You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘cool stuff’ category.

Let’s wrap this up, nearly a month later, shall we?

On Friday morning, I joined the adorable Zach to make a buckskin pouch.  I’d about convinced myself that I should totally get a hide and make a buckskin hoodie.  I could dye it and then it would be more wearable in the not-Gathering world…But it turns out buckskin is a pain in the butt to sew and even more expensive than I’d thought.  Also, once you’re away from this setting for awhile, it seems less reasonable to walk around in smoky buckskin.  Like at the Renfest, where you’re sure you’d wear that pirate shirt all the time! it’s okay that it’s $150 ’cause you’ll wear it!  A lot!  And then, you get back to the 21st century and realize what a silly idea it was.  So I’m just going to go with the pouch.  It came out well and it smells like camp.

After lunch, I went on a plant walk.  Every other year, Emily and I had trailed along after Sam Thayer who write The Forager’s Harvest books.  Sam couldn’t make it this year, but Joe (of my beloved botany classes) was there for us.  It was such a funny contrast between the two.  Sam just walks along, shoving crap in his mouth as he goes.  Down on the beach, Joe showed us the beach peas and said not to eat them.  Sam was suggesting we could eat them fresh or grind the dried ones to flour or whatever.  I said something about Sam eating them and Joe replied something along the lines of “Sam eats a lot of weird stuff.” (not a quote.  He was far more diplomatic than that).  Joe’s walk was more science-oriented, because, you know, that’s his job.  I felt like I crammed a few more plant names into my head.  I learned that the trees I’d thought were birch were mostly aspen.  The fantastic rustling is Aspen.  I think I’d just decided those were all in Colorado.  I really appreciated his helping us see the little differences in closely similar plants and wished I could have spent more time learning that stuff.

I spent the late afternoon trying to read the Dungeon Master’s Guide on the beach, as making a pouch made me remember that I was supposed to lead a D&D group once I got home…It quickly became clear that my ability to learn by reading (never my strongest pathway anyway) is eroding.  I need to find a group to watch.

Michael convinced the kids they needed to go to a presentation about a proposed mine that will likely quite wreck the ecosystem there.  He thought it would be short and energizing, but it was an hour long and PowerPointy.  Even he fell asleep.  The kids were outraged that they’d left their Capture the Flag game for it.  And when it was over?  The cute boys had already gone home!

That night was the potluck.  Wonderful as usual.  It’s so nice to have a full spread of food cooked the way I’d cook it, with ingredients I’d use.  Sadly, corned venison was the weirdest thing I got to eat.  I thought I had stumbled upon a real mystery meat for a while, though.  I’d gotten some kind of ricey stew.  It was slightly sweet, spiced with desserty spices–cinnamon, cloves.  the meat was of an odd texture–dense but soft.  As I was trying to figure it out, Emily said something about a rice dish with bananas in it and it clicked: Ah, it’s dried, stewed, banana.  Not meat at all.  Hey, I’ve only been back on the meat wagon for a year.

The sunset behind the roundhouse was amazing.  I was only able to not feel despondent about leaving b/c I knew we’d be back next year.

The girls decided to sleep on the beach that night, which seemed cute.  Ben went to sleep with Steve, so the second tent was empty.  Until there were fireworks in Ashland, which the girls thought was lightning, and they came scurrying up.  And my other-side neighbors seemed to be pulling an all-nighter, too.  I got a little cranky.  I’m a stickler for quiet hours.  I’d managed to doze off, thinking the neighbors were asleep.  But no, they just weren’t home.  They rolled in and started with the ZIIIIP! and the farging air mattress pump and the talking.  I seriously would have punched them all.  Even the cute little girl.  And then the teen gals came up of the beach and chattered.  I started muttering audibly.  I heard Grace go “Hi, Deana…” but my sleep-rage was directed mostly at the adults.  I realized that the Gathering cannot be more than a week b/c you cannot sleep right next to non-relatives any longer than that and not need to strangle them. My goodwill towards my fellow man was running out.  And it was time to go home.

Saturday dawned bright and clear.  We mailed some boxes of stuff home to make room in the car for the tents.  Zach came by to say good bye and amazed us all by eating a hardboiled egg whole, shell and all.  On our trip back, we ate our eggs Zach-style.  It’s crunchy.  And no mess!

Once again, it was move-in weekend at local colleges, so we had trouble finding a place to stay, but we made it nearly out of Michigan on Day one.  We’ll not go through the UP again, though.  It’s pretty, but if you get behind a slow driver, you’re just stuck.  And we were.  So next year, we’ll just come and go through WI.  Sorry MI.

School started later this year, so the kids had a whole week between arriving back from camp and going to school.  The weather stayed dry so I could air out all our stuff before putting it away until next year.

