Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


That is a beautiful story and lovely post.

By Blogger Catherine, at 8:04 AM  

Yes, beautiful. I don't have such vast and varied kinfolk around me except immediate family, since both my parents moved here from the midwest. But as good Catholics, propagate they did, as did their children, (save me), and we're therefore creating our new generations and family history right here and now, for future descendents to reminisce and hold dear.

By Blogger Mary, at 8:44 AM  

Whenever I read one of your lovely "life and family in the country" posts, I am reminded of a wonderful book (which I've read and re-read) called Hill Song by Lee Pennock Huntington. Now it is about Yankee country - I guess Vermont is about as Yankee as you can get - but it evokes the same love of the country life as many of your stories do. Have you read it? If not, I think you would enjoy it.

Thank you for another wonderful story -

Your loyal reader,
Carol in Oregon

By Blogger Rogue Knitter, at 11:57 AM  

Pardon me Bess for using your Blog to do this....but I would love to know where in Oregon, "Carol In Oregon" is? Since I am here in Oregon, I am curious.

Miss you, Love you, can't wait to see you again!

In Oregon :)

By Anonymous Patti, at 1:36 AM  

Pardon both of us Oregonians, Bess!

Hi, Patti - I live in Jacksonville and I work in Ashland at The Web-sters (of which you may have heard...).


By Blogger Rogue Knitter, at 10:59 AM  

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Sunday, July 30, 2006  

That wonderful Austen line flung out by Mrs. Bennet, "I’ll have you know, we dine with four and twenty families!" echoed through my head all day Saturday and while we may dine with slightly more than that, I agree with her that Country Living is a Vast Deal Better than Town. I’d venture to say even country dying is better. At least, bidding a soul good-bye in an ancient colonial church, nestled like a brooding hen beneath even more ancient trees on a hot July afternoon and then laying a simple pine box in the family cemetery at an ante-bellum home, with its great sweeping fields fringed by hardwoods and its rolling lawns that slope down to the river, greatly softens the sting of death.

We said our farewells to Mr. Mac yesterday. He was another of those threads that kept me close to those old ways, those long ago times, that world before the phrase "random access" had been coined, back when a consequence marched smartly behind every choice. Mr. Mac was like me, a brought-here, marrying into one of those vast web-like families who claim kin to half the population of the county and durn near half of the state - NOVA residents of shiny new vinyl villages excepted. He was even a Yankee come-here, mind, but having married a local gal, had greater claim to brought-herednesss - which I have been assured, is a vast sight different.

When we first moved down/back to Essex, Mr. Mac was head of the local branch of the VA employment agency and his wife, Miz (a southernism, not to be confused with Ms.) Mac had bought the old Champlain Store and Post Office from the Truslows. The store was a very plain cinder block rectangle with living quarters on one side and the big open store building opening off the kitchen. The Truslows had raised two children in that little house, built before 17 was widened into a divided highway. The property wouldn’t pass set back laws now and I think that’s why it’s been on the market for 20 years.

But 30 years ago you could still keep a running ticket at that store. It still held our post office, there were two gas pumps out front, a kerosene pump out the side door, with two pew-like benches flanking the oil drum wood stove that warmed it in winter and an ancient blue industrial air conditioner that mitigated the summer’s heat. I could write for a week about the old Champlain store and still leave out quaint little vignettes from my own memories, and I have only a decade’s worth of ‘em. Partly this is because Miz Mac was so vivid. I’d call her peppery except she was also loving and even kind. More like a fireball (the candy, that is) than a jalapeno.

Her love particularly targeted her family and most particularly, Mr. Mac. And he was a worthy recipient; kind, patient, soft spoken, tolerant and, I suspect, a bit hennish, when it came to his children. Typical of his devotion to them was how, when his first grandson neared high school graduation, Mr. Mac began to haunt the library, lingering in the 300’s, pouring over all the college selection books. This became his pet project and I have no idea how his kids felt about it, but I would bet it was with tender forbearance, not with irritation. You’d just have to feel tender towards Mr. Mac, because he was so tender himself. The other thing I’d be willing to bet is that he never hollered at his children. I’m sure he left all that to his beautiful, fireball wife.

The gathering was a sampling of Upper Essex families, leavened with the sort of new folk who like rural life, so they fit in even if they did come here (from someplace else). The setting, as described above, proves that it’s not all Gone With The Wind. The stretched out emotions had a faded quality to them, like the picture of Mr. Mac, in lace baby dress, held proudly by beaming parents displaying their wee little 1919 first born baby son. He’d survived World War II, including the taking of Iwo Jima, he’d come home to a handshake from the new bride he’d left behind. He’d raised two children and watched the next generation not just hatch but fledge. He’d been very ill at the end. He’d been able to die at home, surrounded by wife, daughter, grandchildren. He’d been loved for 87 years. Taken all together, he’d had a good run.

We all stood solemnly around, among the family markers: Old Fielding and Louise, Big Nancy, Aunt Imogene, Gerry, who didn’t make it past 20 and Peter, who just made it to 21, proof that death is an arbitrary reaper. We drifted into the big house, chatted softly to each other, huddled in corners with frosty glasses of ice tea, nibbled on ham biscuits and little pecan tarts, hugged each other a lot, and took our deepest relief in the children sprawled, climbing or crowding on sofas, porches and lawn. We’re becoming the top layer these days, BD and I, and Roger and Isobel, Kim and Cupper, Mac and BettyAnn. Miz Mac is the last of the Wheatland siblings to remember when, during the 1930’s, when cash hardly existed, they sold the boxwoods in front of the house to that Rockefeller man with his dream of a Colonial Williamsburg reborn and shipped them down river on a steamboat, using the money to send children to college. Where once we were the young things - and held that position a long time - we’re now the old ones, or the almost old ones, with very few of us sheltering beneath the umbrella of living parents.

It was beastly hot all day. By the time we were climbing the riverbanks and wending through the forest up to Highway 17 I was ready to fall asleep. Instead, we just stopped off at home to pick up the wedding gift for Cousin Robert and his bride Marcy, before heading to town to celebrate another of those important life markers with all the Central Essex families who snuggle up to our hearts. Here were the Hundleys and the Lovings, the Brookes and Acrees, and the mythical Caroll Lee Walker from Walkerton, VA, (KaraLEE is the phonetical spelling) with his gravely voice and heart melting King & Queen accent. Robert is one of 4 cousins who went through the high school together in the early 1990’s, along with my own LD.

This party was a family production, everything fresh from the garden, or Alice Mae’s kitchen, or from Gramma’s recipe. This was the Millers Tavern branch of the family and all the stories that are lifted out of the memory trunks and shaken onto the table took place at Beaver’s Hill or Fleetwood or Retreat. Some few come from as far away as Mechanicsville or Varina, back when they were both intact little towns surrounded by cornfields. The stories are all farm based. They’re all family centered. They’re just the thing for a new couple, starting a new branch on the family tree. They aren’t too different from the memories pulled out at the funeral, but they have a brighter color to them. They’re less wrapped in sighs and softness, more couched in laughter and teasing. The guest list overlapped a tad, the genetic pool is pretty much the same in the central portion of the county as in the upper end. You would be forgiven for thinking the bartender was a Cooke, not a Hundley. The great-grandmother was probably a Clarke.

I had to take a moment to sit in the corner, though, so my own emotions, slightly detached from, and yet so utterly connected to all these people, could resonate like the sympathetic strings on a theorbo. I needed to soak up all the feeling of community, of humanity, of wholeness, with which back-to-back family events on a hot southern summer day fairly thrum. Before I could get up close and personal, I had to savor this whirling entirety in the third person. Later on, for those of us who had spent all day in society, there were little jokes about finding a christening to attend somewhere down in Laneview so we could take in the whole county.

All the time, I was wondering, is this a rare glimpse of society or is it the American norm? I felt as if I were watching something special, something delicate, even anachronistic. But that’s because it’s mine: my county, my cousins, my friends, my farewells and my hellos, my world of many decades. I rather think, though, that it’s yours too, you folk in Port Royal or Bowling Green, Suffolk or Bedford, you Rockvillians and Jeffersonvillians. This combination of friends, of DNA, of long shared memories and inevitable tomorrows; it’s probably something any rural community could cough up on any given summer Saturday. And that is a bond of a sorts as well - that my little world is probably pretty much like yours. The names may be changed, the ethnic body type, but the basic recipe is the same. But if it’s not, and if I have been even slightly successful at painting this landscape, you welcome to borrow some of mine.

posted by Bess | 6:32 PM


Ah yes, a Daughter. We have one -- the beautiful G...who is now also my good friend, but is still (sigh) closer to her father...A mixed blessing.

By Blogger Margaret, at 9:22 AM  

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Thursday, July 27, 2006  

Two more days! Two more days!

I am sticking my tongue in my cheek here, because part of the reason I’m excited about SRC winding up is that our guest for the final day is a wonderful storyteller, Gary Lloyd, who is a friend as well as an entertainer. I’m so looking forward to his visit I can’t help being excited about Friday.

But I’m not sticking my tongue in too deeply - for I am always glad when these 6 weeks come to a close. Life becomes so much less hectic when we aren’t dealing with prizes and programs and reading logs and sign-up sheets. There are some housekeeping things we’ll get into this August - some weeding, some rearranging. And people will be taking vacations. Not me, alas. Mine won’t come till late September, after the Friends’ auction. I can squeeze out a day now and then, for R&R though. I did so yesterday. At least, I left a few hours early and spent the late afternoon on the river with BD and his loner teens.

Way back in the Mesozoic era, just 24 hours before meeting BD, I met R, a dorm-mate living on the top floor of Rhoads Hall. She is my oldest continuous friend, still a cozy fit after 35 years. She married later than I and started her family correspondingly, so her daughter J is still in high school. J is visiting this week, along with her cousin M, and BD is in seventh heaven, taking them out on the river all day and driving them into town as often as they ask. I’ve often thought that ‘most every man ought to have a daughter and I’ve certainly been sorry that mine never did. Fortunately we are able, now and then, to borrow one for a few days.

But I also left work early yesterday because I’m feeling sort of at loose ends. I have tried and tried to find a book to read after finishing Love Walked In - and haven’t found one yet. I am plugging away on the Vitadini cotton boucle - and wondering why ever am I torturing myself? I hate knitting with this stuff. I don’t like inelastic yarn. In fact - as I type these words I realize I am going to find a new owner for this stuff. There is plenty of gorgeous, springy, compliant, friendly wool yarn in my stash. Why spend pleasure time with anything that doesn’t bring pleasure?

