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Rhinebeck Balls

Who knew sheep had such huge balls? Manly, hairy, and pendulous indeed!

There were more colorful balls all over Rhinebeck, no longer affixed to a sheep. I neglected to take any pictures of them. I was too busy gawking at the current and future-wearable eye-candy.

How to describe Rhinebeck? Well, if you are a fiber enthusiast, the annual pilgrimage to Rhinebeck, New York, home of the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, is akin to a religious event. I mean no slight or disrespect to any faith-based religion that also lends themselves to pilgrimages. The fervor, the awed tones of those who have and haven’t been, always describe this event in reverent tones.

Local hotels and B&Bs are sold out months in advance. Long lost relatives are sought out and camped upon. There is a nearby campground and it is filled to capacity long before this weekend. Busloads of people swarm the Duchess County Fairgrounds and snarl up traffic for the two-day event. Carpools of Ravelry devotees cluster in groups large and small. The French Artichoke food wagon quickly forms a line. (If you haven’t tried, you really should! It is AWESOME!) Smells of fresh popcorn and maple cotton candy saturate the crisp fall air. You should bring an extra bank account just to eat a simple meal and purchase a few yarny, fibery ‘snacks,’ too. Or plastic. Plastic works, too.

Llama snacks

All this low-tech, hand-made, organic wholesomeness took advantage of what technology can do. Everywhere I looked I saw high tech merchandising – iPad apps and QC codes took the place of most cash registers. People whipped out their tablets, Nooks, iPads and iPad minis to show photos, diagrams, charts, and web sites where you could sign up for newsletters. Electric cords snaked everywhere behind the tables.

You’d think that with all this speed-of-light techno wizardry the lines would have been shorter, or moved faster. No such luck. We arrived only 20 minutes after it opened and at the first building we came to there was a line extending outside over 20 feet and growing!

Lovely, silky fiber!Planning what to wear to Rhinebeck is a whole process in itself. Many people knit – crochet – weave – felt up something drop-dead gorgeous (fiber, stitchery, etc) just for this. People refer to the ‘Rhinebeck Sweater’ as an entity in its own right. Bloggers feature the sweater they plan to wear throughout its construction. Absolute strangers will then accost said blogging knitteratis with compliments and sundry other witticisms. There are buttons you can buy that say ‘My Rhinebeck sweater is still in the skeins.’

Some years there are a few patterns that captured the fancy of many people so you would see the same sweater pattern on multiple people, in varied colors and modifications (some knitters – like some chefs – simply cannot execute a sweater recipe exactly as written). This year I saw a lot of cowls, shawls and ponchos. The game was how many patterns could I recognize and name? (Answer: quite lot, actually.)

We left when they closed for the day. My aching body had been upright and moving for 97% of the day (don’t bother checking my math… trust me on this one). Nineteen hours after I left home (in the dark), I returned home (also in the dark). The smile of anticipation I wore at the beginning of the day was now a smile of satisfaction. Totally worth it. You should go.

I'm ready for my close-up, now

When the headache wins, no amount of sun/light protection (sunglasses, shades, hat brims, eyelids) is enough to block even minuscule amounts of light.

When the headache wins, no prescription, no matter how strong, is sufficient to banish the pain totally.

When the headache wins, vision is a unique blend of terror and torture. Driving in twilight with headlights coming at you (because you hoped to make it home from your knitting group before it got too bad but you really wanted to finish that row of knitting first) is incredibly difficult. (Did I mention that migraines make you stupid, too?)

Even the thought of eating my favorite comfort foods (lime Tostitos or home-popped, buttered and salted popcorn with a dash of Parmesan cheese)… elevates nausea to a gagging level.

When the headache wins, I retreat to the darkest den in my home, crawl under the covers, and weakly whimper. And moan.

Migraines are not a charming disability. One does not lounge back on a chaise in silk pajamas or negligee (I don’t even own one of those), lace-edged hankie to pale brow, looking frail. One definitely *feels* frail, but the actual look is one of haggard pain with grayish blotches in wrinkled whatever-I-last-wore-still-on-me garments. I may or may not have managed to get a cool cloth to cover my brow. Said cloth frequently drips down on pillow because I do not have the strength to wring it out properly.

