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


So nice to see pictures of the event -- I avoided it because of the heat, but part of me thinks I should have gone anyway. Love the ships and the costumes. It cracks me up that they had a professionally-made sign that says "john smith: what a guy!"

By Blogger Mary, at 5:05 PM  

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007  

If you get to a tall ship event early enough it looks like this:

If you wait a little later it looks like this:

Not all the ships are tall, of course.

The above is a reproduction of this guy's travel accomodations as he went about the Bay.

Some of his friends ...

And one of his biggest fans, Mr.Jamestown Himself.

posted by Bess | 2:14 PM


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All the astro-experts are saying Today is the Dawn Of A New Day Era Epoch so I suppose they must be right. It just feels a little humid and cool to me. And like dragging back to work. For which I don’t have quite the enthusiasm I probably ought to but the next few weeks, though extraordinarily busy, will also be laced with hidden treats, like Friday off since I work Saturday, which we all know is not a real day of work since nobody who is official can call me and scold, not even the Accounts Department. And the next week I go away for 2 days of inspirational coaxing from the state library and I am taking a library board member who also happens to be a friend with me and we are staying in a down town hotel where somebody else will feed me. Nice.
There will be one more week of ordinary days and then the summer reading club begins and we shall be busy as bees - but have extra staff so we don’t care. But if I am going to be so absent from things over the next 2 weeks I shall have to be functioning on maximum efficiency. Hmmm. When I feel so lazy as this? I wonder ... hmmm.

After a Hot Day In Richmond, BD and I spent two gloriously lazy days at home. Saturday was the obligatory house cleaning day because in the country with 4 dogs, you better hit things every week, but even that only takes part of a day. And yesterday was sweet nothingness and not getting dressed till after lunch. The mayflies are out now, wicked dive bombers that keep me indoors till the mid-June. BD is more intrepid than I and will take walks out there in the cloud of stinging biting devils, but I will get my exercise at the gym this week.

I am knitting on a sock that has been commissioned by someone so it is not for public viewing. This is fine, but it makes for a fiberless post. The pattern is one of all knits and purls which breaks up handpainted yarns in the most interesting ways. If the yarn is vivid with high contrast it will make a speckled sock and if it’s contiguous and harmonious it will make subtle variations that prevent pooling. I am about to rewrite TheQueen’s Almanac to say that this shall be the summer of sock discovery because really, that is all I am wanting to work on these days. I may as well do so with my own approval, hmmm?

I have photos of Saturday’s event and will put them up sometime today. Actual Knitting Pictures will have to come later in the week - when I am working on something else.

posted by Bess | 7:47 AM


One wouldn't DARE eject a GOLDING OWNER from the Spinning ring!!!

By Blogger Amie, at 12:35 PM  

Oh, and I LOVED the Illusionist - saw it in the theatre and the cool, dark atmosphere was just magic (no pun intended). Plus I have special affections for Ed Norton, since I think I did a play with him once, and he's Columbia royalty...

By Blogger Amie, at 12:37 PM  

Now, Bess. The line at the top of your blog reads, "Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content." Write whatever you like, in as many words as you like, and we'll read it. All you have to do is tell us what kind of cereal you had this morning, and that'll take care of the fiber content.

By Blogger Jane, at 5:52 PM  

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Sunday, May 27, 2007  

The worst is over. For a while, at least, things can only get easier. Watch out this week, though, for residual problems. The enemy may be almost conquered, but small pockets of resistance remain. It isn't time to be triumphant, but nor should you panic each time you encounter an awkward indication. You have turned a corner. You have overturned an obstacle. There may now be a delay whilst you await your reward. Really, though, it is on its way to you. There can be no going back to the bad old days, so put your fears and anxieties aside while you proceed with cautious optimism. And as for the damage that has been done? That will start to heal soon.

This is just about the best news MrHoroscope could give me. Not that I was living in such a dreadful state, mind you - but sister writes that Dad has not only been cleared to live independently (only, pray to god, not to drive) but he is ready to downsize. Well. He’s been talking the talk about downsizing lately, but never on consecutive days. And the fear that he wouldn’t be able to live on his own has often kept him from trying to live at all. But PT gave him the go-ahead to move on in one month and the tentative plans sis and I have been sketching now look to be drawn in full detail - come July. This is good. This is very, very good.

This has been the biggest enemy to my peace and happiness for quite some time. All through my childhood Dad was the trouble. He was the problem. He was the stumbling block. He can be a charmer. He can be intelligent and vigorous and he certainly was a hard worker. He had high expectations for us and never once said, or even thought, "You’re just a girl". He was an outstanding teacher. Taught me to drive with NoTears. Taught me how to handle money with NoOverdraws. Got me a checking account when I was still in high school and showed me how to budget an income and then gave me the income as an allowance so that I could practice all those budgeting skills. One of the greatest lessons I brought from childhood into my adult life. He gave us a very comfortable material life, but it was shrouded in the threatening mystery of What Would He Do Next? Because when that Next was his crazy side - oh lord. It was one heckuva scary side. I believe he’s a classic case of Post Traumatic Distress for he was a teenage soldier in WWII and 16 months after he was discharged he was married with a baby - lots of recovery time there, hmmm?

But that is the reason that absolutely no step in the extreme old age part of his life, the part his kids feel responsible for, has gone easily or logically or ordinarily or sensibly or comfortably or pleasantly or even slightly fun. Eh. We knew it wouldn’t. But if it goes at all - or rather - if it Gets There at all we will be glad for it and though each step has been minute, measured across the whole year, we can say that real progress has been made. With Dad, that’s ... that’s Real Progress. That’s Success!

Yesterday was hot hot hot hot hot. And fun for me, but not quite such a thrill for BD. The crowd was thin and not particularly interested in broiling beneath the sun for any of the entertainers or speakers. Things were a little better later, as he sat beneath a tent and talked to people, one on one, about Christopher Newport and Richmond’s 400th Birthday, John Rolf and the college at Henricus, Archer and Percy’s relations of the exploratory probe and all the rest of the Jamestown Experience. And sold some books, of course.

Alas, the area where the tall ships are tied up is worse than a slum. It looks like an industrial waste site. It’s just down the hill from the famous Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death church in the east end of Richmond and just up stream from the Deep Water Terminal. If I lived in Richmond I think I would want to be a part of an effort to utilize that marvelous space. It’s a shame some civic group doesn’t adopt it. There is so much potential along the riverbank. It’s sad to see it look so abandoned. There’s room enough for to build a glorious waterside park complete with an outdoor stage, a small marina and, if they bridged the gap over to the closest little island in the river - a magnificent picnic spot. Instead, it’s a depressing slum and the fact that anybody came out at all is testimony to the lure of tall sailing ships.

There were 4 of them plus 2 other Big Boats and you could scramble about their decks for free. There were costumed interpreters who stayed in character, so you could ask them what they were up to, wandering around the New World all dressed up in their finery. I know a few of these folks and I like all of them. They’re passionate about their characters, bringing history to life with verve and sparkle and fun. They posed for photos all day in the hot hot hot hot sun with their woolen vests and plumed hats and not a one of them got cranky or fractious.

I kept popping back and forth with SnoCones and bottled water for MrJamestown and the darling 20 year old from one of the city bookstores who was handling the sales. And taking pictures, of course. And I got to go on the boats. And when I got too hot I’d sit in the back of the tent with my knitting and work on the sock I’m designing. Yes. This IS a knitting blog - at least, I talk about it just enough to be allowed to stay on the different blog-rings. Maybe not enough to deserve to stay on the spinning blog-ring but I know the moderator of that ring, and besides, I own a Golding Wheel, for goodness sake. That’s sort of like having royal blood.

But that’s all the fiber news I’m going to write today. My posts are entirely too long anyway and I don’t even have Pictures!! I’ll put them all up next week. Today I will do the Saturday Chores and tomorrow? Tomorrow I believe I shall remember.

posted by Bess | 7:49 AM


I am in a sock mood too, I suddenly realized that next winter I will have good reason to own lots of socks. I have a LOT of sock yarn on hand, so I can keep busy with it all summer and stay true to my yarn fast. I finished a long-neglected pair for my son this afternoon, fingers crossed that they'll fit, and started a new pair for myself, in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. I lust after every LL yarn.

By Blogger Catherine, at 7:48 PM  

I have... (counting on fingers) ...six different sock designs in progress. And my brain gave out this week and I now hate knitting.
This is a slight exaggeration, but nothing is working out knitting wise and all I want to do is spin spin spin spin spin!!!

So I'm spinning away, and hoping that I'll overdose on that soon so I can get on with the knitting that actually brings in a little bit of money....

Good for BD - you go be a proud adoring trophy wife, and I'll just be a proud adoring distant friend...

By Blogger Amie, at 9:09 PM  

The Lorna's angora-blend is awfully tempting in their lovely colorways....

By Blogger Mary, at 4:58 PM  

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Friday, May 25, 2007  

I tracked down that gorgeous colorway of Lorna’s Laces. That’s when I realized that they made so many different types of yarns. I thought they only made sock and lace type yarns. woo woo. Yummy. If I get all my Christmas sock knitting done in July I’ll treat myself to some of that colorway in one of their yarns. Maybe another sock yarn, maybe not.

