April 28, 2006

Ryan Does the Happy Dance, Uh-gain

Good morning, Brigadiers! Have you all had your coffee? Have you had your morning doughnut or, for you Seattleites, half of a low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, high-fiber, no-sugar bran muffin followed by an hour on the treadmill? Are you up for a (very) small challenge?

Last year, F.I.R.E. told me that they received contributions from 27 of the 50 states. This year I would like to see if I can get at least one item shipped from knitters in every state, including The Land of the Midnight Sun and The Aloha State. Whatcha’ think?

To start, let’s find out who has already shipped from where and I will start tracking the information and see where we are, how we’re doing. To that end, if you have shipped a box to F.I.R.E., please leave a quick comment saying the name of your state. Or, since ultimately only a small percentage of contributors actually know about this blog or read it, if you know of someone from a state other than yours who has shipped a box, please let me know.

So far on the list:

1. Washington.

49 to go. (On what planet was this a good idea?)

Still on the Dulaan front, I may literally have gotten myself in over my head recently, Dear Readers. This week I received an email from a representative of the rug and textile company Rosemary Hallgarten saying that they wanted to donate yarn to Dulaan. My first reaction, of course, was to be out-of-this-world touched and delighted…which quickly, oh, so quickly, metamorphosed into hair-chewing nervousness and frantic back-pedaling when it occurred to me that rug yarn, by its very nature, must be durable, long-wearing, scratchy and harsh. Not what I would want next to the delicate skin of our Mongolian youngsters. So I went to their site to see what was what…and discovered they specialize in alpaca rugs! Alpaca! The good stuff!! Again, doing the "only one dahlia tuber rotted" happy dance! Happy, happy, happy! Arabesque! Jeté! Pirouette! Plié!

Because we are so close to the end of the project, I recommended to the rep that she just send the yarn to me and I would distribute it locally. Problem is, I have no idea how much they are sending…and now I’m starting to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into, and the nervousness and the desire to backpedal are starting to creep back into my soul. I mean, it’s a rug company, people, the kind of place where huge spools of yarn and monstrous warehouses and machinery big enough to mass-produce 8’ x 10’ rugs are the norm, whereas in my house all the yarn I own fits under one bed. (And a trunk. And three small plastic bins. And one extra underbed bin that doesn’t fit under the bed because of the three that are already there. But you get the idea.)

I’ve reassured myself by reminding myself that if I run out of floor space in my (very small) house, I can stack yarn in a pyramid at least 25 feet high in the A-frame part of the living room. Then there’s the garage. And TMK’s house. And her garage. And her garden shed. And MaryB’s house. And LindaK’s. And Melinda’s condo. And surely my sister in San Diego will take some.

If all of a sudden you don’t hear from me anymore, call out the Mounties, Dearest Readers. I don't want to end up like the Collyer brothers. (By the way, a note to Lee Ann: This is the article in Vogue hard at work!)

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Wherein I do my part for social networking: Reader Elizabeth Kirchner, a Dulaan knitter from Virginia, is interested in meeting other knitters in Virginia. She didn’t say exactly where in Virginia she lives but if you live in the Old Dominion State and want me to pass your name and email on to her, please let me know.

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Lastly, I am happy to report that the "Staring Contest with Fate" Sweater is going well. I think Fate is starting to go a little cross-eyed. And again—Happy, happy, happy! Arabesque! Jeté! Pirouette! Plié!

(P.S. A note to Manise: This is the pattern I used to make the Wing and a Prayer Sweater but I tweaked it a lot to compensate for the fact that I was using bulky yarn instead of the worsted weight called for originally.)

Posted by Ryan at 11:02 AM | Comments (44)

April 26, 2006

Dallying with Dahlias

After the great display of womanly machismo on Saturday, TMK spent Sunday cavorting with The Other Woman so I spent the day focused on my other passion besides knitting—dahlias.

