Category Archives: Fiber Friends

Before we head back to the mountain house…

“In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself.” (Albert Einstein)

In the past few days, I’ve mumbled “Just shoot me now.” more than once. Probably at least three times. In a good week I only have to deal with one of the following: Direct TV, BrightHouse, Anthem Blue Cross, Sprint or Citizens Insurance. In a bad week I have an encounter with Pudgy Fingers at Bank of America. (If you don’t know that rant, you’re not on my FB and it’s just as well. That was both an all time high and an all time low in rants, applauded by many.) This week I have had to deal with ALL of the above, plus a plumber, a rodent control person, a wind mitigation insurance inspection, an appraiser and a new bank. This last group, to a one, have been quite nice and professional but still. The contractor who did the improvements on the house didn’t have his crew reattach the screening that covers the cinder block vents that are common to Florida houses where you have crawl spaces rather than basements. Rats got in and ate through the main house drain. Really? I know. Really. Most likely they came to call after a major rousting from construction on the house next door. Rats are endemic to places with citrus trees. Anyway, they got thirsty enough that they ate through the drain. We called pest control. Crawl spaces are not nice and the access is a little 3 x 2 hole in the closet floor of the guest room. About the third time someone squeezed out of that crawl space covered in mud and filth with a giant dead rat, I said “Just shoot me now.”

(The plumber noted that sometimes, here in Florida, rats come up into the toilets through the pipes. WTH? This is the stuff of nightmares.)

Then the plumber went down and came up and looked like he might be having a heart attack so I invited him to sit his filthy self down and have some ice tea. He recovered, left and once again I cleaned up the mess and shoved some of the detritus that doesn’t fit in this tiny house back in the closet before the appraiser came. But before he could get here, the screen repair guy came and everything was dumped out and down he went with bales of screen and tools and then he came up wheezing and sweaty and I cleaned again and refilled the closet.  Not 24 hours passed and the mitigation guy came to inspect the house for homeowners insurance. This is because, although Florida is notorious for gouging people on their homeowners insurance, I have long felt as though we are being especially gouged. Singled out, you might say. This house is a piece of sh historic property which means we get to pay 3500.00 a year to insure 1200 sq ft for 200,000 which it is probably not worth and definitely wouldn’t be enough to replace it. We also haven’t been getting any credit for new hurricane shutters, new roof, new heating/cooling, etc. And we’ve been charged for being in a flood zone, which we are not, according to the city. We are on relatively high ground. The solution is you hire a mitigation inspector to come and certify that you have certain protections and then hopefully your insurance rate is reduced.

The mitigation inspector came and I sort of whimpered, “You don’t have to go in the crawl space do you?” and mercifully he said, “No.” Instead he pulled down the ceiling ladder and crawled up into the attic to look at the inside construction of the roof. Insulation rained out of the attic and I sighed. When he came down about 10 minutes later he said the new roof was up to snuff but it appeared there was a possum living in the attic. Just shoot me now.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (St Matthew 7:15)

In my never ending effort to put as much distance as possible between those criminals Bank of America and ourselves, we’ve applied for a new mortgage with a bank that seems, up to this point, helpful and courteous. They’ve offered us a good rate compared to Bank of America, where they are braced to raise our already outrageously high adjustable rate through the heavens when it comes up for change in 10 months. The fine print of the contract that was signed 6 years and 3 banks back notes that, in lieu of attaching our rate to some reasonably low federal index plus some, they can attach it to any old index- oil futures, gold, intergalactic exploration, whatever- and then add a whole lot more for their trouble. How does 10.75 percent sound? Funny, the stuff you’ll sign without considering all the possibilities of the fine print. So, early this morning a very kind, round appraiser shows up to figure out how much our house is worth. We already know that what seemed like a lot of down payment equity a few years ago is now a drop in the bucket of a dead housing market, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We spent the past little while stripping and refinishing 600 feet of deck, power washing the house, cleaning (and re-cleaning) from top to bottom in preparation. The house now, on the eve of our return to North Carolina for the year, is so spit-spot that it sparkles in that way that houses do only when they are up for sale, not when people are actually living in them. This gentleman measured, photographed, scrutinized the premises and admired it greatly. And then he spent half an hour telling me horror stories of every single upside-down house he’s appraised in the last six months. Just shoot me now.

