April 29, 2005

Q&A and More Photographs

(Long entry with quite a few photos; may take a while to load.)

As promised, answers from Meredith of F.I.R.E to the questions posted by Dear Readers in the Wednesday comments.


With regard to knitting clothes for older kids, teens and adults, Meredith says, “Thank you very much for the thought, but we have enough used clothing for these sizes. We wanted to try and focus on children because the items are smaller and easier to knit and we never have enough children's clothing. Every year we run out. Of course, parents would much rather have clothes for their children than themselves. If you have larger-sized clothing please send it. But if you are making something, please make it child size.”

My thoughts: Originally, we were encouraged by F.I.R.E. to knit for all sizes (although, granted, with special emphasis on children age 3-10) so I have been given quite a few adult-size hats that I will be sending along. However, per Meredith’s new information, they are now focused on children’s clothing.


With regard to sending toys, Meredith says, yes, they take toys that are operable without batteries.


With regard to what else can be done for the homeless children and the orphanages, Meredith says, "We have a page on our website that addresses this directly. Of course, we always need money. But we also accept warm, used clothing for teens and adults and anything for infants, toddlers and children. We take all bedding, including pillows and sleeping bags. You can clean out your family's closet, go to yard sales or the local thrift store and buy cheap, warm clothing and send it on to us. You could start a clothing drive in your school, church, workplace, or community. You could gather donations to help ship the clothing to us.

Here is a complete list of what we like to take:

Clothing
We need all children’s clothing!
Hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, neck gaiters, socks
Coats, snow suits
Sweaters, sweatshirts
Long sleeve tops
Pants, jeans
Long underwear

Non-clothing
Bedding – blankets, sheets, sleeping bags, pillows
Towels
Toys – games, stuffed animals, items that are functional without batteries
Sewing Kits
Basic toiletries – non-liquid soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, combs, hairbrushes (all items need to be new)
Books

Large Items
Sewing machines
Basic farming equipment – shovels, hoes, picks, rakes
Bikes

Items needed in large quantity
Bolts of fabric
Textbooks
School supplies – paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, art supplies

Medical Supplies
Basic medical supplies - bandages, dressings, syringes, ointment
Lab supplies – slides, pipettes, swabs, vacutainers, etc.
Dental supplies
Antibotics, Betadine, IV solutions, saline solutions
Medicine and vitamins that are good through 10/06
Diapers for children and adults
Crutches, wheelchairs
X-ray film
Rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide
Hearing aids, glasses
Disenfectant

Items Not Needed
Short sleeve shirts, skirts, dresses, tank tops, shorts, underwear, swim suits, biking shorts, boxer shorts, Capri pants, glass, liquids, toys that do not function without batteries, damaged or broken items, torn or very dirty clothing, anything that is culturally delicate, might cause offense, or is impractical."

Side note from me: I deduce from F.I.R.E.’s Web site, that they also need volunteers, so if you live in the Flagstaff area, this might be something to consider.


With regard to aid directly to the shelters, Meredith says, “Unfortunately, this is not really possible. Mongolia is a very corrupt country. If you were to send things by mail, there is very little chance that it would actually arrive, and UPS is much too expensive. If you want to send items, it is best to send it to us. We put all of our items in a secure shipping container. This year we will ship a 40-foot container that holds 8 tons and a 20-foot container that can hold 4 tons. We have managed to develop a relationship with an exceptional non-governmental organization (NGO) in Mongolia who sponsors our shipment into the country. The reputation of this NGO in Mongolia allows for us to clear customs without anything being confiscated.

This same corruption also makes it inadvisable to send monetary contributions directly to any of the shelters. Many of these shelters have eliminated the corruption, but some have not. We work with Western organizations that monitor our donations to the shelters so, at the shelters, the clothing is locked in a room accessible only by employees of the Western organization. There are other orphanages and care centers we give to directly, but they are also run by Westerners. An orphanage we have worked with on every trip that is very trustworthy and run by an Australian Hindu nun is Lotus Center.

We not only work with every care center for the street children and orphans, we also seek out the children in the tunnels and stairways and give them assistance also.

The Mongolian people need much more than just clothing. This year we are also trying to find a significant amount of medical supplies to send over. For the first time ever, we will have four medical professionals who will go over to distribute these medical supplies and conduct medical training in hospitals and care centers.

As soon as we can find enough funding for our existing projects, we intend to provide university scholarships for students in need. The NGO (Zorig Foundation) is already doing this. It cost $350 to send a Mongolian to college for 1 year.

We would also like to place English teachers in rural communities.