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Now, Dear Readers, think of the blackest black you can: ebony, ink, midnight, the black of black holes, the black that Rabbitch sees when she puts underpants on her head and turns out the light. That is the color of my thumb. Scrape and poke and peer as you might, scan it with an electron microscope, freeze it with liquid nitrogen and smash it to bits with a hammer (or, um, maybe not…), you won’t find a hint, a glimmer of green. And joyful events like planting one *&!@#$ tulip bulb and throwing my back out for the entire fall don’t help my gardening ‘tude any. Ultimately, I guess I’m. Just. Not. That. Interested. Until, that is, it comes to dahlias.

Just as I remember the exact moment when my obsession with knitting started (November 2001, about 2 seconds after I turned my first sock heel. Remember that feeling, Dear Knitters?), I remember the exact moment when my obsession with dahlias started.

Blissfully unaware that my life was about to change, one average Saturday I hied my average self to our average local mall to indulge in some average shopping. Unbeknownst to me, the Puget Sound Dahlia Association was holding its annual dahlia show there—which meant that the entire long and wide main drag of the mall plus all of the smaller side corridors were ablaze with amazing arrangements of amazing flowers in amazing sizes in amazing colors in amazing variations. I stopped dead, mouth agape, shopping forgotten.

Granted, in an ideal world, I would’ve been overcome with something a little more useful like the desire to become a neurosurgeon, or discover the cure for cancer, or invest heavily in real estate, or start my own software company, or join the Peace Corps and save the world, or become like The Cuzz and dedicate my life to discovering the true meaning of compassion. But, no. For me, it was the banality of brightly colored flowers. (And sticks and string, but that didn’t come until later.)

You may not realize that, under ideal growing conditions, certain varieties of dahlias can grow up to 12” in width or more. A flower one foot wide, people; in knit-speak, the super bulky of the flower world. Here, look at the picture at the top of this page. As I am the #1 Fan of Extremes (Biggest, Smallest, Fastest, Shortest, Deepest, Fattest, Oddest…), that fact alone made me fall madly in love with the dahlias. And then there are the colors, from the purest of whites, to sunshiny yellows, to intense and unique apricots, to giddy pinks, to blush lavendars, to rich plums, to deepest, darkest wine reds, to spots, to shaded colors, to stripes, to every variation and variegation in between (er, but no blue. Or black, for the more morbid-minded among you). I mean, look at this wacky l’il fella. I’ve grown some of these; they really look like that!

But what I like the most about dahlias is their simplicity. They consist of (1) stems; (2) leaves (3) flowers. No heady, fancy, bordello-reminiscent scents; no alienesque growth habits; no thorns; no winding, spreading, unmanageable tendrils; no berries; no overly large and faintly pornographic pistils and stamens. Just stems, leaves, flowers, beauty. Period.

That being said, despite what the dahlia farmers and vendors would like you to think, dahlias can be a real pain in the arse to grow. They require lots of watering; a Sir Galahad-like vigilance against snails* and slugs; hand-weeding; staking and tying up; and, in the fall, the tubers have to be dug up; washed; trimmed; divested of any rotten bits; cut apart into more manageable pieces; dried for a day; and then packed and stored in just the right way, in individual bags, in a storage medium that is not too wet and not too dry, and that will stay not too wet and not too dry, and in a place that is not too hot and not too cold. Which is why I’m doing the happy dance for having lost only one tuber this winter.

In return, however, dahlias are the gift that keeps on giving. While some tubers—especially new hybrids—can rip gaping, ragged holes in your gardening budget (yes, that’s the price for one), during the growth season, underground, that one tuber is busy doubling, tripling, quadrupling itself so that by the next year you will have more tubers of that type of dahlia than you know what to do with. And, if you’re like me, you won’t want to get rid of any of them. Again, in knit-speak, these other tubers are like your small balls of leftover stash: Don’t need ‘em; can’t use ‘em; can’t bring yourself to get rid of ‘em.

So Sunday I inspected my stored tubers…

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…hauled them out into the garden in the requisite overly precious basket, although we all know a ratty cardboard box or old paper bag would’ve done just as well…

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…had a moment of silence for the one tuber that had rotted completely away…

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…discovered happily that it was the exception as most of the tubers were showing perky little nubbins of growth…

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…while one had obviously been dipping into the Viagra.

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Grow well, my pretties, and make your momma proud.