(It’s a cute little house.)

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same. (Stendal)

Meanwhile, back in the world of health insurance, Anthem Blue Cross is trying to kill us. There are many details and hours of heated exchange about how they quoted us, in correspondence which we signed, copied for our records and returned, the wrong rate. I won’t go into all that because it would get your blood pressure up, too. Although we’ve been, all these months, dutifully paying that quoted and already prohibitive rate that makes us seriously consider living uninsured, we fell behind by a couple hundred dollars, unbeknownst to us. (what kind of sentence is that?) I guess the real rate was a secret, kept only unto Anthem Blue Cross. We didn’t know any of this until we showed up for Rich’s middle-aged person’s routine colonoscopy (which means he’s already having fun, right?) and the little clerk informs us that that will be a deposit of 1700.00 please, because our health insurance was cancelled. The total cost will be determined after the fact, depending on the state of his colon.(It’s good. In the end, no pun intended, we are always grateful.)  The one and only thing that is covered short of the Mack truck scenario under our policy is now not, because we have been cancelled. Seriously. the ONLY thing they cover is a routine colonoscopy and it’s so exciting to have something, anything covered by insurance that it seemed like a great idea to drink a gallon of Go-Litely and toddle on over to have it done. So I said to Rich, “Hey! This is great! You go first!” except after he did, endlessly, we find our insurance has been cancelled. Just shoot me now.

Wait. I’ll do it myself. The idea seems even more attractive because THIS HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION. Click on the link to see this 3000 year old innovation. Right when I despair that the whole world has gone mad AND is against us a friend sends me this. In an age when so many old fashioned common sense ideas have  fallen by the wayside, when all sense and sensibility seems out of reach and values have thinned to translucency HERE is an old idea whose time has come. Debby, a savvy woman of great good Midwestern sense,  passed this on to me and by God, it makes death look down right attractive. I mean this is everything I have been trying to explain to people for the past two years. Cozy, soft, warm, no artificial colors, ecologically sound. I am about to re-write “cremation, please” to “wool coffin, please.”

Wool: The Perfect Fiber

Sheep : The Perfect Animal

CLOUDS GRAZE THE SKY;

BELOW, SHEEP DRIFT GENTLE

OVER FIELDS, SOFT MIRRORS,

WARM WHITE SNOW.

SNOW CLOUDS THE SKY,
GENTLE SHEEP GRAZE;

SOFT WHITE MIRRORS BELOW
DRIFT WARM.

WARM DRIFT, GRAZE GENTLE,
WHITE BELOW THE SKY;
SOFT SHEEP, MIRRORS,
SNOW CLOUDS.

SHEEP BELOW DRIFT,
SOFT SNOW CLOUDS;
WARM MIRRORS GRAZE
WHITE,THE SKY GENTLE.

These sheep which belong to Donald Slater of Whitehouse Farm Centre, Morpeth, Northumberland, were sprayed, using the paint with which farmers traditionally mark their flocks, with the words of a “haik-ewe.” They were then left to graze, and the poems formed as they wandered into different patterns were noted down.

And for Bonnie, who always leaves perfectly poetic comments :


Si quelqu’un veut un mouton, c’est la preuve qu’il en existe un.”

 

 


 

 


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Down by the dock of the bay

Our company left today- not really company, more like family. They didn’t want to go and we didn’t want them to leave but it’s back to snow, doctors and work for them. The week was wonderful. Much as I dislike the expression, I would say that some parts of it were down right magical.

(I get up every day and throw on whatever is close at hand and brush my teeth. Juanita, on the premise of “look good, feel better” looks lovely no matter how crummy she feels. Lexi says she is the most beautiful mommy in the world.)

(Lexi had an appointment at the Bibbidy Boppity Boutique. Being transformed into a princess is serious business.)

(Okay. It’s magical.)

For the rest, it was time spent relaxing, having some heart-to-hearts, sharing the love and living in the moment. Bittersweet time. At night, after it was quiet and dark, Rich and I would talk about what wonderful parents Chris and Juanita are, how delightfully charming and smart and quick Alexis is. She certainly is the center of their universe, rightly so, and impossibly easy to spoil because she is so polite, well-disciplined and exceptionally adaptive and well behaved. Always the conversation ended with big sighs and sadness that Juanita has to go through this. Chris wears a bracelet that says, “Save the ta-tas” and I want one. I want Juanita’s ta-tas to be saved more than anything.


