Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tonight:

a night for sitting on the couch knitting...



...with champagne and pizza.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My New Album

...at least according to this meme:


REDETERMINATION: Of the Greatest Virtues



* * *

What to do to make your own album:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3.
http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Take the picture, add your band name and the album title, and post.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

B is for Bombyx Silk



Bombyx is "cultivated" silk--that is, silk from domesticated silk worms usually raised indoors and hand-fed--as opposed to the wild Tussah silk.

What I have here is silk noils. Noil is the short fiber (or snarls) left over after processing the silk fiber. It is super cheap--basically because it is just waste fiber. It gives sort of a nubbly tweedy look to yarn.

For my continuing alphabetical fiber game, I plan to combine this with Bombyx with Angora. Kind of a crazy combination--but that is exactly the point of this ABC fiber adventure. Stay tuned!

ABC-along

Monday, January 28, 2008

Home Again, Home Again...

...and eating our normal diets--but tastier!

Yesterday we went to the local farmer's market and picked up an absolutely incredibly assortment of local mushrooms from the vendor we call "the mushroom lady." We sauteed them in local butter with salt, pepper, and dried tarragon. Yummy.

We served the sauteed mushrooms on top of non-local brown basmati rice cooked with non-local chickpeas as well as onions bought at the farmer's market. On the side? Very old broccoli that was well past its peak. (At least it was still moderately green.)



So a lot of this meal was not local, I guess. But the ingredients which were not local were items that travel well without refrigeration and can be shipped in bulk: rice and beans. If we are going to eat foods from elsewhere, eating things that do not require airplanes and refrigerators is certainly more sustainable.

I love cooking easy vegan meals. (Yep--this one is not vegan because I used butter--but if you want to make it vegan, just use olive oil....) Although we do eat meat, dairy and eggs, I'm drawn very much to the vegan ethic--not due to animal rights as much as to the arguments of Frances Moore Lappe (Diet for a Small Planet) who explores the impact on the world's poor of raising grain to feed animals rather than people.

Come to think of it, that is precisely the reason I am committed to buying more sustainable grass-fed meat from local farms. Although a diet high in meat products (even responsibly-produced meat) is not truly sustainable, raising animals on a diversified farm can contribute to the productivity of the land. (Cough cough, *manure*, cough cough, rather than synthetic fertilizers.)

Feeding grain to animals that do not naturally eat grain is bad for animals, bad for humans, and bad for the planet. On the other hand, raising cows on land that cannot grow grain or vegetables easily is an active plus. I still have a lot more learning to do about this issue. Any sources to recommend?

Thinking about what Lappe says about the wasteful system of raising corn to feed to cows rather than people makes me wonder what she would say about raising corn to feed cars rather than humans. (I keep waiting for the bumper sticker that says "No Food for Fuel." I'll put it right under the "No Blood for Oil" sticker I have hypothetically stuck to my forehead....)

That was quite a digression from the recounting of our menu, wasn't it?

For dessert: grapefruit we picked up at a grove stand in Indian River on our drive north from South Florida.



Makes up for the dead broccoli....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Wild Life

I always love walking the nature path at Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Interestingly, Wakodahatchee is not just a place to view wildlife but a water treatment facility. Very cool.

Some of what we saw:







Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pirates are Cool

How did I miss this?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gifting





Thursday, January 24, 2008

Midsummer

Here we are in South Florida, slogging through steamy wet days, and seeing on the television that the rest of the nation is in a deep-freeze. Here in the land of Eternal Summer, it is hard to believe. Perhaps because I grew up in a relatively warm place, cold weather enchants me--but only up to a point. This has been a lovely respite, but I'm ready to head back to the frozen tundra of DC.

* * *

Son just learned through email that he received the part of Lysander in Midsummer Night's Dream. He is crushed, although many actors would be thrilled. The part is large and the character has a lot of really great lines--perfect for hamming up. But my 8yo is absolutely disgusted with the idea of playing a lover.

