Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dipping Pretzels

Son and one of his pals had a blast dipping pretzel sticks in melted chocolate:

Note to self: don't let chocolate harden in glass bowl before washing....


Monday, February 25, 2008

Tearing up the calendar

While we were out of town for the last few days, I kept some notes about my days and considered posting them to fulfill my duties for Blog 365. But I'm hesitating. I've really had no problem posting something every day--but often it is stuff I really haven't thought through enough to post, or something that feels more like a waste of everybody's time (the writer's and the reader's time) than a real post. Sometimes I've been really busy and probably should have put other priorities over the blog, but did not because of the 365 challenge.

There are times when blogging regularly pushes me to think more. But there are other times when it pushes me to wrap things up before I have had quite enough time to prioritize them.

So I am hereby quitting Blog 365 and while I intend to hold myself to writing something every day, I probably won't post all of it. Good luck to all of you who are sticking with it!

Friday, February 22, 2008


David and I have joined a group of friends who live on a farm in the peaceful hills of Pennsylvania for a book group. In preparation for our first meeting tomorrow evening, I spent much of this snowy afternoon reading Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder.

What a powerful book!

I think I'll be writing more about the main thrust of the book soon, but right now I'm stuck on a different part:

There are times when Kidder shows stories that portray Farmer is an arrogant and judgmental man, although the author never seems to say it directly or to take responsibility for casting that vision. In fact, he presents some very difficult-to-handle situations and then essentially justifies the decisions Farmer makes, even though the stories also make Farmer look bad. (I'm thinking especially about his relationship with his wife and daughter here--but it is certainly true at many other moments.)

He (Kidder) also seems overly concerned (at least at times) about whether or not Farmer likes him or approves of him. It is an odd narrative voice occasionally, one that casts the author as a central character in not just the search for the story but in its emotional pacing.

Have you read this book--or another by Kidder? What do you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Today's message:

"Barack Obama bookmarked your website."

Check out what he can do for you!

Then, brush up on your vocabulary:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Onward Ho

Tinked back several rows to fix a mistake I couldn't even figure out how I made--and then dropped down one cable to fix a miscross several rows further back. (There is something incredible about making such a dramatic change by just dropping then picking back up a few stitches.)

I'm back to where I was--and on the verge of finally finishing this interminable sleeve. I'm chaining myself to this project very effectively still, despite some intense itchiness to cast on something--anything--new.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Last Piece

Finally knitting the last major piece of the Vickie Cardigan. The back, the two front halves of the cardigan, the first sleeve--and now I'm nearing the end of the second sleeve.

Next: seaming, picking up stitches for and knitting both sides of a button band, knitting the collar, and blocking.

The goal: wear the finished sweater to a conference and a book signing at the end of the month.

Or knit at my knitting group tonight, make a massive mistake, and tink back row after row....

Monday, February 18, 2008


Today started out as a beautiful day, a harbinger of spring.

The first yellow crocuses are popping up on our hill. The sun was shining. We decided to go to the park for a picnic.

We packed blue cheese and crackers, vegetable salad, seltzer and grape juice and took off for the park.

On our way, the clouds started looking a little gray.

By the time we spread our feast out on the wooden table, it looked ominous. And after just one bite, raindrops began to fall, the wind was gusting, and the temperature plummeted.

I am in need of Spring.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Pharmaceutical Cocktail

When the hospital staff brought me meals, they always included cans of Sustacal. I never drank the stuff, but my friends and family helped me build a massive pyramid of the unopened cans. It definitely had the cheerful feel of a frat boy's beer-can decorations.

To honor this ridiculous memory, David brought me a bottle of a competitor's beverage last night.

Now, celebrating 15 years of freedom from the hospital, I've cooked up a new way to get my liquid sustenance:

(Now what I really want to know:
Will anyone reach this post by Googling "Brandy Ensure Cocktail"?)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New, Blank Pages

Fifteen years ago today, I spent twenty-something hours in surgery.

Now, every year on my anniversary, I feel that I have been given an extra day-- a day of luxury, a day to really live. Last year I cast on a new project in cashmere yarn.

And today: well, nothing much today, but I prepared for a celebration with friends tomorrow. Old friends are coming for brunch and brand new friends are coming for dinner.

Every year it feels like a new opportunity, a clean start. I realize that this day is closer to New Year's Day for me than is the first of January or Rosh Hashanah.

"We walk forward into new, blank pages of days on which we can write a fresh story."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chicken Soup with Rice

I sometimes wonder if I've signed up for too many little blog games. Well, perhaps I can sometimes combine them. How about an alphabetical local meal?

We stuck a still-partly-frozen stew chicken from our local meat supplier into the slow cooker and covered it with water along with a bit of locally-grown onion. About 18 hours later, the stock was thick and smelled wonderful.

When dinnertime rolled around, we added some leftover local rice (well, at least it was local where it was bought) and assorted root vegetables, as well as salt and pepper.

* * *

In February it will be
my Snowman's anniversary
with cake for him and soup for me
happy once, happy twice,
happy chicken soup with rice!