Oh - and I was given a Hog Island fleece yesterday. Here’s what the folk at Sheep 101 have to say about them:

“** Hog Island **

About 200 years ago, a flock of sheep was established on Hog Island, one of Virginia's barrier islands located off its Eastern Shore. The sheep were already native to the area and are believed to have had a substantial amount of Merino blood in them. There were occasional subsequent introductions to the population, the last being in 1953, when a Hampshire ram was taken to the island. In 1974, the island was sold to The Nature Conservancy, which decided to remove all the sheep and cattle. Gunston Hall Plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, eventually became the owner of the greater number of these sheep and exhibits them as part of its replication of 18th century plantation life. Hog Island sheep evolved and survived for over 200 years in an extremely harsh environment on a limited diet and no medical attention. The Hog Island is classified as a "critical" breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Breed categories: medium wool, rare”

This particular fleece is horribly dirty. It’s from Wakefield, George Washington’s birthplace and it’s a display sheep. I’ve been there recently and they keep their sheep in pens a good bit of the time. I don’t know I I’ll be able to clean this fleece but I’m sure willing to give it a go. It’s mostly merino and it is deliciously soft. But oh lawsee - what a mess.

So - that is what’s happening at TheCastle. Stay cool.

posted by Bess | 6:43 AM


This loyal subject is dying to see the perfect hat of which Her Royal Highness writes. Of course, it would certainly aide Her Royal Highness' efforts if she owned a device that recorded images digitally.

And so this loyal subject must get off her lazy caboose, get her act together and deliver to Her Royal Highness said promised digital device.

Perhaps tomorrow, at Tara.

By Blogger Mary, at 9:47 PM  

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006  

She knits too!

She does. Really. She even finishes things every once in a while. She has finished that hat made out of Rowan (something or other) and Trendsetter Dune. She didn’t rip it out after all. She decided to try it on, with the 5 inch deep fold-up brim knit in a deep, broken rib stitch, still unseamed. First she tried it with the open edges in the back - and the corners flared out and made her look just like The Little Dutch Girl In Knitted Cap. Then she tried it with the unseamed edges parting in the front - and thought that had a definite 1930’s haute couture look - like something out of those extremely long fashion drawings found in Ladies Home Journal, when it was printed on newsprint paper instead of today’s glossy clay coated stuff.

The purpose of this hat was to make something that wouldn’t give her Hat Hair, admittedly a smaller problem now that she has a Wonderful New Short Hairstyle. The parting folds of softly ribbed fabric, deeply angled downward as the two edges flare away from each other, hug the ears but do not crush the hair. The puffy Dune yarn that makes up the crown of the hat is loosely knit so that it, too, doesn’t flatten what lies beneath. The deep brown of the brim will suit her winter coat to perfection. The slightly odd shape of the hat suits her personality in a similar pairing.

TheQueen is delighted! She loves it when a mistake turns out to be Divine Guidance. She will see if she can provide a visual of some sort ... in a day or two ... at Tara.

In her ever striving effort to KnitFromHerStash she is experimenting with some ancient Adrienne Vitadini yarn she picked up from a sale bin half a decade ago. There are 6, 48-yard balls of beige and 2 of a greyish olive green cotton boucle. Lumped together in a basket it looks as if there ought to be enough yarn to knit a tank top, but the fear is always there and the question lies unanswered... “Will She knit for a week and end up with a cotton boucle bath towel?” ... which, come to think of it - wouldn’t be an entirely useless finished object. The idea is to knit a flat body in the beige yarn up to the shoulders, but make it about 4 inches too narrow around the body, with a correspondingly wide neckline. After joining the shoulders, with the green, pick up stitches along front edge, around neck, down other front edge and knit a contrasting center stripe-with-neckband. A nice 3-needle bind-off and a tiny little armhole edging ought to complete it. Of course, all this is speculation. The concept is sound, but the engineering may be off. We shall just have to wait and see. I almost think that if TheQueen were to actually use up some stash of such antiquity, she ought to be allowed to purchase new yarn ... if she should so please.

In other areas of HerRoyalLife - our Queen presided over a massive graham cracker castle building party yesterday as part of the last week of Summer Reading Club Which Ends On Friday Yippee! There are 4 more activities and then We are done. The most fun event will be on Friday morning and Queenie plans to take a looooong lunch break with her guest, Gary Lloyd, and then come back to fritter the afternoon away on something mindless that involves chatting with patrons. She may even take the circ desk and release her staff to quiet corners.

She is also pleased to announce that TheReunionInvitations slid down the OutOfTown slot at the post office. When she first accepted responsibility for TheReunionInvitations, she managed to get them out 4 weeks ahead of the event. Each year they have fallen victim to TheProcrastinationPixie. This year ThoseInvitations will probably be hitting their respective destinations only 2 weeks before the event. TheQueen says, though, that anyone who is not aware of the date of a reunion that has been going on since the1850’s is probably not all that interested in coming anyway. Still, she has DoneHerDooty and feels all the relief she deserves.

She is now playing hostess to teenage guests who are honing their flattery skills in long dialogues with the PrinceConsort (who engineered this country party so that he could have some sailing partners). Happily, these guests are undemanding and also willing to do AllTheCooking. They’ll be AtThePalace through Thursday morning, when HizHighness will carry them home.

TheQueen will be back in the next day or so.

posted by Bess | 6:38 AM


Dearest Bess,
Thanks so much for the LOVE WALKS IN recommendation - I am almost ready for the next book & I will look for it & if necessary, put a request for it.
Will let you know about it.
And I think any book you write would be a must read!

By Blogger Martha, at 6:51 PM  

Bess, thank you for the recommendation, as if my list needs to be any longer. Oh, the dangers of working in a busy library. I felt the same way about a book I read earlier this summer called "Prep" that you did about "Love Walks In."

I was part of the chick-lit crowd for a while then after about a year they all started to seem the same because they were. I'm just happy that people are reading though and keeping librarians employed, I'll need a job for the next 30 years. :)

By Blogger erica, at 8:06 PM  

Bess, I must agree with Marth "I think any book you write would be a must read!" I think I've told you that before....I can see your book on the "Best Sellers List"! Seriously!

Big Hugs My Virginia Friend,
Love Patti

By Anonymous Patti, at 2:18 AM  

Ah, BooksBooksBooks. This is what I did at the bookstore: The Chick Lit was threatening to overrun the place, and it galls me to have to shelve it anywhere near a Real Book in the Literature section. I created two spin racks, named them "Light Literature," and filled them with all the fluff that's not brand new. The customers flock to them, they haven't a clue that we're being a bit snooty, and we are happy that Picoult and Proust no longer share shelf space!

Your book, however, will reside next to Hemingway.

By Blogger Jane, at 8:41 AM  

Well, I will have to check out that book -- your loving it is high praise!

But I wait, as do many others, with baited breath for the day we get to read a novel, (surely a novel, right?) written by that great Southern writer, Bess Haile. Please don't let us wait too terribly long, will you?

By Blogger Mary, at 9:39 PM  

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006  


Didn’t mean to drop off the earth like that. Just something wonderful happened over the weekend that swept me away for a bit.

I work with books all day long. I read reviews. I recommend titles. I organize them in alphabetical and numerical order, and then re-order them because at night they like to get down and dirty and party big time, so that, come 10 a.m., all those lovely 746.43’s are off somewhere with the 315.02879’s and for sure there are JB’s in the J555.093’s. I suffer from all the classic librarian’s disorders - the belief that There Is An Answer, the sense of obligation to Know Every Answer, the absolute surety that If It’s In A Book, I Can Learn It.

But just because I review, purchase and manipulate books all day doesn’t mean I have found many books I really value - especially when it comes to fiction. As long ago as the late 1980’s I began to notice a certain disappointing quality to the novels rolling off the presses at an alarmingly swift rate. Whining, bitching women and weak (and definitely worthless) men. Not a hero among ‘em, other than Jack Ryan and well, wouldn’t you rather wait for the move and just look at Harrison Ford instead? One sarcastic, vocabulary swollen chick in a New York or L.A. office can be entertaining, but 36 inches of them on a shelf is ... enough already. As these gals wrestled with their silent Dads and WickedWitch mothers, as they had endless Erica Jong type encounters on closely watched trains with limp men, as they Sorta Triumphed in Sisterhood - I grew ever more cynical about modern fiction.

It is very hard to spend $ on what I mostly consider garbage. It’s even harder to not grow jaded with people who gush and swoon over what I think should be in a mental dumpster. My emotional attachment to all the women who closed the covers of Ya-Ya Sisters longing to move to Florida and become a member of their sorority suffered irreparable damage. As I think back over the past decade and a half I realize that’s probably one reason I was first to leap on Internet as a Library Option and devote $ to computers and rural access instead of books, years before even some of the more urban libraries. It’s also probably why I’ve spent so much on audio books - because I have to spend the $ and audio books cost more than paper books - so at least I’ll have bought fewer dreadful stories about people I find repulsive.

Shame shame, OhQueen. An entire post’s worth of words about Yourself when what you really wanted to say was that you’d just finished reading a Wonderful Novel.

Yep. That’s what’s kept me away from Blogland. A patron returned a new book about a week ago, saying “it’s a wonderful book.” How I wish I could remember who it was - because I’d love to talk to her about it. Something in her voice - some sincerity of tone - some trust I unknowingly put in her judgment - made me take it home, whereupon I promptly misplaced it, not finding it till I cleaned house on Saturday. Carying it upstairs, I peeked at page 1, sat down on the half made bed, read a chapter - and was lost.

It’s called Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. It’s set in present day Philadelphia. It’s about a young-ish, single woman and falling in love and it has a happy ending but it doesn’t take you on a sappy journey to get you there. It’s got a kid in it who’s believable enough, it’s got a bunch of people I immediately cared about. They weren’t so crippled that making a cup of coffee would be considered mental health. They weren’t so perfect they had no room to grow. The author skillfully told the story from two points of view and put one in the first person with the other in the third. The author cleverly displayed her own esoteric knowledge of classic films by endowing her heroine with the same database of actors, plot and dialogue.

Best of all, though, are the beautifully chosen words with which Ms. de los Santos swaddles every scene. Exquisite words that slip rich knowledge of Cornelia’s pajamas - and of the sort of woman who would pick such pajamas, into your consciousness so softly it’s more as if you remember that about her, rather than find it out. Lovely, friendly, chatty without being inane, painting word pictures you want to go back and linger over on page after page, this novel was pure pleasure from start to finish. This isn’t just a book I loved reading. It’s a book I wish I had written. I picked it up on Saturday evening and read through chapter one. All day Sunday I kept putting it down to DoDootifulThings but then abandoning housecleaning, preparing for unexpected Monday guests, languishing knitted projects and HeyBaby, with her almost full second bobbin, to pick it back up again. I shrugged off BD’s offer of a boat ride and a trip to town, I didn’t bother to get dressed, I carted the book from room to room and regretfully finished it just before dinner on Sunday.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t want a book to end. Non-fiction doesn’t count, since it ends when whatever was being talked about happens - you can wear the sweater, World War II comes to an end, or your stock portfolio swells enough to allow you to take early retirement. Historical fiction doesn't count either, because it has to come to an end when all those bold kings and strong queens eventually die and their dates are carved upon tomb stones. Their personal calendars are known quantities. Unlike the life you’re living now - with it’s endless moments of waiting for the next thing, giving time an elasticity and mystery that can’t be measured, a historical novel has a structure, the fact of which is already accepted, even if it’s not yet known. But a contemporary novel with that mind bending ability to put you in a Philadelphia coffee shop, introduce you to a tee-tiny woman and her Cary Grant boyfriend and ... and make you want to stay forever - well. That has been a rare pleasure for me made all the more valuable for its very scarcity.