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(Side note: While I was fussing with my dahlias, I was by no means alone since I was kept company by this fella...

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...a red-shafted flicker who has been excavating that hole, one peck at a time, for, oh, at least a month now. The result is this, a carpet of wood shavings that grows steadily larger every day (that dark brown stuff is just dried leaves although, granted, it does look suspiciously like poop):

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*TMK tells me that there are no snails here in Western Washington, which leaves me with a dilemma: Who’s going to break the news to the two I found in my garden on Sunday?

Posted by Ryan at 10:16 AM | Comments (24)

April 24, 2006

Sistahs Are Doin' It For Themselves!

Part of this weekend was spent working on a surprise I can’t talk about yet because it’s not mine to tell. Maybe Wednesday?

Oh, wait, the word is out! I can now safely report that we spent Saturday helping Elaine execute a “While You Were Out”-type commando remodel of a room while her partner was in Georgia.

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I have to say I was seriously in awe of Shirley, Trish, Angela, Elaine and TMK’s skills. I may be the child of a more-liberated generation, but I never get used to the sight of competent and confident women easily and calmly performing a plethora of “non-traditional” activities without batting an eye. Before our arrival, the other women had uninstalled the baseboard heater; torn down old drywall; removed old floor tiles; taken a large load to the dump; and bought all the supplies. After we arrived and TMK joined in, they cut, sized and installed the new wallboard; screwed it in; mudded; taped; fixed gaping holes in the wall; reinstalled the baseboard heater; and cut down an old futon frame and reassembled it to make two dog beds. Me, I didn’t do much except gripe at TMK for not having brought snacks to keep her blood sugar up; drive Elaine to the hardware store, partly so she could enjoy her first-ever ride in a convertible with its top down, complete with arms in the air and loud "Woo-hoo's!!!;" hold the bucket of drywall mud; and sweep. Oh, and say things like, “Ooooo, you look so strong!,” and “Ooooo, that looks so heavy!” and “Oooo, I could never do that!” in a breathless, Marilyn Monroe way which, I had been told, was my main job.

But the true capper was after Elaine declared the room Done For The Day, we all went to Trish and Angela’s house…and they whipped up dinner. I just love that about women. They fly to the moon, come home, whip up dinner. They perform a heart transplant, come home, whip up dinner. They rescue children from a burning building, come home, whip up dinner. They wrestle a would-be assailant to the ground, haul his sorry ass off to jail, come home, whip up dinner. They search for victims in earthquake-ravaged areas, come home, whip up dinner. In our case, true, the main entrée was a guilt-offering generously provided by another woman who had had to drop out of the project, but the rest—the salad, the green beans and ham, and the chocolate chip cookies—was supplied by a showered and freshly coiffed Trish and Angela, who one hour before had been covered in dust, dirt and wallboard mud and had been installing drywall and running electrical wires.

Women: The Swiss Army Knife of humankind.

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I dabbled in some yard work on Sunday—which I’ll write more about on Wednesday—and squeezed in some knitting, primarily finishing the Wing and a Prayer Sweater.

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Ever the conservative, I’d been planning on using small brass buttons, but the consensus at Ferals had been that I needed to use orange buttons, specifically, burnt-orange buttons that would match the burnt-orange color in the yarn. While I nodded, seemingly in assent, I was actually thinking, “Hah! I’m off the hook! There ain’t no such thing as a burnt orange button.” Wrong. I refer you to the picture.

I’m halfway through another version of the same sweater, using some aquamarine-to-navy variegated Schaefer merino...

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...and have started a third version which I call the “Staring Contest With Fate” Sweater since, once again, I’m not really sure I’m going to have enough yarn for the project. Here's hoping Fate blinks.

Oh, and before I forget, today’s entry is dedicated to Lisa who, like Kathy the Tax Accountant, is the latest person to read the entire blog. Welcome, Lisa!!!

