Jay made the most of the situation by walking down to the shore (now that we could tell where it was) with his cameras to catch the sunrise. Quite amazing, that guy. I was too busy trying to get the feeling back in my extremities. The camp chair caught my falling form and I think I stayed there until I could see my hand in front of my face.


Then it was breakfast time.  We’d packed all of our food in the trunk of the car, and then backed in to the campsite so the trunk could be our “pantry”. It was the only way I could think of to keep it safe from the raccoons, which the park literature said were extremely bright and innovative when it comes to stealing your food, rummaging through your trash, and generally making a racket in the middle of the night loud enough to rival a drunken Bears’ fan.


I impressed Dear Jay by setting a fire, lighting the fire, stoking the fire, putting water in a teakettle, boiling said water over the fire, and using said boiling water to make instant oatmeal.  He Ate Breakfast, people.  This usually only happens on the inside of a Mickey D’s or other egg-themed restaurants, on Sunday, at about fifteen-minutes-until-lunch-changeover.  But my Dear Jay ate all of his oatmeal and I washed the dishes on a rock and then we had time to play.  Hee-hee, all day.  It was sunny and still pretty warm, especially in the sun, but it beat pushing copiers around or helping old fogies with their pen refills.


So, armed with two cameras, a map of the park trails, extra batteries, his tripod, his compass, and his big black bag to carry it all, Dear Jay set out on a photo-cabenture.  I stayed back at the campsite. I still felt stiff and achy and I had books and knitting and a fire to play with.


So what did I do?  I blew up the air mattress.  One lungful of air at a time.  I was not going to sleep on a rock one more night. And it’s not work if you choose to do it, is it?


Lunch was hot dogs over an open flame.  Yeah, we were hitting all of the camping clichés with gusto.  There’s just something about eating a hot dog in the open air… they don’t taste the same inside, made in a microwave or boiled on the stove and eaten at the dining room table. I believe hot dogs were made to be stuck on a stick and thrust over an open flame, preferably a flame produced by a big old hunk of burning tree (real tree, not some simulation with propane flames coming up through it), then put in a bun and coated with ketchup and mustard and eaten with fingers that might have some campfire schmutz on them. And washed down with something cold out of a can that still has ice and water from the cooler dripping off it.  Any other way, and it’s just meat processor floor sweepings in a tube.


That afternoon we heralded the arrival of a breeze!  And then another!  It started to cool off, too, so Dear Jay took a nap in the tent and I read for a couple of hours. There might have been some picture taking, too, and some going in to Fish Creek for more firewood, and general knocking around the area.  We got back in time for sunset.  This is important, because the Door County Sunsets are one of the things the local Visitors’ Bureau tout as Breathtaking and Essential to your Door County Experience.  And we got a good one.  Dear Jay got lots of pictures. I just sat and enjoyed.


Nice, huh?

Nice, huh?


When it was dinner time we decided to go cheap and heat Spaghetti-os in the can and eat them out of mugs.  We found out that even with Dear Jay’s new Coleman Lantern with the Super Cool Compact Fluorescent Bulb, it’s really hard to pour hot Spaghetti-os out of a can into a mug in the dark.  Because we found out another Rule of Camping in October: When the sun goes down it gets dark.  Quickly.


We got lazy and left the dirty mugs out by the campfire, crawled into bed, and fell asleep on the oh-so-comfy-and-now-blanket-covered-air-mattress.  It was an awesome day.


To Be Continued… again.




October 20, 2007


Big Camping, Part One


Oh. My. Gaw…


Has it really been over two months?  Yes, it has.  Bad, bad blogger.  Fifty lashes with a wet ribbon cable.  You slacker, you.


But now I’m back.  Rested, relaxed, and ready to write.  Another fiscal year end under my belt; the biggest in the company’s history.  And I did most of it by myself… despite about three major meltdowns in a ten-minute-period on Thursday, September 27th, during which I may or may not have shouted every swear word I know (and some I made up on the spot) in front of my boss, who was himself ready to throw his cordless phone handset across the warehouse with such velocity that it could have traveled the entire seventy yards and still shattered upon impact.  He was infuriated about the same thing I was, which is probably why I still have a job.  Thank God October is quiet enough to take a week off.


So we did, Jay and I.  We decided to get all in Mother Nature’s face and dare her to do her worst.  We decided to go tent camping.  In north-eastern Wisconsin.  In October.


