Saturday, June 05, 2010

Shape of Things to Come, pt 2

"... with the cordial cooperation of many unpleasant powers or dependent nations, large and small, who felt that having avoided fighting themselves it would now be a good plan to throw their weight about and demand Self-Government, Self-Determination, Ambassadorial Status, large gifts of money and arms and complete freedom to be as nasty as they wished to be to everyone, while no nation- under pain of expulsion from a number of Leagues or Pacts, known only by their intials though most people had not the faintest idea what words the initials represented- was to be allowed to defend its own frontier, protect its own nationals, or publish any newspaper article in any way depreciatory of its grasping ill-wishers."
- Enter Sir Robert, 1955

Seriously, Angela? Stop it!
Interesting that Thirkell and Kipling were cousins. She refers to him as 'prophetic' a number of times in her novels, and she seems to have had a touch of the quality as well.
Reading through the new ones I ordered from Alibris- she will eventually have her own shelf, at this rate.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come

"...we are living ourselves under a Government as bad as any
in history in its combination of bullying and weakness, its bid for
the mob's suffrages, its fawning upon unfriendly foreigners who despise it,
its effort to crush all personal freedom."

She was writing about England in 1946, but might as well have been describing America in 2010.

The author? Angela Thirkell, whose post-war novels were full of the despicable exploits of Them, who harassed a war-battered citizenry with bureaucratic nonsense, meddling into things about which They knew nothing and general mischief done just because They could.

It's a rare thing for a comedy of manners to send a shiver down your back.

Man vs. Skwerrel

Because the kids are in the yard constantly, I mostly garden organically and steer clear of pesticides. But measures had to be taken against the squirrel, who is re-foresting our backyard with oaks.

Now this is mostly my fault, because I mulched the paths with the two big bags of oak debris in the first place, creating an annex to the All-U-Can-Eat buffet I was already running at the bird feeders. Acorns+ raised beds full of soft dirt+ squirrel instincts= the New Forest.

I don't mind plucking seedling trees out of the paths. In fact, his dedication to his job would be adorable, except that his wallowing around in the beds was causing havoc, so I bought a bottle of some sort of Repel-All at Lowe's. O and I tore up some muslin strips, tied them to short bamboo stakes and sprayed them with the solution.
And we may have been a little over-enthusiastic,

Because my yard STINKS.
But we expect that to fade with time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh, snap!

(Boring technical spinning post. feel free to skip.)
Okay- at the Fest, I was seduced by some silk waste at a vendor's site, which spun up into a rope of gems.
For her.
I wasn't happy with the texture of mine when I spun some up. It was much too stiff- a problem of silk- and had little give. Researching on the Net, many suggested combining it with a 1: 2 ratio of wool, so I decided to dye up some merino that was in the bin, using my new "greener" dyes, also from the Fest.
All was going well until I took my eyes off the pot for a few minutes and it boiled. OVER, actually, but only onto the stove, not the floor. Whew!
After the pot cooled and I was rinsing the roving, it began to look as if the whole mess had felted. Which makes sense, because that's how you make those Austrian boiled-wool jackets.
Because I don't have any use for five six-foot long lengths of amethyst felt, however lovely and brilliant their color.
Still, some of the shorter pieces that have dried all the way through are pulling apart, so perhaps all is not lost.
Note to me: PAY ATTENTION!
UPDATE: False alarm. Once the roving dried, it was fairly easy to card it out and re-card with the silk. Next up, spinning two batches to see how they do.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Plant a Garden, Light a Candle

Forget diamonds-guess who's getting a compost bin, handmade, for Mother's Day? That'll neaten up the yard a bit.
You would not believe how many people are vegetable gardening now. Trav's old Boy Scout Master's wife, with whom I had a long, enjoyable talk at Boy Scout Food Drive. She's even growing berries.

My next-door neighbor, who put in one raised bed last year, like me and my four, and is doing another this year. Just herbs and flowers- but she's composting.

The lady around the corner on Devon, who's container gardening in her side yard.

The nice young couple two doors down from us, that Sis met through PTA. They have matching-aged kids, and the little girl came to play with O at our house. Then they all came down to look at my set-up in the evening. One of the lizards, the one with the short tail, appeared, to the delight of the little boys.

And those are just the ones I know about. I'm sure there are many, many more.
As next-door neighbor said: "I just want some beauty in my back yard."

The rest of us want the veggies- but we also want a usable skill. And though gardening is NOT a hobby in which you're in control- hah!- at least you feel like you're doing something useful. A couple of hours' work in the plot leaves you tired, but comfortably so- unlike a few hours in front of the computer, contemplating the current situation.
From the B'ob:
In your day-to-day life , you must refrain from activities that advance the infrahuman tide of ugliness, barbarism and falsehood in our endarkened world.