Do not get me started on the plethora of pharmaceutical chemicals  OTC medications, and God help me – actual migraine prescriptions in my arsenal. Purveyors of migraine medicines delight in making packaging deceitfully difficult to open. Damn it peoples! I am in pain here, more fumble-fingered and uncoordinated than usual because of said pain, and you want me to open individual blister packs without a hacksaw? Once freed, the pill pops up and arcs over to snuggle and hide in the midst of a dust rhino under the bed! I’d scream but that would hurt way too much.

More (totally justified) whining ensues.


Twelve hours (and three doses of meds) later:
I am up and semi-functional, but not headache free. I can move about the house, as long as I stay away from the gloriously sun-drenched windows because it still hurts to look at light. Yes. I wear sunglasses inside.

I could totally understand becoming a hard core drug addict if it could promise prompt relief from migraines.

I had plenty of time. Surely I could just pop downstairs (wouldn’t it be cool if I could ‘pop’ ala  I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched?) , wake up my computer and log on, then click the link on today’s To Do list. After that it was simply a matter of filling out a short online form and submitting it. How long could that possibly take? A minute and a half, tops, right?

Except our wireless wasn’t connecting. No worries. I can handle this. I select ‘detect and repair’ from the network flyout menu and… why isn’t the network listed? Botheration. Some update probably shut it or something. I’ll have to reboot.

No worries. I still have time. Less time than before, but still enough for this less than 2 minute task.

Cold rebooting works best –well, it’s usually overkill (using a field cannon to get a field mouse level of overkill), but if a Windows restart fails to resolve the issue (which we all know is probably all it needs but just in case). a cold boot-up (shutting all the way down and waiting a few seconds) generally does.


Ummm….no network found.

I trudge upstairs and inform tech support that I have no wireless access.

Tech support sighs, looks up at the router software tab and begins the process of rebooting the wireless server. The process will reset my IP address. I will need to ‘detect and repair’ my wireless service. I may also need to reboot.

Now I have much less of an abundance of time than I had when I began this 90-second quick task. At this point stubbornness takes over.

Back to the login screen — oops — typo — retype login. Waiting for the boot-up process seems to take longer and longer as the second hand sweeps faster and faster, almost spinning around the dial on my analog wrist watch.

.Now I realize that I won’t be early. To even be on time I will need clear traffic , a close parking spot, and my car keys in hand (where did they run off to this time?).

With the whirling dervish on the monitor still indicated that more absolutely necessary programs and code were in progress and not, alas, done. Any requests I made to the CPU at this point would either be ignored or queued for after the essential (hah!) setup programs completed. 


I left  the computer in this state, knowing that it would wait for my return far more patiently that I waited for it. 

So many of my projects get derailed like that. I may start out with a clear focus, a quick action plan with a well-defined goal and a familiar process to follow, but then…
There’s nothing to write on.
The pen has no ink.
The keys aren’t on their peg.
The battery is dead.
The phone rings.
The wireless is down.
The store is closed.
I forgot to bring the pattern.
The site won’t remember me or my password.
I have the wrong size needles with me.

Friend Paul understands this and so does Christine. This is how he explained it to her:

Paul wrote: “where i work now, this is termed “yak shaving”. i don’t know how widespread that term is, but the idea is that one thing leads to another, like your list above, and pretty soon you find yourself out in the shed shaving a yak, wondering what that has to do with heating your cup of coffee.”

* I believe this is related the the “But First…!” syndrome. Thanks to Paul for the title of today’s post.

I finished my quick 90-second task 2 and a half hours after I initially started it, and yes, it did only take 90 seconds once I actually got to *do* it.

I have reached the stage in life where I do not religiously shave my underarms or my legs. I admit to being more conscious of it in the summer when my legs are exposed in all their blotchy, scarred, bruised, and pale glory, than the winter. I really like depilitories for how well they work, but I hate the lingering smell! Back to the razor…

Other things I am much more consistent in shaving, like my socks. And some sweaters. I admit to shaving them more than I do underarms or legs.

Now that I use the “good stuff” more often than not in my knitting projects, I have discovered that they need an occasional touch-up to look and feel their best. Also, when I succumb to the inexpensive cashmere found at Kohls and Tar-jhay, those sweaters also benefit from a regular depilitorizing under the arms. Pilling underarms are *so* uncouth!

The oldest of my handknit socks are 5 years old. Most of them are worn, washed, and air-dried every week. The heavier winter pair (that broke several bamboo needles in the knitting because I was knitting so tightly) is the one requiring the most attendance. They need shaving every third or fourth wash.