--Maurice Sendak

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Handmade Love:

* * *

Now this is a winner:

And check out some of these wonderful presidential valentines, too.

* * *

While you're planning your VD celebration, don't forget to check out Greenpeace's Eco-Sex Guide.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

C is for Cormo

Cormo is an Australian breed of sheep--a cross between merino and corriedale and then developed for a very soft, easy-to spin fiber.

Tune in next time for the continuing adventures of Angora, Bombyx, and Cormo. Where will they go? What will they do? Can they even get along with each other?


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Coming Anniversary

Last year I celebrated my not-quite-Ides-of-February anniversary week by giving the details in a which-is-the-true-story contest.

Sharing the real story with new friends is often difficult. So often people respond with fear or pity. Both reactions feel very uncomfortable. But NOT telling people feels like I am lying or at least hiding some important part of myself.

Since last year I've become friendly with a set of people with whom I have not yet shared this story. One of my goals for this week--a week I always spend contemplating what this anniversary means at this point--is to figure out how to share it without making it seem like a bigger deal than it is.

Clearly it isn't going to be as straightforward a process as I would like it to be, given that it is even hard to refer to it in writing. And writing, at least for me, is a lot easier than talking.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Birth of the New

David and I were founding members of a local parenting group. The group, based on the ideas of attachment parenting, had a crucial role in our development as a family. Although we still consider ourselves attachment parents and still intend to be part of the group, both of us decided not to run for the Board this year and to retire as group leaders. Our relationship with our almost-nine-year-old son has changed radically over the years. Although ideas about respect for each other are still at the core of our parenting, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing no longer are particularly relevant. Increasingly, I feel old and unable to suggest anything other than, "I know it seems hard now, but just wait a few years...."

The leaders of the group have been remarkably stable over the years. Of the 9 people on the board until last night, 8 have been there from the beginning. But yesterday, so many new people agreed to become more active that many of us felt able to step back. Three of the originals stayed on, but six new people have stepped up--and several have spouses actively involved in the group as well.

Those of us in the original group were remarkable similar in both our styles and in our parenting beliefs. Many of us were friends from beforehand. All 10 of us were partnered and had our partners also on the board (in other words--there were only 5 families on the board).

The new crop of 9 leaders are from 9 different families--and there are a lot of disagreements and differences. Leadership is not going to be as easy or as straight-forward. But the potential for creativity seems higher than ever.

I was afraid this group might only exist because of the desires and work of our own leadership. And here it is now, something much bigger. Incredible. Yes--some are worried that conflicts in the new crop of leaders may be hard to slog through. But I have faith in the power of consensus to bring forth from difficulties a newly strong organization.

I feel like a parent watching my child grow towards maturity. I remember what my mother said when she saw me in my prom dress, waiting for my date to escort me to the school dance. She was looking at me--absolutely baffled--and I asked what was wrong. She answered (unable to censure herself) that she was suddenly seeing me as an adult--pretty immature and silly-looking, but at the same time an absolutely beautiful independent being.

* * *

A new friend just had her third baby--a little girl-- yesterday. Paul, the father, wrote an amazing birth story and shared it with us today. They had quite an eventful morning! Although the new mother planned to have the baby at the hospital, she had a very very fast labor and delivered in their home bathroom before the paramedics arrived. All are well and looking beautiful.

Reading the birth story aloud with David and Abe made us all laugh and cry--and remember how wonderful our own birth experience (also at home) was. There is nothing quite as amazing as suddenly having a new person entering your world.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dreaming of the Growing Sun

The wind chill is 5 degrees below O, but Spring has arrived on our kitchen table--at least that paper version of the season:

And with it, thoughts of our tiny backyard filled with purple okra, yard-long green beans, round yellow carrots, a hundred kinds of basil, and a thousand types of lettuces. And don't forget the myriad tomatoes....

And although my dreams are a bit over the top given our space, I'm still way behind many of the dreaming gardeners out there. Check out the Growing Challenge, the Victory Garden Drive, the 100 Foot Diet, and Kitchen Gardeners International. What inspiration (and what knowledgeable help) there is out there!

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Today is the first day since I signed up for Blog 365 that I have really not felt like posting. At some point the whole enterprise seemed like a really good idea. Not nearly always, but often, writing a blog post makes me think a bit more coherently about what has gone on in my day.

I don't even remember what has gone on in my day today. I'm behind on work, behind on pleasure reading due for a book group which meets tomorrow night, even behind on knitting.

The good news? David used his hand-me-down steam cleaner to get the bathroom and kitchen looking spiffy. What a way to cheer up your mate!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Last-Minute Shabbat Grocery List

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, a Bar of Organic Fair-Trade Dark Chocolate--and Thou.

--Omar Khayyam

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Making Faces

Son loves to decorate rice cakes by spreading them with peanut butter then adding raisins, dried apples, and coconut. If you were making a face, what would you add?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Blue Knitting

Berroco 'Bama?

Let me say first that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and will happily vote and work for either Clinton or Obama. I can also say I am often frustrated or disappointed with both of the candidates. I loved the populist rhetoric introduced in the race by Edwards--but if he had been a serious contender, I know I would have had my problems with him, too.