Posted by Ryan at 01:51 PM | Comments (17)

April 21, 2006

The Flying Nun Monk*

And I quote:

"When I saw my first Internet weblog (“blog”)—essentially a public, online diary that people anywhere and everywhere are invited to read and comment upon—I was aghast, truly aghast. I believe my hand even flew up to my mouth in horror. I couldn’t fathom wanting to hang your personal laundry out to air on the web, much less inviting complete strangers to read it. Then and there, I made a solemn, eternal vow that I would never have a blog."

This opening paragraph from an article I wrote for our Guild newsletter and which I subsequently posted on the blog, makes it all the more remarkable—and, if I'm to be honest with myself, laughable—that today is my third-year blogiversary. Which makes me either a ginormous hypocrite or someone who realizes that she was flat-out wrong and that the blogging experience—and the relationships I've formed through it, and the adventures I have had as a direct result of it—has made it worth every minute spent staring dully at a blank screen, thinking, "What the &*%^$#!@#! am I going to write today?"

I dedicate today's entry to Kathy the Tax Accountant, the latest person to join the list of People Who Have Read [The] Whole Blog Regardless of the Infinite Number of Postings They Have to Slog Through. Thank you for your enthusiastic support of me, TMK, and all our silly adventures, and for your wonderfully long and chatty comment, Kathy! You rock!

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For those long-time-readers and Dulaaners who don’t read Cuzzin Tom’s blog, big news: Our monk is headed back to the land of camels, freezing nights, mutton, marmots and bad coffee, otherwise known as Mongolia. On May 31st, to be exact. He and the airplane pilot have promised me that the plane will let out a loud, jalopy-like “a-woooooooooooooo-gah” as it flies over Seattle so I can look up and wave. (Wouldn’t it be a hoot if that were the sound fighter jets made when they broke the sound barrier, instead of the sonic boom? Or what if they just squeaked, or mewed like a kitten, or made a sound like a fart? All of a sudden, being a “top gun” pilot wouldn’t be quite so glamorously macho anymore. In fact, the pilots would desperately stay 1 mph below the sound barrier just so they don’t make “that” sound and get teased in the mess hall.

Er, sorry. My brain gets away from me sometimes. Much like a helium balloon. Which makes a funny noise when you let it fly around the room, or goes “squeeeeeeeeeee!!! when you stretch the opening. Which would also be a funny noise for the jet to make.

See, no control over the brain. None.)

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On the Dulaan front, the latest count of items currently in F.I.R.E.’s possession is 1,456. “Only” 3,062 items to go, but if the Knitting Brigadiers are anything like me, they’re waiting to the last minute so they can cram as much into their boxes as possible before heaving them Arizona-ward. However, and not to nag, although I will if I have ta’, we do have only 72 days left before everything has to be in F.I.R.E.’s possession. 72. Days.

72.

Seventy-two.

Sixty-two with another ten added on for good measure.

(Update, 11:06am PDT: Just received another email from F.I.R.E. We broke the 2,000 barrier and have hit 2,097! 2,421 to go. We're almost halfway there, Brigadiers!!)

Also, a gentle reminder about the Café Press Dulaan shop. All profits made through the sale of Dulaan items will be sent directly to F.I.R.E. So far, we’ve made…er…$135.32. Our plan is to take down the Café Press site on July 2, so shop, shop, shop! (I’ve purchased some of the items myself—a t-shirt, a tote bag, and the teddy bear—and am really impressed with the quality.)

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As eagle-eyed Anne C. Miner noticed, yes, we did celebrate TMK’s mumblemumbleth birthday last week. Because she is a Gadget Gal, I gave her one of those new digital-readout indoor/outdoor thermometers. Big mistake. Big. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a day she calls me to tell me e-x-a-c-t-l-y what the temperature is. And, curse my bad luck, it’s springtime here in the Great Northwest when the temperature can range from 35 degrees in the morning to 68 degrees in the afternoon and, depending on the cloud cover, or lack thereof, fluctuate wildly between those two extremes. And any and all major upticks or downticks in temperature apparently need to be reported directly to me. And the different temperatures in the different rooms in the house need to be reported to me. And the difference between the temperature inside the house and the temperature outside the house needs to be reported to me. Heed my warning, girls; this is a bad, bad gift.