I’m really lusting after sock knitting these days. I have several different pair going at once and when I’m not knitting on a pair of socks I’m thinking about knitting on a pair of socks. Not that I am complaining, mind you. I am delighted, really. I love having a little obsession going on in my head. It’s like having a fountain you can take a sip from any time your brain is thirsty. And I do have a lot of sock yarn. whew! I’m exploring what purling into a knit stitch does to break up color in these gorgeous handpainted yarns. Not the self striping ones, but just the handpaints - with their shifts from one color to another that sometimes pools and sometimes doesn’t.

Do you knit your socks with a "firm" texture? I often make mine on #3 needles and not all that firm, though I will go down to 2’s and 1’s. But I don’t seem to wear out socks very quickly. Sometimes the toes stretch thin but I think that’s because by the time I get down to knitting the toes I’m bored with the sock, in a hurry to finish up, and make it a little short. Anyway, even though I think I have big feet - well, I know I do - I like socks in most yarns knit at 56 stitches best. Certainly I like the cuffs knit on fewer than 60 stitches because my ankles are very skinny for such big feet. I like to use slightly thicker yarns for BD’s socks and they come in nicely at 60 stitches on #3’s. Of course, I’m talking about plain socks with no texture knitted in.

Humph. I’ve been trying to get Hotmail to load for 20 minutes now. It gets almost open and then freezes and pops into that "This page can not be displayed" mode. Curses on you oh foul Dialup. Well - we shall see how the summer sales of BD’s Jamestown books go. He was raking in the money in the late winter but suddenly realized he was running out of books so all the $ he made had to go into paying for a third printing. Yikes! There went the satelite connection and the new computer and the new car. But he will have enough books to take us through the 2007 frenzy and, well, if he sells out on this year I will retire. ;-)

My DoNothing vacation really made a difference in my mental state. I knew I was tired, but I felt like I was handling all the details of this demanding year. Still, by that last week I was so fractured I was beginning to feel just plain guiltily - no worse! - useless and ineffectual. As if I didn’t have the ability to do my job properly not just that I wasn’t doing it properly. This week, even though I’ve been short staffed, has been easy and productive and happy. It really was exhaustion, not bumbling-ness. What a relief!

Not, mind you, that I am sorry we have a delicious 3-day weekend coming up. I plan to savor that with all my might.
BD is going to be a keynote speaker at a big celebration in Richmond. I get to go be Wife of Keynote Speaker and hang out in Richmond and have a good scramble around the Godspeed. It’s supposed to be HOT and SUNNY. I bought new sunscreen yesterday.

After that there are two sweet delicious Days At Home - Days In The Castle. Maybe I shall knit some socks. Hmmm? Promise - some pictures by next Tuesday.

posted by Bess | 7:14 AM


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Thursday, May 24, 2007  

If you can see the end from the beginning, you probably aren't planning to make much of a journey. Unless, just possibly, you are standing at the top of a mountain and your destination is another peak in the far distance. Then, by the time you've made your descent, traveled through the intervening valleys and ascended all over again, you will have passed through much challenging territory. Be adventurous now. Set yourself a goal you are not sure you can reach.

Thank you Mr.Horoscope. But you are forgetting that we Virgo’s don’t really like to take trips to unknown destinations and we are quite dutiful enough to go somewhere even if we know all the steps it will take to do so. Or think we do.

It’s certainly not that we don’t like surprises. But I, for one, don’t like unpleasant surprises and I very much like to hedge my bets so that I don’t wipe out completely. Readers or watchers of TheSecret may scoff at me and say, in fact, what I am doing is Not Allowing. Eh. I am not perfect, but I allow enough and sometimes plenty. I will still always read the end of a story right after I read the beginning. Life will give me surprises enough. I don’t care to court them.

All the same, I am contemplating a couple of big ideas that would require untried efforts to achieve challenging goals. I wonder how many of us have little seedlings in our souls that, from lack of nourishment, fail to grow or blossom or bear fruit. Well, there are a couple little tendrils tickling my imagination and I am thinking seriously of encouraging their growth.

Sigh. Our vision of self contains only so many angles, so many possibilities. So often all the other what-if’s are told "Not now" or "Not in this life" or "another time" and they wither away. I remember I used to purchase craft supplies that I squirreled away for "when I am retired and have time." I did this in my late 20’s!!! Crazy! Trying to store up happiness opportunities for some future date instead of just having the fun right now! I finally stopped when I realized that if these poor, stored away, future toys survived life in a shed for 40 Virginia summers, I would be too blind or arthritic to play with them anyway. Obviously, my stash building chromosomes are lodged deep in the DNA.

Still and all, a certain amount of judicious selection has to occur - or at least, does occur. Everything out there looks so good and I’m librarian enough to believe that if the instructions are in a book, I can probably do it, make it and learn it. It’s a question of time and desire. How much time do I want to spend becoming good enough at something to satisfy my expectations of myself? As a child I became a darn good violinist by practicing an ungodly number of hours every day. The benefits of being really good at something were wide and varied, but they came at a cost. There were so many normal girl things I had to let go by the by: things I may have been lousy at, things I had a real talent for. I’ve never been sure if I made the right choice (not that I really had a choice, for my parents were in charge back then) - to focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything else. But it is the choice I made and it got me here.

And I do like having options to pick from - like items on a menu. There’s always with the promise that I can come back next time and pick something else. Goal setting and goal achieving is a little difficult for me, since there are just so many goals that would be fun to achieve. Choice is what I like. Options. Avenues. I’m not just a process knitter - I believe I am a process liver.
Well. That’s enough navel gazing. Instead I shall use as my astrological guide to the day, this lovely entry from Ms.Horoscope:

Imagine if the next surprise you got was a lovely one. Imagine if the Universe managed to turn things around for you so that instead of being forced to deal with people who seem anything but stable, for once you were pleasantly shocked by something that someone said or did. Do imagine this. It's actually a possibility for you now. Don't lose faith in the idea that your current situation could yet turn out for your total benefit. Just make sure you still with the Golden Virgo Rule c. 2007 and don't try too hard to control anyone or any situation.

posted by Bess | 7:36 AM


I don't know yet what I'm going to do with the LL Mother Lode. I only have two hanks so it's either going to be a scarf or some house socks. Or I may leave it as table art.

Glad your return from vacation was relatively easy. Now when's the next one?

By Blogger Larry, at 8:50 AM  

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007  

Yesterday was probably the easiest day back after a vacation I’ve ever had. Usually I wander like some lost soul that first day of confinement, with large piles of condemnatory mail on my desk, a network problem or two and an innocently needy patron who wants to know if I did whatever it is I said I’d do when we met outside the bank the Tuesday before I went on vacation. It’s goofy as all getout how people (self included) are always making the most professional sorts of demands upon poor souls out in the world doing the most personal of tasks. Like a doctor at a party being consulted about this pain/twinge/swelling/diagnosis, the librarian let loose from behind the circulation desk is always prey to the literary seeker, sure that she’s read all the books on the shelves, remembers their authors middle names and also the color of the binding and can set "that red book with the picture of the leopard on the cover" aside for them "when they’re next in town."

In contrast to the expected frantic strain and its subsequent exhaustion, yesterday was smooth sailing. I swapped around a dead computer for a new one, put out a new shipment of Summer Fiction, talked to the State Library folk about the "F" word (filtering) and spent a little time out front on the circ. desk. Just an easy peasey day for emerging from the chrysalis of vacation.

I’m knitting away on that Tilli Thomas summer silk top but it’s slow going. I did a good bit of swatching but came away with only the needle size I knew I’d like working with ... #5. The concept was a scoop-necked, cap-sleeved, top with the solid brown beaded yarn knit around the bottom in a lace pattern and then a switch to wide flat ribs in the variegated yarn. Well, the shape is still a good idea, but the more I thought of having to work ribbed shaping into the yoke top the more it seemed I’d look like a bronze mushroom in it. In the end I settled for a little eyelet design - well what I’m actually knitting is a re-proportioned Mountains of Hearts top - using the "horseshoe lace" from BW 1 in a narrow band along the bottom, then switching to the "hearts" eyelet to knit the rest. I don’t know where I’ll use that solid brown beaded yarn. It’s so much thicker than the variegated. It’s not enough for a scarf unless ... what if I did something in a very open mesh or wrapped stitch? Hmm. Nope. 100 yards is just not enough for that. But I could i-cord or crochet some sort of edge treatment around neckline and hem. Well. Whatever I do with it will be an add-on.

And of course all the time I am wanting to knit on about 5 different sock yarns at the same time. I wish I had more pairs of arms. I have so many gorgeous sock yarns and I’m lusting over this one:

which I have yet to buy. For shame, you naughty L for throwing temptation my way - but thank you!

After a weekend of gastronomic indulgences, I have taken the WW/Fitness oath (yet again). We spent all Sunday afternoon at a birthday party for the darlingest darling of a dear, who invited us as the leavening "young people" at her 86th birthday party. It was real Old Virginia fare: tomato (ta-mah-ta) aspic with dill mayonnaise, chicken salad, salty Virginia ham on tee-tiny little biscuits, the flat brown biscuits, not truly beaten biscuits, but a close enough representation, mounds of fresh asparagus, Frances’ potato salad recipe and of course, ice tea.