Now, we’ve camped before.  We have a tent and an air mattress and those cool fold-able chairs that make you feel like you’re sitting in a hole, but with a really neat-o cupholder on the armrest.  We’ve camped in all types of weather; so hot you sleep naked (and you learn to put a sheet over the air mattress so you don’t stick to the plastic), so cold you use every blanket you own, so rainy you determine which clothes to wear by choosing the ones that drip the least.  We’ve even set a speed record for taking down a tent when a tornado was spotted nearby.  So, armed with the new toys we’d purchased back in September when the forecast was for “October weather” which, as all of us Sconnies know, can be anything from 90°F in the shade to “Dammit, where’d I put the snow scraper?” we set off for the legendary Door County, Vacation Wonderland Of Illinois Residents And Those Of Us Who Remember It Back In The Day.


Miracle of miracles, everything fit in the car and we were actually en route before the sun set on Sunday.  The Packer traffic wasn’t too bad even though we were passing Green Bay a mere two hours before kickoff, although I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more people (read: no one else) with their windows rolled down singing “The Bears Still Suck” at the top of their lungs along with me.  (Wusses!)  We found a supermarket on a hunch left turn on the north edge of Sturgeon Bay (my radar still works!) and eventually made it to Fish Creek.  We wove our way through the Pumpkin-fest-enjoying tourists and found the entrance to Peninsula State Park in time to drive along the narrow, tree-lined, twisty roads in the pitch black darkness (no street lights!) to our site, get the tent set up, start a fire, and tune in the game.  Because, ya know, priorities is priorities and this was the Packers-Bears game, people.  And it was 85°F in the shade dark of night and there were legions of Bears fans occupying many of the other sites in the park who whooped in delight every time dose bearse done somepin’ good.  It couldn’t ruin our mood, because we were Camping, and woo-hoo we didn’t have to go to work tomorrow and we didn’t have to get up early tomorrow and we could do whatever we wanted tomorrow la-la-la-la la-la-la-la!


It was the beginning of our Big Camping Cabenture.  Not a swear word or a cordless phone handset in sight.  Okay, there might have been a few swear words when the Packers lost.  Mother Nature was behaving and sending the thunderstorms north of us.  And we had the campsite reserved until Friday afternoon.


The week was going to be a breeze.



Me, thinking it would be nice if it cooled off just a little.


To Be Continued…




August 11, 2007


Orange Barrel Boogie


Remember that story where a woman starts out wanting to go to the store, but she keeps getting distracted? You know the one… while searching for her keys she finds a dirty mug, takes it into the kitchen, sees some bills that need paying, etc. etc. etc. until she’s replaced the garbage disposal, built a garden shed, and re-landscaped the back forty. This morning I felt like I was living that story.


It started out like a typical Saturday… two extra hours of sleep, load the laptop and knitting into the car (oh, yeah, and Dear Jay too, since I was driving him to work) and doing the Orange Barrel Boogie. And I gotta admit, this particular Wisconsin Two-Step (which is kind of like the Texas Two-Step, only at much slower speeds and with a liberal coating of hot asphalt) is getting really, really old. There’s only so much of this


orange barrel boogie


that one person can take.


This could be a photograph of any of the streets in my neighborhood. Because they are all under construction of one sort or another. It’s like an International Orange Barrel Convention out there. I almost expect to wake up in the middle of the night to use the toilet and find an orange barrel and a sign instructing me that I need to take a detour through the kitchen… of the apartment three doors down.


So I decided that while I was at the library I’d blog-rant about road construction. But I didn’t have my camera cable along to upload the picture, so I decided to go home.


What I didn’t know was that was not going to be the first detour of the day.


So I schlepped everything upstairs and grabbed an iced tea. As I was closing the fridge door, I remembered that in the crisper drawer were the yellow beans we bought last weekend when we went to the Farmer’s Market; the beans I really needed to get into the freezer before they got all green and fuzzy. Trust me; I was not going to let something go rotten that I spent a whole Saturday morning tramping around the Square and paying for parking to get, because apparently no grocers in this city think anyone could possibly want a bag of just. yellow. beans. You can get all of the frozen vegetables nobody eats, like beets, okra, and heck, even frozen succotash.  But no yellow beans.  So these babies were gonna get preserved for Thanksgiving dinner, or things were gonna get ugly over the pumpkin pie.