Speaking of dwelling on unimportant news, the gods smiled upon me. I squeeked out enough Wool Pak and Plymouth Encore to finish the Wing and a Prayer Sweater. Photos on Monday!

*I really hate to have to do this because it makes me squirm with the realization of how rapidly I'm aging, but for those of you who are too young to understand the reference to The Flying Nun, it was a sitcom in the late sixties, early seventies, about...well, I won't insult your intelligence by finishing this sentence.

Posted by Ryan at 09:51 AM | Comments (23)

April 19, 2006

Rachael and Lala Do Seattle!

(Very photo-heavy entry, Dear Readers!)

Thanks to the diva-esque nervous breakdown of my blogging software, I’m sorely behind in journaling about Rachael and Lala’s honeymoon in Seattle so please be patient as I catch up on all our adventures.

TMK, I, and our curiously distended bag of Cheetos flew home Monday, after saying a bittersweet farewell to Joaquín Miller the Rental Car, and after a Sunday spent having lunch (if you can call 4 hours of non-stop chatter a mere “lunch”) with TMK’s fourth-grade teacher, with whom she has kept very much in touch, and having a wonderful, relaxed dinner with The Bone-Crushing Italian Family, although it was a bit of a challenge explaining to them why we flew all the way down from Seattle for the wedding of some people we didn’t know.

If you’re reading this, Aunt Shirley, please thank everyone for such a wonderful evening!!!

We had a couple of days to reacquaint ourselves with Seattle life and for me to run the Herculean river through my house, and then Rachael and Lala arrived from Vancouver, B.C., fresh from their second wedding.

Here, a picture I never thought I’d see, Rachael, Lala and Frankie on my couch! Note that Frankie dressed in her best outfit for the occasion.

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Another very cute picture of the twosome. Again, on my couch! How did that happen?

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Soon after these pictures were taken, we whisked the newlyweds off to our favorite restaurant, Il Fornaio, for a honeymoon dinner and hours of Gettin’ To Know Ya’, which was an outrageously fun but surreal process because we knew everything about each other…and yet nothing.

Friday, the twosome spent the day visiting Lala’s old stomping grounds and, in my opinion, managed to cram more into one day than is humanly, or even superhumanly, possible...although it became much less of a mystery later when it was revealed that their jaunt was fueled by industrial-strength caffeine, the best, in the opinion of those who drink the stuff, in Seattle.

Saturday we rendezvoused on the Seattle-to-Bainbridge Island ferry with Rebecca and Anne—who, for some reason, everyone, even I, insisted on calling by her full name, “Anne C. Miner,” for the entire day—and headed off to Churchmouse Yarns & Teas.

Rebecca, sporting her Clapotis, and Lala on the ferry:

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Rachael and Lala up at the bow of the ferry. Needless to say, they hustled themselves back inside the warm cabin seconds after this photo was taken.

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The group, minus TMK who was, of course, taking der photo:

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More of the same. (Rebecca loves teasing me about the admittedly true fact that I knit nary a stitch when I’m caught up in socializing, so I’m as happy as a clam to point out the distinct lack of needles, yarn or knitting of any kind in Rebecca's hands. Neener-neener, Rebecca, neener-neener.)

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Lala knitting at Churchmouse. I love this picture!

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Me, losing all control of myself around the rack of Koigu. And Rachael losing even more control of herself. What’s scary is I didn’t even know she had done the “devil’s horn” thing until we downloaded the photos. She’s a sneaky one, and TMK, who took the photo, didn’t let on. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you, a conspiracy!

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The newlyweds:

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A wonderful photo of Rachael and Anne C. Miner:

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A thoroughly posed photo of Rebecca, me and Rachael pretending we know how to read:

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After plundering the store, we display all of our booty (no, not “bootay,” “booty”). And, no, Rachael, we won’t use the power of Photoshop to make your bag look the same size as everyone else’s.

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After shopping we squeezed ourselves into a booth at the next-door bakery/deli store, talked some more, knit some more, had hot drinks, and mulled over our schlep back across the water to Seattle.

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Since we were loathe to let the day end, and since some of the original invitees to the Churchmouse get-together hadn’t been able to make it, we immediately segued into a knittin’-and-barbeque partay at TMK’s.

