Monday, November 26, 2007

Breaking Up Thanksgiving

After the turkey and potatoes and cranberries on Thursday, the Fool and I go home and bake like mad things and on Friday, pack up a bunch of homemade cookies, pile into the car with sleeping bags, fiddle, guitar and dance shoes (and this year, two guys named Ed, a cello, an extra fiddle and a mandolin) and head north to Wisconsin for Breaking Up Thanksgiving with all our friends.
It's the Chicago community's contra dance weekend and every year, it more or less goes like this: Dance, get no sleep, play tunes, dance, play tunes, drink whiskey, get no sleep, eat a bagel, stop for coffee, go home.
This was the first time our grad student friend Ed came to Breaking Up Thanksgiving. We bought him to Pittsburgh a couple weekends back, and he said he had no idea traveling with us meant he "got mocked on the Internet." So to protect his identity, I'm going to give him a pseudonym. I shall call him Sam.
The second Ed was in case the first one wore out. Also, he needed a ride.
Here's the view from the stage Saturday night. The Fool and I play some Cosmic Otters sets, but we like to put together other bands for these weekends, which are all pickup bands and volunteer callers.
If we play more old-time tunes, we're the Cosmic Possums (as possums are more old-timey than otters.) So at Breaking Up Thanksgiving, we're usually the Cosmic Possums.

We played with Walter, a great banjo and fiddle player, who retuned his banjo in the middle of a set, changing keys and immediately raising the bar for clawhammer players everywhere.
And Sam and the Fool engaged in some exceedingly sweet twin fiddling, so beautiful. Here they are being serious musicians, checking their tuning or learning a tune at the last minute or changing their minds about what we all agreed we should play earlier.
We had a lot of conversations that went like this:
FOOL: OK, let's play "Harness the Marmot" in D, followed by, oh, wait, what's this tune? (fiddles a bit.)
SAM: Oh, oh, that's "My Auld Wooden Leg," you know, Michael Coleman recorded that in 1925.
FOOL: Yeah, right, that's it!
ME: What key is it in?
FOOL: Uh, G.
ME: Great. D and G. Got it.
SAM: Of course, "My Auld Wooden Leg" sounds a lot like "Paddy in the Bathtub," which is also a great tune.
ME: What key is that in?
SAM: E minor.
ME: OK. D and E minor.
FOOL: Wait, no, that's not "Paddy in the Bathtub;" you're playing "The Smelly Sea Captain," that tune in D minor.
ME: D and D minor? I don't think I like that....
SAM: No, no, G and D minor. We're not doing "Harness the Marmot" anymore.
ME: Oh, for the love of God....



Here Sam is mugging for the camera.

And on the way back, after failing to stop in front of the giant frog with doors for a picture, I pulled over for this group shot with Adina, Sam and the Fool. Someone honked as they posed.


And now we have broken up Thanksgiving, and we are heading for Christmas and I have a scarf to knit.

From today's paper

The obituary for Mary Walker Phillips. It's very interesting; I'll have to go read more about her later.
In the Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Look! Yarn!

I normally avoid day-after-Thanksgiving shopping like the plague.
It's crowded, it's loud, the deals usually aren't deals on anything I need or want, if they're deals at all ... the lists go on.
So when Lorna in Tuesday night knitting group mentioned that Peggy's, a yarn shop in Plainfield, a good 25 minutes from my house, was having a Friday sale, I was inclined to dismiss it. Forty percent off everything in the store from 7 to 9 a.m.
Pshaw.
It will be crowded, the roads will be filled with lunatics racing to WalMart, it is early, I have yarn.
I thought for a bit, on Wednesday and Thursday and realized, I have two Viking hats to knit for two young Vikings and no brown yarn left.
I have a baby sweater for a coworker that needs knitting by March and if I'm buying yarn for that, I may as well buy it at 40 percent off.
So I set forth with two objectives. A skein of brown Viking hat yarn in Cascade 220 or similar, and yarn for a baby sweater. Both at 40 percent off.
Lorna was in the back room when I got there, as were some of the other women I knit with, and we all encouraged each other to buy yarn.

To disastrous, 40 percent off ends.
See that purple stuff? It's Rowan felted tweed. More to the point, it's enough Rowan felted tweed for a sweater ... and no real pattern in mind. I do not buy yarn like that.
Also, some sock yarn. (The Fool should maybe avert his eyes now if he doesn't want to ruin Christmas.)


So that does it. I'm done buying yarn for the rest of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ahhhh, Thanksgiving

The Fool and I are heading to a northerly suburb to have dinner with an old friend of mine from grad school, her family and other various folks.
Janice and I have a history of notable Thanksgivings together. There was the year we brined a turkey in the trunk of her Maxima because the refrigerator was too small to hold my giant canning kettle.
There was the year we cooked the turkey and then, during the 30 minute resting period, drove it even further north to eat at another friend's house.
And then, there are the ritual tussles over the menu. Neither one of us turns down an interesting food when confronted with it (except for thousand-year eggs; sorry, Janice, you got me twice on those, I'm done.)
But Thanksgiving seems to bring out the mad scientist in Janice and the Betty Crocker in me. She wants to rub the turkey with garlic and cook it on the grill; I want it brined and in an oven. She wants to make unusual side dishes. I want the old standards. She declares that sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes on the same table are vegetable redundancy and I fall over myself explaining that sweet potatoes function nutritionally as orange vegetables and are therefore no more redundant to mashed potatoes than carrots. (That was this year's debate.)
She proposes, I counterpropose.
I volunteer to make rolls. She says yes, but only if they're "interesting" ones. So I've made three kinds - sweet potato cloverleaf, Parker House and pumpkin pumpernickel (which would be a lot more interesting to me if they'd freakin' rise a little faster.)
We're taking a beef tenderloin with garlic and herbs to roast as the second meat entree, and the Fool is making a lovely green salad with a fancy dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds and pears on top.
The cats are sleeping right now, and are no doubt thankful for soft furniture and a warm house and people who pet them a lot, and we are just glad to be here in all respects.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
(pictures and Actual Knitting Content to come later.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crisis averted