And when you refrain, you must put something else in that place. Not everyone can choose the garden. But we can all choose something. Bless you in your choice.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Neutral Ground

Earlier this month, I went to DFW Fiber Fest. (Like a gun show, but with yarn.) One of the classes I took was on Dyeing Yarn and Roving, taught by my spinning instructor. We worked in the little convention center's kitchen- it's a water-heavy process. She instructed us to choose three colors from her collection of dyes and illustrated various ways that we could apply them to our fibers.

Those of us who were dyeing roving (unspun wool) had to consider how our combinations would look when spun into single strands and then plied together into yarn. Leef told us about a process that would, if we liked, prevent the 'barber pole' effect of two distinct colors twined together. You divide your fibers into two equal batches, as usual. You spin one as is, preserving your distinct colors. The second you comb, with carders, into one muted color called a 'neutral ground'. When you ply these together, they balance each other- the original colors retain their individuality, which is actually strengthened by being offset by a shade that combines them all.

I think, here in America, we have lost our 'neutral ground'. The commonality of our culture has been splintered into so many warring social, ethnic, racial, religious and even economic factions that there's not a lot holding us together. Now, this is not to say that there's ever been a time when things were perfect- we are a nation of fallen human beings- but we had a vision that actually worked. But the bases of our 'neutral ground'- the ideas of the Founding Fathers, a shared and common Judeo-Christian morality and a unique American consensus of who we were existed to ground our individualities and allow them to flourish.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Ture confession: how long has it been since I cleaned out the corner cabinet over the drainboard? Let's just say that I found an envelope containing five quarters, which had "Sarah's Lunch Money" written on the outside. And since Sarah wasn't doled out lunch money since the end of middle school, I'm dating this relic around 2003. Yikes.

The Yarbs went to Alabama for Easter to visit Jas's grandmother and his mom, who was staying there with her. Sweet Granny Richards was worried that her advanced age might scare the babies, but Sis was all "Oh, please- they hang out all the time with my grandmother and she's eighty-four!" The highlights of their trip were a family reunion where Bubs, once he got used to the crowd, was the Mayor of Everything, meetin' and greetin' every table and a trip to an uncle's farm. There O surprised everyone by being a fishing fool- though Bubs was the only one to actually catch anything.
We watched the dog for them, which meant that someone went over every four hours to visit with him and let him out for a while- he pines while they're gone and needs the company. And we're soft enough to giiive it to him.

My 'REPEAL" sign has faded in the wonderful rain we've been having, so I need to re-do it with proper white and black paint on a piece of plywood. I will put my handy husband to work on that.

Sarah's new play, a Steel Magnolias-esque estrogenfest about a college swim team, features a director she's never worked with who is a pleasant enough woman, but one of those people who has no unexpressed thoughts. None. Brain to tongue- no stops in between.
One of the cast members, who has worked with this gal, asked Ro if this was her first stage managing job. Ro shared her c.v. with her, who then asked: "Have you ever worked with X (the director)?"
"Hmmm- do you drink?"

We celebrated V's 60th birthday with a little bar-b-que and cake at home. He got a travel watch for his summer trip and Sis gave him a collage of bluebonnet pictures of the kids. For non-Texans: a bluebonnet photo is a pic of your kids or dog or whoever in a patch of the state flower.
Chi-chi foo-foo photos involve white and pale blue dress-up clothes, classic shots use denim and white. Bandanas may be involved.
Her particular clump of bluebonnets were somewhat damp, which was why she had a hard time getting a good shot of M.J. the Fussy.
'Seriously," she said,"do they make Xanax for babies? You should hear her at night when she can't find her pacifier in bed: 'BINK-EH?! BINK-EH?!? WHERE YOU, BINK-EH?!' We tried the holder attachment, but that just made her freak out: 'BINK-EH STUCK! ARGHHH!'"
"I know it's hard- but just think how proud you'll be of her in twenty years when she graduates Summa Cum Laude from college like her Fan Target."

The electrician came out to replace the entry hall light fixture. We now have a nice bronze and frosted glass chandelier instead of the gold curlique and crystal pendants one that graced us for the last quarter-century. At this rate, we'll have a whole new house, eventually. He also moved the switches for the driveway light and the garage light into the house by the back door- something else we've been thinking about for, oh, the last 25 years.

Speaking of quarter centuries- today is the 25th anniversary of my entry into the Church. Too big a topic to do justice to- let's just say that my gratitude outweighs any struggles and disappointments.