So out came the big pot, and the big steel mixing bowl for the ice water, and the freezer bags.  Beans got washed and the stems snapped off, and as I was digging around looking for something to remove the beans from the boiling water after their blanching I remembered that I had some boxes of kitchen stuff my mom and aunt had packed up when my family cleaned out my late grandmother’s house, and maybe there was a metal colander in one of those boxes.


Of course that meant a trek down two stories to the storage locker. When I opened the door I got to see all of the boxes that Dear Jay had stuffed in there since the last time I’d visited. The boxes that were haphazardly stacked with a laser printer on top of them. The boxes I’d have to remove to get to what I was looking for.


After a not-so-brief organization of the storage locker it was back upstairs to blanch, cool, and pack the beans. I still didn’t have a colander, so I made do with a slotted spoon and a pair of barbeque tongs. With the beans nestled away in the freezer, I turned to the boxes to see what other treasures lay within.


It had been a couple of years, so I really didn’t remember what of my late grandmother’s things I had asked to have. And I hadn’t actually been eager to go through those boxes until now. So even though the wrappings were newspaper and bubble wrap, it was a bit like Christmas to open these little packages. And what cool stuff I found! Not just the things I eventually remembered asking for, like the cut glass creamer and sugar set, or the potato ricer, or even the double boiler.


There were four books: a little hard-bound Nicholas Nickelby, a Moby Dick, and two books by Emil Ludwig written about and shortly after World War One. There were three decks of playing cards that I remember using in endless games of Blackjack with my sisters. There were two great pieces of pottery that always sat on the end table in Grandma’s family room. And there was a Kingsbridge Revolving Trey (that’s how it’s spelled on the box) from Samba-Bolivia for Canasta. So, now you know what that means… I’m going to have to learn how to play canasta. (And oh-my-gawd I just looked it up, and this may be harder than I thought!)


Of course I couldn’t just put all this cool stuff back into the boxes and truck it back downstairs. I had to put it away. This, of course, involved re-arranging the bookshelves, clearing off part of a shelf in our pantry (and throwing away four boxes of jell-o and some dried chilies that had been there since the Clinton Administration), and changing the sheets on our bed. (I just changed the sheets because they needed to be changed and, hey, I was in the bedroom, ya know?)


So now almost four hours had passed and I still hadn’t blogged, or even gone online, or knit one single stitch (which are my usual Saturday morning activities) and I’d lost track of how many detours I’d taken. And it was time to take Dear Jay his lunch so he could have a break from all of the soccer moms fighting over the last protractor.


Then there was knitting. And a preseason Packer game. And now I’m finally getting around to blogging.


Would anyone like an orange barrel?




June 30, 2007


Coming Up For Air


Ya know, it’s really hard to find the time to blog when you’re hard at work in a warehouse because it’s the end of the month of June and I don’t know why June is so busy but we had thirteen trucks instead of the usual five and that meant we delivered a whole whacking lot of copiers the majority of which were assembled and set up the day before delivery which meant a lot of staying late to wait for as many as you could and early mornings to process the rest of them and not to mention the vast number of old machines we picked up that had to be checked and pushed over to the return area and look here’s more orders that have to be linked and toner that has to be pulled and whoops one of the machines ended up on its side so we have to rob and steal to find parts and pieces to fix it because the sales rep promised we’d deliver this week and guess what you can’t load a three-thousand-pound print engine onto a truck with a lift gate that’s only rated for two thousand five hundred pounds so we’re gonna have to figure out what to do and what are all these red admiral butterflies doing in the warehouse and why are they flying straight at my head when I’m trying to process seventeen returns in one day and update maps every fifteen minutes or so it seems and crap I forgot that we were getting DQ blizzards Thursday and I was so not happy that they apparently forgot me or whatever because it was 4:30 pm on Thursday and I was supposed to get a blizzard three hours earlier and I was so pissed off when I realized that there was no blizzard in the breakroom freezer for me that I finished what I was doing and threw my steel-toes in my desk drawer and stomped to my car and cranked the radio and gunned the motor to the point that if it would have been hotter I would have burned rubber but apparently I am too much of a white 40-something woman to know exactly how to peal out so I had to be satisfied with scaring the bejeezus out of one of the warehouse guys who was leaving at the same time because there is only so much you can take when there’s eighty hours of work to do and only forty to do it in and you end up working over seven hours of overtime in a warehouse that is so hot that when you take a bathroom break the sweat on your butt makes it stick to the toilet seat so it follows you when you get up and when the seal finally breaks it falls back down with a loud “whack” that you swear everyone in the building can hear.