The Fool went out shopping yesterday and returned with some liquid laundry soap and washed a test load of socks - so far, they are not encrusted with crud. Hooray! It's just as well, because it's gray and drizzly today. In other words, perfect wool sock weather.
We also did some preliminary research into getting a water softener. We're a little concerned because we're on well and septic, and water softeners are not supposed to be the best thing in the world for a septic field. We do know of a company in the area, the one that installed a well pump thinger for us, that rents softener units, so we might just rent one for a few months, see if it solves our problems, and then make a final decision.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gaaa! Laundry crisis chez Sock Knitters!

A select number of our handknit socks are festooned with crud! Like, dusty crud embedded in the knitting that puffs out in little clouds when you pull the sock over your heel. One sock was so becrudded this morning that it was a different color from its mate.

Now, we have hard water and we machine wash the socks and then air-dry them.

In the summer, when we dried them on a clothesline, we had no dusty crud.
We tried drying them on a rack in the basement, and got dusty crud, so we surmised the dusty crud was in the basement air somehow (scary, but not impossible).
So we tried drying them on the rack upstairs, and still, dusty crud. But only on some, which is leading me to think our washer is somehow faulty.

Ask The Blog, the Fool said.
I'm asking - this is a bad, bad turn of events. Winter is coming and we need warm feet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Consolation Thanksgiving

.. is past. It's what J. and I do because we don't go to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. We discovered the Pittsburgh contra dance community's big dance weekend is in early November, so we go to that and visit his family during the day.
It's a good system. His mom and grandmother get to see us in November (which is important to them), we help them take his grandma's porch furniture and stuff in for the winter, and he and I get to go dancing three days in a row and go to a party Saturday night.
Then we get to stay in Chicago for Thanksgiving and go to Breaking Up Thanksgiving, our community's dance weekend.
So we get two dance weekends rather than none, his family gets a visit, and everyone is happy.
This year, we took Ed with us. He's a grad student from England who plays the fiddle and dances. He is also an excellent traveling companion - packs light, is omnivorous and entertaining in the car and has a very good selection of music on mp3 and CD.
We had a great time playing tunes with some of the folks from Hotpoint String Band on Saturday as well as some of the Pittsburgh musicians, stayed up too late, got home to Chicago too late ... completely worth it. Between that and Breaking Up Thanksgiving, I think I'll make it through the holidays now.

Ed met three of four dancing sisters, all in their early 20s, and seemed somewhat poleaxed by the experience.
"I asked the oldest one what she did when she wasn't dancing, and she said 'crime,' which I thought was wonderful," he told us. "And then I realized she said 'farming.' "
We meant to leave at 3 p.m. on Sunday, before the dance ended, and the Fool and I made the mistake of reminding Ed of this when one of the girls was just about to ask him to dance.
"You can't go!" she said. "You have to stay and dance with me." And she and her sister made big round moony eyes at him, like puppies with ponytails, and he looked at us helplessly and so we all danced a square together and left much later than we meant to.

This was my favorite conversation of the weekend:
ED: (In wonderment) They came out so well - I wonder why their mother didn't make more?
ME: Did you know four children means 3 years of pregnancy?
ED: Yes, but how much of that was the waddling part? That's supposed to be the worst bit.




(Zombie marching band with squash, Arthur, Ill.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This would definitely liven up a wake

From the Forgotten English page-a-day calendar (a fine present for verbivores on your holiday list - don't say this blog is not useful once in a while.)

"Tup-running: A rural sport practised at wakes and fairs in Derbyshire. A ram, whose tail is well soaped and greased, is turned out to the multitude; anyone that can take him by the tail and hold him fast is to have him for his own." - Francis Grose's 'A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,' 1796.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thanks, Angus

Last night, after I got home from knit group, as a reward for a trying day, I decided to cast on for Lucy Neatby's Sea Lettuce scarf. I dug into the depths of the sock yarn basket and pulled out a skein of Cherry Tree Hill in nice blues and greens, and I unwrapped the skein and put it on the swift and started to wind it, and oh big hairy hell, it turned out to be one of those skeins.
The ones that the Devil makes.
I had to wind it by hand off the swift, and then it made a mess of a ball, and then while I was winding the ball again, Angus leapt on it and grabbed it and raced down the hall with it while the Fool laughed helplessly and pointed, so I had to chase him* and get it back and he bit me and I got the end tangled and was so disgusted by that point I cut off and threw out about six feet of yarn, and then I had to wind it again .... and then she wanted a crochet cast on!
So I had to go look that up.
But I finally got the thing going, with the nice little picot edging, and, yeah.
Except I've decided it really needs a bead on each picot (another "things I swore not to knit" goes down the tubes....first lace, now beads), so I snuck out before lunch and went to JoAnns and got beads and this very tiny crochet hook to add beads to my remaining picots, because I don't want to frog it and thread a bunch of beads.
Now it's a very fun knit, and it's hard to not want to put beads on everything.
But still, it felt like a lot of work for something that was supposed to be fun and easy.

*Angus, not the Fool, as much as the Fool might like to think he could bite me when I try to take yarn away from him.