As is common in Shakespeare plays, there is a "play within the play." In that one, a young male character is assigned a part and responds, his voice full of hope, something along the lines of "What part is Thisbe? Is that a wandering knight?" The director responds that it is a young female, and the actor is highly disappointed.

I suspect that my own young actor would find the part of a woman vastly preferable to the part of a lover!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Albuterol

The Songs of the Seven Dwarfs
as sung by The Asthmatics:

Just whistle while you breathe,
da da da da da da wheeze...

*Puff*

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rain

Although we had great plans to go to a nature preserve today, the weather has been too cloudy and full-out rainy for anyone to really get excited about going out. We sat on David's parent's screened-in deck and read, spent some time getting to know their friends and neighbors, and managed to fit in a few rounds of shuffleboard between waves of storminess.



Tonight, David and I plan to go on our annual date and leave our son with his grandparents. I think they might corrupt him with a Disney movie....

Monday, January 21, 2008

B is for Blocked, Black, and Beaded

David, Son and I drove down to Boynton Beach to visit D's parents for a few days. The drive was long but full of lots to listen to on the iPod, some good conversation, a stop in lovely St. Augustine, and lots and lots of rain.

When we arrived at my inlaw's house, I presented to its recipient the big "mystery" knitting project I've been writing about: the Mystery Stole 3. (I held these blocking pictures until the gift was given. My mother-in-law looks beautiful in the stole. Pictures of her wearing it tomorrow!)

Here it is, stretched out on a beach towel since I realized just in time that I can't stick pins in the heated mattress pad currently on our bed:



Although I started the Mystery Stole along with everybody else, it took a long vacation when the design for the wing was revealed. Since I had planned to knit the shawl for my mother-in-law primarily because of the designer's history of classic designs, I was torn. Although I now honestly think she would love the look and enjoy it very much, I wimped out and went with the safer symmetrical choice.

I had planned to graft the two ends together, a la Snail Spirals, rather than interrupt the lace pattern. (Go check out her gorgeous shawl!) After giving up on getting a decent graft, I decided to try the lace panel instead:



The title of the post refers to beads. Don't see them? Look closer. Keep looking.



Next time I think I will use larger beads....


ABC-along

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Baking Bread





ABC-along

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Books for the Road



1. Micheal Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

2. Sara Bongiorni's A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy

3. Naomi Wolf's The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

Have any of you read any of these books? Do you have some quick previews or reviews to help me prioritize? I brought enough books and enough knitting to sustain me on a desert island...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hope, part one

Light is just beginning to break. I look out the study window through the early post-snow fog at the large house across the street, home to the young daughter of a Jewish American mother and a Muslim Palestinian father. One tiny strand of decorative white lights twists around the banister of the stairs that go to their front door.

I almost cry. The lights seemed so futile, so ineffective against the almost-impenetrable grey morning cold.

And as I sit at my desk, the sun begins to climb. The fog starts to dissipate. And in no time, it seems, everything is suddenly bright and clear: morning.

So many cultures celebrate light in the darkness of winter. We have Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali... Often in December I'm just so bombarded with artificial corporate happiness that I can't get the message that all those decorations are supposed to convey.

But this quiet morning with Son still asleep, the meaning of letting our little light shine--shine even when it seems totally overpowered by the depths of the darkness-- comes through to me. Sometimes we need to believe that our own flicker can help light the day. And today I do.

* * *

Son's Snow Labyrinth:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow Day!




Today, we celebrate the beauty of winter in these parts.

Tomorrow, we start our drive to South Florida, where the temperature will be in the 80s, to visit David's parents. And their canal-facing screened-in porch. And their swimming pool....

Gosh. It may be hard to come back. I'm posting this picture of the snow just to remind me that winter is just as wonderful.

And I'm taking with me? A FINISHED KNITTING PROJECT (that I hope will be blocked and dry before we leave). Hooray!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

knitting knitting knitting

under a deadline

thirty more rows

twenty nine

twenty eight

***YAWN***

twenty seven

twenty six...



yawn...


twenty fi...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Questioning

The Tell-Tale Heart commented (to my post yesterday reviewing Al Gore's 2007 book, The Assault on Reason):

"Are you/we in a place where the only books that appeal to us simply reinforce how bleak the outlook for the future is (or that it is even worse than we thought)? ...Given Al's main points, if you were his editor or sounding board, where would you have encouraged him to take the conclusion?"