We would also like to purchase gers (yurts) for families living on the street. A traditional Mongolian ger costs $500.

Unfortunately, we can barely fund the clothing part of our efforts. As soon as we have that squared away, we will move on to other projects."


With regard to whether they will be accepting Dulaan items that are sent after the July 1 deadline, Meredith says, "We will collect your beautiful hand knitted items for as long as you send them!"

Lastly, Meredith says please feel free to contact her with questions, concerns or suggestions.

Thank you everyone for your questions. And, to keep you motivated, more pictures.

Photograph 1: This is a traditional Mongolian ger. Eight people were living in this one room. There can be as many as twelve or more, and there is no running water or toilets.

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Photograph 2: This is a family of nine living in one small room.

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Photograph 3: This was a family of seven. The mother was sick and in the hospital. The family was broke and afraid the mother would not survive. The father was crippled. He uses a scrap of metal for a cain. The 10-year-old boy, slouched in the corner, supports the family by working outside, all year round, in the black market.

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Photograph 4: These are two children who are being raised by a teenaged neighbor.

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Photograph 5: Except for a light jacket, this child is completely naked in 20° weather. Meredith says they found a lot of children like this.

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Photograph 6: A man using a manhole to leave the tunnel where he lives.

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Photograph 7: More and more Mongolians, like this man, make their living by digging through trash dumpsters and selling the glass and plastics they find. Meredith reports that this was the dumpster right outside their apartment door. The week before they arrived in the country a man was found dead in their stairway. He had been killed over the rights to dig through the dumpster. The trash cans have begun to be controlled by the mafia.

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Picture 8: A child in an orphanage.

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On Monday, I promise more uplifting photos of Mongolians receiving donations from F.I.R.E.

As always, from everyone at F.I.R.E., Cuzzin Tom and me, thank you to everyone who is participating in the project.

Posted by Ryan at 09:59 AM | Comments (13)

April 27, 2005

The Unadorned Truth

(Picture-heavy; may be slow to load.)

This week I learned, with abrupt and sudden totality, that, until now, the Dulaan Project has been an abstraction for me. The idea of knitting things for the children in Mongolia, albeit homeless children, still had, perhaps, a tinge of “sweetness” or “cuteness” to it. That is, until yesterday, when Meredith, the Executive Director of F.I.R.E., sent me the pictures below.

Meredith reports that, in 1990, when the Russians left Mongolia, a tremendous homelessness problem was created. The Mongolian government's response to this was to make it illegal to be homeless if you are under 16 years of age, and the police now go on regular round-ups to pick up the homeless children. Meredith went with a police officer on one of the round-ups and that is when the majority of these pictures were taken.

Picture 1: The police officer and one of the holes the children use to get in and out of the underground heating ducts. If you look closely you can see one of the children looking up through the hole.

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Pictures 2 and 3: Some of the children living in the heating duct tunnel. These children were 17 years or older, so they were not taken to a shelter.

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Picture 4-7: 11- and 12-year-old children living in a stairwell. These children were taken to a half-way house where they were given a shower and clean clothes. They stayed at this shelter until their families could be located. If they did not have families, or if their families did not want them, or they did not want to go back to their families, then they went to a shelter to be taken care of and to acquire better life-skills.

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Pictures 8 and 9: The light, literally, at the end of the tunnel. These are before-and-after pictures of two of the children shown earlier, after some time spent in a shelter, after they have been given a shower, some clothes, some food, and a place to sleep.

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Meredith concluded her email to me by saying, "Over half of all street children have STD's, even as young as eight. There is really no drug abuse, but there is a lot of petty theft, rape and prostitution. Still, many of the kids choose the streets over their abusive, poor and/or alcoholic families. Mongolia has a tremendous alcohol problem due to the vodka introduced by the Russians, which leaves a huge number of women raising their families without the fathers."

Meredith has sent me many more pictures, some of them worse than these and some very moving, uplifting and bittersweet. I'll be posting those pictures over the next couple of blog entries. (And need I say Meredith is not happy with person who said there are no homeless children in Mongolia and that Dulaan was a scam?)

Also, I received an email from Karen Blankenship in Texas who says that, due to the imminent arrival of her baby, she will not be able to knit for Dulaan, but she has some yarn that she is willing to mail to anyone who wants to use it for the project. Please let me know if you're interested and I'll put you in touch with Karen.