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From the middle back, going clockwise: Janine; Rachael; Lala; Elaine; Elaine’s wife Leslie (Elaine and Leslie were wed in Vancouver by the same commissioner as Rachael and Lala and were, in fact, instrumental in getting R & L in touch with the commissioner); me (in the gloomy gray sweatshirt; again, what was I thinking? Tennis coach in California; gloomy, gray-clad schlump in Seattle.); Rebecca; Janine’s daughter, Gingko; Janine’s sister, Tori; and Anne C. Miner. And squeezed somewhere in there, as always, is The Dawg.

After all of this, you can imagine what a shock it was last Sunday when TMK and I discovered we had Nothing. To. Do. In the previous two weeks, we had gone to California, toured the Winchester Mystery House, attended a wedding, partied with extended family, flown home, hosted Rachael and Lala here, taken a trek to Churchmouse, had a large party and barbeque, seen Rachael and Lala off, oh, and, by the by, celebrated TMK’s birthday. Then, justlikethat, we found ourselves alone in the living room, with dust whirling around in little eddies, tumbleweeds meandering through the hallways, vultures wheeling overhead, and the lonely sound of shutters banging in the wind. Oh, and that strident “crickets chirping” sound used in sitcoms to indicate an unexpected, prolonged and uncomfortable silence. Lots of that.

But, never mind. We were glad of the opportunity to schlep around in our sweats, to garden if and when the mood took us, play video games, knit, and eat fresh sesame bagels.

Next?!!

Posted by Ryan at 10:59 AM | Comments (19)

April 12, 2006

The Wedding of the Year!

(Oh, Dear Readers, how happy I am to be back! Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, my blogging system committed suicide. Completely, spectacularly, and in the kind of way that would've required a haz-mat team to clean up. I couldn't blog; I couldn't update existing entries to tell you what was going on; you couldn't comment; I couldn't comment; I couldn't even rebuild the blog to see if that would help. How bloo this made me and TMK! However, my blog hostess, Sheila, was able to solve the problem so now I am off to send her a treacly and unashamed love letter. In the meantime, the story about the Wedding of the Year awaits you below!)

The tour of the Winchester Mystery House was, of course, just a preamble to The Main Event, Rachael and Lala’s wedding. We had a longish drive to get to the venue and hadn’t a clue where we were going so we left at what we thought was a reasonably early time, pointed the car northward—and arrived with 1.5 hours to spare. No matter. For spur-of-the-moment entertainment, we noodled around the immediate neighborhood and soon found ourselves climbing up, up, up, up some slightly nausea-inducing steep and winding roads into a neighborhood where everything was named after a mysterious "Joaquín Miller:" Joaquín Miller Road, Joaquín Miller School, Joaquín Miller Community Center, Joaquín Miller Park. When we arrived at the top of Wherever The Hell We Were, we were astonished to find ourselves looking out at this, especially since, five minutes before, we had been in a dark-ish, gloomy valley:

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Although you can’t see it in the picture, from this vantage point we could see San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Bay, anything that any self-respecting, camera-toting tourist would pay good money to see. What we wouldn’t have given for some sunshine and clear skies, but the view was still worth the trek to the top of the hill and, um, well, yes, the burning smell coming from the car's engine.

At the end of our bonus 1.5 hours of adventuring, we wended our way back down the hill—having officially baptized our car "Joaquín Miller"—found the Sequoia Lodge, girded our loins for the weirdness of Attending An Event Where We Knew Almost Nobody, Not Even The People Who Were Getting Married, walked in, and walked right into Lala, who, yet again, looked just like her photos. By that time, I was starting to catch on to how this new-fangled photography business works…

I could wear away my fingertips describing what a magical time we had but suffice it to say the only reason we left was because we had a long drive home, else we would have stayed until the very last second of the very last minute of the very last hour of The Very Best Wedding Ever. The lovebirds looked very romantic in an embroidered cream-satin suit (Lala) and embroidered cream-satin wedding dress (Rachael). The service itself was short but sweet and moving and heartfelt and teary—and then, as if by magic, the rows of just chairs became chairs-arranged-around-tables and the whole thing spontaneously evolved into a raucous, fun fête with live music, dancing, singing, food, beverages, chocolate, liberal hugs from friends and strangers alike, and endless posing for photographs. I even found myself sucked into my first conga line. Chacha-chacha-cha-CHA!