Good questions, and questions that have been on my mind a lot. (Hey--his ability to alternate between brilliance and reading my mind is why I married him....)

* * *

Let me begin with a fairly convenient truth: I just wrote a nonfiction book about a very bleak subject. When my cowriter and I sat down to write the conclusion, it hit me straight in the face that the book's conclusion needed to be in some way redemptive. We didn't exactly have to write a happy ending, but we couldn't leave readers with the unspeakable horror of the story without ending on a note that made it all seem like something other than an incitement to severe depression. We tried and we tried to figure out that redemptive ending. What we came up with--which personally I think only partially works--is a call for us as a society to try to come to grips with the difficulties of both our past and present, and a plea that we take this understanding forward to craft our politics and our activism.

I say this is a convenient truth because the experience of struggling at the end of a story of misery to make it into something moving--even radicalizing--for readers is something I share with Gore. And the funny thing is that he tries out the exact same tactic that I used--and he does it far, far better than I ever could--although he does not end the book with it. When he uses this rhetoric, his words are powerful and inspiring:


"...This is a moral moment. This is not ultimately about any scientific debate or political dialogue. Ultimately, it is about who we are as human beings and whether or not we have the capacity to transcend our own limitations and rise to this new occasion. It is about whether or not we can see with our hearts, as well as our heads, the unprecedented response that is now called for; whether or not we can--in Lincoln's phrase--disenthrall ourselves, shed the illusions that have been our accomplices in ignoring the warnings that have been clearly given, and to hear clearly the ones that are being given now.

"...We are now at a true fork in the road. And in order to take the right path, we must choose the right values and adopt the right perspective. This is the time for those who see and understand and care and are willing to work to say, 'This time the warnings will not be ignored. This time we will prepare. This time we will rise to the occasion. And we will prevail."


* * *

Am I so convinced the future is bleak that I cannot hear hope--no, not hope but CERTAINTY--that we will make it together through the valley of the shadow?

No--but my own hope and my own commitment to the future is too fragile to be brushed aside in the end as less important to the future of justice than some new way to show video on television.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Unreasonable

Al Gore is best known these days for his work on the environment. A lot of people missed the fact that his recent book The Assault on Reason is about a wholly different kind of environment: the place of political ideas and discussion.

Although Gore certainly offers a critique of current political leaders in the United States, his main point is more about the way we--a country founded with a commitment to democracy-- can find ourselves not only in these current crises, but also with an opposition party pretty much unable to mount any sort of defense.

Gore blames the enormous role of corporate television--and I'm with him. It was the development of print that helped lead the world to democracy, and it is the increasing rejection of print that makes democracy much less viable. Visual media elicits emotional responses versus the intellectual engagement elicited by print. And when television becomes so expensive to produce and so dependent on corporate advertising, our emotions can be quite easily co-opted by the highest bidder. Television brainwashes us, he argues persuasively. And because "the consent of the governed" can now be a"a commodity to be purchased," rigorous thought and reasoned debate are no longer at the core of this country. Instead we're all obsessed with the latest bombshell-gone-bad or the current celebrity criminal du jour.

Most people who criticized Gore's book when it came out last year were conservative pundits irritated by Assault's "scathing critique" of the Bush administration. I live for scathing critiques of conservatives and found the majority of Gore's "skewers" to be pretty much old hat statements of fact, not radical assaults on Dubya.

Many in the media who reviewed the book or interviewed its author disparaged the book indirectly by pretty much ignoring everything except the then-possibility of Gore running for president. Just as Gore argues in this very book, media often latches on to a dramatic distracting story rather than engages in a true exchange of ideas. The treatment of his book was yet another example to prove his point.

So I'm in agreement with most of Gore's political ideas. I'm irritated by a lot of the reviews it received. I'm more anti-TV than he is, I suspect.