It’s funny about how Things can happen all at the same time. My darling BD had just been scolding me for Not-Writing-A-Novel - something he does about 4 times a year. Not mean scolds, not put you on the spot God I wish he’d shut up scolds, but the most tender praising prodding chide of a scold that fairly shouts out how much he believes in me. And then I read this book that makes me think ... “If I wrote a book I’d want it to be like that.”

I’ve foot-dragged for a long time about making a commitment to authorship because I think there are Too Many [BAD] Books already. Also - I don’t like people to behave in adaptive, dysfunctional, self destructive ways. Not in real life. Not in movies. Most definitely not in hard cover fiction. I am certainly not going to make some up and have them go their destructive ways. I couldn’t bear to spawn such children. It’s enough that I have to buy them with Your Tax Dollars and clog the rapidly diminishing shelf space in the library. If I had to accept responsibility for their existence I’d become clinically depressed.

Ahh. But. Then along comes a Marisa de los Santos who shows me that people I like can also be interesting! Wow. What a thought. A person could be the mother of people like that. A person could spend a year in the lives of Other Folk You’re Glad You Met.


What a thought.

What a book.

I hope you give it a try.

posted by Bess | 7:25 AM


Bess... sigh... I think I must disagree with you for once...

ROTFLOL - I happen to love Les Miserables, but I completely understand what you mean by it - I also can't compare it from my childhood to adulthood, because I never read it until I was 19...

Trying to think of an answer for that question (the main one that interested me) Most of the books I've really taken the time to reread as an adult I still love, even if perhaps in a different way - Little House, A Little Princess, Little Women (whats up with all these "Little" titles)...The Love Comes Softly series (hate the Hallmark movies by the way - so not right) - all of these I've reread at least once if not multiple times as an adult and haven't really had a bad experience with it... but I'm sure there will be something eventually... I do know that I've re-read some things I read in highschool and gotten more out of them... I'm also sure that there are probably things I've read now in my 20s that I may feel differently about in another 20 years too...

By Anonymous Aria, at 11:28 PM  

Bess, you are so clever! I think I will copy your little quiz and pass it on to friends. Very cute questions. I love the story about the,so funny!

Miss you,

By Anonymous Patti, at 12:31 PM  

Bess, I loved your meme. May not post all of it on my blog though just because my grandfather reads on a regular basis.

Btw, don't know if you read the comments in previous posts but I left you a long comment about the "too many blogs" post on KR.

By Blogger erica, at 2:09 PM  

P.S. I've missed your comments and pick-me-ups on my blog but your slow connection explains it.

By Blogger erica, at 2:10 PM  

Just to let you know, that after posting my answer to the one question here in the comments, I did finally manage to make my internet connection like my blog today and updated and did the meme there... (I think I am going to have to start blogging before I come home in the afternoon until I get in my house with good internet...but I know you understand that one - at least mine IS fast - when it works!)

By Anonymous Aria, at 11:50 PM  

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Saturday, July 22, 2006  


I’ve gotten several memes in the past and they’ve mostly all been fun, so I thought I’d make up my own. Instead of e-mailing it out (just in case you are one who feels burdened by these things) I’m posting it here. Feel free to blog your response or leave it as a comment and put as few or as many answers as you want to share. Here’ goes.

What was the scariest thing (or one of them if you’ve had many adventures) you ever experienced?

Back in the olden days when we lived in a little cabin with no electricity or plumbing, BD worked a swing shift at a local factory. When he pulled the 11-7 shift he’d have breakfast around 10 and then leave for work about 10:30. We had a little battery operated radio that picked up CBS television out of Richmond and I often stayed up to listen to the 11 o’clock news. One night I fell asleep and was wakened by the sound of men walking up the path from the east woods, yelling at each other as they came nearer and nearer to the cabin. There I was, alone with a 1 year old -no phone - no neighbors - with at least three strange men walking through my woods at midnight, a mile from the nearest hard surface road.

I was out of bed, across the cabin, throwing the bar across the door and reaching for the shotgun before I heard those fateful words....

"Beam me up, Scotty."

Yep. It was StarTrek re-runs on the late night television.

Do you plan to retire where you are right now or move somewhere else?

Stay right here.

Three little gifts you’re always glad to get:

Real mail
Something hand made

4 careers you might have enjoyed:

Events planner at a large hotel
Elementary school teacher
Independently wealthy dilettante

A book you loved as a child but found disappointing as an adult:

Les Miserables - way too black and white to be realistic - but I sure was swept away at 12.

"Somebody ought to do (invent, make, write) that!

A magazine of hairstyles for women over 40

Where or on what could you easily drop $100? - up to 5

Gourmet/organic/specialty food

Name an adult, not a parent, who really had an impact on you before you were 18 and what made such an impression.

There were so many. They were nearly all teachers, adults I had to please to survive, but who made it easy to do so and in exchange, offered me new ways of seeing things, new ways of understanding things, new ways of making it, out there in the big world. I offer only one, among the many: Mrs. Keany, my 12th grade English teacher, who taught me the craft of writing and showed me, for the first time, what structure can do to free up artistic talent. It is knowledge that has helped me in many other areas of my life as well. Whenever I can’t find my way out of a sticky situation I know to surround it with a structure and use that to work out the answer. Thank you Mrs. Keany.

* * *

Hope you enjoyed that. Hope you are as happy as I am that it is TheWeekend.

posted by Bess | 7:46 AM


Cable? Satellite? (The latter might also require tree removal).

Can't speak to dial-up speeds as it has been a long time since I was subjected to that torture. But, I'd call Verizon and explain your problem to their technical support. It may be just a matter of switching to a different access number, to bump you back up to 24K or faster. 12K is almost useless!

By Blogger Mary, at 11:41 AM  

Hi Bess,
My thought is this....You really need to find out if your Modem can be upgraded (which I doubt) but always good to ask. Someone had posted trying another access number which is an excellent idea if you have more to choose from (which I doubt) being where you live. The bottom line is a new PC with Wireless capabilites built in for when they do get the tower up. If your PC is old I would doubt that you will be able to connect to wireless with it. So, Patti's advice is this...New PC with Internal Wireless and then just hug BD and walk him through the new changes with it! LOL


By Anonymous Patti, at 6:25 PM  

OK...I meant to ask...can someone please define "indie" for me? Or, Bess....tell me if I am "indie"!! LOL LOL

Love you and miss you,

By Anonymous Patti, at 8:52 PM the dumb can I be?!! Yep...I am the definition of "indie"!

By Anonymous Patti, at 8:59 PM  

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Friday, July 21, 2006  

Ahh darlin’s. It’s not that I don’t know that higher speed access won’t be better. I work each day with high speed I. A. It's more a question of if I can ever get higher speed access. DSL isn’t offered to neighborhoods with fewer than 40 houses in a mile. In our case it’s about .7 houses per mile. Wireless hasn’t put up a tower yet and we may have too much tree coverage even when they do. I’ll take down the one tree by the house. I was going to anyway. But I'd never trade my forest for internet access.

The questions I’m asking, I suppose, are:

Has dial-up service (especially Verizon's) suddenly gotten much worse?

And just how fast is Verizon going to connect us with their dial-up service - if 12,000 bps is standard, I’m sunk as long as I am restricted to dial-up. If they can bump me up to 24K well .... how do I get them to do so?

But that’s why I almost never comment on people’s blogs. The comment feature hangs most of the time. It’s why I can’t read the NYT at home any more. It’s really going to put me off the Internet except during lunch hours. Rats.

or not.

Think how much more spinning time I’ll have!!

Cheers for the weekend! One more week of SRC. Three weeks till the Reunion. Six weeks till September!!

posted by Bess | 6:13 AM


Run, don't walk, to sign up with that wireless provider. You'll never know how you survived before you had it. Or, you might want to at least consider going to DSL, which is faster than dial-up but not as expensive as cable.

By Blogger Mary, at 1:14 PM  

Hi Bess! Had Verizon-dial up, went to Verizon-DSL - no problems. We use a wireless system in our house as we usually have up to four laptops running from time to time. I realize that none of this would be possible without a 17 year old in residence... when he graduates, it's back to letter writing...

By Anonymous Glenn across the river, at 5:45 PM  

We have Verizon DSL and love it!

By Blogger Amie, at 8:30 PM  

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Thursday, July 20, 2006  

I’m doing a little informal investigating. If you happen to use Verizon dial-up to get on-line, I’d appreciate any answers to the following questions:

Have you noticed it’s gotten much slower over the past few months?

What speed do you connect to your internet provider?
(hint - double click on the two little green monitors down in the bottom right corner. I window will pop up and give you your connect speed. Mine’s 12,000 bps)

My internet provider says Verizon is “required” to connect us at 24,000 bps. Verizon says they aren’t. All I know is that my connection is so bad most web sites time out before they can load. I overheard a couple complaining about Verizon dial-up suddenly tanking when I picked up my computer from the computer hospital last week. I’m wondering if it’s just us (po’ folk with antiquated computers in rural locations), if it’s Verizon in Virginia (a particularly unresponsive company), Verizon in general or if the internet is just so crammed with bits and bytes crashing into each other we’re just seeing the fate of all a little sooner because we’re on the bottom rung.

So. What’s it been like for you out there - my friends who still have dial-up at home? Same? Super? Suddenly sucky?

A wireless company is putting a tower up across the river in the next month. It’s radius includes my house and you can be sure - I’ll switch in a heartbeat if we can actually connect. We were planning to take that pin oak by the side door down anyway. Crossing my fingers about it all. Things are reeeeeeeealy bad here at the moment.

And thank you, Catherine,Ramona and Jane. I’m not even sure why I opened up that KRForums thread, since I already think it’s a stupid question. Too many blogs is a little like too many thoughts. Since they’re all voluntary, why should I care. Is there a moral issue attached to abundance? I should like to see the person who is wise enough to accurately winnow all the chaff from the intellectual wheat fields of the universe. Solomon? Solomonia?

Alas - though - I haven’t any fiberish news to post at all. Yesterday was my Board of Directors meeting; the day I must report to my bosses. And even though they’re great bosses and warm and willing to move things forward, I’m still “on the mat” on those quarterly BOD days. Besides, any knitting I have to do today will be of the UN version - as in unknitting or ripping out that Rowan/Trendsetter hat. I believe I’ll use my morning to spin instead.

posted by Bess | 8:29 AM


You don't have to read the whole thread. Here's a synopsis/my take on the ressponses to the original poster (who has mysteriously disappeared from the discussion): If you don't like a blog, then don't read it, and why be even slightly rude about it?