Coming off the visit, Rich and I have been sort of listlessly spending the day working at business, laundry, things set aside for a few days. We took a break a bit ago to wander down to the bayou to see if the manatee were at the wall but they were still out a ways; we could see them breaching the surface but the tide was still a bit low. While we were looking for them I spotted this: the sad demise of my regular friend. For four years, this little green heron has been perched, without fail, on a dock rail close to the water, picking off the little minnows for dinner.  It looked as though he had been fish hooked with some line dragging around his neck. Very very irksome. I was ready to go at that point, all grumpy and sad, but then Rich spotted another familiar feathered friend, this Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Closer inspection says he may not be the same one I saw last year because I think this is a youngster, but I’m not sure.

Thinking about birds reminds me of my most recent felting folly. For whatever reason I thought I might felt some bird houses. Laugh. It’s okay. Rich says it looks like a Jimmy Durante muppet. I’m going to cheer myself up by working on a magpie palace tonight.

My new best excuse

(This photo was taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and is not copyrighted. He is one of my all time favorite photographers and I also think he is an incredible steward of the earth, maybe the best. If you haven’t seen his work or you are not familiar with his GoodPlanet.org, I highly recommend you check him out.)

Made up my mind. I am definitely going to keep up this blog, if for no other reason than to get Bonnie’s comments. And really, FC is right: FaceBook is sort of sucking the life blood out of some good blogs but there’s something lacking over there. It’s sort of promiscuous, a kind of cheap intimacy. (It ain’t pretty being easy, but sometimes I love it.) Also, it encourages those of us already challenged around editorial boundaries to just cut loose, not that I would ever do anything like recount my adventures with Bank of America, ala some bizarre impersonation of Robin Williams negotiating a mortgage.

Anyway, today I am coming clean and I have this new link for you: TANGLEDUPINWOOL.COM

I have been a busy feltmaker and I’m happy the site is up and launched, if not completely written, stocked, or padded out with all the bells and whistles I would like. I do hope you all will come visit me there. And for those of you chickens willing to cross the road? The first three to add a note at TUIW with your address will get a lovely surprise in the mail. (I promise not to share it with anyone, not even B of A)

And just to show you that I am, indeed, keeping up this blog that will no longer be all about things wool, guess who is back in the ‘hood? We thought he might have finally moved on, but two days ago I heard his call, went out and looked and there he was: Hannibal! Our old friend is back, perched next to his nest but I haven’t seen the missus yet this year. She usually arrives about a week later. That’s how Coopers stay mated for life, you know. She takes a separate vacation for a few months each year. I’ll keep you updated on their progress this season. Promise.

Who are you? Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo?

Yes, I really want to know, too. That deaf, dumb and blind blogger, all over the map but unlike the pinball wizard, way too many distractions and far too little time. I’ve been considering giving up this blog altogether because I’m just too inconsistent about it, hell weeks go by and the other thing is that sometimes I write things in jest and people take them too seriously. It’s safe to assume that most of the time I’m either biting my tongue or it’s in my cheek.

I’m now firmly in Florida for the duration of winter but not before I had my fair share of it. Post-Christmas was spectacularly beautiful although we couldn’t get off the mountain. We have a 28 degree grade the last half mile up so if there’s any snow, ice or combination, that’s it for us and all of our neighbors living on the shoulders of Little Mount Pisgah. Rich gave up shaving somewhere about day 3 and  I fully expected him to yell out, “Heeerre’s Johnny!” and pop around a door. He had a little cabin fever thing going but it WAS beautiful and we took advantage of our mountain and the new flying saucer Santa brought us for Christmas.

We drove down here to St .Petersburg on the 30th, each in a car, each with a cat. Sophie sat on my lap and braked every single time I did. Both cats are happy to be here as they are free to go out and porch sit whenever they please. McCloud is slowing down noticeably and we are at that point where we are thinking he may not be long for this world but it’s normal old cat behavior. Occasionally we think about taking him to the vet and then ask ourselves why. Maybe that sounds negligent but I’m of the school that believes at some point intervening with vet trips and steroids and shots and fluids just adds stress on top of achy joints and overworked kidneys. We take excellent care of our animal companions but I just don’t know about starting down that path. We love him so much and he’s a wonderful cat and companion, nearly perfect except for his table manners. It’s hard to imagine life without him. For now, he doesn’t complain, sleeps more and more and somehow has given us the message that we shouldn’t be schlepping him around in our arms as we have in the past. Pet me, but don’t manhandle. I took a great photo of him and had it made into a postage stamp. Sometime in the future I’ll send Rich a nice card with a postage stamp of his cat.