I am so inspired by C, who’s walked nearly 100 miles since her brain thang in February. I know all the good rules - all the good tips and healthy practices. I love that glorious feeling you're dong it right, when you have vigor and energy. Usually I can’t even figure out why I stop doing all these Good-For-Me things, although this time I can trace my indolence back to some aging body injuries. But enough is enough. I do not want to go through summer with one half of my body sticking to the other. It is back to the gym and, where did I leave those WW booklets? Ahh yes. And today is Tuesday. Isn’t Tuesday WW night? hmmm. Guess I know where I’ll be at 6:00.

posted by Bess | 6:29 AM


I personally prefer Tradescantia, because it's named after the great botanist and plant collector John Tradescant, and makes me think of those Old Worlde days when this country had just been discovered....

As a common name spiderwort is pretty darn common....

By Blogger Mary, at 4:17 PM  

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Monday, May 21, 2007  

Short of time this morning and most reluctantly back in the office, I bring you a few shots of the magic kingdom. I've always wished I could be tiny enough to live in this forest:

Here are the floral sentinals, standing at attention. This is my favorite of all the Iris. I have a lot of them, but they would do even better if I gave them all a new bed. Perhaps. Perhaps when the Mayflies are past their worst.

How could such a beautiful plant have two such unlovely names: Tradescantia - ugh. or Spiderwort. These have slipped all over the shade garden this year - popping up in the prettiest surprise places.

I shall try to have some knitting content soon.

posted by Bess | 4:04 PM


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Sunday, May 20, 2007  

Thank you darlings. There is nothing like a wedding to bring on the nostalgia. In fact, I believe the older I get, the more ghosts I see at these big family gatherings. Last night on the dance floor, when the father and mother of the bride (Caroll Lee and Biddy) were doing their dance, I could see them all out there; Hannah and Dabney, Teddy and Jack, Edmund and Rene, Margaret and Bill - a cotillion full of long gone couples, truly dancing on the green in King and Queen.

It was a fete that would have done Teddy proud, too. 500 guests gathered to wish the prettiest bride you ever did see walk down the isle on the arm of the proudest papa. In some ways it was Caroll Lee’s show because he is, undoubtedly, the most colorful man in the county but there was no dearth of good wishes for the bride and groom. Everyone wants them to have a wonderful life.

I’m torn between giving a full report of the wedding and keeping today’s post short. The exercise of detailing all the noteworthy aspects of such a big party, put on with no thought of expense, would be good for that future Great Southern Novel. But if I once begin I am afraid it will go on for pages. Perhaps a short list of the things that struck me most vividly is the way to go. Then, if there’s a clamor for more details, or if I one day want to pull up some colorful bit to flesh out the skeleton of a plot, I’d have some mnemonic hooks, full up of possibilities.

* The beautiful green drive through rural Essex and King & Queen, while I fretted away about arriving after the bride’s mother was seated. After all, I was with BD.

* The long pine-fringed drive leading to the bride’s home along the Mataponi River.

* The fairy lights that outlined all the pathways - from parking lot to ceremony tent, from party tent to the fanciest port-a-potties you ever saw in your whole life. Trailers with pictures on the walls and potpourri on the sinks and music piped in and charmine style paper. 2 of them with 8 stalls. Who even knew such a thing existed?

* All the ex’s present - because they’re the parents of the bridal party and besides, just because they’re not married any more doesn’t mean they’re not family.

* The cousins you didn’t even know about.

* The view across the river as evening drew on, placid, quiet, with the ebbing tide pulling little bits of grass or fallen laurel petals out to sea.

* The navy blue night sky lit up with just the crescent New Moon and Venus shedding blessings down upon the green world.

* The tables, enough for everyone to have a seat, all fluttered in linens and decorated with flowers, the guests clustering in ever-changing bouquets of pastel spring frocks and blue blazers.

* The band, Flashback it was called, made up of old guys, and one old gal, who played songs from the 40’s through the 80’s. Three saxophones, a trumpet, trombone and guitar, with drums and a singer. They were quite good, but they had a lot to do with conjuring up those ghost dancers. And who knew our vet and his wife were such skilled dancers. My goodness - they have the fanciest feet.

* Getting exactly the compliment I was hoping to achieve when Karen Parker’s daughter-in-law said to me "... and when you walked in I thought ‘My that is a well put together outfit." I knew Michelle already, a little bit, though I haven’t seen her in years, and that was just how I would have expected her to put it. Honest and true - next time you go out somewhere, wear a hat! You would not believe how happy it makes people to see a woman in a hat. You would not believe how many men think you are beautiful because you have a hat on. Not a baseball cap. Not a sun hat. A real, honest to goodness, from the hat shop, beautiful hat with a feather or a rose or a veil. I can’t believe how many women pass up this opportunity to be special.

* The magical glow of the tent, glancing back as we left, all full of light and (very loud) music and people, milling and moving about. People you knew and wanted to be happy and were glad to have in your life.

* The utter gentleness of the drive home, deep through midnight tunnels punctuated now and again by an on-coming car, watched by sentinel deer, slowly eating up the miles in the soft dark night.

Yes. Those are the snippets I want to remember. Maybe one day they will turn up in a piece of literature.

posted by Bess | 9:01 AM


That post was such a treat, like dipping into a well-written Southern-flavored novel. Makes me want to read the whole thing - you will write it someday, won't you?

By Blogger Catherine, at 6:02 PM  

"Lordy that was the friendliest woman I ever met and she set the tone for me. I never came into Essex County after that without expecting everyone I met to just hug me to bits and pieces."

Darlin' if that doesn't just sum up every visit of mine to your Castle, I don't know what does...

By Blogger Amie, at 11:41 PM  

Thank you for sharing that delightfully delicious snippet from your past. I was just hanging on every word!
I hope your vacation week was a sweet one.

By Blogger Carolyn, at 7:30 AM  

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Saturday, May 19, 2007  

Ooo this is one Ge-Or-Ge-Ous Saturday. Crystal clear air with a hint of coolness slipped in overnight and thrust off the blanket of grey clouds that had smothered Friday’s temperatures back down into the 60’s. Golden sunshine slanting through the forest is igniting all the green into something beyond color - more like emerald fire shimmering with gold dust. I can hear my pet bald eagle keening as he spies a tasty morsel in the bay. An army of beautiful iris stands at attention along the back of the garden looking as if they would march up and chivvy some sweat pea or peony into blooming a little straighter, a little sooner, a little fuller.

This is a perfect day for a wedding. Good thing, too, since I hear there are a number of them going on around the county. We will be going to one of them this evening. The groom is a cousin and one of LD’s high school chums. The bride is the grand daughter of Teddy Acree - just about one of my favorite of the old time King and Queen dames, the first I met, way back in the olden days when I was a girlfriend.

BD has brought me many great gifts over the decades, but one of the grandest and longest lasting has been his capacity for just getting up and doing something - often something adventurous - and taking me along with him. Long, long ago, the first time I went out with him, in fact, I noticed he had an old American Flyer bike. Heavy tires, no gears, but sturdy enough to fall off a truck and keep on rolling. Within a month or two he’d scouted out another one and bought it for me for the grand sum of $10. I kept it at his house because I officially lived in a dorm. (ha!) We tooled around Richmond on those bikes, exploring, shopping ... I remember one time he brought home, from the lumber yard out on Broad Street, some shelving boards across the handlebars of his. He was the first person I knew, other than Europeans in old newsreel type educational films, who used a bike as transportation. (yeah, I am that old) We actually rode those bikes from The Fan out to Governor’s Antiques - way out by Poll Green Road - back before the 295 by-pass was built - to buy a boxwood flute with ivory rings. Yep. The real thing. He has it still, in his flute cabinet.

That first spring we were together, though, he suggested we might like to ride those bikes down to Tappahannock. I was absolutely floored at the idea of riding a bicycle 50 miles. Not in a race. Not some sleek thing with narrow tires. Just getting on our bikes and pedaling on down the road till we got somewhere. It was an enchanting idea and one June morning we started off.

In part it may be because I was a girl, in part it may be just because I was young, but there were huge portions of my city that I’d never explored. I had no idea there even was a Richmond-Henrico turnpike that slipped behind the old State Fair Grounds and across Chicahominy Swamp, but that was the first turn we made as we wheeled east on Laburnum Ave. Chicahominy Swamp is a huge wet area that has been full of dead tree skeletons all my life. Obviously the ground once supported a forest because the trees grew big enough to become a ghostly stand, but climate changes and perhaps, the asphalt carpet of suburbia has put an end to that. In fact, most of the dead trees have fallen now, to be replaced by different, and more people tolerant, wetland flora. One day nobody will even remember that once there as a huge wetland forest in Henrico County.

We took back roads through the countryside, stopping at the Studly store to get a soft drink. I grew up in a family where sodas were considered a serious luxury item. You got one for your birthday or maybe if you were in a restaurant. One didn’t just stop at a little brown box of a store and dig one out of a chest cooler because it tasted good and the day was hot.

From Studly we went left on the Williamsville Road to cross into Hanover (pronounced with a breathy “h” and sort of tossing off the last syllables of each word - “Hhhahnovah Chaounteh”) on the Nelson’s Bridge Road, across the Pamunkey River. Deep into Old Virginia we pedaled, north towards Mangohick where we once again began going east on Rt. 30 - at least for a little while before heading to Mitchel’s Millpond, along a road that wrapped around the eastern tip of the pond. I remember vividly wanting to get naked and go swimming. I don’t remember if I did. I’ll have to ask BD.

From the millpond, where I can still remember feeling fresh, it was a long stretch up to Beulahville and across the Mataponi into King and Queen, where we stopped at the Newtown Post Office and Store, where I remember feeling a little tired. That’s where I first met Teddie Acree - grandmother of today’s bride.