Complaining about anybody's blog content makes no sense to me. Why does everyone have to be a critic?

I want to know about your day, and your heart, and yes even your knitting. If I didn't, I wouldn't visit. Simple! And nobody gets hurt!

By Blogger Jane, at 8:37 AM  


I thoroughly enjoy regularly reading your blog. I first discovered you and your terrific writing style through the KR forum and since have been a devoted follower.

I agree with Jane in that if you don't like a blog and/or want to read it, then don't do so and don't complain about it. Perhaps the original poster is an antagonist and just wanted to stir up some potentially confrontational conversation. If this is their way of "winning," I choose not to play.

Keep on keepin' on, Ramona

P.S. I will do a rain dance for you.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:09 AM  

I was amused that some people think blogs exist to serve them - knitting blogs should be providing educational content and perhaps even (this cracked me up) videos! There are "too many blogs" that don't meet HER needs as reader! Harrumpf!!

Some people do provide wonderful tutorials, and that's nice, but like you, I read them for the personal connection to people I either have met IRL or have become virtual friends through blogging. And some of the most popular "knit" bloggers don't write much about knitting at all. Personally, I barely skim the "totally dedicated to knitting" blogs - if something catches my eye I'll read it, but I really don't give a rat's heinie about someone's obsessive ruminations about a project. Give me Crazy Aunt Purl's thoughts on the Courtesy Wave any day!

By Blogger Catherine, at 7:48 AM  

I once saw someone complain on the Knitty Coffeeshop forum about folks responding to questions on the forum by saying something like "I've explained it in detail on my blog. Go here: http://...". The complainer didn't like having to go to another website; they felt that the person's answer should be full and complete on the forum. Someone quickly reminded the complainer that bandwidth and storage aren't free and that we're doing the forum owners (Amy/Knitty and Clara/KR) a disservice if we go on for three pages on someone else's dime. Funny what misconceptions people have.

I blog because I needed an outlet for my novice knitter exuberance. When I learned to knit (a year ago today!) the only other knitter I knew was my SIL Jenny who taught me, and I didn't want to overwhelm her with my unbridled enthusiasm, so I started the blog. And oh, what a year it's been! :-)

By Blogger Mary, at 1:08 PM  

I'm a few days late on this comment sorry. Bess, I hadn't read that post on the forum because I had a feeling what it was all about. Now after reading the first page it's exactly as I expected. I've cut back on the blogs that I read mainly because I'm tired of the "see how much I can be like ___ " mentality that seems to be sweeping the blog world. I run a blog ring and I love to see the new knitters who are so excited about their first scarf or first sweater. And there are those knitters who don't have knitting friends who love the fact that someone they don't even know comments and says, "I love your scarf." I started an "up to" page before there were even blogs to keep my friends up to date on what I was doing since so many of my friends were scattered all over the country. I think of the friends that I've made through the forums and their blogs and I'm glad that not everyone's blogs are tutorials. It's cheaper than a phone call and I get more out of reading your blog than I might on the phone anyway because you wouldn't have me interrupting. :)

Lately, I've been comparing your weather to ours and it makes me feel better than the midwest isn't the only place suffering under massive amounts of heat and humidity.

By Blogger erica, at 1:41 PM  

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006  

At 10:30 last night, it was still hotter outside than in, though we don’t have air conditioning and still use those ancient cooling methods of closed windows in the daytime and fans. So far this summer, even on the worst days I’ve been able to open the north windows around 5 o’clock and the rest of them around 8. Ahh well. At least it’s cooler this morning and the weather dot com guys have promised us the peak has passed. It’ll only be 90 today and in the 80’s by the weekend.

Weather is very important to folks who live on, work on, or derive income from farms. It’s even more important if you live somewhat au naturelle as we do, with wood heat in winter and high ceilings with fans in summer. It’s only on the most humid days of summer that I contemplate air-conditioning, but the truth is - I just don’t want it in the house. I’m deeply grateful to be able to work in air conditioning and if I could, I’d have air conditioned closets but other than that, I really prefer to feel the seasons. Hmmm. And I apologize because I go on about this every summer. Of course, this is why weather is so important. I live on a farm! And this year has been such a splendid farming year. I was a little worried when those daily rains came in June, as I waited for the combines to roll into the wheat fields, but they got there eventually. Of course, the cash flow was excruciating, since the wheat check is supposed to pay the property taxes and this year there was a 30+ day lag between their dates.

Corn looks to be even more splendid this year. All over the area, from the Potomac River to Richmond, enormous rectangle fields of sentinel like stalks, with their proud chests full of fat, swollen cobs, give promise of bountiful harvests. Unless a field caught on fire, or a tornado came through there’s nothing that could hurt that crop. Early beans look just as luxuriant and healthy. The late beans, which is what followed our very late wheat crop, got a good start with some brief, but drenching showers and a week or so of quite hot weather won’t hurt them a bit. A month of drought is another thing, but those weather dot com guys aren’t talkin’ ‘bout that.




(throat clearing)


(finger drumming)

(‘nother throat clearing)

(laugh at self)

So. I just opened up the thread on Knitters Review Forums All Forums
Knitting on the Web
Blog Talk
too many blogs... Yes or No????


Too many blogs? Why do we blog? Why do I blog? What is my secret hungering desire? Celebrity blogger - my secret longing? What prompts me to read a blog? Why don’t I have any pictures on my blog? Who do I think I am, anyway?

I wonder if I’ll read the whole thread. There are 3 pages and the first one is already causing me to blush. And at the same time, I don’t care why other people blog since reading them is voluntary. If I weren’t blogging I’d be writing these long prosy things and posting them somewhere - a forum, in a letter to a friend, in a diary...

No. Not in a diary - at least, not after January.

Well. I began blogging because I used to post these horrificlly long posts on the KRForums and as they began to swell up with non-knitting non sequiturs I felt a tad bit guilty, certainly too pushy and self aggrandizing, to keep hogging Clara Parke’s storage space. And perhaps, as the arena there grew so large I sort of wanted to work within a smaller audience. And I wanted to learn a wee bit of html. And maybe I wanted to be “in print”. A little. And I thought I might want to get some attention - which - now and then, I do.

This I know - I read the blogs I do - about 20 a day, because I have come to care about the people who write them. Most I have met face 2 face, a few I will probably never meet. But I want to know how they are doing, what is moving them, how they see their world. So I keep in touch, if only in a voyeuristic Read-Only manner. (I’d post more comments but I do my blog reading in the a.m. on dial-up access that is progressively eroding into complete stagnation. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes to open the comments feature!!)

Ahh well. I really ought not care. I can laugh at my own ego as easily as I can laugh at another’s.

Still - to keep this a knitting blog - (Doesn’t one of the webrings require you to say something knitterly at least once a week?) - the Rowan/Trendsetter hat is too small. At least, the rowan part is. I believe I’ll rip it out and knit the brim a tad wider. One ball of Dune makes only a hat crown plus a little bit more. Too bad. I was hoping to knit a tall peak that I could wrap around the head and fasten with a pin ... I had this idea in my mind - there isn’t enough yarn. This is not a great disappointment. It’s a mindless knitting project to begin with - a stash buster hat. I don’t mind knitting it again.

Board meeting today. One more week of SRC after this week and then it’s half way to autumn and only a month till my 30 day ego trip of birthday celebrating.

Stay cool. Drink water.

posted by Bess | 7:42 AM


LGBG in the summer! Is there anywhere more humid in the state of VA? Spent many a day 'drenched' in the atmosphere of that lovely place - somewhere designed to be intimate yet public. I miss it. I gather your activities are indoors! It often sounds like the 'royal' gardens around you are similarly designed. How lovely! Am starting to knit a tutu with Berroco. Something to stash away for the future. Otherwise divide knitting between scarves, shells and stash knitting. I not only have stash yarn, but I have stash knitted/crocheted presents. Still, no spinning, no socks. This must change as 20 year old has expressed desire to take a handknit sock wardrobe to China over Christmas holidays - direct result I suspect of reading MY Yarnharlot!!!! Stay cool and keep inspiring the rest of us.

By Anonymous Glenn across the river, at 5:35 AM  

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006  

My preference each morning is to read through a dozen favorite web spots: newspapers, e-mail, blogs, forums, before I start writing my post. This way, if something of import, or even just personal interest, leaps out at me, I can use it as the theme of the day’s post. Even something as tickling as discovering an obituary for Micky Spillane, author of the dark Mike Hammer mysteries and Robert Brooks the developer of Hooters Restaurant, on the same page can be a jumping off point for a meandering wander through TheQueen’s state of mind. Other times, I know what I want to talk about and can use the down time between one slow as molasses page load and another in a productive way by writing the day’s missive. And sometimes, I dither about, knowing exactly what I’d like to share, but unable to find the words. Those are the mornings I type and delete a dozen sentences before grabbing my hair and making a loud ARGH noise and then opening up a game of solitaire with our thousand dollar deck of cards.

Guess which type of morning today is.

How frustrating, when what I really want to do is to paint last Sunday for you with glorious sparkling words, for it was a day of such beauty and peace and balance I could feel every minute as it filled its allotted time, rolling forward into the next with perfect ease - with rightness so targeted that you couldn’t regret its passing, even though you knew it would be gone forever.

We’d been having a dreadful Bermuda High - one of those summer spells when no breeze blows and the moisture in the air can be scooped up and put into a glass. The sort of weather that turns dust into mud before you can sweep it up. The sort of leaden atmosphere that makes every spare ounce on your body feel like an unwelcome pound of flesh. It culminated on Saturday with wet air so heated it pressed against your lungs, only to blow away in the night, shoved off by some dry northwest (probably Canadian) gift of wind. Sunday dawned a jewel of clear, sweet air that caressed every sticky surface, mopping up damp and mildew and bad moods, misery and discomfort and haze, leaving us in that state of languid energy that can only happen when you know you’ve done all your chores, you have a good book, toys, a new crossword puzzle and dinner planned, and a whole day’s worth of minutes unfolds before you to do with as you please.

Throughout the day I often stopped whatever I was doing to just savor the beauty of existence, the pleasure of being able to look in any direction and see the sharp edges of green leaves against blue sky, the crisp definition of just mowed lawn against a well swept walkway, the vivid colors of a world that had been hidden by smudgy haze for a week. At times my heart would constrict with the realization that there was no way I could share such beauty here, that it was my pleasure alone, for even as I knew I would try to describe it all, I knew I wouldn’t have the vocabulary to convey all the layers of pleasure such a day brings.