The best tool I have used for this was a battery operated fuzz-buster. It was a great Christmas gift that got a lot of use until…well… until it got dropped once too often. Granted, it was taking longer to get the job done because the blades were definitely showing the wear of their 4 years of hard use, but when you fumble-drop it on concrete instead of rug too many times, it will break up into shards that disappear into dark crannies under and in back of the washer and dryer. This will happen during sweater and winter sock season when you really need it the most. Guaranteed.

Ironing is no longer a common activity. Many people do not even own an iron. Jess was surprised her son even knew what a iron *was*! I, on the other hand, have an advanced degree in laundry which includes the related fields of ironing and removing pilling from clothing, furniture, hand-knit toys, and yes, even woollen dryer balls (I bet a lot of you don’t even know what they are, let alone what they are used for!).

No working fuzz-buster was a problem I could not ignore. I knew I could find them online but the wait for delivery would irritate the daylights out of me.

I tried the evil local Wal-Mart. The store greeter did not know what I was asking for. Did I mean the lint rollers? No, I meant the electric lint and pill removers. Huh? She asked a co-worker who also tried to send me to the lint rollers. Asking store personnel was not really expected to provide any useful answer, but I was ever hopeful that they could shorten my search. And I did find one in the aisle with the laundry accessories (not the drug, health and beauty aides the stores aides suggested). There among the clothes pins, hangers, spray wrinkle remover (don’t get me started!), and net washing bags, was a single, battery-operated fuzz buster.

Excuse me while I go shave some socks. It’s finally decided to be winter around here, and I need them!

A whirlwind road trip to Florida between Christmas and New Years Eve reminded me yet again that techno savvy is an option there, not a ubiquitous presence.

Traveling from Massachusetts to New Jersey on a familiar route doesn’t *require* a GPS  but it is nice to know how much farther to the next road change/bio break/pit stop. Being familiar with my particular (older) model of GPS (TomTom One) I can quickly zoom in and out, locate gas stations, detours, and note interesting side attractions. The leg from New Jersey to Florida did not use my GPS. My sister has a Garmin Nuvi and not being familiar with it, it drove me crazy! I could function well enough setting the basic ‘navigate to’ and ‘way point’  but the zoom in and out frustrated me as too sluggish and inclining towards creating a new destination. Did I mention the road trip included my sister, her husband, and myself, traveling in his car/their GPS?

The non-stop from NJ to Clearwater, FL area took us 21 hours including pit stops and meals. We traded off driving times in order to keep moving. When the GPS gave confusing or conflicting instructions to the driver(s), I whipped out my Droid2 and checked things via the Navigator app. I love it when technology works!

Once at our mother’s house, however, its usability rating went way down. Mother knows where things are, but not the address, and she wasn’t always sure of the name of the intended destination. (“it’s off Main St. and there is an Olive Garden Restaurant in front of the Municipal Building” and “a lot of neighbors raved about the Chinese restaurant on Missouri Ave. It has a great buffet they say. Let’s eat there.” ) There were more destinations like these which could not easily be put into a GPS, there being multiple  Olive Garden Restaurants, Municipal Buildings, and Chinese restaurants on Missouri Ave, The bank personnel were equally at ease with giving directions sans GPS/address info. Asking directions at the local Publix and CVS were similar experiences with employees giving me puzzled looks (“What you need a GPS for?, Just go left down the street to the ACE Hardware store and it is on the corner on the left after that”).



You would think that there would be tons of beaches listed on the “nearby attractions” and “Public Parks” categories in the GPS, but there weren’t. The beaches are so ubiquitous in the Gulf Coast of Florida, that apparently you can strike out in any direction and run into several. Um… not so. My sister and I are determined souls, however, and we managed to locate Indian Rocks Beach (and another beach off the Causeway but the side we could get to was rocky and somewhat littered with people fishing). We went back a second time.


On our return trip we varied our route so as to drive on the Atlantic side of the state going north. The idea was to find an eating place that overlooked the ocean. We never found one where we thought one should be. We did find St. Augustine and spent a lovely bit of time there ($10 for municipal parking for any and all part of the day! Ouch!). Dinner was in a small cafe on the Spanish Alley. Nachos for all, wine for me, beer for the others and live music on the stage right next to us featuring mellow rock acoustical guitar. 

Did you know that Florida is nearer to the equator than NJ or MA? It is. That means the sun is out later in the day. Sundown was after 6 PM instead of 4:30 PM. MAH-velous!