Then I went back to Asheville for a fiber workshop weekend and discovered that the electric heat, the propane back up and the water pump had all failed. Three freezing days in the house and melting snow to flush toilets as repairs were made- that was a thrill and since I went on and on about how cold I was on FaceBook I’m not going to redo that drama here.

(now that I’m back to taking photos with my new camera I should probably figure out how to get one of those watermark things.)

Florida is for the birds and I’m loving it. We bike ride down to the bay. As of today, I’ve started back at Boyd Hill. I wondered about the avian pea-brain and what kind of memory they have as I walked along the enclosures saying my usual hellos. It’s been about 7 months (as I type that, I’m amazed. I guess it took most of a year to rebuild the mountain house, get settled in, grow a garden, discover the bears and find a routine.) so I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had acted as if I was a total stranger. But no. (Wheezer and the familiar evil eye she always gives me. She detests going out for education programs and although she doesn’t fight it, she’s never been thrilled with the person who takes hold of her jesses.)

The little screech owls clearly recognized me as did the two red-shouldered hawks that I handle, Shadow and Thinman. Turk and Pugsley, the turkey vultures, not so much. The other owls seemed vaguely attenuated to my voice and our new eagle, Abiaka, responded to me like the stranger that I am.

(Mystic, one of two barred owls, is sort of the program whack job. She’s very curious and always disheveled and frequently, for no apparent reason, just flings herself off the glove and hangs upside down.)

(Shadow is a favorite of mine. She really gave me a good once over when I first came into the enclosure.)

(She didn’t hesitate about hopping on the glove but she spent dinner time listening to me talk to her instead of eating.)

(Thinman, on the other hand, had no problem eating his mice and then moving on to Shadow’s)

Mostly these days I am seriously focused on getting my feltmaking to a level that feels satisfactory in all respects- teaching, marketing and most of all, creating. To that end I’ve been getting ready to launch that website, getting my winter classes and workshops going (nicely!) and trying to block out time to do my own work on projects. Today I made a stunning piece of felt that I laid out over a year ago. The layout entailed dyeing 4 different types of wool, 3 forms of silk, fussing over the design endlessly- and then I was afraid to felt it for fear of ruining the components. I finally tackled that this morning and the colors are fantastic and it has a nice dense heft to it. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I’ll show it to you once it dries and take suggestions. Yesterday I made this lovely shawl of merino wool felted to hand-woven silk. I’ve got a great vintage French celluloid button that I’m going to attach and then I’ll probably turn it over to Florida Craftsmen Gallery for sale. It’s nice and airy, soft with a little warmth,perfect for Florida winter nights.

Kids are fine, Rich is fine and we have the full contingent of friends who struggle with illness, friends who are coming to visit, possible termites and mildewed porch columns. Life, mostly good.  How’s by you?

Playing with Purple


(It’s sunny and mild but still a bit blustery from that low pressure system. I couldn’t get these pansies to hold still for a sharp photo.)

Awfully quiet around here. It’s nice, now and again, to spend time with oneself. After a day or two I consider whether I’m good company or not or if the three-day rule will apply and I’ll start to stink. Doing okay so far. Feeding myself well, reading a couple of good books. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson is interesting although I wish Marconi would hurry up and get his wireless up and running once and for all.  The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is really good but pretty gritty. I chose those because I’ve been invited to join a book club here on the mountain and I figure it would be good to actually read the chosen books rather than turn everyone to the dark side with poker and bonfires as happened with BCMA (Book Club My Ass). It was only a short slide from there to fiber obsessions and now we’re all tangled up with wool projects and too busy to read.