Odd, that when I am completely enmeshed in the beauty that is a home in the country at its best, I feel compelled to find another with whom to share it. That’s how I began throwing my large garden parties, events that grew to an annual gathering of a hundred odd guests from all walks of my life; from the library board to long standing friends to family members. It’s probably why I like to write these long posts about Life In The Country. It’s just so durn beautiful - when it’s beautiful - which is most of the time. It’s too much beauty to enjoy alone. All day on Sunday I kept wishing I could teleport in my far-away friends to give them the sweet soft air, the dancing green of the marsh, the prehistoric cry of Mr. Bald Eagle, the sleek head of a white Labrador retriever, the crisp bite of fresh corn on the cob, the delight of a patch of grass hidden around the bend of a persimmon tree skirted with day lilies. These pleasures are ephemeral, for all their constancy, for they depend on two ungovernable powers - time and weather. Each one of those forces inflict perpetual change upon the present so that the gleam of sunset on the maple tree will shift to a different forest window as the clock ticks, the vividness of a day of perfect weather will give way to another bank of hazy moisture when tomorrow dawns.

Happily, I could share the day with TheKingHimself, so my gushing praise had a recipient, my giddy pleasure had a partner. Even happier still, he is as sensitive as I to the magic of Virginia when it is Eden. We savored a slow morning in bed, parted to caress our separate joys, reunited for meals and a canoe ride to the swimming beach, and took our books to bed with us to top of the day. There is a new bobbin on HeyBaby, a library book to return and a netflix DVD to put in the mailbox this morning.

Monday came in hothothot - and I spent it at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens at a series of lectures put on by educators - part of the Governor’s Thrust For Quality Early Childhood Education - who gave us a single lunch break in the midst of a long series of lectures. Is this evidence that the problem of ritalin controlled, ADHD kids, sinking into misbehavior or torpor is caused by an education system that doesn’t believe in physical activity? It’s obvious to me that eventually they’ll give us mandatory pre- and pre-pre-kindergarten in the schools, regardless of how much the professional educators say they’re not angling for it. I’ve never yet seen an educational system, be it for infants, children or college students, that didn’t want to get bigger. Sooner or later the DoE will be unable to resist all that new funding - but in the mean time they can use their travel budgets for more symposiums on TheProblem.

Today the weather dot com guys promise even hotter temperatures though it’s not as humid as last week, and dry heat is not so hard to take. It’s a busy week for me from this point on. It’s the week of the July Library board meeting so I’ll be bustling and serious and dressed in my business outfit, rather than the easy T-shirt and skirt summer uniform. I leave you with this cute joke sent to me by dear L:

> Two bored casino dealers are waiting at the crap table.
> A very attractive blonde woman from Alabama arrived ....and bet
> twenty-thousand dollars ($20,000) on a single roll of the dice.
> She said, "I hope you don't mind, but I feel much luckier when I play
> topless."
> With that, she stripped to the waist; rolled the dice; and yelled, "Come on,
> baby.... Southern Girl needs new clothes!"
> As the dice came to a stop, she jumped up-and-down... and squealed... "YES!
> She hugged each of the dealers... and then picked up her winnings and her
> clothes, and quickly departed.
> The dealers stared at each other dumfounded. Finally, one of them asked,
> "What did she roll?"
> The other answered, "I don't know... I thought you were watching."
> Moral ---
> Not all Southerners are stupid.
> Not all blondes are dumb.
> But, all men..... are men.

posted by Bess | 7:28 AM


Ummm...what's "mostly indie"? I turned out to be 16% girlie, which is really stupid, 'cause I was never a tom-boy. They just didn't ask the right questions...or they're about 50 years off in their definition of "girlie". I'm "girlie" like Rosalind Russell...or Katherine (sp?) Hepburn...or Anne Bancroft. Hummmpfh!!!


By Blogger Margaret, at 2:55 AM  

In other words, I probably shouldn't waste my time (or rather our ILL assistant's time) getting either of them probably?

I'm doing good to get all the stuff I really really want to read read these days for some reason (too many choices maybe) - so I don't think I really want to go for either dissertation-style writing nor too much expose of the REAL Laura...

(I tend to be a little house purist so I probably don't want to read it, and should have come to that opinion on my own - I do recognize that its a fictional account of her life, and characters are combined and everything - yet I have the feeling its probably a lot more fictionalized than I'd like.... sigh - I think sometimes I should just stick to the books - I never really cared for the tv show (though that is the voices in my head when I read it now for some reason - although they did cast Ma very well in my opinion), and I'd be here forever if I got started on the tv movie that I only remember for the fact of Laura and the field...ick!

By Anonymous Aria, at 1:24 AM  

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Saturday, July 15, 2006  

Harumph. I’ve been sleepy and draggy most of the week - so when I finally have a Friday night with a free Saturday morning to follow - I wake up at 2:30 and try to read myself back to sleep. Proof, alas, that the dog days have come at last. Let us hope I can take a nap this afternoon.

To answer Aria - no. I haven’t yet read Miller’s biography of Laura. I’m not sure I want to - I was so crushed and repulsed by The Ghost in the Little House - a deconstructionist slash by William Holtz - that I’ve about quit reading TheTruthBehindYourJoy books. I don’t mind other people having their opinions, you know, just so long as I don’t have to pay any attention to them. I did read the much earlier bio by Donald Zochert, Laura, that filled in some childhood gaps and put the timeline into sharper focus. But I don’t recall much opinionating in his work - more a diary like itinerary of the family’s struggles, moves, health issues and eventual settlement.

It doesn’t surprise me that opinionators find Laura bossy - shrewish, even - somehow her alpha personality came through in most of her books - certainly in the teenage Laura. Nor can I refrain from a bit of a chuckle at the latest reviews of Miller’s bio, that refer to her with a double, unhyphenated last name: Ingalls Wilder. Shudder. Give me squeaky chalkboards any day.

Ahh well. I am an anachronism. I like to take one last name and apply it to the whole family. In future, I wonder if two hyphenated surnames will then also have to be hyphenated so that within a few generations we’ll all sound biblical when we are introduced.

“Hello, I’m Bess, daughter of Louise and Henry, daughter of Bessie and Walter and son of Everet and Eulalia, daughter of ...”

We’d do better just taking last names that identify us by our jobs. Bess Bibliorganizer. Call me BB for short.

The other reason I may not take up the new biography is that Miller’s style is both pedantic and redundant. He makes the same points so frequently it’s difficult to keep reading. I had suspected the Little Town work was a dissertation. I’m not sure I want to hear him repeatedly gush about the wonder of an independent career woman in an age of limited opportunities. Without trying to deny any of the historical inequities which have bound any group of people to limited options, I wonder why Miller rejected the notion that a farm wife was employed at a job. For that matter - the term independent career woman is something of an oxymoron. With almost no exceptions, career people have bosses and are not independent at all, but must work within the constraints of their industry and their firm. Even bosses have bosses - be they customers or the electorate. The work arena is first a place of work and only second, a garden of fulfillment.

Anyway - I didn’t mean to slide into a curmudgeonly grumble. I really intended to catch folk up on my week.

Monday I ran off to play with a girlfriend, B, who wanted to be walked through the steps of fiber dyeing. We’d talked about doing this long ago but hadn’t firmed up anything specific - and I’d been so hot and dazed and sleepy after the weekend festivities that I didn’t give much of a thought to all the steps involved. I hadn’t dyed anything in over a year, but it all came back to me in fits and starts, and B had all the things necessary to make beautiful pour dyed and handpainted fibers. I have pictures but they won’t be developed till Monday and I shan’t be near a scanner till Tuesday. Next week. Promise.

Tuesday night was our knitting night and 5 of us gathered in the cool of the library to stitch and share and show. B had her spinning, as well as the vest she’s knitting for her husband out of her first wheelspun yarn. L had her sample of Yarns From Beneath the Bed - and solicited advice on a possible garment made of them. S had her bamboo scarf. She was knitting it in stranded colorwork and was worried about the floats in the back. Out came Barbara Walker’s treasuries with their slipstitched mosaic patterns and she went home full of inspiration. C had a clutch of preemie hats knit in the now discontinued Cottonese. I’m not a cotton knitter much, but I know the what it is to mourn a discontinued favorite. I was knitting on my Rowan and Trendsetter hat and I had my new KnitPicks circulars for people to touch and knit with.

I spun a wee bit on HeyBaby Thursday morning. The first bobbin of Cormo/Mohair blend is about full. I hope tomorrow to get a LOT more done on bobbin #2. Maybe ply next weekend.

The week grew steadily hotter and more humid as it progressed towards the weekend. By yesterday it was downright oppressive. BD and I headed off to see some John Smith boat activity. Two museums are building replicas of the shallop he rowed/sailed around the Chesapeake bay. BD is in great demand at these places because he is not only the scholarly expert on Smith documents, but he has also been so active in helping to develop the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail. Both boatbuilding efforts are impressive. They are works of passion, labors of love, researched, designed and built by volunteers. The one being built at the museum in Middlesex - the next county south of us - is still under construction but the one at the Reedville Fisherman’s museum was launched at a 6 p.m. ceremony with much toasting, cheering and local pride.

And so it is the weekend. I must go in to work early this morning to deal with some equipment failure - it shan’t take long - I can’t do much. But what I can do must be done today because I shan’t be back till Tuesday. I’ll try to fit in a visit to the gym as well. The house is in great need of attention from broom, dust rag and vacuum. But tomorrow I hope to devote to fiberly persuits.

posted by Bess | 7:43 AM


Bess, I apologize in advance for an off topic comment here (well I could make it on topic by commenting on why I'm not doing a whole lot online these days myself - SLOW internet at the moment myself...ugh)

Anyway - what I wanted to ask is if you had read the biography of Laura that the same author has written? I haven't read any, but from the reviews on Amazon, apparently more people like that one... (I'm planning on ILLing either one then if I like it I'll buy it on Amazon, but I might as well take advantage of being a librarian and read it first!)

By Anonymous Aria, at 8:29 PM  

I love the LGBG library, although haven't spent as much time in it since they built the new education building. I used to volunteer in it, actually, when it was down at the Bloemendahl House. Now it's big and shiny and spacious and busy and feels somewhat sterile to me, but they definitely needed more space, so I'm happy they got it.

By Blogger Mary, at 12:45 PM  

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Friday, July 14, 2006  

It wasn't my intention to dissappear for so long. Blame it on dial up internet access that is so slow I may as well send Blogger my posts via pony express. Add to that wicked humidity, busy days at work, a play date on Monday and sleepless nights that keep me abed late in the mornings when I finally do get back to sleep. And Mercury is once again in retrograde so all things communicative are being snarled.

I ought to be able to post a real post tomorrow - and Real Photos on Tuesday. Monday I'll be happily being a good librarian at the Lewis Ginter Gardens Library all day, with a stop by one of the chain bookstores on the way home to pick up a copy of

I'm still feeling a bit like I'm living/drowning underwater - as if I ought to bestir myself before Something (that might be bad) Happens but since I can't put my finger on what Something might be I'll just blame it on humidity.