Teddy was the first person I’d met from “down ‘round here”; decidedly Old Virginia, kinfolk or something as good as; connected, and well acquainted with all the family lore. I was only 19, visibly younger than BD, and just a girlfriend to boot, with a decidedly suburban background and no connections whatsoever. But Teddy Acree ( somehow I can never say just her first name, which was a nickname anyway. Officially, she was Mary Evelyn Turpin Acree.) just opened up that gigantic warm heart of hers and sucked me in like so much frosty lemonade on a hot summer day. I can still see her wide round eyes and gleeful smile as she cried “Cuhz’n Edw’d! Land sakes, chile! Whuht-chew dewin down here and who’zziss?”

Lordy that was the friendliest woman I ever met and she set the tone for me. I never came into Essex County after that without expecting everyone I met to just hug me to bits and pieces. She was the postmistress and store keeper and besides, that end of King and Queen, up around Newtown, is Turpin Country. Teddy loved to laugh and tell stories and Teddy loved get-together and Teddy gave the grandest parties with always the same invitation: You Are Invited to come Dancing on the Green in King and Queen. How I loved to go to her parties. She always had Clinks Fauntleroy on the guitar and sometimes Peter Bundy on the fiddle and you stayed till the wee hours. I took little baby LD to his first party when he was only a 3 months old, because babies just got plopped on big beds upstairs when Teddy Acree held a party. Her husband had a big farm along 360 and, though much quieter, had a heart that could match hers for tenderness and loving. Their three sons were as wild as rabbits and just like Teddy while their daughter, Biddy, had that same soft gentleness as Old Jack.

And today it’s Biddy’s daughter who’s getting married. Of course folks around here are all saying Caroll Lee’s daughter is getting married, because Caroll Lee is as vivid and colorful as his mother-in-law ever was. But I will be remembering Teddy this evening, and how wonderful it was to be welcomed as if I were the most important person she could ever meet, way back when, in girlfriendhood, when BD and I rode bikes from Richmond to Tappahannock.

Lawsee - 35 years ago.

posted by Bess | 1:17 PM


What a relief! I love the feeling of finally getting something done that I've been putting off and then doing it and realizing that I'll never have to do it again. I must get rid of some old clothes and I'm just stalling. I know I'll feel great when I get it done. I'm just more inclined to wait another day. Anyway, now you don't have to think about those molds again and as a bonus someone gets some extra room.

By Blogger Larry, at 9:15 AM  

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Friday, May 18, 2007  

What’s this?! Friday! Already? Wha..Whe.. How did that happen? A whole week gone in a twinkling. I knew I should have taken off 2 weeks.

But there you have it. Take a little time off to play, to rest, to nap, and the next thing you know your week is gone and all the things you thought you’d like to do are still out there in nebulous land.

Well, I would like to pretend that’s the case, but it’s not really. I did get several Important Things accomplished this week, including some serious shopping. I also came to the deep realization that I will never retire until there is, in TheCastle: A. a studio where I can keep all my toys - organized so that I can find them when I want them. and B. high speed internet.

When it took 30 minutes to open hotmail yesterday at 4:30, I knew that this was an unacceptable situation for anything longer than a week. If finances cooperate this summer, we will get in Mr.Satelite Man and purchase a computer with a motherboard that will actually have a slot for a wireless connection.

BD and I drove up to F’burg yesterday to unload the ghost of an old hobby of mine. Throughout the 90’s I was fascinated with ceramics and indulged in stash building as avidly as I collect yarn and fiber now. I particularly loved working with color on clay - with painting on it, to be precise, although I did do some shaping, building and carving. It was the magic, though, of how the paint and the wet clay danced together - very like the way watercolors behave on good paper - that captured me.

I have also always had a deep love of dishes; dinnerware, tea sets, food containers of all sorts, even lamps. So I purchased the plaster molds for several (lots of) pieces; a little at a time, mind, not all at once. Eventually every dish in my kitchen was one made by me. Of course, a house can contain only so many dishes, lamps and intriguing little boxes. Friends get tired of Yet Another Ceramic Gift, even a truly unique and pretty one. I found a bit of a market for my work in a few boutiques but then I had to please the shop keepers instead of just pleasing myself. That, my dears, is the difference between a hobby and a profession.

And so the question evolved "Do I crank out more of these popular painted pitchers or do I try to move into the Art Circles?" The move from Craft to Art though, would require mastering porcelain and high firing and also be a good bit more expensive than what I was doing. Truth to tell, I was afraid of the kiln and just didn’t know how to learn enough about it to not be afraid. At the same time, we were funding the Virginia University System with every spare penny we had, so $ was scarcer than hen’s teeth at TheCastle. It looked like Craft was going to triumph - when one day I was walking through a mall and a little kiosk vendor had an array of her bread dough ornaments spread out in row after row of shiny cuteness.

I was stopped in my tracks, flattened by the crushing and depressing realization that if I were to pursue any sort of economic outlet for this clay stuff, not only would I have to produce row after row of cuteness myself, but for heaven’s sake!! The world already had enough cuteness and clutter and stuff and I was not going to be a party to One More Cluttery Thing being heaped upon the globe! I was utterly defeated by quantity. I couldn’t find the least spark of inspiration to create one more thing and I think I never did touch clay again.

Of course, creativity is something that bubbles within and sooner or later it finds an outlet. Evidently shopping to support creativity is the same, for I certainly have a knitters stash to rival anything else I’ve ever collected. But those poor ceramic molds were lying wasted in an outbuilding in the yard. Periodically BD would say "I really need that space. Are you going to do anything with those ceramic molds?" And other such words that caused me to put on my Steel Face of No Response and No Action Either.

In fact, he really does need the space and happily he really did find a place to unload these lost treasures. Best of all, I was able to give them to a friend. A friend who lives in the city so the ones he can’t use he can pass on to someone else. A friend who didn’t call last night to say "Thanks" because he’s probably still in shock from coming home to a porch loaded down with white plaster of Paris blocks with red scrawled labels on them. Or exhausted from trying to put them all somewhere!! Let us hope he is still a friend.

And let us rejoice that I have that much less clutter in my life. May we all, always, end our vacations with that delicious sense of clutterlessness. And may we all find new outlets for our creativity.

posted by Bess | 7:17 AM


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Tuesday, May 15, 2007  

This vacation stuff is addictive. Or - it will be - when I finally get the house in a state where I can sink down and relax. I’m almost there. Sunday I spent ridding it of dog fluff - which in May is substantial. Socks seems to have grown 3 winter coats for I’ve been brushing mounds of undercoat out of her since March. All my dogs hate to be brushed - I suspect I’m too intense with them - with one exception. Jack loves it. Jack, of the short hair that sheds out quickly in early March. Jack, who snuggles up close to you whenever he sees the dog combs and tries to nudge between any other doggie victim and that instrument of torture whenever I start grooming. And yes. I have saved their fur in years past and I have spun it and I thank you very much but I have Enough Fiber right now.

For, in the mail, yesterday, were two enormous boxes full of Llama Fleece. My sister in Alaska - she of the looms and wheels - sent them to me. She’s in the process of clearing some land and building a house and a furniture shop and just couldn’t see her way to doing anything with them for eons. So, when she asked if I would like them, although my first thought was "how dirty are they?", my second thought was - Hey - sure - I can send them to the processors and if they are really really awful well - there you have it. I know how to move that sort of thing out softly. Besides, llama is not usually dirty in the same way wool is. I suspect it’s because they have long legs that lift the fleece a little further from their, er, um, poop. I pulled out a bit from one of the bags and it does have a lot of straw in it - but it’s very very soft and spinnable. And brown. Oh glorious llama brown. Bess brown. Soft fluffy warm pretty silky crimpless brown. A brown llama shawl in lace, hmmm?

Another weirdly unvactioney thing going on around here is the Great Migration of Winter Clothes. They are supposed to head north in the summertime - up into the arctic - I mean attic. Alas, there has been a serious population explosion over the past decade and the territory can’t support such large herds without disease and starvation setting in. And so, as a good, if lazy, shepherdess, it was my duty to cull out the weak and the sick.

What a collection of shoes and t-shirts and olive green shorts in every size from 1980’s tee-tiny 11/12 Juniors all the way up to 16’s!! Nobody should have that many green shorts. There were 6 pair of sandals. Not the strappy dressy kicky little numbers, either but Earth Shoe walking sandals. I kept 2 pair and am giving the rest to the Goodwill - along with some of those green shorts, t-shirts and 2 old coats. What is not going are the three vintage 1980's wool suits with BIG shoulders and wide skirts. Not because I ever expect to wear them again, but because the skirts are so big I am thinking they could be cut up and made into braided rugs.

Well. The crafter’s soul never lies down quietly. They all have little pin sized moth holes in them so they won’t ever be worn again if they do come back in style. They weren’t packed away properly and the fabric suffered for it.

* * * * *

Huh. The above is yesterday’s attempt at a post. It is now Wednesday and I am back from the trip to the city. There is an evening wedding - a fancy evening wedding we will be attending on Saturday and in spite of the enormous quantity of clothing stored in the attic, there was nothing up there formal enough for an evening wedding along the banks of the Mattaponi in Tidewater Virginia that fit me. I knew I would have to go shopping sometime this week and I have a preference for Tuesday shopping under any circumstance. Stores are empty. New selections are out on the floors. There may not be as much staff, but what is there has nobody else to wait on but you, so you can get help fast. I had a list of about 10 City things to get and 4 bags of Goodwill donations to make and 2 elderly parents to visit. It all happened just the way it was supposed to.