I’m completely tangled up with wool right now, getting ready for another craft fair. I guess it’s not nice to call them Arts and Crap Shows although probably accurate. You know what I mean; some really nice woodcarving, baskets, glass, wool and then a whole lot of bright red and green acrylic toilet paper covers. The other thing about these pre-holiday fairs is that it’s nice to have things that sell well at a certain price point and that’s usually less than something you’ve poured your heart and soul into. Still, my experience tells me that I need to pretty much give up on the money-making end of artistry; I’m currently earning about 1/75th of what I used to earn and I didn’t have all these material costs back then, at least once I’d paid off my student loans. But I’m having fun.

(I just had to look and see if eschewing is a word. It’s not.) Choosing to eschew the traditional red and green, I’m going purple, at least with this week’s projects. It’s a good color for pansies and it’s the color of Advent, which is still a long way off. That reminds me of this funny bit from Catalog Living Blog:

“Embarrassed by their premature arrival, Gary & Elaine’s decorative Christmas trees made their way upstairs to hide for another month.”

In any case, having to make all of this holiday stuff before Halloween is not my favorite creative thing but I’m on it with the scarves and mittens. Besides, I can re-purpose the wine bottles. I’m off to hike along the Blue Ridge and get some exercise while the sun is still out. Enjoy your weekend!

(These mittens seem better suited to a prosimian than primate h. sapiens. In the interest of evolution I think I’ll have to work a little gusset into them and lengthen the thumbs.)

Arrivederci, Italia. All I want for my birthday is a gun.

(The Von Trapp family walked over these. We just flew. Nice view, yes?)

Ha! Kidding, of course, but we are home, safe and sound after the trip of our lifetime together and now I have moved on to bear hunting. I need to do a very lengthy update- or better, a series of short, succinct posts with some stunning photography- but I hit the pavement running and haven’t had a moment to think, which I’m starting to suspect is the new 60. That bit about not thinking. 

(Flying first class has comforts. Getting settled into my “pod” with quilt, iPad, knitting and lavender travel pillow from a certain blogging buddy.)

I’ll definitely finish up with more on Italy because our final two days in Firenze (costing more than the entire rest of the trip) were so full of wonder and beauty and, hmm, 632 photographs but life will have to quiet here a bit first. That happens on Monday when the whole world and one of the two cats leave and Sophie and I can contemplate the fall mountain colors in peace. I will be much, much older then and in need of some quiet time.

Two or three days ago, whenever it was, we arrived at the spanking new, incomplete Sheraton Hotel at the Malpensa airport in Milan to catch a few winks before boarding a 7 am flight to London. Let’s see, 2.5 hour advance check in, no boarding passes or assigned seats yet, it’s so late all the ticket counters are closed…Malpensa airport combined with this new Sheraton that has crammed a zillion rooms onto 3 floors because of height restrictions put our room about 2.8 miles from the nearest fire exit, which wasn’t completed yet in any case. No sleep, from Malpensa to Heathrow to O’Hare. At O’Hare, Rich and I had to part ways as he was crazy enough to keynote a conference in Iowa (don’t ask) the next morning, so there we were, many pounds and bags overweight, oozing ourselves and all that olive oil through customs: “no. no agricultural products. no, not been on a farm. no, no food…” I had a mere 1 hour layover to get off the plane, get through immigration lines, gather the bags, go through customs, recheck the bags, ride the train to the next terminal, kiss Rich goodbye (we were making out like Italian teenagers crammed into the jam-packed shuttle, as though we were saying goodbye forever rather than 24 hours.) Then it was back through security lines that, for some reason, brought to mind the gruesome images of Hell on the Duomo Firenze ceiling, and I RAN another mile to the farthest gate in O’Hare to catch a tiny commuter plane home to Charlotte. And then a 2.5 hour drive back to here.

Here is where my good friend and fellow fiberholic, Kristen has been staying, minding the cats and spinning her heart out while we were away. Here is where she stood up one evening to look out the window because Cloudy had his hackles up and saw, not one but THREE bears two feet from the front door wrestling with the giant paper wasp nest in the dogwood I have been watching grow this past summer. It was a beautiful piece of architecture and the wasps were very peaceful, just going about their business building their own version of the Duomo so I was letting them be. So much for that. One bear stood up on his hind legs and tore it out of the tree and they then shredded it to bits, eating the larvae. I guess they ran out of ground hornet nests. The next night they stood up against the back deck picture window and torn down the heaviest metal bird feeder on the market and carried it off down the hill, smashing it in, along with a second one. But not before they crapped on the deck, in the garden, along the walkway. 