The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

That’s how many were left a full week later. After snacks, smoothies (my first!), chicken and peach salad (yumm!), sharing, gifting, and ice cream toppings, I still had eighteen beautifully ripe peaches, in danger of going past their prime. I didn’t want to make jelly or jams because I don’t eat them. (I still have my homemade concord grape jelly unopened from 2008!) If I still ate toast, I could manage to go through many jars, but I rarely do these days (bummer, that — I love crunchy, buttery toast!).

I forgot to take pictures, but Lynn did, and my collection was within almost as large a haul from the Tyngsboro Parlee Farm site:

I froze fresh, pick-your-own strawberries and blueberries this summer for a winter extravagance. Could I do the same for the peaches? They wouldn’t be whole like the blueberries and strawberries are. They need peeled and depitted. I dithered. I hesitated. I kicked myself in the butt and told myself to get going alright already!

I heart Google.

Freezing peaches is easy-peasy. Who knew? The best part is, I found a reference that didn’t insist I add a cup of sugar for every two cups of cut peaches. This is my new best friend in the preserving fresh fruit category! Adding white, refined and processed sugar to a naturally sweet fruit made no sense to me whatsoever. Turns out you can use fruit juice instead. I snagged a bottle of organic apple juice, a fresh lemon or two, and went to town!

Did you know that the amount of time you dip peaches into boiling water (blanching) is relative to how ripe they are? Joy of Cooking (mine is one of the 1980’s printings) said to slip them into boiling water for 45-60 seconds and then transfer them to iced water for a few minutes. On the peaches I had, this timing meant I cooked into the peaches a good quarter of an inch. Fifteen seconds turned out to be the magic number for this stage of ripeness. Skins slipped off with just a thumb roll across the surface. Lovely!

Those eighteen peaches are now chilling in the freezer, in five freezer-zip-lock-type bags. I only have one large bag of blueberries and a medium one of strawberries. Maybe I’ll dip into the peaches before January… maybe a smoothy with peaches, frozen yogurt, and peach schnappes…

Summer has finally arrived in the northeast. For a large part of June, I wasn’t sure it would ever get here. Daytime highs hovered around 70 degrees instead of the upper 80s. Sodden clouds hovered over wet green lawns and gardens, retarding strawberry ripening and probably other things as well. (But I was seriously looking forward to strawberry picking!)

The first few days of July have been gloriously sunny and warm. We’ll pretend it wasn’t muggy as all get out as well. What possessed me to clean out the range hood and fan above the stove is a mystery, but once started, I couldn’t stop. Besides. It was gross.

I prefer to use ‘green’ cleaning aides, but there are times when those just won’t cut it. Seriously, the grease was so thick I couldn’t wipe it off. I couldn’t scrape it off, either. Out came the Windex Kitchen spray bottle. Then I tried Pine Sol, my first go-to cleaner after Spic-n-Span, and I boiled water so the steam would help loosen the crud.

By this point I figured I had removed maybe one layer of oil, dust, grease, pollen (this *is* New England, you know), and I was getting a real upper body workout while not making much of a dent in the cleanliness goal. Elbow grease is all fine and good, but I like to have something to show for it, you know?

On the left side of the counter was a basin of concentrated Oxy-Clean working on the greasy kitchen towels I had used to help me disassemble the fan and filter. They were now looking much better than the range hood was, so I hotted up the water again and applied said elbow grease and the Oxy-Clean solution to the inside of the range hood.

Hot damn. It works! Every wipe brought another layer off and I could see the silver aluminum peaking out. Three changes of water later, it was practically sparking. Yup. The inside of the range hood that no one ever sees was sparkling! Mount Washmore was piled waist deep in the basement. The rugs bore evidence of two dogs dashing in and out, romping in over-long wet grass. The vegetable garden and flower beds were inundated with weeds. The counters were covered with displaced items, dirty dishes, and cleaning supplies, but that stove top and range hood? Gorgeous!

Next time, I’ll look into how much it costs to replace a range hood. Or maybe try cleaning it more often than once a decade.

After talking about going to the NH Sheep and Wool Festival with #1 grandson for over a month, the day we ended up going was at best, a gray day, but more often, beyond silly to ridiculous downpours. I looked into a couple other things we could do instead of the Sheep & Wool Festival, but he was wearing a t-shirt with sheep on it in honor of our trip and I decided not to even bring other options up. If he was game, so was I. In the end, his rubber boots got a great work out (almost totally dry socks!)! So did the umbrella he insisted on bringing that I didn’t want but was so glad he had!