I did my shopping at the closest mega-mall. I’m not much of a boutique shopper. Those places are always full of tiny clothes at gigantic prices and I just don’t have the tiny body for them. Also, though I like to look nice, even very nice, I’m beyond wanting to stand out in a fashion crowd anymore. A big mall with 2 or 3 department stores suits me just fine. The first dress I tried on was the dress I wanted. Great color, a very pretty jacket to go over it, just the look I wanted. Alas, it was too small. Well, it was a Jessica McClintock dress, whose styles always suit my taste but that are cut on top for a smaller woman than me. I’m all shoulders and ribcage with no hips at all. [T]he[i]r dresses are cut on a sloper designed for small shoulders & bust but wide hips. I keep telling myself, "in my next life."

The clerk checked her computer and called the other stores in town to see if the next size up lurked on any racks anywhere else. The answer was - yes - there was a bigger size right in her very own store. She swore she’d unpacked that box just the night before and knew it wasn’t in the shop so I looked around the rest of the mall. With deep reluctance and significant compromise I found another outfit that was nice enough but cost a good bit more and prepared to depart. But I had parked right outside first store’s front door and as I was walking back to my car I went through the petite department and what do you know. There was that same suit in petite sizes. I’m not exactly short, but I have a very short body and if a petite is cut wide enough, the body length is actually a much better fit. And what do you know - there was the missing size *!

The long and short of it is that I got the dress I want, I already have shoes and bag to go with it, might even have a hat (have to try it out today) and went away contented, saying "Now I’m the grandest tiger in the jungle."

But really. I ought to get on the WW stick. I don’t want to go through the summer all hot and sticky and rubbing skin against skin.

There was time to get in a good visit with both parents. Mama is fine. She’d like us to come more often and stay longer, but she has lots of budding friendships and her contentment rests entirely within herself. Dad is physically much better. He’s got his little dog and she’s looking pretty good too. Certainly, everyone loves her and pets her and he can bask in that glory. I’m amazed at how willing he is to let sister and me make his decisions for him. Skill is still required, and tact, to set it up so that he feels he has some choice, but no choices can be offered to him that we are not prepared to live with. We had a talk about selling his house. He knows it has to be done and he’s pretty much willing to let us do that job. He is in assisted living. Right next door is a "retirement community" which is an assisted living place without any nursing staff. We took a little stroll down the hill, me pushing him in his wheel chair, and had a look around. He liked it. Best of all, he felt he’d "found" it. It is also about $1k a month less than where he is staying.

So. The wheel turned another notch. Things look good. I see light up ahead.

Today I don’t plan to do anything. Pushing Dad back up the hill in his wheel chair put some strain on the ankle I turned 2 weeks ago. I’m going to stay off it, read books, knit and nap. Yep. Sounds like a perfect vacation day.

posted by Bess | 8:47 AM


Hope your Sunday turned out better. Gorgeous weather, wasn't it?

By Blogger Mary, at 12:15 PM  

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Sunday, May 13, 2007  

Day one of vacation dawned humid and warm. May is the Second Month of the Deep Shed, so there are dog fur feathers all over the house. It would have been nice if I’d gotten around to cleaning up the place but I made the tactical mistake of saying to BD "I have to go to town for groceries this morning. Would you like to come along?"

36 years of togetherness have taught me much about compromise and blending and meshing styles, language and bio-rhythms. But not all. Besides, all that blending and meshing, etc., really means choosing among several, or at least two, options. My idea of going to the store on a Saturday morning is to hop out of bed, whip on some sunglasses, zip into town and get through Walmart before any of your friends are even through their second cup of coffee. It’s not just that the market is crowded on a Saturday. It’s that all your friends will be there too. Not only will they want to stop and talk and schedule a dinner date and ask a favor, but you have to do your hair and makeup and wear a clean t-shirt and the shorts that don’t make your stomach pooch out.

So. No problem for a lark like me. I can be in and out of W*M in 30 minutes - 45 if I have to go over to the other side for housewares or dog biscuits. Alas, doing something with my night owl husband, the guy I used to tell bad news to while driving to work together because he wouldn’t remember it, the fellow who, the moment you say "okay, let’s go" walks into his office and takes a book off the shelf to look something up, means that if we get out of the house before noon it will be a miracle. No miracle was wrought yesterday And I had Saturday hair and couldn’t find my sunglasses. Fortunately I had those Jitterbug socks in my purse, so when I wasn’t actually thrusting my cart through the isles, I could bend my head down and knit away and of course, since I couldn’t see anybody - nobody could see me, right? Bess - the Ninja Knitter, so deep into her project she’s invisible.

Part of the journey involved violating another Vacation Rule - Do Not Go Into The Office when On Vacation. Only, of course, what’s one of the really fun things to do on a vacation? Read a good book, right? And guess where all the good books are lurking. Yeah. But at least I made BD park in the public parking lot out front. Actually we were on a quest for vegetarian chili and went to look at the cook book section. We found 2 and tried one last night, but it tasted more like Boston Baked Beans with Chili Peppers and Corn. Way too sweet. And both recipes involve ersatz meat substitute. I really would like one that didn’t try to pretend it was a meat dish.

And of course, we weren’t just getting the groceries. We had to go by all the auto parts stores while BD looked for a new clamp for the battery charger (which saved my skin last weekend at MS&W, because who on God’s Green Earth would be stupid enough to come up with the moronic idea of Mandatory Headlight Roads? Don’t these idiots know that if every car has its headlights on in the daytime your eyes will adjust to them, too, and you still won’t see the car coming towards you? And aren’t we already supposed to put our lights on when it’s raining or when it’s dark, so who is going to remember to turn them off when it is neither and it’s 3 p.m. and you’re going to leave your car in the parking lot for 2 nights and you’re all excited about catching up with your girlfriends in a giant barn full of yarn?)

The good news is that I have only one pattern more to knit on my Jitterbug socks, plus the toe. The bad news is that by the time I got home and put away groceries, while there really was time to clean the house, and I would have felt deliciously happy if the house had been all sparkly clean, I just didn’t feel like it. Hot, humid, muggy and dopey, I just flipped through my Barbara Walker books and daydreamed about sock patterns.

Additional good news is that Joe mailed my new #5 Addi Lace needles Friday afternoon and woo woo!! They came yesterday. I will be knitting silk this cool rainy Sunday afternoon.

So. A Happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s out there and here is one of my favorite old cartoons from the early years of blogging. (No. They are not connected, except that all mother’s have to multi-task whether it works or not.)

Remember, when it works, it's called Multi-tasking. When it doesn't, it's called ADD.



posted by Bess | 9:01 AM


I got her email about that auction -- what a great idea! The shawl is up to $261 and rising....

By Blogger Mary, at 1:32 PM  

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Saturday, May 12, 2007  

I can’t believe I’ve forgotten to post this - but at least I’m getting it in at the last moment.

My friend J is auctioning off a simply gorgeous lace shawl on e-bay. Proceeds are to go to VaTech victims. Here’s her blog post about the shawl.

And here is the e-bay site where you can bid - or watch the bidding.

posted by Bess | 11:29 AM


Bess what beautiful flowers! Glad to hear you are feeling better. Thanks for giving me the thought of something to look foward to; our Irises are weeks away up North here!

By Blogger Martheme, at 5:36 PM  

I agree that the 6 stitches per inch looks better.

And cap sleeves are cute on folks with out "arm chub" as Laurie calls it. But I'm with her -- hide the bat wings whenever possible!

By Blogger Mary, at 1:37 PM  

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Friday, May 11, 2007  

Feeling much better today - it’s a wonder what 14 hours of sleep can do for a body.

Here’s the swatch I knit in the Tilly Tomas yarn.

The lace is that same "mountain" lace that’s in Barbara Walker’s first book of knitting patterns, and also in the soon to be ripped Brooks Farm mohair cardigan. I like it because it’s a 10 stitch pattern - easy to calculate it into a sweater design. I also like the scalloped edge it creates. Unlike Crazy Aunt Purl, I love cap sleeves and intend to knit this yarn into a cap-sleeve top. Of course, she is looking for a short sleeve t-shirt and I am looking for a modest wear-to-work tank top so we see different things when we look at cap sleeves. Also. If the widest part of your body is the straight line between one short sleeve and the next - well - a diagonally pointing sleeve line coming from the shoulder is a good deal more flattering than the straight slash that is your ordinary t-shirt.

But the big thing I discovered last night is that - in spine of the ball band - I think the 5 stitches to the inch recommended for this yarn is too loose. Combining the weight of silk, its slippery drape and loose stitches is pretty much a guarantee it will stretch out of shape when worn.

I knit the last inch of stockinette on #5 needles and got 6 stitches to the inch. I like it much better than the first few rows. I also cast on the lace part way too tightly so that as I knit with this slippery yarn, the fabric grew wider and now it won’t lie flat. That is why I swatch; to get to know what the yarn wants to do as well as to find my gauge.

Of course the only #5 needles in my vast store of knitting paraphernalia are 16" circulars. What a perfect opportunity to purchase some Addi Lace #5’s.