Here, Rachael and Lala pose with in-laws and kin after the ceremony. (Question to knitters: Do you see Rachael’s hand-knit wedding shawl? Me neither. A case of emperor's clothes, perhaps? She assures us that the shawl did exist and that she remembered to put it on later but we were long gone by then. Actually the story in its entirety is that at the wedding in California she remembered her veil and forgot her shawl; in Vancouver, she remembered her shawl and forgot her veil.)

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The cakes:

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The required interlaced-arm, you-feed-me-I’ll-feed-you moment minus, thank goodness, the squashing of the cake in each other’s faces:

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The biggest surprise was how many other bloggers or online fiberists were there besides Nathania and Janine: Nancy, Joanna, Christine, Silvia, Becca, Anne, and
Celia.

How remarkable to walk into a room hundreds of miles away from home full of what you think are going to be complete strangers, only to find out, thanks to the Internet and the online community, that that’s not the case. At no point did we find ourselves, as we had envisioned, feeling spurned and alone, and sulking in the corner like a coupla sullen wallflowers. What a wonderfully energetic and eclectic mix of people, all putting their social, political, and sartorial differences aside to support Rachael and Lala on their very important day.

So we laughed, we drank, we talked, we danced, we ate, we spectated, we toasted, we made goo-goo eyes at each other, TMK tried an Idaho Spud for the first time and pronounced it ghastly, but mostly we marveled at how one pair of mistake-riddled socks that I knit five years ago led us to be in Oakland, California, watching two people we had never met make a loving, lifelong commitment to one another.

Nathania, Janine and Yours Truly, dressed like, of all things, a tennis coach (what was I thinking?)

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An unfortunately dark photo of TMK and Janine’s husband, John, who collectively referred to themselves as “blog fodder,” posing for the camera. The turning of the backs to the camera? John’s idea! In fact, it was amazing how much blogging people “in the know” went out of their way to keep TMK’s face hidden.

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Congratulations, Rachael and Lala, and thank you so much for inviting us to the wedding!

Friday: Rachael and Lala do Seattle!

(For the curious among you, here is information about the mysterious Joaquín.)

Posted by Ryan at 10:52 AM | Comments (12)

April 07, 2006

California or Bust: Day .5 and Day 1

(Monday, 4/10/06: Work exploded when I arrived in the office today, Dear Readers, so, really, as it says at the bottom of this post from last week, I won't be posting again until Wednesday, no matter how many bribes of chocolate come my way and no matter how much I would prefer to be writing about The Wedding of the Year than to be wrestling with new Web development software that inexplicably forces you to save a file that you're not ready to save yet, and is using fonts in a way heretofore unknown to humankind.)

(Picture-heavy post, Dear Readers!)

Who knew that when you take a vacuum-packed bag of Fritos 36,000 feet into the air, the bag will become distended like a balloon and, despite how tentatively and hesitantly you pick at the heat-sealed edges, threaten to shower all the passengers in a 360-degree circle around you with corn chips? The young man sitting next to us, who, when he is not flying from Point A to Point B on Alaska Air, works for Horizon Air in some capacity, assured us that that was normal in-air Frito behavior. We were not convinced.

That was the best and the worst of the flight home, if you don’t count some stomach-turning turbulence. The flight down, on the other hand, was “eh.” We’re still trying to figure out how it was that the pilot announced, “Flight attendants prepare for departure,” and then the back end of the plane opened up and the caterers started loading in the food. What the…?! That, and after we had circled endlessly over San Jose Airport, the pilot played an unnerving game of eenie-meenie-miney-mo with the runways, finally picking one by, we think, playing “rock, paper, scissors” with the co-pilot. Silly me; I thought there was more of a system to it than that.