So why did I dislike this book so much?

I was set off by the way-too-easy solution he posits at the end: a partially interactive television station (kind of youtube posted to the boob tube) that he and his partner have developed. "I believe Current TV is demonstrating that democratizing television can facilitate widespread participation in our national discourse," writes Gore.

Of course, he does acknowledge that blogs and wikis might be relevant to his efforts to bring democracy back to the United States.

Gore is just asking to be mocked. He created the Internet, he is creating a radical shift in television, he alone is saving the world from evil.

Rather than acknowledging the deep problems this country faces--that this world faces--and then making us sit with that pain and try together to develop approaches that might lead us forward, Gore abandons his tack and is suddenly adamant that there is nothing to worry about. He writes with what sounds like pure jingoism about how wonderful the US is and how he is "more confident than ever before that democracy will prevail and that the American people are rising to the challenge of reinvigorating self-government."

You know, Al--I was convinced by what came before your conclusion: that things here were in the process of going to hell in a handbasket and that we're going to get pretty darn hot pretty darn soon if we aren't really vigilant and ready for action. (Is global warming just because our handbasket is getting closer to hell?)

Now I read that the answer is just another kind of TELEVISION?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Angora



ABC-along

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lending the iPod

My partner David took my iPod on his long subway commute to work yesterday morning.

He quickly discovered that the right earphone was malfunctioning--making a buzzing sound rather than playing music and podcasts as the left ear does.

I had no idea. A one-eared player.... Clearly, this is the iPod for me!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Knitting Stress

While many people get over the pressure knitting at the end of December, I find myself right on that edge--Can I finish it, or is it impossible?--right now for a gift coming due in a week. It is, um, a symmetrical mystery--and in addition to the knitting left to be done, I have to graft a long portion and then do a wet block. If any of you have successfully knit a project that sounds like the one I'm referring to obliquely so its non-knitting recipient can't guess what it is, feel free to contact me and we'll have an offblog chat.

Even if I do get it finished and grafted, will it look OK? Right now the project looks like the stuff at the bottom of the drain. I keep crossing my fingers for that blocking miracle....

Off to knit my fingers to the bone. And somehow ignore Vickie for just a few more days....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kansas City Mayor's Wife's Christmas Letter

No kidding. Really:

Believe it or not, but winning the election wasn't the biggest thing to happen to Funk this year. No, getting his first prostate exam, by way of, well, you know where, was the highlight of his year. And watching Funk get the exam was the biggest joy of mine. When I noticed that Funk wasn't bouncing back like he used to, I scheduled him for a physical. Poor Funk didn't know what a physical entailed once you passed age 50, but I did, and I could hardly wait to watch him partake in a similar medical nicety that we women have endured since our teen years. It was only when the nurse told him to take everything off but his socks that I saw Funk get an inkling of what might be coming. The exam took forever and just when Funk thought he escaped what had quickly become his worst nightmare, the doctor ordered him to roll over on his side. I waited in gleeful anticipation as I watched the doctor's sausage-sized fingers go up under the sheet. Trust me, it wasn't too hard to tell when the doctor hit his mark as it was at the exact same moment that I saw Funk's eyes bulge out of his head. Sadly, for me, my sadistic laughter was very short-lived. His eyes hadn't even had the time to go back into his sockets before I heard the doctor announce to the world that the Mayor had the prostate of a 30 year-old. It was upon hearing those words that I knew payback would be swift and cruel for me. Sure enough, it was. Ever since then, Funk has been strutting about the house like he's a young bull in the ring and whenever he happens to catch a glimpse of me, it's as if he's seeing the Matador's red cape for the very first time. I tell you true, it isn't pretty over at the Funkhouser house right about now.


Food for thought....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Zimmermann Fever

Although I finished knitting both of these two baby sweaters by Elizabeth Zimmermann in December, it took me a while to get around to blocking them. Before I pulled them out last month for those few final rows last month, though, they had been snoozing in the knitting basket for months.