Here in Maryland, we have our primary next week. I think I'll be voting for Obama--and not only because his name sounds like the yarn.

I was born and raised a liberal white southerner and I am very excited about the possibility of some southern states moving from red to blue. This kind of move could pretty much assure a Democratic victory in November.

McCain, the likely Republican nominee, is pretty weak in a lot of the South. Although he is a warmonger military supporter and that works in his favor in the South, his more moderate social views make lots of traditional southern republicans not especially like him.

On the other hand, Obama is getting large percentages and large turnouts in the South among Democrats. The key to winning those states is significantly upping the number of supposedly "unlikely" voters--and he's been doing it in the primaries. Young people and African Americans have been galvanized to go to the polls in numbers seldom seen.

And Independents may be less likely to vote for McCain if Obama is their other choice.

Clinton, I don't think, has the ability to make the move from red to blue happen. Her biggest strength is in traditionally Democratic states--states any Democratic candidate will take.

So right now I'm imagining a Obama-Richardson ticket.


...if y'all can come up with the right knitting yarns for the other candidates, perhaps I'll change my mind!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hoppin' John

In almost a New Year's Day reprise, we made local Hoppin' John and collards.

Both the rice and the crowder pease were bought and grown in South Carolina near where my parents live. Although the beans are so fantastic and flavorful they need nothing more than a smidge of salt, this time I seasoned the Hoppin' John with some bacon from a nearby Amish farm.

The collards were from our local farmers market. I sprinkled my greens with hot pepped vinegar--which we put up during the summer with our own homegrown red peppers.

David and Son decided to do an interpretive dance of our menu:

Monday, February 04, 2008

C is for Cabled Cardigan

Well--the consequences of blithely knitting away on aran cardigans in the car is that Mistakes Are Made:

The section along each side of the back is a 4-row checkerboard. And the edge section for the front? 2-row moss.

When I realized the mistake after finishing the right front, I decided to do it again for the left side. Because it contracts more than the checkerboard, the fronts seem much shorter than the back--but I think this will block out without a problem.

Now the question is, what should I do on the sleeves? Right now I am planning to switch back to the checkerboard. Any votes?

But then, you know, I plan to knit in the car today. Maybe I'll do one of each....


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Unraveling's International Pajama Day is here!

We are celebrating the day by snuggling together on the couch with our feet up on the coffee table...

...reading books...

...and having Mimosas, made from oranges we bought in Florida and leftover champagne.

Now THIS is the life!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Are My Hands Clean?

In honor of St. Brigid's day, something a little different:

Are My Hands Clean?
Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon, 1985
Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock
Live at Carnegie Hall (You can hear a clip here.)

I wear garments touched by hands from all over the world
35% cotton, 65% polyester, the journey begins in Central America
In the cotton fields of El Salvador
In a province soaked in blood,
Pesticide-sprayed workers toil in a broiling sun
Pulling cotton for two dollars a day.

Then we move on up to another rung—Cargill
A top-forty trading conglomerate, takes the cotton through the Panama Canal
Up the Eastern seaboard, coming to the US of A for the first time
In South Carolina
At the Burlington mills
Joins a shipment of polyester filament courtesy of
the New Jersey petro-chemical mills of

Dupont strands of filament begin in the South American country of Venezuela
Where oil riggers bring up oil from the earth for six dollars a day
Then Exxon, largest oil company in the world,
Upgrades the product in the country of Trinidad and Tobago
Then back into the Caribbean and Atlantic Seas
To the factories of Dupont
On the way to the Burlington mills
In South Carolina
To meet the cotton from the blood-soaked fields of El Salvador

In South Carolina
Burlington factories hum with the business of weaving oil and cotton
into miles of fabric for Sears
Who takes this bounty back into the Caribbean Sea
Headed for Haiti this time—
May she be one day soon free—
Far from the Port-au-Prince palace
Third world women toil doing piece work to Sears specifications
For three dollars a day

My sisters make my blouse

It leaves the third world for the last time
Coming back into the sea to be sealed in plastic for me
This third world sister
And I go to the Sears department store where I buy my blouse
On sale for 20% discount

Are my hands clean?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Real Dirt

Last night during our champagne and pizza, the three of us watched the DVD The Real Dirt on Farmer John. What a wonderful little movie!

The film talks about a fascinating farmer, John Peterson, who does everything a little bit differently--and ends up running an enormous CSA on an organic farm. He also wears boas around his neck while he rides his tractor and frolics through his fields in a bee costume with his girlfriend. Great fun--but also a piercing discussion of the difficulties of farming across the last few decades.

One of the best things about the film is the early footage. His mother ran her handheld movie camera from the time her children were quite small growing up on the farm that Farmer John now runs. He took up the filmmaking talent and recorded all his hippie college friends partying and celebrating in the barns and fields. A bit after college, he made a short documentary about his own difficulties and about the pressures on farmers in general at the time. He chronicles his own depression and its changing meanings over time. And from the beginning of the story until its current happy ending, it has all been chronicled on film. Pretty amazing to see.

John Peterson also has out a great cookbook celebrating his farm. Check it out!


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