A real post tomorrow.

posted by Bess | 11:42 AM


Dearest Bess,
That is a great haircut - hope I am as lucky next week when I see Nicole for mine!

By Blogger Martha, at 7:11 PM  

Wow, you look good lady! And like you were having so much fun. The haircut rocks.

By Blogger Carolyn, at 8:22 AM  

Ditto that.

Someone you used to like.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:02 PM  

Oh yay! Finally I get to see the new cute haircut! You're so stylin'! ;-)

By Blogger Mary, at 12:43 PM  

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006  

Here is the story teller.

Here's a better look at her great haircut.

posted by Bess | 5:21 PM


What a lovely tale about the uniqueness of family. I could just taste that old champagne, too. Such a way with words!

Carol in Oregon

By Blogger Rogue Knitter, at 9:35 AM  

Oh my. My oh my. Thank you for taking us with you, dear Bess!

By Blogger Jane, at 5:57 PM  


By Anonymous Glenn across the river, at 8:34 AM  

I love hearing about the party, I'm still wiping away the tears! Jane

By Blogger jane, at 11:17 AM  

Dearest Bess,
Thanks for sharing this wonderful story - what a sweet tale about your family.

By Blogger Martha, at 8:34 PM  

I'm behind in reading your blog but catching up today. Your story of the 60th anniversary party brought back memories of my parent's 50th, just two years ago, and made me hope and pray that they both are still around for their 60th. Each year they can celebrate another one becomes more precious.

By Blogger Mary, at 12:42 PM  

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Monday, July 10, 2006  

Married 60 Years

The 60th anniversary party was a grand event. There was an abundance of food, a plethora of kin, glorious green grass domed by brilliant blue skies. There were games and water balloons, pleanty of chairs, way too many cakes, cookies and sweets, enough liquid refreshment to float a skiff and even a couple of dogs to dash about beneath the tables.

My sister lives another 20 minutes beyond my parents on 5 or 6 rural acres just up the road from the James River. The Essex County branch of the family were not quite fully organized and didn’t arrive at Party Central till about noon. Boy cousins reunited, some of them after a separation of a good 10 years. It was heart warming for sisters to see their sons greet each other affectionately and all pull together with a will as they spread out rented outdoor furniture. We girls had the more artistic tasks, hanging lanterns and putting up streamers, leis, fluttery flags; my job was to put together the photograph display - a particularly fun thing to do - like scrapbooking only on bulletin boards. We had two easels set up with our own display and a third with an empty bulletin board for guests’ contributions. It was filled by the end of the party.

Sister had bought beer and soft drinks, ordered 2 cakes plus 200 lbs of pulled pork barbecue and baked a dozen pans of cornbread. We brought wine punch and watermelons, games for wee children and extra toys for the not so young children, as well as the bulletin boards. The yard hummed with activity, as strong fellows with big muscles hauled heavy things about and all the while 4 o’clock - party time - was closing in.

First to arrive was the youngest of the New Jersey cousins. In my nuclear family, New Jersey was always synonymous with Yankee - and they always had that Yankee look and sound. Their accent is a much stronger New Jersey than ours is Virginia, for neither of our parents grew up in the south. But I’m also sure that if you could sneak up on those cousins when they were mimicking us you’d probably think we were Gomer Pyle’s cousins, not theirs. I hadn’t seen W since ... 1984? Did I see him then? If not, it was at our grandmother’s funeral in ‘75.

Mama and Daddy, the Bride and Groom, were next to arrive and by then we knew it was time to change out of grubby set-up clothes and into Hawaiian garb. Alas. I have nothing of that nature and did the best I could with a brightly colored tank top. Somehow, setting up for the party just sort of oozed into actually holding the party, as more and more guests arrived. There were neighbors of my parents. There were a couple of work associates of Daddy - even though he retired 26 years ago. There were a good dozen old friends, including children (with their growing progeny) my sisters and I had babysat back in the 1960’s and 70’s. There were half another dozen horsy folk who’d taken riding lessons from my daddy over the past 20 years. There was a charming man who turned out to be a boy who was in 6th grade with me and who remembered that wonderful teacher who told us the magnificent story about how her mother survived genocide in Turkey and arrived with her brother, orphans now, clutching a sheet full of gold coins, on mainland Greece in 1920. There were neighbors of my sister. There were family and friends of my sister’s boyfriend. And there were kinfolk.

Mama comes from a family of 8 children and Daddy is one of 6. Mama has one sister living yet and a brother, Bill, who made the long drive down from Pennsylvania. Daddy has one brother still, Bill, who made the almost as long drive from West VA. Then there were cousins - oh so many many cousins. All with stories to tell. All looking precious and darling. Many with their growing, and even all grown up, children. There was P, my precious favorite boy cousin who I remember coaching through a year’s worth of back homework in 3 days, one spring when we were visiting our Grandmother. There was his younger brother J, who taught me my favorite salutation - “Loveya. Meanit.”

There were the rest of the New Jersey cousins. There were Daddy’s cousins from Annapolis; the beautiful B, who is keeper of the family genealogy and brought photographs of ancient generations along with her mother, her husband and three of her children. There was her aunt, the famous Cousin Barbara of the annual Christmas pajamas. She brought with her the piano part to the Mendelsohn Violin concerto I played way back 41 years ago!!!! Some widowed sisters-in-law were present, some boyfriends and girlfriends of second cousins once removed. It was a gathering so full of nostalgia and memory and a kind of laughter I haven’t heard in ... 40 years.

I’m deeply enmeshed in my husband’s Old(e) Virginia Episcopalian ethos. Hailes have lived in Essex, some of them on the same land, for centuries. When they married and moved away - it was often only away upstairs in the Big House. Within a 10 mile radius there are first, second, and third cousins, within 15 miles there are a slew of Hailes who haven’t claimed kin since the revolutionary war - but are, none the less. Though there are distinct and individual and even quirky characters in my married-into family, they are pretty homogeneous when compared to the Heinz 57 family I come from - ethnic and Catholic and inyerface and full of it. We scattered all over the country - so far that even some of my sisters couldn’t make the trip back - we’ve married all sorts of different types - we’ve followed all sorts of different paths.

But we share memories. When I gather with BD’s family - there are lots of stories to tell. In 36 years I’ve even added my chapter to the family folk history. But when my birth family gathers - well - they remember the events that make up my stories. They may remember them differently from me, but they remember:

The magical attic where ball gowns from the 1930’s were stored in moth ball filled bags.
The basement with the wicker baby carriage and the mason jars with domed lids.
The boy’s bedroom, where a copy of a murder magazine lay in a basket for years and years, oozing out nightmares even if you didn’t read the stories within.
What Grandmother’s kitchen looked like before it was remodeled, when you could tiptoe through the pantry into what she called the toy room and peek through the french doors to spy on the grownups in the living room.
We all remember that pivotal Christmas when our aunt was killed and she lay in casket, in that same living room, in a white nightgown, surrounded by all the flowers in Washington D.C., for a week.
Things we remember. Things we’d forgotten we remembered. Long trailing threads weaving back into the past, 20, 40, 100 years ago.

Towards the end of the evening, when mostly only family remained, Daddy’s brother Bill stood up and told a story. My grandfather was a lawyer in Washington D.C. and one of his clients was Evelyn Walsh McLean - of McLean Virginia - of the Hope Diamond. I’d heard my share of EWM stories growing up - how she’d stop by the house, wearing her famous jewel, and toss it into Daddy’s lap for him to play with. She did everything in a grand way. She had only the best and she was quick and generous with her wealth. She was from the midwest and I always suspected she had a special warm spot for my grandfather with his Missouri roots. But Uncle Bill had a new story for us.

In the 1930’s, perhaps around 1936, she came to dinner at the Harrison Street house. She brought a house gift of a bottle of champagne. As other wine was already arranged for that night’s dinner, her champagne, only the best, as was her style, was popped into the refrigerator where it was kept for a suitably special occasion. Uncle Bill remembers being a teen during WWII and asking his father when they were going to open up that bottle in the fridge. “When the boys come home” he was told.

Well, the boys came home. The boys left. Somehow the bottle was never opened. It stayed in my grandmother’s refrigerator - I remember it there when I was a girl. I remember thinking the date,1928, on the label, seemed so anciently long ago. When the house was sold, after my grandmother moved in with Mama and Daddy, Uncle Bill took the bottle with him, still chilled, first to his Rockville home, and then to his retirement home in West VA and then to his retirement from retirement home that hasn’t all those steps to contend with.

All the while that bottle was waiting for a suitable occasion. And now, with only two boys left, on the occasion of a 60th wedding anniversary, it was time to find out just what that champagne tasted like. Uncle Bill lifted it from the cooler and gently began twisting the cork. All the brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and nephews and nieces - maybe 30 of us - crowded close to watch. The ancient cork separated. My sister brought out a cork screw. Cousin Jane handed out cups. Carefully, slowly, Cousin Buddy eased the last bit of cork out of the neck. There was not a sound as the bottle opened, all the fizz had died years ago.

Tiny sips of wine were poured out and passed around. A toast of “Sixty More Years” was called out and to everyone’s cheers, the long cherished beverage was sipped at last. It tasted like cognac. Not at all vinegary, but not sweet either with an antique nourishing aftertaste. A rich amber liqueur, it had the flavor of long beaded gowns and black tail coats with white bow ties. It tasted like hoochie koochie music and women with shingled hair and men with pencil mustaches. It tasted like time passing and evening coming and nighttime settling. It tasted like brothers and sisters and memories and tenderness.

After such a shimmering peak, even cousins began to think of retiring; to homes not far away or to motels in town. Of course, leave taking at family gatherings moves only slightly faster than glaciers but, as the Greeks say, “All things flow” and eventually we were in cars, jumping out for final hugs, quickly jotting down e-mail addresses, dashing into the house for a final look-see only to leave something behind anyway. And then we were driving away.

I took my parents back to their house, while my guys followed behind. There was a last hug, a pit stop, another last hug and sweet good-nights and we were on our way. Driving through the city at 10:30 on a Saturday night is pretty quiet. BD drove the Bethlehem Road, Azalea Ave., Meadowbridge Road route that puts us out on 360 deep into Hanover County. By then it was all I could do to hold my head up and we were all pretty quiet driving through the dark countryside.