And speaking of the Church, locally; for about 10 years, I attended the local Traditional Indult Mass here. It was graciously hosted for nearly twenty years by the Discalced Carmelites in their chapel in Oak Cliff, though daily Masses were held in several different parishes during that time.
Now, a monastery chapel is not very big and even with two Sunday Masses, folks were crammed in like cordwood. And while I liked the Trad Mass very much, I hadn't any problem with the Mass of Paul VI, especially when it was not celebrated with silly hoo-hah. But back in the beleagured days before Benedict XVI declared that any priest at any time could celebrate the Traditional Mass, if you weren't in a constant state of indignation, you could feel out of place.
So, for a combination of reasons, I stopped going there for several years, except for the odd visit.

But now, after twenty years of prayer and sacrifice and obedience to the bishops, the community has been declared a parish and has bought a former Korean Baptist church, with a rectory, that they are in the process of renovating. And from December to April, their numbers have doubled. Which just proves what we always suspected: many more people would have come, had there just been room for them.
And after several visits and some concentrated prayer, I have decided to move my parish membership there. Being relieved of the constant fight for recognized status had cooled a lot of people off and released that energy for more positive pursuits, which I would like to be a part of.
So we shall see...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


So, Nini was over yesterday and while we were making Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies from Starbucks (cut the salt and cinnamon by half, okay?), we somehow got into a conversation about: economics. And I mean a serious conversation about goods and services and pricing and value and why monopolies are bad. We must have talked about this for fifteen minutes, waiting for the cookies to bake. And if I used lollipops and Littlest Pet Shops instead of guns and butter- she's eight.

In the last year or two, I've noticed in myself a tendency to teach almost all the time I spend with the babies, especiall with Ni, since she's older. Oh, it's not that we don't have fun, and giggle and act silly and tease each other- but I sneak ethics lessons into the doll house and onto the farm and include some sort of life-lesson- gardening, cooking, sewing, cleaning, handcrafting- into our time together. I know to stop when she gets bored- but it's there.

Now, it's not that Sis and Jas don't do this as well- they are excellent parents with good values. But I know I paid more attention to certain things my grandparents taught me, than my mom and dad. And we have the extra time to back them up, that they don't, trying to make a living and bring up three kids.
I think I look back at when our own kids were young, and think of all the things I wish I had known to emphasize, but just didn't, and want to fill in the gaps with the g-kids.

But most of all, I think my motivation comes from the urgency of these scary times- and the conviction that they will have to be so much stronger than I thought my own children would ever have to be to have a life of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What Not to Wear

About a decade ago, I had a CTJ "Oh, no!- is that my butt?" moment involving a photo from
the Orchestra Trip to Corpus Christi of myself frolicking on the beach in mom jeans. This caused me to make the switch to skirts and dresses most of the time. A denim jumper and a T-shirt is my versions of "jeans and a top".


When the Yarbs take the kids to Dallas Heritage Village on Saturday and Morgan Jane keeps calling all the frontier ladies "Mimi's", including this:

scary-ass horror film denizen of a scarecrow, it might be time to re-think the wardrobe.

Of course, she is only nineteen months old. So maybe not.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ah, Youth! or "Alright, hard head."

Well- I got my eyes LASIK'ed back in late January, so my computer time has been limited. For those of you who haven't had the procedure, they put you in a room the temp of a restaurant refrigerator and immobilize your head so that you're looking up into the maw of the Mother Ship, with its psychedelic lightshow. Then the lasers go brzzzzt, brzzzt and you go home to put various drops and gels in your eyes for weeks.
Close-up vision is great, distance vision is taking a while to clear, as my correction for that was hewge. I'm getting re-acquainted with the face I haven't seen clearly from a distance in twenty years.
A glasses-less Mimi disturbed the babies for a while, but not long.

So...I volunteered at the Boy Scout Food Drive and took charge of the glass table. We pack all that separately, due to breakage. Now, one of the things most often packed in glass is condiments and condiments sometimes live in the depths of the pantry for years. And years. Until the B.S.A. drive comes along and they get sent to us.

In addition to the Scouts, we had a church youth group doing their Saturday shift, so they came along to help as well. Two of them were assigned to me and did a great job- until their curiosity got the better of them.

A scout brought three small dusty jars of something dark brown solidified into a gelatinous mass in some oily dark brown liquid to our table.

"What's that?" my helpers (let's call them A and B) asked, fascinated by their horribleness.

"I have no idea."

"Ooooh, let's open one!" said A.

"Yeah!" said B.

"Is the label in English?" I asked. It wasn't. In fact, there weren't any labels, only some writing around the rim of the lids.

"Can you even read the alphabet That's written in?" No.

"Look, I've been working here a long time and if the jar is obviously ancient and everything on it is in an unknown alphabet, DON"T OPEN IT."

(Yes, that sounds xenophobic. But if you can read on the faded cutesy-country label that it's a jar of Aunt Sue-Ellen's Chow-Chow, you have at least some idea of what you're dealing with. Otherwise, you don't.)

"Oh, please let us open it! Please!"

"Okay, but take it into the restroom."

They return a few minutes later, pale and abashed.