(Who’s been pawing at MY window? asked Mama Cranky.)

Kristen had bearly recovered from that adventure and poured herself a glass of wine when she noticed the cats having a little confab in corner of the living room around what looked, at first glance, like another pile of bear crap. Closer inspection revealed it was a coiled up king snake, although until we confirmed that with a photo, she was convinced it was a Timber Rattler, aka, Canebreak snake. Sophie has the good sense to observe before jumping in with all four paws; McCloud not so much. He was busy poking it and it was busy lunging at him. Kristen screamed to a friend on her cell phone and then bravely shooed the cats and attempted to sweep the poor coiled snake out the front door. That took some effort as he seemed reluctant to cross the threshold to freedom but she finally got him out.

Let’s see, yesterday is a blur. Got to bed about 3 am, got up at 7 and unpacked, did 3 loads of laundry and then we headed out to the WNC Farm market. This was part of a plan to get me quickly back on EST because of events this weekend. Since not thinking is part of the new 60, we bought a half bushel of Roma tomatoes, a half bushel of ornamental gourds, a peck of apples, dried split peas and some southern form of cured pork butt. Then we went on to the WNC Arboretum and saw the bonsai, the handweavers exhibit, the quilt garden, the grass gardens and so forth. And then we came home and of course, something had to be done with those damn tomatoes. You know, she is much younger than I am so she should have known better in the first place, but no. So we canned tomatoes until it was time to pick up Rich at midnight at Asheville airport. 

(Some of Kristen’s carded fiber batts and, why,  tomatoes!)

Now it is 6 am and I’m getting ready to water the house plants and the deck plants before we head off to the long-awaited Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. Florida friend Cathy is already heading to the airport in St. Petersburg to fly in for this annual event. The airport is across the street from the fairgrounds so I’ll just zip over and get her when she lands. You’ve been around here long enough to know that for me, this is three days of sheep, alpaca, fleece, yarn, wool, fiber and more fiber.

Only crazy people do this crap the day they leave for and the day they return from their long postponed honeymoon. But Italia? Crazy romantic. I will update, promise, promise. If you really want to read a funny series of posts about our adventures in Italy, complete with laugh out loud photos, check out where our neighbor Ken gives a full report. We met up with them for a few days while in Tuscany. Ken is the nut who rode his Vespa 150 scooter across America to raise money for a small school in Ecuador and wrote daily journal entries in his blog. His spelling is worse than mine, but he writes a very humorous, very informative blog. You can find him here at Europe 2010 Diaries.

Gotta run.

La vita e bella

Put an accent mark over that e for me, will you?

As the nights get cooler (41 last night), the days become clearer and this morning is the first morning we see all the way to Cold Mountain. We find that fitting, Cold Mountain, as in, when it’s cold we see that beautiful peak all the way from here, on Little Mount Pisgah. As the nights get cooler, the birds eat more and more at the feeders each day. We literally have hundreds and they empty 3 full feeders 3 times each week. Yesterday we stopped at Wild Birds Unlimited and picked up one bag we had in storage and bought several more during the Fall seed sale and left them there in storage. That works well; we use the free storage plan and don’t have so much of it piled up in the garage for little meece. Give those mice an inch and they take a mile, moving in to scout through the various wools for some luxurious bit to line a nest. It must be like shopping at Luxe Home, finding what is stockpiled here in the way of fleece. McCloud, however, continues to be a great mouser despite his age and slow decline in renal health. Speaking of critters, the bear waltzed across the deck last night. We weren’t fast enough to see anything but her retreating rump once she triggered the motion lights but we think she has figured out that those are only on one side of the house. She made a second pass back on the other side sometime in the wee hours, knocked over the locked can of bird seed and ate most of the new bag, leaving the remains spread all over. She has wiped out three ground hornet nests thus far and we thank her for that, but it’s clear that we now need to pull in the feeders at night and keep the can in the garage.

Speaking of fleece, friend Kristen from BCMA came for a few days last week while Rich was in NYC meeting with ESPN. We had a wool frenzy of sorts, with piles of it all over the studio, the kitchen, the media room. We had the drum carder going a mile a minute, making delicious batts of various fine wools, silks, bamboo, some glitz for sparkle. From there we used the batts for felting and spinning. We did some dyeing (if I were to get near a doctor now she would surely think I’m on the way out; the blue cast to my skin and nails is something to behold) and at night we watched television, vaguely, as Kristen was spinning and I was knitting.