Posted by Ryan at 11:40 AM | Comments (34)

April 25, 2005

Another Trip to Manland

Please ignore the heavy sighing, the shaking hands, the panicked stare, the clammy brow... I am recovering from my least favorite thing, a trip to Manland, in this case the mechanic. Mind you, the Chrysler dealer where I take "Camilla" is large, clean and well-lit, with cordial and efficient employees who remember my name every time I go in, not some shady, oily (in all senses of the word), fly-by-night outfit, run by Bubba and Mad Dog. But still, every time, without fail, I’m left feeling terrified, drained and pitted out in a most unladylike way. I envy The Mysterious K who is at least car-savvy enough to sprinkle her conversation with the mechanic with car-related words. She can say things like, “Wow, had a great breakfast this morning. The extra WD-40 I put on my pancakes really hit the spot.” Or, “Did some gardening this weekend. I planted some carburetors, pistons and camshafts, and I think they’re really going to add to the landscape.” But, me, no matter how hard I try to pour on the machismo, no matter how much swagger and testosterone I try to bring to the table, the minute I drive into the service bay, I suddenly become aware of how truly huge my boobs are, the machismo and swagger immediately fly out the window, and I'm left crying, in a puling, high-pitched voice is, “Something’s wrong with my car. Fix it!” And I and my boobs tear away to the safe cocoon of the shuttle, abandoning my car to its fate, praying that our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

I need some distracting. I know, let’s talk about knitting. Here are pictures of the two Dulaan boxes I mailed out this weekend, the onesy-twosy box containing 44 (!!!) items, and the box containing the fleece blankets made by TMK and Yours Truly.

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And a picture of the finished vest, now sporting bright yellow buttons, which will go in Onesy-Twosy Box #2.

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P.S. In doing some spam cleanup, I once again managed to delete some legit comments, including Every Single Comment From Friday. My apologies, Dear Readers, especially K. Anne who obviously put a lot of thought into what she wrote. Oh, this is not a good morning. I need some chocolate.

Posted by Ryan at 09:56 AM | Comments (12)

April 22, 2005

Lame and Late Friday Entry

Holy moly, or, to use my new favorite expletive, “Sweet deity on a pogo stick!” What a band of wildly protective, fang-gnashing Amazons my Dear Readers have proven to be! Curiously, I feel both buoyed up and terrified enough to pee my pants.

Thank you, everyone, for first, being wise enough to know that, of course, I’m not really running a scam—despite Norma’s best efforts to convince everyone otherwise (har, har, Norma, har, har)—and, secondly, for telling me that this little hiccup makes you want to redouble your Dulaan efforts, which is especially spiffy, since we only have a month and a half before everything should be inching its way toward the post office in time for the July 1 deadline. I was especially moved to read that KC is a neophyte knitter and yet is already churning out scarves for Dulaan. And then there is MaryB the Inspirer who has now decided she is going to knit 50 things. That woman is insane, I tell you, insane! Mary, I will personally massage whatever little stumps of fingers you have left after this is all done. The Mysterious K will testify to the fact that I give very good hand massages; I recommend you take me up on the offer.

Fun night at Guild on Wednesday, not so much because the presentation by Betsy McCarthy, who wrote "Knit Socks!," was interesting and funny (especially when she described how, after all was said and done, she ended up owing the publisher money), but because I just felt so surrounded by people who make my heart happy: Patti, who came for the first time and brought her adorable son Noah, Kit, Lynn, MaryB, April, Karen, Rose, Jessica, June, Diana, Marti, Devorah, Beth... In January, 2004, I wrote:

"Funny thing about Guild: Even though you’re surrounded by, indeed, hemmed in by chatty, gregarious people with whom you have at least one major interest in common, it’s still curiously hard to meet people, to connect."

It has taken a long time but I think that, finally, this statement is no longer true. I am a lucky girl.

Lastly, in case any local knitters haven’t heard the buzz, The Yarn Harlot, Seattle, Weaving Works, August 4th! But let me warn you, parking at Weaving Works...what’s a nice way to put this?...oh, yeah, it sucks big time. Get there early, take the bus, car pool, parachute in, have Scotty beam you in, or have The Mysterious K someone drop you off; it’s the only way.

Posted by Ryan at 02:26 PM | Comments (1)

April 20, 2005

Why My Knickers Are in a Knot

I was shocked to learn from a reliable source recently that there is at least one person (local, but I don’t know who it is, and don’t particularly want ta’) who thinks the Dulaan Project is a total and complete crock. I don’t mean a crock in the sense of a polite, Sheila-like, “Charity knitting? Thanks, but no thanks. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt,” but a crock in the sense of, “There are no homeless people in Mongolia. There are no orphans in Mongolia. There are no children living in heating ducts. This project is a scam.” I’m running a scam, people! Who knew?! Pretty soon it’ll turn into one of those pyramid thingies and I’ll ask you to knit, and ask you to ask your friends to knit, and ask you to ask your friends to ask their friends to knit... Oh, wait; I really am doing that.