First, the Tomten jacket, knit on 9's with Raspberry Lamb's Pride:



I like these wooden buttons for it. What do you think? (They are not yet sewn on.) Their are hidden buttonholes in the i-cord edging.



Next, the Baby Surprise, knit on 5's with Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Yarn. What fun to watch this piece of origami turn into this little sweater!



These are the buttons I picked out--but they really are too big for the holes and too snagging to use with yarn this small. Off to the button store sometime soon. What a shame. Love the buttons even if I can't actually use them on this project....



* * *

Hm... Suddenly there is a lot more room in the knitting bag....

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Defining Local

So we can't do it very effectively yet, but we're working on it:




Check out Path to Freedom's 100 Foot Diet
Growing Closer to Home: A Lifelong Challenge™


As the PTF folks say,


It wasn’t that long ago (1940s) that people planted Victory Gardens when it became necessary for them, due to wartime shortages, to grow their own food. Now, it’s our turn! If you want to fight against peak oil, climate change and our consumerist culture, then join us and start a living protest right in your own back (front) yards. Be the change, live the solution! Use your yard (or balcony or porch steps) not only to grow food but also to cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling life.

There have been 100 mile diet and other eat local challenges. PTF’s homegrown revolutionaries are upping the ante by reducing the mileage to a few steps—to right outside your back or front door.

The challenge is simple. Beginning as soon as you can, prepare a meal at least once a week with only homegrown vegetables, fruit, herbs, eggs, dairy products or meat, using as few store bought ingredients as possible.

The purpose is plain—the waging of an all-out fight against the forces that keep you dependent on the system of petroleum fueled food. The degree to which you rely on today’s artificial corporate structure determines the extent of your vulnerability. Resolve to lessen your dependence on outside food sources.

The result is revolutionary. As you take back responsibility for your food supply, you’ll experience the empowerment and fulfillment that comes from learning the basic skills of providing for yourself and your family.

Let’s sow the seeds of victory and get our hands dirty to fill our plates!


Check out the site for the full details. Want to join me?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Eating Local in January

One of our main sources for local food is an Amish Farm in Pennsylvania. In honor of the Amish who have sustained local agriculture in the area when so many others have gone corporate, we dedicate this meal:

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut and Applesauce, served with mashed potatoes:



The pork chops and sauerkraut are from the farm linked above. The potatoes and applesauce are from Twin Springs, a few miles to the west of Gettysburg, Pa.

* * *

As we were cooking the meal (which was absolutely delicious), I kept thinking we really needed a side of green beans. But nothing green is fresh around here this time of year. We didn't prepare well enough to have our freezer stuffed with veggies--but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the mix of vitamins from the cabbages, apples, and potatoes would probably hold us through.

* * *

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut and Apples

Pork chops
Salt and pepper
Sauerkraut
Applesauce

Season chops with salt and pepper, then brown them in a little olive oil. Put them in a baking dish and cover with sauerkraut first and then applesauce. Sprinkle with a little bit of water (maybe a quarter cup?). Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Serve with mashed potatoes.

* * *

Next time we make it, I think I might add some sauteed onions and garlic as well as some sauteed chopped apple.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A is also for Apples...

and more apples, and more apples...



...cut up...



...and put on to dry in the dehydrator.




ABC-along

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A is for Aran

About a week before Christmas when I had finished knitting all the gifts due that month, I cast on Vickie's Cardigan (designed by Marilyn King) using Black Water Abbey yarn in the color Bracken.

What a great knit this is so far! It never fails to keep me interested, but it is easy enough to do during a light conversation or through a movie at home. It was wonderful car knitting as well. The yarn is lovely both in its color and its highlighting of the cable pattern.



Some knitters complain that BWA yarn is rough, but I'm pleased with its texture and know that any yarn much softer than this one will just pill up on me. I don't know why, but I can just LOOK at soft yarn and it pills. (Could this be something about the way I knit, or about the chemicals I exude, or something?) If I am going to invest much time in a project, I want it to maintain its looks for more than one wearing. I'm pretty sure this yarn will wear beautifully for decades, just as some of my grandmother's knitting has.