But I survived.


And went home Friday and slept for an hour, then went out and stuffed my face with Famous Dave’s barbeque ribs and deelish deep-fried catfish fingers and corn-on-the-cob and french fries and cornbread muffins and drunken apples, and then came home and fell asleep again.


Ah, Saturday.  It’s nice to have the time to do the important stuff.


Like breathe.




June 9, 2007


In Which The Author Sits On Her Sofa And Pets Some Yarn.


Oh, I am in so much trouble with myself.


Have you ever done something so impulsive-fun-decadent-indulgent that your inner momma comes out and starts admonishing you? Now, dear, what were you thinking? You know you could have been more sensible, more frugal, more reserved. But no, you went all out. You weren’t thinking, were you? I knew it. What am I going to do with you?


Well… I perused the collections of every LYS and big box craft store in town. Okay, technically they weren’t all in Madison. One was out of town… maybe two… three at the most. Aw, heck, some were in the suburbs. (Just don’t tell them I called them suburbs. They get a little tetchy about their city-ness.) I also surfed several internet yarn stores. Finally I said “screw the budget” and (deep breath) bought some yarn.


A bit of background is in order here. I was out at my Mom and Dad’s for a bit over Memorial Day weekend, checking on the status of their bumper crop of poison ivy, the same poison ivy I spent several sweaty hours murdering as a belated Mother’s Day gift. (Yeah, I know. Most Moms get flowers or candy or dinners out. My Mom gets a forty-one-year-old daughter wielding Agent Orange.) Some of it was dead, but the patches I missed were thriving, and some new sprouts had even grown where I swear I had soaked the earth with whatever poison Dad had mixed in the sprayer. (He’s the one that said it was Agent Orange. I just gave him a look and held my breath for the next half-hour.)


Anyway, while Mom was fixing lunch she was talking about their upcoming trip to Hawaii. She, being the good German-American Midwesterner that she is, and not knowing a heck of a lot about the weather in Hawaii in October, having never been there before, was telling me that she hadn’t a clue what to wear. She was worried that it might be a bit chilly at night, what with the ocean being so close and all. And I, knowing a heck of a lot less about the weather in Hawaii in October, having never been there before either, couldn’t really help her, other than hold my tongue lest she be upset upon realizing how green with envy I was.


The kicker was when she said she might like a shawl. Now, I have known this woman all my life, and she’s not really the shawl type. She’s too busy, too active, too common-sense. Cardigans, yes. Sweatshirts, definitely. But a shawl? You can never get those things to drape right, and on the off chance that the planets align and your horoscope is perfect and the fates allow them to drape just so, they Never Stay Put.


Mom pulled out a catalog from a ladies’ clothing boutique and pointed out what she liked. “I thought you could make me something like that,” she said.


I looked at it closer. “Yeah, I could, Mom,” I replied. “Something like that would be dead easy. As long as you don’t want the fringe.”


It was a 20” x 60” rectangle, in garter stitch, of aqua/lime/white railroad ribbon yarn. And she didn’t want fringe, which was good, because that stuff always seems to end up getting dragged through the marinara sauce or slammed in the car door or blown in your face. Inhaling fringe up one’s nose is not a happy sensation.


But I knew one thing she didn’t. Because I’d succumbed to peer pressure back in 2004, and knit myself a triangular shawl out of Eros, and it was torture. The “yarn” was as slippery as ice, as annoying as a swarm of ravenous mosquitoes and as warm and comfortable as a ball of baling twine. If I was going to spend my time and effort on something to grace her shoulders on a cool, tropical night (or, since we’re talking Hawaii, in an overly air-conditioned building), it was emphatically not going to be made out of railroad-ribbon yarn.


So off I went, considering all stitch patterns and combinations of fiber and style of yarn, from carrying mohair with the ladder yarn to bamboo to cotton/nylon ribbon to oh-holy-mother-this-is-perfect-but-it’s-purple-rust-and-black!


Fast-forward to today, and me, with my usual go-‘round-the-shops-hoping-something-will-jump-into-my-basket shopping style. I’m at the last LYS in town, the one on the super-snooty street near the Trader Joe’s, the one I swore I would not go to. And a nearly-perfect yarn is there. Except it costs $9.00 a ball, and will take ten balls to make a shawl. And that, my friends, is a whole honkin’ lot more than I wanted to spend. So we go to Plan Q, having already run through 61.538% of the alphabet... Plan Q being a variant of all the preceding plans, which were “well, let’s see what else they have”.