Our car-rental company tried to play footloose and fancy free with us uh-gain (remember how, when we went to Arizona, we reserved a Mustang but ended up with a dorkmobile?) but we prevailed and were upgraded to a zippy, copper-colored mini-SUV—well, maybe more a glorified station wagon—that we grew so attached to that, by the end of the trip, we had named it "Joaquín Miller" and were loathe to say good-bye. (The “Joaquín Miller” will be explained in due time.)

communknity.jpgThe day improved vastly when we went to CommuKnity that afternoon for the first of many Surreal Meet-Ups with Complete Strangers Who Share My Love of Knitting—a get-together with Nathania! I don’t know why I’m surprised when people look exactly like the photographs on their blogs—what do I think cameras do, exactly?—but Nathania looked just the way I expected her to, beautiful, beautifully coiffed, feminine, and sophisticated, and was warm and hospitable and gave us heartfelt, enveloping hugs and made us feel right at home. Plus—bonus!—we got to meet her two beautiful daughters; the owner of the shop; and a customer—apparently a regular at the store—who does canine search and rescue, including the sites of the Oklahoma bombing and 9/11. I was completely overawed to be in the presence of her and her newest doggie-hero-in-training. I would have spent hours standing worshipfully in her shadow, mooning at her, if I hadn't been lured away by the yarn.

(Let the record show that I left the store with four skeins of Kureyon because TMK insisted that I buy more yarn. Insisted. I tried not to go overboard on my travel-knitting and packed one ball of yarn and one pattern for one project. I was comfortable with this arrangement but TMK worked herself up into quite the lather and said I didn't have enough yarn and I had to buy more. All of this is true, Scout's honor.)

Poor Nathania was involved in a fight to the death with a cash register possessed by debit-system poltergeists, so we didn’t get to spend much time chatting—although she and I did get in a few minutes of very girly "what are you going to wear to the wedding?" nitter-natter—but finally being in the same state, in the same room, at the same time was enough for the nonce. Besides, we knew our paths would cross again at the wedding.

The first full day in San Jose we went to the Winchester Mystery House. Initially I was underwhelmed by the idea…but I should have learned my lesson when I was underwhelmed by the idea of seeing the Grand Canyon—and finished the day foaming at the mouth and declaring fervently that I had seen the face of God. By the end of the tour of the house, while I had not exactly seen the face of God, I had been consumed by the ghostly presence of a woman who was rich, brilliant, ahead of her time, and completely, utterly and inarguably wacko. And I found myself completely spooked by and yet in love with the house. I mean, fer Cripes' sake, one of the rooms had a full-sized window in the floor! It didn’t help that I am a huge, slavering fan of anything Tiffany, and the house is littered, littered with Tiffany windows and doors—including, be still my heart, a higgledy-piggledy pile of unused, surplus Tiffany original windows and doors that have been sitting in a storage room since the moment construction on the house stopped. Oh, to have a surplus pile of Tiffany windows and doors.

(A side note to you techies out there who might care about this sort of thing: The Winchester Mystery House is monstrously huge, obviously, and has 160 rooms totaling 22,000 square feet. Bill Gates’s house, which is but a few miles from where I sit, is more than twice that in size, 55,000 square feet. Oof. Or, as Frankie would say, "Mrrf.")

Some pictures of the house:

The outside (this picture shows maybe a fifth of the house):

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The surplus Tiffany windows and doors. Be still my heart.

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A Tiffany window which cost only $1,500 to purchase and install when the house was built:

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Some of the many "daisy" windows:

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Spiderweb windows:

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Some of the damage inflicted by the 1906 earthquake. Mrs. Winchester interpreted this event as a message from spirits that she was spending too much money on the front of the house and immediately boarded up the front 30 rooms, never to open them again in her lifetime. See? Wacko.

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The only damage inflicted by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the dislodging of a few bricks at the base of a chimney:

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A view from one of the windows:

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A half-horse, half-dragon fountain:

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The conservatory roofs:

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The famous "door to nowhere" (look in the middle of the picture):

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A beautiful double pink camellia in the garden:

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Wednesday's posting: The Wedding of the Year!

Posted by Ryan at 02:50 PM | Comments (21)