I suppose I wouldn’t be quite so peeved if I hadn’t received this this week:

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This picture, Dear Readers, taken by our very own Cuzzin Tom, is of a five-year-old Mongolian boy who brings himself, alone, to a soup kitchen every day to get food. Cuzz reports that, of necessity, this little boy is ferociously independent and refuses to let anyone at the soup kitchen help him get his utensils or his food, find a place to sit or to eat. Yep, I’m runnin’ a scam all right. And somehow, from 10,000 miles away, I’ve managed to get a Buddhist monk, a bunch of Buddhist nuns who run a Mongolian soup kitchen, and a little Mongolian boy to help me with my fiendish plans. Which, by the way, haven't added a sou to my bank balance, damn it.

That being said, I have something for you, DearDear Readers, the latest Dulaan number as reported to me by Meredith at F.I.R.E.:

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1,021 ITEMS!!!

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Only 979 items to go to reach MaryB the Inspirer’s goal of 2,000, although Dear Reader Daisy has made a good dent by mailing a box containing 29 items. I’m on something twelve-ish or thirteen-ish, although I’ve sort of lost track since I actually removed one of my hats from the box, it was so bad. Yes, so bad that a freezing, homeless, orphaned child would have looked at it and said, “What the hell is that?!”

And, here in all of its half-finished glory, is that twelve-ish or thirteen-ish item, another hat from “Hats On!” (This hat is unusual in that it was a cooperative effort since I threw all of my leftover, half-used balls of Cascade 220 in front of The Mysterious K the Graphic Designer and demanded, "You! Graphic designer! Help me pick some colors! Help me figure out what order to put them in!" And she did.)

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Oh, and last but not least, Happy Blogiversary Minus One Day to Mossy Cottage!! Who knew, on April 21, 2003, that I’d still be writing two years later, that the blog and my Dear Readers would become one of the central delights of my life, and that even I would start referring to my partner as TMK?

What the hell, let's throw in a little more confetti:

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Posted by Ryan at 09:42 AM | Comments (39)

April 18, 2005

Say "Cheese!"

We’re so disappointed in the results of the Brie vote, we’re not sure we can go on. We feel faint. We’re seeing spots before our eyes. The room is spinning...

The results of the vote as of sometime o’clock this morning:

Total number of votes: 171, which broke down as follows:


  • 88 (51.2 %) sorely gustatorily mistaken people voted for eating the rind of Brie.

  • 46 (27.1%) charming, bright and enlightened people with very good taste voted against.

  • 22 (12.9%) people—my favorite group of voters—eat Velveeta and think I’m a pretentious twit.

  • 15 (8.8%) know from marmot.

cheese.gifFor the Brie-rind-eaters, TMK and I are now planning a party where we serve nothing but endless bowls of mold Brie rind. No Brie, just rind. And fermented mare’s milk. For everyone else, we’re planning a party at which we will serve perfectly warmed, rindless Brie on fresh, light, crisp crackers; Velveeta on slightly stale crackers; marmot shish kebabs and, for no other reason than that we just saw “Sideways,” lots of pinot noir.

I was a leetle concerned, however, that there seemed to be a feeling that I, as some sort of sadistic jailhouse matron, was preventing TMK from eating Brie rind. To clarify, she hates it more than even I do. When I remove Brie rind, to bring the...er...“naked” Brie up to her standards, I have to dig into the microscopic folds in the Brie to remove even the faintest suggestion of rind. That, or watch her wrinkle her nose at it, pick petulantly at it with her index finger, pout, and frown accusingly at me up from under her eyebrows.


I take birthdays, and particularly birthday-gift-giving, very seriously but nothing I gave TMK this year—not the clothing, not the woodworking book, not the gardening-tool organizer, not the gift certificates—could begin to compare to this:

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If you read Robbyn’s blog, it may look familiar. Yep, it’s a light saber spoon from a box of cereal. In fact, it’s the light saber spoon, Robbyn’s light saber spoon dug out from the bottom of Robbyn's box of cereal by Robbyn.