But this time, the plan bore fruit. With an assist from the very nice Liz, who showed me a wrap she’d knit from a variegated wool yarn, I made my choice. And so I have finally achieved the magical combination of lightweight, soft-not-scratchy, keeps-off-the-chill, aqua-green-white, and pattern.


The pattern I most likely will follow (depending on how the yarn and pattern get along, which we knitters know can be as uncomfortable as when your cousin Buford set you up on that blind date with his buddy the cattle-gelder) will be the lacy wrap on page 27 of the Spring/Summer ’07 issue of KnitSimple, shown here on the far right. And I will knit it out of Misti Alpaca 100% baby alpaca worsted, hand dyed, color number EZ10.  Twenty bucks per 218-yard, 100-gram hank. I got three. Only two-thirds of what the nearly-perfect yarn would have cost, and I should have at least 100 yards extra to make a little something decadent for myself. Heh. Heh. Heh.


When I think about it, I’m not really spending that much. Mom had come over two weeks earlier and given me a bunch of T-shirts and tank tops, at least twelve in all. (She’d gone on a shopping spree and needed to free up closet space.) So I figure that by giving me all those clothes, she saved me well over $60; money I would have spent anyway… so the least I can do to thank her is to give her $60 worth of shawl.


Oh, I just wound the first hank into a center-pull ball. I am in lurve. Crack Kid Silk Haze got nothin’ on Misti Alpaca. Forgive me if I mix my ethnicities, but… Mamma Mia. It’s like buttah.


Oh great. Here’s that voice again. Now, dear, what were you thinking? You know you could have been more sensible, more frugal, more reserved. But no, you went all out. You weren’t thinking, were you? I knew it. What am I going to do with you?


I need to cast on now. Just to shut her up.



(Apologies to all readers who may have cousins named Buford who set them up on blind dates with cattle-gelders. No insult was intended. Apologies also to makers and purveyors of baling twine – I hear that stuff softens up nicely when you wash it.)




May 28, 2007


Okay, I know a top ten list is one of the top ten blogger’s cheat posts (memes being another), but I couldn’t resist.  Plus, since this is allegedly a knitblog (and probably the knitblog with the least amount of knitting content on the whole world wide web, at an approximate amount of .28541 per cent) I suppose that every now and again I should post something to do with knitting.


So, for your reading pleasure, here is:


You know you’re just a little too obsessed with knitting when…


10.  Your CD tray on your computer won’t open, so you use a size 0000 needle to activate the manual release


9.     The paper clips in your house have never been near a sheet of paper because they’re being used as stitch markers


8.     You consider subscribing to magazines just to get the cool tote bags so you can use them for knitting totes


7.     Your mom subscribes to magazines just to get the cool tote bags and gives them to you to use for knitting totes


6.     You have stirred cream and/or sugar into your coffee using a spare aluminum needle


5.     Your better half pauses a movie to get another beer.  You pause it to check out the handknit item one of the characters is wearing, then do a screen shot so you can chart it later


4.     You use your PDA to calculate how many skeins you need for a project, store LYS contact information, and to wrap yarn around to make perfect tassels


3.     When someone says “splits”, you don’t think of bowling, gymnastics, or banana-and-ice-cream-concoctions; you think of loosely spun yarn


2.     Most of your clothing comes “some assembly required”


1.     You have used your gauge checker to measure a hailstone


In other news, Last Saturday Knitting – the afternoon edition seems to be a success.  I met Cindy, and we found out that we’ve been communicating on the forums for years.  Oh, those internets, they keep making the world a smaller and smaller place.  I just love them… except for the prøn and the predators and the free viagra, which okay is like seventy percent of the internet.  But the rest is like pretty darn cool.  If only we could substitute the free pharmaceuticals with free fiber!


Or free tote bags.  Because I’m running out of places to put the magazines.


1:59 pm pst

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Beginnings - with Food!