So. Off to work on my Last Day Before Vacation. I’ll be posting next week - just sans photos. So here are a few beauties from my garden to keep things colorful around here.

posted by Bess | 7:12 AM


Wow - sorry you got sick! Hope you're better now! And I can't wait to hear what you think of the Tilli Thomas!

By Blogger Mary, at 1:33 PM  

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Thursday, May 10, 2007  

For all that I’ve been doing some interesting traveling the past few months, as well as some dutiful traveling, 2007 has been a demanding year for me and I feel stretched as thin as parchment. It’s been my habit in the past to take at least the Monday after a big event like MS&W off and if possible, the whole next week. This year it wasn’t possible, not even to take off Monday. There are end-of-year bookkeeping duties, Friends of the Library events, and summer reading club planning activities spread out on my desk. I felt like if I could get the heaviest of these chores finished this week I could take a real week off starting tomorrow and just sink into peace and relaxation and, well, vacate my real life. I actually did get 89% of those chores done by 5 o’clock yesterday but alas, I crashed and burned today. I tried to go to work, but I was in a cold sweat by the time I got to the mailbox - and turned around and went back to bed. 6 hours of sleep later I’m a little better - sort of draggy groggy - but not with that clammy feeling I had this morning.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow and the Friends dinner is tomorrow night but then this gal is gonna reeee-lax. But in the mean time, I have all 4 Barbara Walker stitch books, two of the Nicky Epstein edge treatment books, some pointy tipped ebony circular’s in size 7 and a lovely wound ball of Tilly Tomas silk. The sun is shining in my green and gold world and there are 4 dogs who’d like to sit at my feet. I believe I’ll go swatch me a little lace.

posted by Bess | 5:41 PM


acck - just did a whole long post and clicked the page off completely -- so ..... shortened version

You made it sound like such fun I want to go!!!

By Blogger rho, at 12:38 PM  

Nice purchases! Love that drop spindle. You know she chastised me for taking pictures in her booth on Saturday. I was somewhat deflated after that.

That Mountains of Hearts pattern is gorgeous -- I admire your guts for being willing to rip it out.

How did I miss the Tilli Thomas beaded yarns? I saw the bags, but not the yarns. Perhaps the booth was too crowded and I walked on by.

By Blogger Mary, at 6:23 PM  

As a contact lens wearer, I don't do mohair. I don't care if it's the most gorgeous yarn ever created, if it sheds I pass it by. No beauty is worth the pain of a little wisp of hair in a contact lens while driving on the interstate. Their Four Play isn't sheddy, is it? I am still thinking of trying it someday.

That spindle is gorgeous, and Jen's sock yarns are too! But I was a good girl and stayed home and bought Kureyon, which I love much more than I thought I would.

By Blogger Catherine, at 7:34 PM  

Amazing stuff you bought, there girl! I am so glad you found Mary Ann. She is a friend of mine. Her merino/tencel is definitely heavenly!

By Blogger Carolyn, at 9:42 PM  

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007  

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival 2007 part 2

*note - yep. You're the M, Meredith

Lordy, I hate it when I waffle about something and there’s been a knitting project I’ve been on the fence about for 2 years now. Some years ago I committed the Follie une Primo of Festival Going Knitters. I bought short. At the Brooks Farm booth there was some gorgeous mohair put up in 500 yard hanks. The hot color that year was something called Azalea - coral, peach, you know what color I’m talking about - an orangey pink - the only pink I can wear. The Brooks folks had made a gorgeous blue and azalea multi yarn in the same weight and together those yarns just sang to me. I can’t wear blue next to my face without looking jaundiced but knit around the wrists and hem of an azalea colored sweater, I could pull it off. Now - I know a lacy cardigan, for me, in worsted weight yarn is going to take about 1000 yards. I also had the strong suspicion that I’d need more than 500 yards of the solid color. But only a little more. And it was the end of the weekend. And to pop for a whole extra skein when I needed only maybe another 100 yards was so hard to do. You can guess what happened. I was pound foolish and didn’t buy that extra hank. Even though I know.. you know?

I cast on the Mountains of Hearts sweater on a frosty January and knit happily away for about 6 weeks. That sweater is half way up my shoulders and I’m almost out of azalea yarn. If I wanted blue shoulders I could finish it up but ... I hate the thought of a gorgeous sweater that makes me look bad. Besides, I’m really not built to wear a garment that is basically a huge horizontal orange stripe bordered by blue bands.

So this year I took a sleeve with me to see if I could find some azalea yarn at the Brooks Farm booth to finish this pretty garment. I figured - if they had some I’d finish it - if they didn’t, I’d rip it.

Well. Of course. They had some. Not an exact dye lot match, but something that I could work with. Only - it was in a different weight. Sport wt. instead of worsted. I stood there in their booth a long, long time, trying to decide. This is a lot of knitting and it’s really nice knitting, even if I say so myself. But as I stood there, teetering on edge of the frog pond, a single word wafted through my brain.


Yes. This yarn sheds. It sheds all the time. It is loosely spun 2 ply mohair. The soft spin is what makes it so delicious to knit. It shed all over my lap while I knit with it. It left little azalea and a few blue hairs all over my jeans, my skirts, whatever I was wearing at the time. For all Brooks Farm yarn is so popular, I’m amazed that nobody ever complains about this. It’s not as if knitters pretend it doesn’t shed. It’s just that the yarn is so beautiful, it’s so soft, it feels so delicious they have to buy it anyway. I noticed that the Brooks Farm folk have brought out new fiber lines with their same glorious colorways. But whatever direction they take in the future, I had to decide about this sweater now. And the decision is to frog it. It’s a good design. I can make it from something else. And I’ll knit up a pretty shawl with the beautiful Brooks Farm mohair - something that I won’t be pulling quite so tightly around my body, something that isn’t going to brush against my brown-skirt clad hips on a cold winter day. Instead I’ll have a cloud of azalea fibers clinging to my orange turtlenecks and it will just look like I own a cat.

Farewell oh pretty Mountains of Hearts sweater.

So, what did I buy? Ahh well. I couldn’t come home without some of Spirit Trail’s magnificent fiber and yarn. The advantage of helping to set up is that I got first pick of the colors and these came home with me.
The two sock yarns are destined to be knit together in different ways. Since there’s enough for 2 pair I will probably end up with 4 coordinating socks - instead of real partners. I may call them fraternal quads. The fiber is about 2 ounces of a blend that includes all sorts of sheepy DNA. I didn’t write it down for me - only for customers who bought it - but it’s from a flock of sheep that had been crossed and crossed again to create hand spinner’s fleeces. J had 3 different bags of these fibers and we got to calling them mutt sheep. Some mutt, huh?

Across from us all weekend was the magnificent Tilly Tomas with her beaded designer yarns. Honestly, when you’re working a booth you can get too busy to go see what’s going on across the way and usually when you do a walk about you head first for the bathrooms. Inspiration did strike in time for me to investigate her shelves and bins, though and just look what I found!!

This is destined to become that cap sleeved lace edged summer sweater. I’m going to knit the hem lace in that beaded solid brown and then switch to wide flat ribs when I start knitting the main body. What perfect colors for the little bit of suntan I’ll be getting in the next month or so. What gorgeous yarn. In fact - I can knit it with that ebony circular needle that’s been imprisoned in the Brooks Farm Mohair disaster for 2 years. All the more reason to bid that mistake good-bye.

Alas, it was so crowded when I actually shopped I never got to talk to Tilly herself. I’m feeling like a chump - but MS&W always puts you in the same booth space. I can talk to her next year - and maybe even wear my sweater.

Three Waters Farm is a familiar booth with the friendliest owners. Mary Ann is the first artist I’ve ever seen to do bold vivid handpaint colors with merino/tencel blends. This particular vivid bold handpainted colorway had to come home with me.
There are 8 oz. of it - enough to do something serious with it. And yet - can you imagine this colorway spun into a boucle yarn? ooo la la!

At Got Soap I picked up a bar of soap which I now can’t find, although I’ve yet to unpack my bags. It still might show up. But I also bought a bag of their cedar and herb moth repellent. It’s full of pennyroyal and lavender and even if it doesn’t really repel moths (and there are some who claim this) it will make my fibers smell so deliciously medieval. I can call it a sachet. I plan to make little bags of this and sprinkle them in all my storage places and yarn hideyholes.

By Sunday I still had a little money left. Of course I had conveniently forgotten the Visa stuff. That won’t count till next month. There was enough for one special purchase and both the Corriedale and the cashmere were whispering sweet nothings into my ears. I did a final walk about the fair around lunchtime and as I did so I remembered those hand drawn glass circular needles at Sheila and Michael Ernst's booth. Mind now, I had already picked up some buttons from them because it would be a sin of omission to go home without one or some of those magic kingdoms. I love these buttons so much I want to go live inside one of them.
When I’d been by earlier they hadn’t set everything up and as we were talking (me gushing compliments, mostly) I sighed that they’d probably be sold out before I could get back. Sheila said "oh, take them now" which I did - paying cash. The photos don't do them justice, but their website has good photos. The rest of the weekend I urged customers who bought Spirit Trail Yarns to find the perfect buttons for their future creations at the booth.

So. With a little cash still in the wallet I stopped by to gaze once more at their magic kingdom buttons and oh my oh.

There it was.

The special, unique, not something you find just anywhere, got to have it, had to bring it home purchase.

The Do Not Drop Spindle.