When, via an email or a comment, I don't remember which, Robbyn learned that TMK coveted her spoon, she packed it up and mailed it to me in time for me to present it to TMK for her birthday. When TMK opened the box and discovered her Holy Grail nestled in the packing peanuts, she let out a hoop and holler, flung herself back on the couch with delight, and proceeded to laugh herself red in the face. This was immediately followed by her turning on the spoon, grasping the "hilt" in both hands and spending the next fifteen minutes swooping it through the air and making that humming/whooshing sound the light sabers make. (Did I tell you TMK is 42 going on, oh, 9? I didn't mind particularly, though, because this humming was a vast improvement over what happened when we went to the Alpacapalooza.) Later that night we took it outside when we accompanied Frankie out for her nightly constitutional and pretended it was lighting our way out to the far corners of the yard. Then came the inevitable photo session...

The spoon blazing in all of its laser-like glory:

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Making creative use of the hallway mirror to pretend we are dueling another spoon to the death:

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Thank you, Robbyn. Who knew that a plastic spoon could be this frickin' entertaining!


Speaking of photographs, such a strange occurrence.

We sent this camera to the shop to be fixed:

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And it came back looking like this!

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Wha’ happened? Actually, the truth is I was too impatient to wait for the old camera to get fixed so Mr. Credit Card and I paid a little visit to the camera store... Feralites, Guilders, knitting friends, e-friends, bosom buddies, acquaintances, beware; this little puppy is small enough to go anywhere and, at 7.1 megapixels, powerful enough to photograph even the smallest nostril hair. You have been warned.


You didn't really think I'd make it to the end of today's posting without mentioning Dulaan, did you? For the last few months I've beaten you over the head with this project until your ears bled, and then you think I would just stop?! Oh, how you underestimate my commitment to this project, ye doubters!

Here, courtesy of my spiffy new camera, a photo of the finished "All-Over Two-Colored Patterned Watch Cap."

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And here the neato-keeno top of the "All-Over Two-Colored Patterned Watch Cap."

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Due to...er..."user error," the hat came out big, definitely for a large adult, but I'm very happy with it.

Tune in on Wednesday, Dulaaners, when I will have a photo and story for you from Cuzzin Tom that will pierce you to the core and have you plying those needles doubly fast...

And, lastly, a big "hello" to new reader Joy from North Carolina, who spent two weeks going back and reading every Mossy Cottage entry. Joy, you certainly know the way to a blogmistress's heart! Welcome!

Posted by Ryan at 11:31 AM | Comments (20)

April 13, 2005

A Celebration!

Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Happy Birthday, dear TheM’steriousKaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu!

hedgehog.jpgAnd now, as per the tradition in my family, The Birthday Song sung in Portuguese:

Parabéns para você
Nesta data querida,
Muitas felicidades
Muitos anos de vida.

And the next version, sung to my sister in Thailand by exotic Thai ladies in sequined dresses and wearing long gold nails—only they left out the most important line, a fact which amused my family so much that it, too, became a birthday tradition.

Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu!
(Pause)
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu!

And the newest tradition, the Portuguese Birthday Song As Sung By TMK, who doesn’t speak a lick of Portuguese. The great thing about this version is you can sing any nonsense words you want, the more ridiculous the better, although as a rule the first two words are always “badda bing,” the closest TMK can get to "Parabens," and the song is liberally sprinkled with "bings" and "bangs" and "booms."

Badda bing bang blah blah
Blah blah bing bang la-la!
Badda blah blah bing bang boom!
La-di-dah bing bang blah!

Happy mumlebmumble-eth Birthday, Snookums!

And, now, proof that at Ferals we talk about much more important things than just knitting:

No posting on Friday, Dear Readers. Next rendezvous on Monday!

Posted by Ryan at 09:19 AM | Comments (25)

April 11, 2005

My Head is Spinning!

25 years ago when I attended Oberlin College, I met a woman named Meg.

Meg and I socialized on and off at college and in New York, where we lived after college, until about 22 years ago and then life interfered and we had little contact from then on.

Fast forward to April 2003. I start the blog.

Through the blog, I make various and sundry wonderful blog friends, including the infamous Norma.

I tell my sister about the blog.

My sister tells my Cuzzin Sarah (Cuzzin Tom's sister) about the blog.

Cuzzin Sarah tells Cuzzin Tom.

Cuzzin Tom tells his mother, my Aunt Jo, who lives in Vermont.

Aunt Jo tells Meg, who also lives in Vermont.

Meg emails me.

A month later, Meg and her partner Tish, both of whom are attorneys, fly out to Seattle for a conference.

The Mysterious K and I have dinner with Meg and Tish.

We pick their brains about Vermont because TMK and I are falling in love with that state long distance, we don’t know why.

We casually mention that we know a court reporter who lives in Vermont named Norma.

Tish says, "Norma Miller?"