"OMG- it was horrible! We both nearly barfed!" said A.

"It was so gross- I've never seen anything like it." said B.

"Can we throw it away now?"


Well, alright, hard heads.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Not complaining, just noting that one of the things you have to get used to as you get older is that it takes much longer to recover from stupid things, like a cold, that you would have shaken off in a day or two, back when. So we need to plan accordingly and be patient with ourselves.
And take the Zicam.
Because as long as we hang out with our beloved little germ-pots, there will be infectiousness.

Finished Stocking #1 and sent it to Ann Arbor, for trying-on (probably accompanied by hysterical laughter) and feed-back before I tackle the next one. This one looked like the dog's dinner at the top, where I was working out the shaping decreases, but improved towards the bottom, where it was, essentially, a sock. I can do those.

When I was at the annual sale at the Woollie Ewe (because somebody is having a baby) I was discussing this hose project with the cashier and mentioned that my vintage pattern called for size 13 needles, which couldn't possibly be our 13's. She looked it up on the needle conversion chart and sure enough- they would now be 1's, which makes much more sense. This is a WWII-era pattern book, when, since they couldn't get nylons or silk stockings, the capable just knit their own.

V. has an idea: every month we will choose one room in the house and concentrate on whatever needs to be done there. It can be de-cluttering, repair, decorating, whatever. First up, since January is half over, will be the hall bath. It needs painting and some new decor, now that it is officially the guest bath again. Did you know that genius Wal-Mart now has cans of ready-mixed paint in basic colors for the non-obsessive DIY'er? Yep, we picked up two gallons of 'Fresh Lettuce' or whatever it's called and that was all there was to it. I repeat, genius.

Harry Reid was coming to Irving, but he cancelled. He may have indeed had serious business in Washington, but we doubt it. Heck, I wouldn't have wanted to face a plaza full of irate Texans, and I'm a native.

Once upon a time, we were this young couple- virtually possessionless, except for our clothes, our books, a couple of cartons of albums, a stereo, a guitar, a typewriter and our wedding presents. Then, three-plus decades pass. We produce four kids, who leave home, but store their stuff in the old office, the garage, the guest room closet and the storage unit. Relatives die and we acquire some of their wordly goods. We've been living in the same house for a quarter of a century and never experienced the clear-out that a move would provide.
And although we are not really collectors, except for books, that's still a lot of material that wanders in and never wanders out again.
So, I am going through my stuff, at least, and having a Free-for-All. Just putting it on a table in the front yard with some sacks and a sign "Free Stuff. Table not included."
Given our magpie human nature, I think it will disappear. All of it.

Now, having just said that... it's still nice when you have some papier-mache eggs and a chopstick and some florist's foam and some sphagnum moss and a flower pot and a bag of miscellaneous silk flower parts and hot glue and acrylic paint when your kid comes by the house, needing to construct a Venus flytrap, for her play.

TC is doing Doubt for this year's serious drama. Now, I'm not at all a fan of this play- so tired of the pedophile priest theme- and yet such is the spell of the theater that I'm loaning them my garden statue for the set. It's insidious.

Discovered that Continental-style knitting is NOT the way to teach little fingers the craft. No, the one hand, then the other hand rythm of English style is much easier to grasp. O did two rows completely by herself when we switched methods and was elated at her accomplishment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This fine family
could use some prayers for their sweet daughter.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Love my kids, because

  • they think that instead of buying these, which as you see are about half acryclic, Mom will be enchanted to knit you some in 100% merino and send them to you in Michigan. Just the thought that she believes I can figure this out and do it is very endearing.

  • although my cooking is best described as " adequate, with some high points", my son-in-law remarked, when I sent over some Chicken Maryland for dinner at their sneezing, wheezing, runny-nosed house, "Pretty much everything your mom makes is awesome."

  • somebody went to somebody's house and perfectly performed the tasks of a certain seasonal mythical character, including leaving a note for the eldest child that they would be the first person he'd call, if he ever needed an assistant. And even though it was in their trademark serial killer handwriting, it was so sweet it made us tear up, a little.

  • they constantly work to improve their parental skills, and don't flinch at the hard decisions, if it's for the good of the family.

  • they are on the lookout for ways to add to their job skills, like becoming certified in first aid- in case scenery falls on someone, or something. There isn't always a doctor in the house...

Love them lots, as my late mom would say.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A treat for the new yearAdd Image

A guilty conscience drove me into the side yard with a scoop of birdseed on my way to Mass this morning, but before I could fill the lantern feeder, one of these:

the kinglet who's been the star of the yard for a week, flew from branch to branch of the althea bush and lit on the suet feeder, not two feet from where I stood. As still as the Mary statue, I was able to watch him for almost a minute- a tiny mushroom bird come to life.

A good augury, I hope! But a delight in any case.