Yep. I know. Frivolity extrodinaire. Absurdly beautiful. Whimsy for woolen wandering. Just looking at it makes my eyes giggle and my heart flutter. It really does spin. It really is just about the prettiest thing. I could hang it in my window and forget about spinning on it. Or on days when I want to play fairy princess I can sit on my bed and pull out something silkenly magical and spin away.
Yep. Something I wouldn't be picking up just any old time or place.
And after that, my shopping was done.
The Sunday crowd was thinning out and long about 3:30 I packed up. Unlike the intrepid J, I am no night driver and I wanted to be home before dark. There were hugs good bye with the booth babes and then I was on the road again. There was a little traffic between Upper Marlboro and La Plata, but more than half the drive home was traffic free. Blue skies and big hugs were waiting for me at home and I am content.
Goodbye MS&W. See you next year.

posted by Bess | 7:21 AM


I didn't know those Sock-ness Monster socks were Amie's! I loved those! Took pictures of them myself. Your so good at remembering all the vendors. I'm getting better -- I now ask for a business card or flyer from someone I might want to purchase from in the future. Fun weekend! Sorry I missed you on Sunday -- went by the Spirit Trail booth once but you weren't there.

By Blogger Mary, at 5:44 PM  

I missed seeing you this year Bess...and I missed my hug too! Jen's yarns are to die for. I had such a hard time deciding on the color of the lace I purchased. Until I can spend 2 full days there I'll have to be content to read your blog to see the things I missed.

By Blogger Linda, at 5:45 PM  

Now I feel like I've been to MSW this year--what a great report. Thanks for the links and details and observations. Can't wait to see what you bought!

By Blogger Nerdy Knitter, at 8:50 PM  

Hi Bess,
It's me, Meredith. Am I?....Could it really be?...Could I be so bold as to assume that I am the "M" you speak of below?...The "sweet surprise"?!! I would assume that many people came up to you over the weekend, introduced themselves and told you they read your blog. Some of them could have names that start with M. So, maybe I should not be so bold. But when I read that, I let out an out-loud "Awwwwww...". It really was a thrill to talk with you, and also talk to Jen. Next year, I'll give you both a hug!

By Anonymous Meredith from Columbia, MD, at 8:50 AM  

It's so wild to see the photos of my socks all over the internet now. My goofy dad started talking about building a shadow box for them and the ribbon, to which I replied, "you'll have to take them off my feet!"

Meredith - look me up! I'm near Columbia, we have a great knitting group that meets there regularly!

By Blogger Amie, at 10:08 AM  

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Monday, May 07, 2007  

Maryland Sheep and Wool 2007 Part 1

What could be so wonderful as to want to be somewhere and find that, what do you know, here you are. Right where you wanted to be. And it’s just what you wanted it to be. In spite of the link between Venus and Pluto - which, of course, if you are in love, is supposed to only deepen that love.

Well, I certainly am in love - with a place and a man and even after a weekend steeped in it, with fiber in all its glorious sumptuously tactile magnificence. Oh law, I’m even in love with that bird who is singing outside the window - someone new around here, with the most trilling of calls. He has all the sound of spring when it is promising to drag summertime into your life. He makes me feel as if I were 9 years old again and I have all summer to finish the Little House series.

Yes. I am back from MS&W and after all the driving and the hustle and bustle and frenzy and excitement, I am not only still in love with beautiful fiber and all the ways you can play with it, but I came home with exactly the right amount of new toys and treasures. Not so much I feel glutted, but enough to reassure me that there are still discoveries out there, waiting for me.

Each year the festival has a different feel to it. My first year it was an ocean of unfamiliarity where I dipped a finger here or there just to see what it felt like. The second year I went with a girlfriend and we realized that 1 day is not enough time to savor it all. Year 3 I went with 3 girlfriends and we spent the night, took classes, and oh lordy did I drop some $$. Year 4 changed from a fiber spree to a working vacation in less than a week, when J was asked to bring her Spirit Trail Booth to the fair the Monday previous. Whoa that was different and thrilling and exciting and stressful. Vendors don’t get out of the fair till about an hour after it closes and by then every restaurant in Frederick MD was full. Year 5 we were a little better organized. We had a native guide in A to get us to a restaurant with No Waiting.

Last year the fair was very very crowded. I heard numbers as high as 90K and it probably was that busy. This year it could have been even more so - with the parking lot closing in the afternoon on Saturday. I heard the backup on Rt. 32 was 2 miles long and that's already over a mile from the fairgrounds. But the crowd was steadier, there seemed to be fewer clogs in the isles and people were really cheerful and in the mood to spend. There was hardly ever what you might call a lull on Saturday and the expected ones on Sunday, especially in the early part of the day, were brief. I am sure J was happy with her sales. The few other vendors I know well enough to ask were also grinning and cheerful and bright eyed. And when the vendors are happy, it means the customers were too.

My drive through suburban MD was the least stressful ever. Including a wee stop for lunch it took just a wee bit over 3 hours. I got there in plenty of time to help set up,

to walk about a bit, to say hello to Tom Golding - and get another tension spring - and even to stand in the only real line I stood in all weekend - the Show T-shirt line.

The set-up there is really bad - way way too slow, especially for the day before the show opens. I suspect there were a lot of people in the line who were not vendors. In fact, I believe there is a growing crowd of folk who take advantage of the confusion of setting up and sneak into the fair a day early. It’s pretty mean because the vendors and show volunteers are madly busy and don’t really have time to monitor everybody who walks around the fairgrounds. Some of them want to buy even before vendors have their cash box out - and I’ve even heard a few cranky Friday sneak-ins complain when the vendors don’t stop and dig out some change. I think day-glo wrist-bands for vendors and their helpers, with one guard posted at the gate, would go a long way towards stopping that bad custom.

(woops. sorry. soap-boxing here.)

But there truly is no cloud without it’s lovely lining - for guess who was in the T-shirt booth! Sheila and Michael Ernst, the couple who make the most gorgeous glass buttons! They sent some with a friend’s booth last year and I bought 2. This year they had their own booth and oh my goodness. Not only did they meet my button needs but oh, my, yes! I got my treat of the fair there on Sunday afternoon.
Not such a great photo, but that's Sheila on the right.
We worked hard all afternoon and by about 6 things looked like this:

It never looked like that again - for those racks emptied out like snow melting in the springtime. In fact, that rack of sock yarn was filled and emptied twice more. It was a very good show. Jen is offering something new this summer, a Sock of the Month Club and a Yarn of the Month Club. It's a limited edition club. SotM will ship out 3 exclusively hand-dyed yarns and an exclusive sock pattern along with some fiberish surprise treats. The YotM Club will offer a sock, a scarf and a shawl pattern with correspondingly more yarn for these projects, but the same exclusivity as the sock club. More details here.
We stayed in Sykesville at the Inn at Norwood - pricey but very close to the show. And they kindly set up an Internet computer for guests - which is why I could post on Sunday morning.

A fun part of working a boot is that you (mostly) stay in one place and people file past. You're far more likely to see friends and acquaintances if you stay put. Of course, if you were to ask J, you wouldn't think I stayed put, because she had to come back 2 or 3 times to find me. And I swear, I didn't get a commission from them, but I sent a passle of folk over to Yarn Barn of Kansas booth because they had the Melba Montgomery drop spinning dvd.
Joe and Angel, of On The Lamb, caught up with me and shared the exciting news that one of my students from last month had started her first adult sized sweater - this, after taking my class. Woo woo, I love that sort of feedback. I got a great hug from M, a giggle from some other KR Forum and Retreat buds, and some conspiratorial whispering in with B. She and I are making Plans. A sweet surprise was M, who stopped by the booth and introduced herself, saying "I read your blog." What a compliment that was. Still feeling a little special about that.

I didn't see anything in the skein and garment that made my heart stop - like last year's felted ruffled silk scarf or the drop spindled lace weight shawl. Lots of gorgeous stuff, including these blue ribbon socks by our A. The quality of workmanship was very high and the entries were a joy to look at. It's rewarding to see so much good design and good craftsmanship in the fiber world.

With 4 people in the booth someone can always take a bit of a walk about or a bathroom break. There were enough port-a-potties this year - at least, enough for me, but not enough toilet paper. We bought tissues on Sunday but of course, the crowd wasn't as big either.
Two big fiber holes this year were hand painted mohair in general and the Koigu people in specificity. Don't know the details about the Koigu booth but it wasn't present. Little Barn had been moved so that it's loooooong lines could snake out the door without blocking any other vendors. As for the paucity of hand painted mohair - well - it meant the Spirit Trail mohair disappeared fast and of the other vendors offering it, probably only Ellen's Half Pint Farm had any really pretty and large quantities to sell. The big yarn was sock yarn, again, this year, with lace a very close second. I wasn't on the lookout for sock yarn or even lace yarn, although two booths offered mighty temptations.

Hunt Valley Cashmere has gorgeous kits in the $25-50 price range and yarns at very very kind prices. $28 for hundreds of yards of laceweight. They are also offering a club - The Great American Cashmere Afghan Club.
I couldn't find a website for them, but here's an address:
Hunt Valley Cashmere
6747 Whitestone Rd
Baltimore MD 21207410-298-8244

Just Our Yarns also had a great buy on cashmere laceweight yarn - $38 for ... well, lots and lots. Maybe 500 yards. Gorgeously hand painted too, and not just our ordinary pales plus back. There were forests and flames and ocean beach colors too.