Aran knitting began off the coast of Ireland in the Aran islands. When a pattern is in the classic Aran style, it usually has intricate patterns involving cables, bobbles and other designs. The style may have begun as late as 1900.

One of the significant myths about Aran sweaters is that they were originally knit for the fishermen and that each family used a unique stitch pattern so that bodies of loved ones could be identified if they washed onto shore. Although this concept appears to be false, it is a romantic one that demonstrates the power of knitters to define who we are.

As I write this, I realize how much more I would like to learn about Aran knitting. Stay tuned for upcoming posts which will discuss more of the history and the technique.

* * *

Now that I've finished the back, Vickie will have to go in the knitting bag while I go back to a knitting project still on the needles that is to be given in a couple of weeks to a special woman in my life. Details soon--perhaps in a "B is for..." post!


Check out the details!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Family Dynamics

A friend steered me to a personal essay by a man who, despite his personal commitments against the practice, wound up spanking his three-year-old daughter. She, according to her father, was beyond all other means of control.

Control seems like a big issue is his family. Cole Gamble begins the essay by saying, "I am the commander-in-chief of my house, which is to say I am a puppet set up by the shadow government that is my wife."

The author talks about his immediate response to an incident: "Teaching her to not hit by hitting her...would open up a swirling vortex of hypocrisy I'm not ready to unleash upon her just yet. Instead I point my finger to Jillian's room and shout at her, 'Go!'"

In another incident, he threatens to spank his daughter if she does not stop an unwanted behavior. When she doesn't stop, he slaps her--primarily, it seems, because he is afraid that if he does not spank her at that point, then she will realize that his rule can be manipulated.

Her response to the spanking? Does she cower before him and do as he says? No. She laughs. Laughs.

Gamble concludes that spanking doesn't work because "parenthood is not a war, where might makes right. It is a game of chess, a game of skill and patience that you can never truly master."

* * *

I am certainly not a master parent. In fact, my son is very lucky to be at a friend's house this afternoon for a playdate, given how cranky I acted toward him this morning. And to be fair to Gamble, he writes his article at least partly tongue in cheek.

But I'm struck reading his essay that Gamble casts the job of parenting as one about power. He envisions himself as a powerless despot--and although he eventually realizes that he doesn't have to beat his subject into submission, he still has to win and she has to lose.

Even his example of his acceptable parenting involves an immediate portrayal of the parent-child relationship as one that is adversarial. Although the idea of "time-out" is not nearly as controversial as spanking has become, at root it relies on the idea of punishment rather than reason.

If we really want to avoid this win-or-lose family life, perhaps we need to discard this concept of parents being right and children by definition being wrong. Imagine it for a moment from the point of view of your own child side. (When I know I am always going to lose an interaction by virtue of who I am, it simply encourages me to misbehave and do everything I can to push the issue.)

On the other hand, imagining that family life is a process of consensus allows us to build something new. Consensus does not mean we all vote until we come up with something we can all accept. It means we put in the work to allow a BETTER answer to come forth, better than anything any of us could come up with individually. It fundamentally cannot work unless we treat all members of the family with the kind of respect we would treat our spouses or our boss at work. Would you hit your spouse if s/he was out of line? Would you send the person to his or her room? If you did either of those things, would you think that s/he deserved it? Or would you know if was your own craziness coming out?

For a selection of books that can help you learn and practice this consensus-oriented parenting style, check out this list of some of my favorites.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Jury is Out...of her mind

On New Year's Eve, I had jury duty. Although I was excited about the possibility of actually getting to be on a jury (I've never even been called out of the waiting room), I was thrown for a loop when I heard from a friend that in this county, knitting needles were not allowed--not only in the courtroom but in the whole building. She passed on that crochet hooks were allowed.

I don't crochet at all, but I have a couple of hooks--a super-tiny steel one for beading and a moderate-sized one for picking up dropped stitches (although in reality I only use my knitting needles for this purpose). I also own the fabulous Kids Crochet: Projects for Kids of All Ages. I was all set to take the book, my medium hook, and some random yarn and see if I could finally figure out that alien craft.