We start back in surprise...but then ruefully admit we don't know Norma’s last name and didn't know if “Norma” and “Norma Miller” were one and the same.

TMK and I rush home all atwitter at the possible coincidence, and I grub around in my knitting bag where I keep an envelope in which Norma sent me a card and which has her name and address on it. (Don't ask me why I keep it in my knitting bag. Mostly because I know I won't lose it in there since the bag is a bottomless pit from which nothing ever resurfaces and I know I'll have Norma's address handy in case I ever need to mail her something. By the way, you should ask TMK about my knitting bag. Last night, as part of the Hunting for Norma project, I unpacked the entire thing to reorganize it, and she said, in utter astonishment, “All that came from in there?!!” Think Mary Poppins' carpet bag.)

But back to the story: Sher 'nuff, big as day, the envelope says "Norma Miller."

And today I confirmed that “Norma” is “Norma” and that she does indeed know Tish, who is partner to Meg, with whom I went to college 25 years ago.

Everybody keeps telling us that this is No Big Deal because Vermont is so small everyone knows everyone but we still think this is Just Too Cool and a Little Weird and it Made Our Day.


On the knitting front, the bad news is that my camera has died so there may not be any photos for a while which bums me out greatly (but My Knightess in Shining Armor is tracking down the good folks who can help with the camera as we speak). The good news is I was able to squeeze out a few photos before it took its last breath in a melodramatic display of flashing red and green lights and an obscenely protruding lens.

Here is my new stash o’ Peruvian Collection Highland Wool from Elann. Is it yummy, is it yummy, or is it yummy? This photo does not do justice to the blue in the top row of yarns. It’s a unique bright and rich electric blue that will be loads of fun to knit with. As for the other yarns, apparently I was in a "pink" frame of mind the day I placed the order since the packet also contains light pink, dark pink, medium pink, fuschia, coral and dusty rose yarns. And I'm not even a pink person much!

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And here, a couple of photos of my latest Dulaan project, the "All-Over Two-Colored Patterned Watch Cap" hat from “Hats On!” Cross my heart, in real life it looks more like a hat and less like a mutated, bloated mushroom. The colors are a dark purple and an orange-y saffron which are depicted better in the second photo and which are, unfortunately and strictly coincidentally, the colors of the University of Washington football team, as all my local knitting friends are all too happy to point out, but they still work well together. A gold star to anyone who can guess what yarn I'm using for this project, and, no, it's not the new Peruvian yarn.

This project did come to a screeching halt last night when I found something in the pattern I didn’t understand but the Wise Women at Ferals tonight will help me out, I’m sure.

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Posted by Ryan at 10:52 AM | Comments (22)

April 08, 2005

RAT-A-TAT-A-TAT-A-TAT-A-TAT-A-TAT-A-TAT-A-TAT!!

The worst way to wake up:

You’re finally asleep after an endless and torturously restless night.
The alarm goes off.
You whack the Snooze button.
You snuggle down for a few more minutes of shut-eye.
The local woodpecker discovers the metal flashing on your chimney.

Am I right, or am I right?


The Mysterious K will be the first to tell you that it is impossible for me to make a decision. About anything. While she would say that it’s because I’m an easily distracted ding-dong, I would say that it’s because my highly honed super-powers allow me to see the good and bad of all choices. Tomato, tom-ah-to. Either way, it is true I am decision-challenged, so you can imagine the mental and emotional turmoil when it came time to spend the $20 Elann gift certificate I received for my birthday.

The good news: Right now Elann doesn’t have a lot of yarn choices. (Is it me, or are they selling more and more books and patterns and less and less yarn?)

The even better news: The lack of yarns made it easy for me narrow my choices down to one selection, Peruvian Collection Highland Wool.

The bad news: I discovered they had 60...sixty...six-zero...color choices. I immediately started to feel woozy and had to call for some smelling salts.

The good news: I was able to narrow my color selection down to 8.

The bad news: When I reviewed my list of choices for the express purpose of whittling it down...I added two more colors. Sigh.

But the ultimate good news is I am now gleefully waiting for my box of Grand Canyon, Arizona Clay, Antique Rose, Rose Pink, Orchid Pink, Summer Fuchsia, Electric Blue, Celery, Peridot and Salmon to arrive. A veritable cornucopia of yarn!

Thank you, generous-friend-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, for the online SEX. (Er...I suppose I should explain to the non-knitters before they think this blog has gone totally porno. In knitter-speak, that acronym stands for a Stash Enhancing Expedition. It goes hand in hand with the SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy).)

And, now, for no other reason than that they amuse me, TMK, and Cuzzin Tom greatly, back to marmots.