It was those 6 blue tubs of yarn and fiber in my den that kept me from indulging in cashmere or weep weep, in corriedale - a whiteness soft spongy gloriousness of corriedale that whispered "Aaaaaarannnn Sweaaater. Aaaaaaran Sweaaater" to me all weekend long. I hope to goodness I got their card, because they don't seem to have an Internet presence.

Ruppert-Liberton Corriedales had the absolutely whitest, softest most luscious yarn. At $25 for 250 yards for Australian Corriedale - it wasn't cheap but my goodness for the quality, it was a great buy! After all, the purpose of shopping at MS&W isn't to save money but to buy something you couldn't get anywhere else - or not without a heckuhva lot of effort.

Other great places where I stopped, but did not spend, were Stony Mt. Fibers - that's my sneaking-up-on-Barbara photo below.

And here's a picture of the famous Wall O Color at Liberty Ridge Farms.

Both are wonderful places to shop but this year I was looking for specific things. So. What did lure the $ out of my wallet? Seems like this post is long enough, and I haven't taken any photos of my loot, so I will just have to write about them tomorrow. I leave you with a cute lamb photo just to prove it really was a SHEEP and wool festival.

posted by Bess | 8:03 AM


You're right -- only a few booths selling mohair. I did see some really nice laceweight mohair in a couple. Congrats on the Tilli Thomas score -- I saw her booth, and thought seriously about making one of those knitted bags with the fabric liners they sell.

By Blogger Mary, at 8:24 AM  

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Sunday, May 06, 2007  

Report from the fair.

I found it! The perfect surprise yarn to make the cap sleeved lace top for summer. Tilly Tomas, the bead yarn lady of televised knitting shows, has a booth just across from Spirit Trail and she had enough of the right stuff in the right colors to fit this gal. wooppee!

I'll have photos when I come home - for I am taking pictures on my rambles. The word out is that this show is bigger than ever before - they are turning cars away from the parking lot. If so, well, it's a much more polite orderly crowd, because I didn't feel the mad crush I felt last year. Just a steady stream.

Sales are good. Folks are happy. Lace is big, followed by socks. Not much mohair around, not as in other years, so what Jen has is going fast.

Note to all

Do not go to Mexican Restaurant on Saturday night if it is also May 5. We got there at 7 and got served at quarter to 9. Not my idea of fun.

But today is going to be cool and sunny and wooly I hope.
I'll be home late today but will try to get a post up tomorrow afternoon - or else Tuesday in the morning.

posted by Bess | 6:56 AM


I hope I run into you there! Just a few more hours....

By Blogger Mary, at 11:24 PM  

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Friday, May 04, 2007  

Today it is cool and grey and soft. It looks like it could develop into a rainy day but the weather dot com guys say it won’t and that tomorrow it will be sunny but not too hot. Obviously the MS&W committee got to them and arranged this the official promise is for perfect festival weather.

Now, perfect doesn’t come along all that often so it behooves us all to take full advantage of perfect; to allow it to wash over us, sink into our pores, cradle us in its very metaphorical arms. Thus, in spite of the new self-sticking ankle strap wrapped snugly around my left ankle, (yes, stepped into a hole on Monday after an exhausting trip to Richmond) and the fact that I drive a stick shift car, I am loading up my chariot and heading north to Howard County in a few hours. Yes. I am going to MS&W.

I’ve been decidedly mum about it this year because this is my year of Other Things. My year of not just slipping on over to Richmond, but rushing over or creeping over or just plain old driving over to play flying buttress to my sister’s rock solid cathedral-wall of support for our declining parents. There is only so much I can write about their journey into the next phase of life without boring all who drop by, not to mention both boring and depressing myself. I even feel I just attract more reasons to be down and blue if I dwell too much on what just happened, is happening or is waiting to happen. Last week was such a week, but this week was better. Dad agreed, on Monday, to go into an assisted living place my sister found. I took his little dachshund back to him yesterday morning. It was her third visit in 6 days and she knew the way to his room and raced down the hall with her tail gyroscoping. In typical medical fashion (I blame the arrogance of the facility’s doctor for this one) the re-hab place didn’t get the paperwork over to the assisted living place so he was checked out of re-hab, unable to move into the AL place and got readmitted to re-hab for one more night. They let him keep Lady last night, though, so he didn’t care anyway. The difference in him with dog-in-lap vs. dogless lap is immeasurable. I do believe it will be enough to keep him in AL for good.

We’ll know, sister and I, in a couple of weeks, if we’ve rounded the last major corner and can move ahead with setting things up for our parents to be safe and comfortable and even, if they choose, happy. The house will have to be sold, but we’ve got a little time on that. You can believe that I’m visualizing and sending out emotionally-charged happy pleas to the universe that Dad finds his fit. If the clutch of pastel ladies who gathered around him when he went for a visit on Monday is any indication, I think he’ll be very popular there. I’m always seeing how difficult he can be, but BD reminds me frequently that Dad can be a charmer if he wants to and when I’m reminded, I can remember the truth of this.

The sound you just heard was me, letting out an enormous sigh of relief. I’m very tired of living from month to month. The thought of a stretch of crisis free months would be such a sweet thing. And Mr.Horoscope says I’ll see this weekend that something I thought I’d done wrong, some mistake I’ve been beating myself up over, will be revealed as a Wise Choice. Good. I can use some positive strokes. OTOH, MsHoroscope tells me to cool it with the hot temper (Me?!? Virgocoolness me?) and in May to look for changes in my 4th and 7th houses, which include parents - woo woo.

And so I am off to the wool Mecca that is Howard County Fair Grounds and I will take with me the vision of 6 Blue Tubs-0- Fiber that stand in the corner of my den. I have nothing in mind to purchase. I have a $ limit in my checkbook. I am open to all the possibilities. I will be with friends in a luxurious B&B. Life is good.

posted by Bess | 8:35 AM


I'm so glad your dad will be with his pooch; I'm sure it will help to make him more comfortable in his new home.

Have a great time this weekend--I'll live vicariously through you and your experiences since I can't go this year.

By Blogger Nerdy Knitter, at 4:31 PM  

Good news about your dad and that you get to go to MS&W! I will see you up there!

And that sock is so happy and bright! Love it! :-)

By Blogger Mary, at 12:54 AM  

Hi Bess! I'm so glad you will be able to share in the festivities. I hope to see you there. Safe travels.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:21 AM  

I hadn't even realized it was time for MS&W until you mentioned it in a previous post. I'm truly going to miss it but have so many other things going on that it's impossible to go. Just last week I was cuddling with my Bluefaced Leicester I bought last year. It's starting to beg to be spun.

Have fun this weekend and tell everyone hello for me.

By Blogger erica, at 8:56 PM  

Have a great time in Maryland!! You deserve it. I was going to come, but then the Master Spinner class came along, and I opted to do it instead.
Glad your dad will be in an safe place now.

By Blogger Carolyn, at 9:33 PM  

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007  

Whew! Time is just whizzing past me as if I were in some kind of hurry. A sudden shift in family situation drew me to Richmond on Monday and it looks like Dad will be moving this week into an assisted living place. On Friday, of course, which is when I am leaving for MS&W. Only I have his little dog and I think it’s important that he moves in with Lady in his arms. There is something so comforting about holding onto a little dog when you're coping with change and his is particularly cute and cuddly.

This, from the dog lady, mind, is probably very subjective, but the folks at the AL place seemed almost as glad to have the dog move in as to have Dad move in - and he’s the one paying for the room. She's been living with me the past month and it's going to really hurt to give her back - but it will feel so good to see Dad holding her that pang will evaporate fast.

So what it looks like is that I’ll add an extra 4 or 5 hours of driving to my Friday morning, and "slip on over" to Richmond before I head north to Howard County and the fairgrounds and the excitement that is Maryland Sheep and Wool. But the operative words are head and north and as I type the words M, S, & W, I begin to realize just how much my emotions have been held in check in regards to this year’s festival. Knowing I might not get to go, I have been pretty quiet about things festive, but now I know I can go, I’m beginning to feel the beat, the energy, the anticipation of that important moment when I see the sigh for Deep Fat Fried Twinkees!!!

Well, no. I really am not looking forward to DFFTs and all I have to do is picture in my mind the 6, count ‘em, 6, large tubs of fiber and yarn in the den to put a rein on my spending. But there are a few things I really hope to look hard at this year, and I want to come home with something marvelous for a cap sleeved, scoop necked, lace summer top - pour moi, merci - in magical greens - or some other magical, make-me-look-pretty color. I hope to see the gorgeous lampwork buttons again (and pick one up) and I won’t say no to some sock blockers. I won’t say no to some blue faced leicester, either.

Better than any fiber/fleece/fair treat, though, will be the gathering of friends. Some I haven’t seen in years, some hugged me last month, some I’ll be staying with, but all are important to me and will feed a certain loneliness I am just now giving attention to.

I’ve got some leave saved up - believe it or not - and I had planned to take the week after MS&W off - but things at work are very, very hectic and I am thinking I may take only Monday off and then see about taking most of the following week off instead. I have some command performances for work the week after MS&W that would sort of make a lie out of calling that week a vacation. Might as well just go to work and then really relax a little later.

But whatever I do, May is the month I can set aside anything I’m working on at the moment and cast on with my MS&W purchases - and with that being the case, I best go finish knitting the second Jitterbug sock. It will look just like this:

posted by Bess | 7:36 AM