We experimented with wet felting.

We hardly needed the pan of water. Except for the squirt of mild dishsoap, I had more than enough liquid in my pants and shoes. Limp wool, little plastic beads, and fluffy roving became something so much more.

He was on a mission to buy a small stuffed puppy for his brothers upcoming birthday, so I was able to browse a lot of the (inside – yeah!) vendors. We saw spinning, weaving, roving, and freshly shorn fleece. We followed a quartet of lambs, two black and two white, through the 4-H building. Liam says one yelled “mmbaaah!” at him. How he could be sure with all the sheep and lamb vocalizing going on, I have no idea!

None of the cute puppies or other small stuffed animals fit his small budget, although we did enjoy looking. I saw a felted mermaid I would love to have given my sister but it was out of both of our budgets! Worth every penny, I am sure.

We were trying to hang in until the sheepdog trials, but the sky truly opened at that point and it was cancelled. As we slowly trudged back to the car with Liam walking, skipping, and jumping in the ever-larger puddles and streams, I realized that while I was well and truly sopping wet, I was not freezing. Good thing. Liam had a complete change of clothes in the car (thanks, Jess!) but I did not.

We agreed to try this Sheep and Wool thing again in the fall or next spring, hoping for better weather.

It is finished, she sighed.

This project was over three years in the making. Granted, for 2 1/2 of those years it was in time-out, but still! Here is is, modeled by Blue:

I used a plain cotton worsted yarn from The Hub Mills in Lowell. Easy wash and dry fabric that might shrink slightly at first, but not enough to worry about. There was no fancy fair isle color work, or complicated assembly (according to the directions). It was a devil in the details, however.

Clarity in directions is so important, but rarely found. Remember the last time you tried to read a user manual or an assembly instruction? (Ikea seems to manage it well, but they don’t do knitting patterns—others follow their style with humorous instructions for science fiction assemblies) But I digress… )

In real life, people reading patterns are not able to ask questions on things they think are obvious. Why would they, anyway? It’s obvious! Then again, what you think is obvious and what others think is obvious are *so* different! I once worked on a newsletter where the admin was horrified at the finished peice. I agreed. It was awful. The printer substituted fonts, causing text reflow, messy rags, and an almost ransom-publishing look. It was not the file I sent them. The admin continuted her rant. “The pages have wrinkles and creases in the wrong places!” “But what about the text?” I asked. “What? That’s fine. I can read it okay.”

So when I read the instruction for the Tree of Life Afghan, I remembered to read them all the way through for the main portion before beginning, because I know this can alleviate frustration later on. The directions clearly said to take into account that there was a 4-stitch garter edging on the sides of the afghan and that these were not included in the stitch count of the main pattern areas.

So I added them to the left and right of the afghan as I knit it up.

I really should have read the edging instructions along with the body pattern notes.

By the time I got the to the third section (which was a repeat of the first section), it was very obvious that my count was off by 8 stitches too many. No errata is given for this several-years-old and made-hundreds-of-times afghan. Therefore, I must have (oh crap! not again!) made a mistake.

Remember those four stitches I added to the left and right of the afghan? They were supposed to be part of the edging, which is done last. The edging included a leaf and four garter stitches that would go all around the edges of the afghan, not just the left and right of it.

Now, I *could* have frogged the 2/3 already done and start over (I really didn’t like that option). I *could* have continued and left the leaf edging off (it would forever look unfinished). Or I could figure out how to meld on the leaf border once the main part was done (howzat???). I *could* put it in time-out until I could decide/come up with an option I could live with. Yup. Done deal. Time out, back of the closet. I wouldn’t bring it out until it behaved better for me (read: until I figured out how to handle the edging).

Ditto (grandchild #4) is arriving at the end of the month. I have made baby afghans for his older 3 siblings. He deserves a special blanket as well. I looked at my stash. I thought about the afghan in time-out. I pored through patterns. I looked at the afghan in time-out.

I got out the offending afghan, determined to figure out how to meld the garter and leaf edging. Being a a stubborn sort, I did manage it. I reused to allow myself any other knitting until the afghan was done.

See? You can’t tell I futzed with the edging.

*FO=finished object

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