Thank you to Cat and Anj for shedding light on Anne’s comment about the Valentine's Marmot. (Anne, does it say something about me that I laughed out loud at your comment even though I had no frickin' idea what you were talking about?) I’m considering making a Valentine Marmot Feast one of our annual rituals. What's that you say? Don't be ridiculous; no one really knows how to cook marmot? Oh, but how wrong you are, Dear Readers. Thanks to this link sent by Park Ranger Susie, TMK and I are now marmot-cooking pros. Here you go, straight from the site—Marmot Cuisine for Dummies and People with Strong Stomachs:

[Marmots] are killed and cooked whole, without puncturing their skin. Cooked from the inside out by stuffing with hot rocks, while fur is singed off with a blowtorch. The animal puffs up and the arms and legs extend as steam and the stones cook the marmot from the inside.

Makes me wonder what would happen if you filled them with helium. Remember the scene in “Shrek” where Shrek inflates a frog, ties a string to it, and gives it to Princess Fiona as a balloon? Substitute a singed marmot and you’ll have a good idea of the image in my head.

Exploring the site further we also found this description of, yes, how to hunt marmot (suffice it to say it involves a lot of patience and, curiously, a white rabbit suit) and, for a little variety, this description of how to cook guinea pig (complete with a picture of a guinea pig carcass attractively arranged on a plate with accoutrements).

I say, give this spoiled, fat American something processed into a shape never seen in nature, sold on a sterile, white styrofoam tray, wrapped hygienically and tightly in plastic wrap that you could bounce a coin on, and with a quasi-reliable “use by” date. (In my defense, as a child living overseas, I did my time in Highly Questionable Food World. As my mother used to say, “My children were five before they realized rice wasn’t supposed to have legs.”)

(Speaking of guinea pigs, I present, after a long hiatus, a Kooky Kraft.)

Posted by Ryan at 10:18 AM | Comments (19)

April 06, 2005

Happy Day!

To all the compassionate, generous, and committed Brigade members and all the knitters and blanketeers out there that I will never know about or meet and yet who have become the true heart and soul of the Dulaan Project, I dedicate this entry to you.

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500 ITEMS!!!

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Yes, we have solidly reached the 500 item goal, Dulaaners! But, wait, it gets so much better, you have no idea. Thanks to the efforts of charity knitting organizations such as Angel Covers, Charity Crafters, and GuidePosts who contributed bucket-loads of hand-knit items to the project, we zoomed right past 500 to:

967 ITEMS!!!

The 500th item was hand-delivered to F.I.R.E. by Joyce Christensen of Flagstaff, AZ, who brought in a box of 14 items, all knit by her generous self. I think I see a trip to my LYS to find a suitable prize for Ms. Christensen in my future...

So, now that we have left the "500 item" goal and Doubting Dave in the dust, let's look ahead to our next goal of 2,000 items, which is now only 1,033 items away. My onesy-twosy box, which I am very close to shipping, contains 45 items, so, see?, we're already seriously whittling away at this number.

From the bottom of my heart, and a million times over, thank you to everyone for making this such a successful project to this point. But we're not done! Only two months to go before you should seriously think about getting your items in the mail to meet the July 1 deadline. Imagine what you could knit in that time!

An extra big thank you goes to Meredith, the Executive Director of F.I.R.E. who has been keeping me posted as the items came in. Meredith, your efforts and your Magic Numbers are helping to keep me inspired and motivated as we close in on the deadline!

And lastly, a thank you to Cuzzin Tom who was the originator of the entire Dulaan idea and who single-handedly brought the knitters, the blanketeers, and F.I.R.E. together. I'm glad everything is going well for you in Mon-frickin'-golia, Cuzz. We're keeping the fire lit for you over here!

Posted by Ryan at 11:52 AM | Comments (26)

April 04, 2005

Marmot, Anyone?

(Why is it that when you carefully place two necklaces near each other, not even touching, that by the next morning their chains have tangled themselves into a Gordian knot? And why is this pretty much guaranteed to happen when you’re in a hurry, like I was this morning? And why are your glasses always in the other room when you discover the knot, only you can’t put the necklaces down to get your glasses because you know the knot will just get worse, but you can't carry the necklaces with you to the other room because, without your glasses on, you'll walk straight into a wall? Why? No, really, why? )

Busy weekend socially—unusual for us—so not much knitting got done. Saturday we invited some friends over for a chili and chocolate tofu pie fest and to watch “The Weeping Camel.” Let me short-hand it: If “Raging Bull,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Kill Bill” or “Die Hard” is your idea of the perfect movie, “The Weeping Camel” ain’t for you. Simple, quiet, sweet, sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching but, in the end, life-affirming and magical. Not a drop of sex, violence, drugs or rock 'n' roll, although, if this has got you thinking that this would be a perfect movie for the kiddies, there is quite a bit of footage of a messy camel birth. (It was particularly weird to read Cuzzin Tom’s entry the next day about his visit to a family of Mongolian nomads since it so closely paralleled the movie...)