In bed at last, my sleep was long and hard and deep. If I dreamed at all, they were sweet loving dreams, because I don’t remember a one. On Sunday BD and I talked for hours about all the folk we’d seen, all the stories we’d heard. I called Mama and rehashed it again with her, and then with Daddy. Later, a cousin stopped by on her way from her brother’s house, back home. We had a lovely day in the country, on the beautiful back porch with the cooling north west breeze. Mr. Bald Eagle showed himself just for her and we took the canoe out to see all the marsh blooms. More phone calls later on, to sister and parents, were still probably not enough to talk over the whole night. I’m sure we’ll have a few more days of sighs and memories and smiles to share. But it’s Monday now and a new week has begun. We’ll carry all that happy feeling with us into this week and next and on into all the tommorows. Who knows? Maybe one day that night of the old ones and the cake and water balloons and champagne toasts will be recounted at another gathering, by another little family, with stories to tell.

posted by Bess | 8:14 AM


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Saturday, July 08, 2006  

The computer is back from the hospital with only an upgrade of Microsoft Explorer. At $5 it was no big deal, but it’s sad to hear that nothing is wrong - so nothing can be fixed. It’s just an ancient creaky thing and we must accept it for what it is. All good advice about getting the best computer you can afford falls upon stony ground since this machine is mostly for BD to write on. He’s very fussy about things like leads between lines and all that other moveable type printing stuff. He likes to learn something he can use. He doesn’t like to have to learn a new process for doing something he used to do perfectly well with old machinery. He has an inexhaustible fund of complaints that can flow out across the landscape and leave me depressed. I do only a wee bit of internet browsing - mostly text based stuff. I could probably turn off all graphics and get my hotmail in less than 20 minutes. For highly graphic - or large important stuff, I can just go in to work a little early and use the fast machines there. What I don’t want to do is to live with Someone as he adjusts to any new computer programs.

Also, the problem may not be with the computer. I remember some years ago BD called up Verizon-that-was and asked them to boost our phone line. I don’t remember exactly what it was that was causing the problem, but seems that long underground lines lose power as they travel beneath the soil and they need an extra power surge to make it all the way from the pole to my house. I shall ask him to pester the phone guys and see if ... over the course of time, our line has defaulted back to plain old residential service instead of the way out in the boonies farm service. Maybe that will help. Otherwise - when that wireless tower opens up in Montross I believe we’ll just have to bite that financial bullet and go for a new ISP. Twice the price but more than twice the service and half the telephone lines.


If we are within the radius.

Fingers crossed.

I’ve about another 10 minutes before I must go get ready for the anniversary party. BTW, dear hearts, thank you for the warm congratulations. M&D would have skipped the fuss - and the fun - of a party but my sister didn’t let them succumb to languidity. She did all the work - including providing the yard and location - and gave them a springtime of excitement, anticipation and duties that were engaging without being taxing. Every time I talk to mama she melts all over herself in praise for said sister and don’t you doubt it - I do too! I am so durn glad she’s here I feel just about as gooey as they do about her. She was on the west coast for 30 years and though we wrote and called, our lives barely touched. Now she’s 20 minutes from the parents and can cover all those scary emergency bases, but also provide that steady focus for people who’s bodies are restricting their choices with each passing day.

Anyway - I could say more and more and more but it would be probably too gushy. Just know that I’m sum-kinda glad about her return - so glad I’m not even jealous that she has a man who thinks that gifts come from jewelry - not hardware - stores!!

It’s been a fiberless week. I keep thinking I’m going to knit on something but I haven’t yet. I intend to start on that Rowan/Dune hat as we drive over to TheCity today - If I remember to get the needles out of my NeedleBook and if I remember to look up that rib stitch I want to use.

Be back tomorrow with real thoughts. Or not - depends on how late we stay in the city. Summer Reading Club is half over! Reunion is in 5 weeks. Then life returns to normal.

posted by Bess | 7:24 AM


I scored 86% too. That was fun

By Blogger Carolyn, at 9:22 PM  

I scored 100% Dixie, and I haven't lived in the South for 25 years!


By Blogger Diann, at 10:52 PM  

LOL...I scored 86% Dixie and have only lived in the South since 2002. Must be in my soul!
Bess, I miss you and will try to call you Sunday. Congratualtions to you Mom and Dad.

By Anonymous Patti, at 1:26 PM  

I'm apparently the same as my house.

It said "66% Dixie. Just under the Mason-Dixon Line"

By Blogger Amie, at 1:50 PM  

Thanks for the quiz, "I'm 32% Dixie. You are definitely a Yankee." Being from Kansas I never know how I'll score.

Hope your computer is back from the computer hospital soon. Reading about your spinning makes me want to go spin but I must work on the washcloth for my nephew who is visiting this weekend.

Enjoy your weekend with your family!

By Blogger erica, at 6:50 PM  

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Thursday, July 06, 2006  

I scored "86% Dixie. Do you still use Confederate money?" and got a chuckle out of it. Thanks C for this quiz.

No fiber news. No computer news. I do have a library budget. I also forgot I'm working 12-8 on Thursdays in July and scheduled a budget committee meeting at 10 a.m. Brain dead, I am.

The weather forcast for Saturday's party is as good as it gets: 87 and dry. In the mean time, we're having heavy storms and lots of green and grey days.


posted by Bess | 11:33 AM


Well, hon, I'll miss you! I wish your computer a speedy recovery and your parents and absolutely wonderful, special anniversary.


By Blogger Margaret, at 9:24 AM  

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006  

With BD’s permission, the computer goes to the computer hospital today. I may not get much chance to post for a while. I’m sure it’ll be there a good long time and this weekend I’ll be dogsbody for my sister, who is throwing a 60th anniversary party for our parents. 100 friends and family have sent acceptances so it’ll be quite a bash. This sister only recently moved back to VA after decades on the west coast. She’s the one who inherited the worker bee skills of our Dad. She, alone, also inherited the housekeeping skills of our Mom. She doesn’t have to Clean The Pit - she does a constant vigilance and it never becomes a pit. If she weren’t so durn nice I’d be wickedly jealous. Instead, she is nice and it’ll be a delight to help her with last minute details.

Yesterday I did almost absolutely nothing. BD and I lay about working the Sunday crossword puzzle and the quote acrostic till about noon. Then he went out to do his sentence work on his boat and I lay about some more, reading a bit, spinning a bit, drifting a lot. We had no guests, no plans, no responsibilities, and I took full advantage of that. Now and then I’d think “Really, Queenie, you ought to go outdoors and swim or something,” but I quashed those thoughts as fast as they poked up their heads. I wanted to rest! And watch the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” scene from Vicar of Dibbley.

My stubborn clinging to vacating all adult responsibilities and sinking into adolescent sloth had as much to do with needing down time as with avoiding the personal banking and bookkeeping I must do this morning. It’s always so much fun when I do this for the library and it’s always so dreadful when have to do it for myself. I guess that’s because it’s my money then. There’s judgment attached to each expenditure. Anyway - I can’t escape it now and must be off to make all good with the ledger books.

Bella relaxed enough yesterday for me to spin a tad on the Romeldale and HeyBaby has almost a full bobbin of cormo/mohair singles spun at about 30 wpi. I knit not a stitch on the LL sock and two balls of yarn from the stash began singing a siren song to me. A ball of Dune and something luscious and rich by Rowan wish to get married and form a hat. Hey - who am I to stand in the way of true love?

The heat has moderated a tad - we got another lovely storm in the night - the forecast for the weekend is 80’s. Ought to be a pretty nice couple of days. I’ll post when I can.

posted by Bess | 6:45 AM


Bess, am in residence right now. Love catching up on your work. Started my private career as a geriatric care manager which oddly enough is providing for alot of fiber art. Of course, my first client is one of the greatest knitters I know...Maybe I should specialize in only fiber art clients!!! Anyway, have still resisted the spell of the socks. Most knitting is for my 20 year old - see the bolero in the new Knitscene!!!! However, I do see everyone else's socks and feel desire - desire, I think to find my old Priscilla's handspun sock pattern that was perfect! Maybe this week.... Stay cool!

By Anonymous Glenn across the River, at 8:07 AM  

Dearest Bess,
Thanks for the KP needle review - your words add to the ones from KR/Clara as a "good knitting seal of approval" for me. I look toward more lace knitting in the future & these needles sound mighty good.
Your Monday at the Library sounds quite worthwhile - you made a difference in the lives of your patrons & that's a beautifl thing.

By Blogger Martha, at 10:04 AM  

I may give Little Town a try - you reminded me to go back and read the Laura series again, swooning and sighing over the Golden Years as I always do, and grumbling over the First Four Years as I always do (it's a mess of trash compared to the others). I've decided this year I'll look up the other women's books that are listed - Rose's story, and Caroline's and all the women before her... but I will be sorely disappointed if they are more First Four Years than the magic that is the other stories...

By Blogger Amie, at 11:32 AM  

I'm so glad you enjoyed "The World's Fastest Indian"! I watched it recently and thought it was excellent - well worth watching. Anthony Hopkins again did a marvellous job of portraying the main character. Even his accent was fairly authentic-sounding!

KathyR (from KR and New Zealand)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:28 PM  

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006  

Needle Review Down Near the Bottom

Happy Birthday USA.

Hope you can all stay cool. It’s mega-hot around here, the first really hot spell we’ve had so far this summer. Sunday was supposed to be hotter than yesterday but I spent it giving the porch it’s annual superscrub, which means I was up and down the step ladder with bucket, brush and garden hose, and pretty much soaking wet, during the worst of the heat.

Tackling the porch is the one of the major hurdles of the summer. The porch faces north and takes the brunt of winter weather. Even though we keep the doors shut, it fills with leaves and bark and, as spring creeps in beneath the cold, pollen and dust. Since half the scrubbing involves reaching up with soapy brush, there’s a constant trickle of soapy water rolling down my arms, along my ribcage and into the band of my shorts. Though the job need only be done once a summer, it’s very taxing. Last year, in the wake of Heart Attacks, I didn’t get around to it. Instead it got a Guy’s Cleaning - which means BD sprayed it with Clorox and then hosed it down. That will certainly take away the mildew - but it doesn’t get the porch clean - something BD and I define differently - in classic Dave Barry tradition.

There came a point on Sunday afternoon when the muscles in fingers, wrists and arms told me they had reached max effort - that more scrubbing would do damage rather than build strength. Alas - there were still 3 panels of screens to go and all the porch furniture. Needless to say - no fiber play took place on Sunday, nor any blogging nor other forms of keyboard activity. Instead, my evening meal consisted of watermelon and Alieve and Monday at work was too busy helping the dozens of people with reading emergencies to require much finger motion.

I couldn’t believe how many people thronged into the library in 5 short hours. Maybe the heat drove some of them, but I was sweetly justified in my decision to open when more than one patron told me she’d had to wait for a day off to get by the library at all! Lots of whole family units came in, as well - moms, dads and kids together. Yep yep - it was the right decision. But lawsee it was busy!

And because all I had a chance to do was flit between registering kids for the summer reading club, issuing new cards and checking books in and out, my wrists and fingers got a nice rest. As a reward from the hand goddess, waiting in the mailbox when I got home was the package from KnitPicks containing a pair of size #1 circular needles. The package was a large 8.5x11 envelope with cardboard backing and their label doesn’t say KnitPicks on it, but something like Craft America Group. This is bad. I’m on any dozen crafty mailing lists and I almost threw this away unopened. Almost, fortunately, for inside were two little plastic envelopes with my new needles.