All that effort meant that we a) didn’t get out of our pajamas for 3 days and b) had to stop periodically for fuel. Kristen loves to cook as much as I do. One night we made Killer Shrimp, basically a large bowl of the biggest jumbo shrimp and artery annihilating spicy buttered broth with a crusty soft loaf from Ecce Panis for dipping. The fennel seed (from our garden!) and red pepper make it so tasty and warm. Use really jumbo shrimp or prawns; it’s worth it. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
2 tbl rosemary
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts chicken broth
8 oz clam juice
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 lb butter
2 lbs shrimp or prawns, tails on

Directions

Combine rosemary, fennel. Lightly chop the spices with a chef’s knife. In the end there should still be recognizable pieces of the rosemary, etc.

Place all ingredients except wine in a large pot. Simmer for about an hour.

Add wine. Continue to simmer for a total cooking time of no more than 2 hours.

Just before serving, add raw shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is done, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in large bowls, each person gets a lot of broth. Eaten with fingers. Wear bibs. Serve with french bread for dipping in broth.

Another night, Kristen made a limoncello semifreddo, which was basically the creamiest lemon-lime frozen custard ever. Look up a recipe online and you’ll see what I mean. Kristen will be back again in a couple of weeks; we are getting ready for a local holiday craft fair, which we affectionately refer to as the “arts and craps” show. Although it’s clear (to us) that we create the finest fiber art ever, we want to recoup some of the money we’ve spent on wool this past year because, after all, there is a big fiber fair here in Asheville at the end of the month and all new opportunities to stock up. So we are making items that will sell. Felted catnip kitty toys!

All of this good food is putting me in mind of Italy. Today I am packing for our “honeymoon”, never taken because we have been such busy bees, and this time next week I will be enjoying lunch on a hilltop outside of Parma, en route to our ultimate destination in Tuscany. There we will park ourselves at Daniel’s and Manuela’s olive and vineyard estate and enjoy day trips all around the area. One night we will enjoy 5 star dining at La Frateria di Padre Eligio in the convent of St. Francis and drink a toast to our marriage and (arrghhh) my sixtieth birthday. La Frateria is part of Mondo X, an organization that speaks to me; I think you’ll enjoy reading about it.

We were a bit anxious about the timing of this trip because there was another major life event looming on the horizon, one I haven’t told you about as I erred on the side of caution. We are grandparents! Rich’s Anna had a son 2 weeks ago today. This is our first grandchild and although we wanted to be proudly broadcasting about it, the circumstances haven’t been appropriate until now. Anna has been in a rough place in her life with many challenges that made having a baby especially high risk and we were very worried, often extremely discouraged. She considered adoption briefly but decided against that and, in the way of many grown children, advice was neither welcome nor heeded as she moved through her pregnancy. Anna went into labor a month early and as I was fretting and fuming, Abby admonished me, rightly so,  to snap out of it, that this was a new life, a gift, a child to be welcomed and loved, a mother to be supported. Baby Kellan wasted no time and came after 3 short hours, weighing in at 5 pounds. A new baby breaks down barriers and changes lives and now, two weeks later (a lifetime!) Anna and her husband and baby Kellan are doing very well at home. He is still on a monitor for apnea but he’s gained 12 ounces and stretched out 2 inches and reports from doctor and visiting nurse are very good. Anna and I chat online about feeding schedules and sleep patterns and those whimsical little newborn smiles and she seems perfectly in tune and madly in love. This has reminded me that babies and parents don’t usually get to pick and choose and that makes life all the more interesting. It has also reminded me that many times parents are able to rise up and do for their children what they can’t do for themselves. We are very, very proud of the start Anna has given Kellan and we can’t wait to hold him as soon as we get back. He looks very much like Rich did as a baby and we think he’s beautiful!

That’s it for now and I need to hustle to get the indoor plants in for the winter and take care of all those things you need to do before you leave on a big trip; for me that’s every single thing from estate planning to sorting through 30 years of photos but in the end I’m lucky to find my passport in time to head out. Have a great week.