Oh that internet. It’s part worldwide shopping mall, part encyclopedia, and part red-light district. It can help you work faster than you ever could before, yet it’s a major time-suck (penguin baseball, anyone?). On the internet, you can meet bunches of people you’d never encounter in real life. Like this blog – who knows who could be reading it right now? (Okay, probably not Donald Trump, who will be amazed and impressed by the wit and zaniness and offer me a million dollars to write a book. But it’s fun to fantasize…)


It’s also fun to lurk on other blogs. I’m not the type that comments a lot, which surprises my friends because anyone who knows me knows that most of the time I can never shut up! I guess I don’t want the really nice people whose blogs I read to think I’m some kind of stalker, to the point that they start setting up elaborate contraptions of tin cans and bowling balls and levers and pulleys and pepper spray that will go off if I try to sneak in to their houses.


But every once in a while I leave a comment, especially if a post is exceptionally funny or poignant or I’ve been through exactly the same situation as the author. And (even more rarely) another’s post will inspire me to write one of my own.


Like last week when Kay of Mason-Dixon Knitting posted a picture of her MMMom’s recipe box. Holy Moley, I thought, it’s exactly like my mom’s starter recipe box! Mom now has a much bigger one, but when I was a wee lass the family recipes resided in a little metal box just. like. that one. Some were cut out of the newspaper, some were written on scratch paper, and some were carefully lettered onto fancy recipe cards, you know the ones, they have a line for how many the dish will serve (never quite accurate, especially if the recipe is for a big pan of brownies, which in my house serves one) and who the recipe is from (which was usually a name I didn’t recognize and ended up being either one of my Grandma’s neighbors or someone from church).


Well, I just had to post pictures of my own. Yes, the rumor of fiber-y prizes didn’t hurt (and I don’t mean All-Bran), but to be a part of a kaffe-klatsch of knitters and knitter-associated persons all contributing a recipe? Count. Me. In.


First: the recipe boxes. In my family, there must be genetic marker because we all start out with a little box and graduate to a big whopping one. (This doesn’t could the fridge-top full of cookbooks, either.) I don’t remember where I got the little one. It is the recipe box of uncertain provenance. It’s made out of cedar, and I keep my most commonly used recipes inside.


recipe boxes


The big box was my maternal grandmother’s. We’d frequently spent the Big Three Family Holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, & Easter) at Grandma and Grandpa F.’s in Green Bay, and the big house was full of happy memories. When Grandma F. passed in 1993 (fifteen years after Grandpa F.), I couldn’t bear to help empty her house. But Mom asked me if I wanted anything to remember her by. I didn’t ask for the near-perfect 1960s-era Packer yearbooks. I didn’t ask for jewelry. I asked for something infinitely more valuable: her recipes.


The box must weigh eight pounds. There are Grandma F.’s recipes, and her sister Great Aunt I.’s.  There are recipes in my mother’s handwriting and my aunts’ and even my Great Uncle E.’s (his cheese rockets sound delicious, though a bit indigestion-inducing). There are recipes from my Great-Grandmother T. and her mother, too; recipes (like one for cookies that makes twelve dozen) that are subtitled “Mother had thirteen children and couldn’t be bothered with smaller recipes”.


There is a recipe for “Prune Whip” (egg whites, prunes, sugar, lemon juice. Apparently you bake it) and a recipe for “Floating Island” (a custard of milk, eggs, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and vanilla over orange slices). Later recipes have more creative titles, too, like one from Aunt M. R. called “The Best Thing Since Robert Redford”, a layered dessert with cream cheese, coolwhip, vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, and shaved chocolate on a pecan-studded crust. I’ve never tried it. If I did, I’d have to try Robert Redford too, just to see if the title was accurate, and I don’t think Mr. Redford would like that (see tin-can-bowling-ball-pepper-spray). Dear Jay wouldn’t like it either. (Just kidding about that Redford guy, Dear!)


I can’t really say I have a favorite, because I love every recipe in the box. (Okay, maybe not the prune whip one.) But some are more remarkable than others. For example, the one below:


Bolivian Fluff


Aunt M. V., Mom’s oldest sister, married a Bolivian man, my Uncle Federico. We called him “Fico” when we were kids; now he’s Uncle Fred.  Once, when Aunt M. V. was visiting, she made us a dessert that she said our Uncle Fred ate as a child instead of ice cream, since only the rich people had freezers in the poorer area of Bolivia where he grew up, and Uncle Fred’s family was far from rich. Bolivian Fluff, she called it; the recipe was from Uncle Fred’s sister, Pilusa. Here it is, in handwriting from my younger days.


Yeah, it says it serves 6-8. That’s only if you don’t let me near it with a really big spoon.


9:03 pm pst



Linda L.
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so I had to re-blog.
If I could only shut up,
this wouldn't have happened.
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