There is a superior review of these needles on this week’s Knitters Review so I need not wax lengthy on these needles but I will make a few comments.

First - you notice the cable flexibility as you are taking them out of their package. It slinks out of the cellophane envelope (which you may as well trash - it is definitely not a storage bag) like cooked spaghetti. This is a very nice feature for those of us who’ve had to dip our new circulars in boiling water to get them to uncoil.

Next - the shanks are nice and slickly smooth - and long enough. I have big hands - I wear size 8 gloves. I can’t stand little shanks and often knit circular garments on 2 long circulars rather than one 16 incher, because the shorter needles have shorter shanks and by the time I’ve finished a hat, my every finger aches.

The joins are perfect. My tiny Lorna’s Laces sock has been loaded onto the needles and you can push all the stitches onto the shank without any catching, dragging or manipulating with fingernails. As good as the Addi join.

The tips are very sharp. When knitting socks on 2 thin circs, as I move from one circular to the next I sometimes have to push the left needle tip back out of that first stitch as it moves onto the right needle, using the tip of my right index finger. Clara had warned about this problem in her review so I wasn’t surprised when the sharp tip pricked my finger. Still, I don’t want to make a habit of this. In spite of the marathon porch scrubbing, pain usually works as a motivator with me so the next time I used my fingernail to push the needle through. If it continues as a problem, I’ll put a bandage on the index finger. This is definitely a needle you should never leave in a chair seat. If you ever sat on it, you’d need to go to the emergency room. Be Careful.

I only knit one round on the sock because I wanted to wet set all the kinky yarn that had once been a badly knit short row heel. It’s dry now and I’ll knit a bit on the sock today. If my opinion changes on these needles, you will read about it here.

What I will say is that Inox needles are in big trouble. Their sharp tip and slightly lower price were often the deciding factor when choosing a needle brand, in spite of their stiff cables and rough, uneven joins. Sometimes you won’t want sharp tips and there’s no reason to knit with lethal weapons if you aren’t making lace or tee-tiny cables in tight fingering weight yarn. The soft blunt face of an Addi Turbo will suit you much better - and besides, those of us who want them, already have lots of ATs. I do think the ATs will have to come down in price if they want to compete for the serious knitter’s $. Wooden needles are unlikely to suffer much competition. Wooden needle fans will always insist upon their bamboo, their maple, and their exotic woods. Boye and Susan Bates have the big contracts with Walmart, Ben Franklin and Michaels. When you have a needle emergency at midnight on Sunday - that’s what you’re going to have to buy.

Yes. I have had needle emergencies and yes I have bought Boye circular needles and yes, I give them away generously as soon as I can free the project from their stiff, metallic clutch.

But when you have the time to order - when you were going to order needles anyway - that nice low price and the excellent qualities of the KnitPicks needles are factors likely to be decisive.

As for the sets? Well. I’m not much of a needle set purchaser but I believe I’m a rarity. And I could change. And the option to purchase only as much of a set as you want is tempting. I think the KP folks have done it again. It will be interesting to see how it effects the rest of the knitting universe.

A last bit of good news from TheCastle. Our wheat was harvested yesterday. My gift to that great god, VISA, will be offered in a timely manner.

Have a safe happy holiday - may it be cool enough for pleasure and warm enough for love.

posted by Bess | 7:22 AM


Jane & I are toying with the idea of ordering the Knit Picks needles. We've read lots of reviews--all very positive. The problem is deciding what to get first!! Since they are back ordered I should order now. Enjoy another "warm" day today. Bess, where I come from this is called b****y HOT!

By Anonymous Isobel, at 7:19 AM  

From one Virgo sis to another, thanks for sharing that horoscope - I shall keep you posted on how my July goes.

By Blogger Martha, at 8:26 PM  

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Sunday, July 02, 2006  

Knitting First - how about that?

Thank you, dearies, for the kind words about that horrible heel. It actually is horrible, but more for the decision I made to knit it on 60% of the stitches instead of 50% than because of the holes. In fact, the holes didn’t appear till I got towards the end of each side of the heel stitches - the part that was up in the front, rather than in the back. I have a smallish heel, proportional to the rest of my large foot. The instructions for this sock suggested I knit on 60% and I thought I’d give it a try. It was dreadful. The lovely little diagonal seam that bisected my heel stretched way up over my ankle bones, pulling and gaping and rather torturing the yarn. The heel seam on a short row heal should stop right before the ankle bones. So even if I’d left nary a hole behind - I would be ripping out this heel.

The magic of the experience was that as I knit this particular shape it’s native geometry began to unfold in my mind so that I knew what I was doing - I understood it’s movement. I felt the dawning of mastery - which I suspect is why I knit anyway. I am sure that’s why I’m such an inveterate swatcher. I want to know what’s going on. In only a few things in life have I ever really wanted to have fundamental and deep knowledge. Most of the time I’m perfectly satisfied with Librarian’s Knowledge - To know where the information is stored. But in a few areas, the yearning for both depth and breadth of knowledge drives me to probe and try and explore. Cooking is one. Knitting is another. Not that I can know it all. Probably wouldn’t even want to, for then what would there be to look forward to? But I’d like to have the knowledge and confidence to drive those needles in any direction I want - just because I can.

Then there is the "rising to a challenge" effect; another rarity with TheQueen. Most of the time, when I’m flummoxed, challenged, stymied - when life tells me I can’t do something - I can just shrug my shoulders and do something else. Secretly, I am disdainful of people who can't resist a challenge or a dare. In my dark prejudicial heart I tend to think they're dupes of the control freaks of this world. Of course, that's only on those days when I feel like the world is making demands on me. It's just that, being a Virgo, I feel like that most days. Heavens! There are a bazillion things to do in a very short life. Who cares if one doesn’t do it all?

But every now and then that challenge is flung down with a particularly sneering tone and I rise to the bait. I take umbrage at the implied insult. I tilt my chin a bit higher and square back my shoulders and just show the world a thing or two. This short row heel is one of them. Perhaps this time, I'm motivated because I love short rows for so much else that is shapely in knitting. I use them all over the place to make three dimensions out of two. I smooth over rough edges with that final picking-up-the-wraps row along shoulder seams. By golly - no short row technique is going to slip through my fingers.

In the case of this sock - I will put some of the blame on the needles I’ve been using. I started knitting on BD’s sock this week - the one hanging from a pair of lovely Addi Turbos with the perfectly smooth joins and immediately my knitting improved, my pleasure returned, and the pain in my wrists began to fade. That’s the main reason I ordered those (backordered) KP circs. I have no problem ordering more AddiT’s but I was lured by the promise of pointed tips. If there is anything I could criticize about the AT’s it’s their blunt tips. Mind now - sometimes I want blunt tips but other times, especially when sock knitting, I’d prefer they’d ... come to the point a bit more. (insert smirky face)

So. Of course they’re back ordered. They won’t even be processed till 2 weeks+. Till that time, the LL sock will languish in the basket, because I ain’t going back to those Susan Bates needles. They’re going to a swap table next time I’m around one. As for the needle sets. Well. Hmm. There’s something about a needle set that doesn’t really make sense to me. I mean - when I need a different needle, I need the whole thing, not just the shank portion. I’m quite a project abandoner - if project neglect were a crime I’d be in jail. I’d have to own 10 cables for every pair of shanks. The needle sets I’ve seen make sense for their organizational capabilities. At least you can put them back in their specifically sized grooves. And the Denise set - the only one I’ve ever actually handled - has a lovely join and delicious tips - the two features highlighted in the KP catalog. But having lots of extra cables - with little buttons to put on the ends when you abandon a project doesn’t really seem more efficient than having lots of needles. It may be cheaper - it may not. And their organizer is not size specific. It's a bunch of plastic pouches in a book and I have one of those already - and a much prettier one, made by Lawrie’s Lane.

What would prompt me to buy a needle set would be needles that were substantially better than what I already have - because ... I already have a lot of needles. Even when most of them are lost I have a lot of needles. But I don’t have enough sock needles. I knit socks on 2 circulars and I haven’t any good circs smaller than #3. When the KP needles come in - I believe I ordered a pair of #1’s - I’ll slip them into that Lorna’s Laces yarn and try that short row heel one more time.

Yesterday was a truly lovely day. Warm up to the point of hot but not over. All my laundry is done. The east door is scrubbed down - it takes the brunt of crud from storms and since it’s also the darkest doorway in the house - it seldom gets cleaned. It opens onto a dirt patch because the pin oak has shaded out every blade of grass east of the house. There ought to be a patio out that door - even if we do take down the oak - because it’s always going to be shady. It’s the east side of the house. Besides. I’d adore a patio there. An oasis of shade on a hot summer day.

In fact, as I scrubbed away on that door I began to think that it would be a good idea to make ... A List!!! A list of everything I would do to this place if money and time were no object. What would perfect be? What are all the things we would need to add to our home and yard to make it AbSoLuteLy PlusPerfect? And the most daring thought of all .... what if BD and I made this list together?!?!

I am one of those inward looking, secret keeping, ask no favors Virgos. Yes, yes, my Virgo sisters. You know of what I speak! We would rather die than expose our deepest desires to those who have the power to refuse us. We certainly would rather do without than ask for gifts. The year my parents forgot to send me a birthday card or call, I could find a hundred dozen reasons why I wasn’t loved by them. I sank into self reproach, bordering on masochism instead of calling up and saying “Hey! Where’s my happy birthday?”

Well. It’s not a personality flaw. It’s the star’s fault. It’s something I work on all the time. And after 35 years together, I’m finally ready to talk about the perfection of material things with BD. Giggle if you wish. You shan’t be gigglign at me - but with me.

So. Here I am, thinking about opening up a conversation of tremendous delicacy with someone I’ve only know a few decades and here comes Yasmin Boland with my July horoscope - portions of which I offer here to all my Secret Keeping Virgo Sisters:

Facing up to fears now will pay off big time ... The New Moon takes place in the most deep and secret part of your chart. What you can let go of now - fears, paranoias, anxieties, can be released forever.

Meanwhile, the powerhouse planet Mars is headed into your sign for the first time in two years, on July 22 ... Having Mars in your sign is will be like having a rocket put underneath you - warn your loved ones and colleagues you could be about to go into overdrive! The plus side of Mars is that you will find it much easier to Get Things Done. The negative side is that his energy can be downright anxiety-producing. It's therefore important that you pace yourself thought the month but especially in the last 10 days of July.

Lovewise, if you're one of the single millions venturing on-line in your search for love, you could be in luck! Go for it! If your love life is driving you around the bend, hang on until July 29 (yes, that long!) and it really should start to make sense again. It's time to review your plans and dreams - do it like only a Virgo can, only this time, don't be afraid to change your mind a few times.

Okay sisters - you know which ones of you need which parts of this month!

posted by Bess | 7:50 AM