I’m afraid that now, thanks to the Cuzz, the movie, Dulaan, and more-extensive-than-we’d-like-to-admit research on the Net, TMK and I know just enough about Mongolia to have turned into the cultural equivalent of reformed smokers. Even we’re astonished to hear ourselves saying things like, “It’s a ger, not a yurt,” and “It’s Chingis Han, not Gengis Khan.” And “That’s a marmot. We had some for dinner last night. With coleslaw.” Which is a lie, but whatever. We’re going to have to get a handle on this très annoying new side of ourselves or we will be facing a bleak and lonely future together.

Sunday found us at a fund raising auction for a pre-school. Let me repeat that: A fund raising auction for a pre-school. Us. Dressed to the nines, even. We did this to support our friends whose son attends the school but, trust me, we, and especially my feet, which were crammed mercilessly into high heels for the first time in eons, expect to receive major brownie points in Heaven for our efforts. At one point, one of the unknown-to-us women who was sitting across the table from us asked TMK and me, in a friendly and chirpy manner, “Is your child a Night Owl, an Explorer, or a Super Hero?” TMK and I just stared at each other in a panic, unsure how to answer her question. Our eyes telegraphed to each other, Do we go with, “We have no children and, in fact, most children make us break out in hives and, if you force us to admit it, we're happier than we should be that there are no children at this fund raiser?” Or with, “We have no frickin’ idea what a Night Owl, Explorer or Super Hero is, woman?” Or take the safe route, ignore the question, and ask, “Have you tried the chicken?” Or head right for our new standby, “Ever eaten marmot?” One thing’s for sure: We were gobsmacked to watch a small wooden planter, which you can buy anywhere for $50, but which, in this case, had been painted by, one would assume, a marauding gang of Night Owls, Explorers or Super Heros, sell for $900.

The lime and navy vest is almost done, but now begins the hunt for The Perfect Buttons. The vest looks kludgy, severely geometric and basic, thanks to the minimal shaping and the dratted garter stitch, but I enjoyed knitting it and I think the pattern has a lot of potential for creative “tweaking.” Photo soon!

How was everyone else's weekend?

Posted by Ryan at 10:54 AM | Comments (27)

April 01, 2005

Time to 86 Me From the Guild

Why my knitting license should be revoked:

I was humming along on one of the front pieces of the Dulaan vest when I glanced down and noticed it had a hole in it. Then I noticed more holes...and started to feel slightly nauseous. How could I have missed them?! How could I be making so many holes—four, at last count—without realizing it?! With a long, deep sigh of self-pity, I made a quick mental calculation of how long it would take me to frog and reknit the piece...reconciled myself to the answer...reached for the needle to pull it out...and then remembered I was knitting the buttonhole side of the vest.

Yep, complete and total revocation, starting immediately.

I am also astonished at how badly I suck at estimating how much yarn a project will take. My estimation for what I thought was a teeny-weeny vest: Less than one skein of Cascade 220. The actuality: One and a half skeins later (the "half" being of the stashbust ilk), I’m heading back to my LYS for more. (Update: Of course, Ye LYS was 100% out of the lime green, so now the back of the vest is being knit in navy. The lime/navy combo looks surprisingly nice which makes me think that this vest could be the ideal stashbuster if you use a different color for each part, say, a mix of bright, Crayola-like colors.)

In the meantime, while I struggle with whether being a knitter is my true calling, I am so pleased and thrilled to be able to point you toward this, the Dulaan Scarf designed by Dear Reader Robbyn. Doesn’t that scarf have style and presence? Thank you for designing something so fun and unique for the Project, Robbyn!

I have also discovered this rewrite of Stephanie's "Ken's Hat" pattern for a lighter weight yarn (for 48 stitches instead of the original 30).

And lastly, it is exciting to learn how, over time, word about the Dulaan project has been spreading literally all over the world. To date, I know of some women in the United Kingdom who are knitting for it, a woman from Germany, one woman in Tasmania (!) and today I stumbled across the blog of a woman from Croatia who is also participating!

I wish everyone a

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and a great weekend!

Posted by Ryan at 10:44 AM | Comments (17)