The night before jury duty, I called the number I was supposed to call in order to get final confirmation that I was to show up. There was a statement that we should bring enough stuff to entertain ourselves all day. There was also a statement that no metal knitting needles or crochet hooks are allowed in the building. So my crochet hook would not pass through security--but I was allowed to take my knitting! If you are not an addicted knitter, you might not be able to imagine the relief I was feeling.

I packed my bag full of diversions. Although I threw in a book and also a notebook and pen, most of what I took was knitting. Two projects with very different yarns so I could swap back and forth when my hands began to hurt. At the last minute, I threw in yarn, pattern, and needles for the second Twisted Stitch Gauntlet. I could not imagine casting on for it while I was waiting for my name to be called. It requires a bit more concentration than my slightly hard-of-hearing self wanted to spend when I knew I had to be watching the front of the room.

So I got to the courthouse and merrily put my bag through security. The guard opened it and spotted one circular bamboo needle with nothing yet cast on.

"No knitting needle."

"Oh--but it is fine--it is not metal!"

"No knitting needle. I take care of it."

"It's WOOD. It's OK!" I felt my voice going up about an octave.

He held up the very blunt and very skinny little size 4 needle that would break if you even knit too tightly and mimed stabbing himself in the chest. I could not believe it. You could kill someone with a pencil stub more easily.

He did not ask for any other needles. I kept my mouth shut. Usually I am a ridiculous follow-the-rules type--but I was desperate.

But the guard continued to rifle through my bag, perhaps set off my all the yarn and patterns. He found the needle with the shawl attached and snatched that out for his little collection. He then picked up the tiny pack of double pointed needles meant for the gloves. I held my breath.

"What are these?"

"Um.... Um.... DPN's?" I paused.

"What are they for?"

"Um.... Um.... You, um, use them when you make gloves?"

"OK. Knitting needles will be here when you are finished."

I feel like I got a reprieve! What is it about courthouses and guards that makes me want to disobey so frantically??


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Breakfast on the Road

I think I realized food could be a form of prayer while we were on the road. The billboard before the exit in Dunn, North Carolina proclaims:

"Triangle Waffle House. Jesus Christ is Lord."


Every year on our drive to my family on the eve of Christmas Eve, David and I and our son stop here for breakfast after spending the night in a $20-a-night motel in Rocky Mount. (If their waffles are good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for this Jewish family.) This year, December 23rd was on a Sunday. We were very disappointed to find the restaurant was closed. (Check out the above links. They are thrown in sort of randomly, but they are both doosies.)

We searched for an alternative. Nothing was quite as inspiring--but when we got to South Carolina, we ran across a few interesting choices. We knew all about International House of Pancakes--but we passed the Southern Pancake House, the National House of Pancakes, the American House of Pancakes, and even the Pan-American House of Pancakes.

We also passed a gun and ammo shop that had a big sign saying "Happy Birthday Jesus"--but they didn't serve breakfast....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Many cultures celebrate the turn of the year with special foods. Food is sometimes the way we pray.

In Japan, you eat unbroken long noodles and mochi to ensure a long and sweet life. Greeks eat cakes with coins cooked into them. Italians swear by fat pork sausage and lentils, celebrating the richness of the new year while hoping for the pennies at the same time. In Spain, you savor 12 grapes. And of course, the French find my favorite use of grapes: champagne.

If you grew up--black or white--in the American South, you probably eat a meal very similar to the one on our stove right now. Some people say that the collards in a traditional New Year's meal stand for dollars and the black-eyed peas stand for the coins. Others say you get good luck from eating beggar's food on the first day of the year.



While we were visiting my parents, brother, and extended family in coastal South Carolina, we picked up cow peas (a New Year's tradition even older than black-eyed peas) and rice from Carolina Plantation. Growing along the Pee Dee River are crops that have been grown on this land for almost three hundred years. We're thrilled to discover a local source--or at least local when we travel to my parents--for dried beans, rice, and grits. Time to stock up!


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