Picture time!


For the past two years, an artist has made these amazing scultures on the beach

Pictures just can't capture it, sadly. It's all found objects, arranged and woven together

This year, he led a class in fairy house-making, helping others make smaller-scale sculptures

I find them enchanting

I would totally live here, if I were a fairy.

Emily and I at the potluck. Note my cool pouch.

Ben and his buddy Zack

Sunset behind the roundhouse. In person, it looked like the woods were on fire.

Lily gazing at the amazing Letty

My grass mat, my spoon, my earrings, my pouch, and my needlefelting

home base

Eli, Ben, and Ezra. This probably ended badly.

Michael, in the cowboy hat, helping Roach with the bent sapling structure, which was really lovely when finished

The hide tanners

Hex weave baskets that made grown women cryRoaming packs of semi-feral children

Julianna, Ezra, and Grace



I awoke Monday morning vowing to get the Nobel prize for the person who invents a silent tent zipper.  I got very little sleep, between the constant zipping up and down of my neighbors and Ben’s frequent shouting in his sleep.   Usually, it wasn’t any sort of agitation he shouted about, mostly he was just loud.  Loudly declaiming about marshmallows.  At 2 am.  ZIIIIIIIP!

My first class of the Gathering was a grass mat-making class.  Lily took it with me.  Our instructor, Dan, was a good teacher and very funny.  He’s a tobacco chewer, however, and made me grateful this is not a vice I encounter in my everyday life.  At the outset, he said “Sorry, this is the only time all year I get to do this,” and shoved some chaw into his mouth.  And then, at short intervals, spat into a juice bottle.  A juice bottle that, increasingly, appeared to contain diarrhea.   I’m all for freedom to do with your body as you please.  And hey, it’s once a year, enjoy!  But please, please, wait for the 2 hours the class takes.  I had to keep averting my eyes and a Hermione like myself is compelled to make eye contact with a teacher, so that he or she knows I get it and I’m engaged (it’s how I mask having not done the reading).  Anyway.  Lily and I made a mat each. And by “Lily and I” I mean “I made a mat for me and one for Lily.”

Dan had said that he knew people who’d made sleeping bags of grasses using the technique we learned.  These people apparently have an exoskeleton, b/c I was covered in an itchy rash by lunch time.  I didn’t have an afternoon class, so Emily and I got into the lake.  The sun was nice and warm, in the low 80s (and no humidity!  I love this place!) but the water is c o l d.  Probably around 60, Emily said.  Emily and I hung out and chatted for quite awhile.  I went to make a “chattering mouth” motion with my hand, to illustrate someone or other who was talking too much and noticed that my hand didn’t quite work the way I wanted it too.  Noticed that my arms were kind of noodly.  We remembered Joe, at the morning circle, telling us about “cold shock” and how your blood all goes to your torso to keep your organs warm, leaving you with “noodle arms.”  Turns out he wasn’t kidding.  We were never in any sort of danger, of course, since we were standing on the ground, not floating way out from shore, but it was still kind of freaky.  An enjoyable “hey check this out” kind of freaky.  As we warmed on the beach, I could feel the warmth returning to my extremities.  Lake Superior isn’t messin’ around.

Felt good, though.  I really do love that lake.  There’s an interesting lack of life (and death) that I associate with the beach.  I’d see a hole in the sand and think “crab,” but there are no crabs or critters of any kind.  No washed up bits of sea creatures or aquatic plants.  Pretty round river rocks, not shells.  The seagulls are quiet.  The water is so clear that you can see your feet in water to your neck.  And because it’s fresh water, rather than salt, when you get out you feel tingly and clean, not sticky.

Steve, you may recall, does not camp with us.  He stays here:

See the cutey little donkeys hanging around outside?  They watched him jump rope in the morning.  He camped as a kid and is done.  Also, he likes to breathe at night and needs a bi-pap to do that properly.  And that requires electricity.  So he rises to a fresh omelet made from eggs from the backyard and comes in to camp in time for any classes he wants or just to hang out on the beach or in the lake.

On Monday, he showed fairly late and we hung out on the beach, reading, until Ben showed up.  He and Ezra (Michael and Emily’s son) get on like two cats in a bag, so we had to do a fair bit of refereeing.  It really is the only tough note in our time at camp.  We’re all hoping they grow out of it…

After dinner, we went to the welcome circle.  Everyone introduces themselves and says a bit–how many years they’ve come, how glad they are to be back.  That’s always the point at which I dispel all thoughts of not coming back and vow to return until I can no longer make the drive.  It has the feeling of a family reunion of sorts, catching up,  or even just seeing the familiar faces.  Remember Roach and Amelia, who taught the raw venison jerky class last year (Roach says the maggots are okay, remember?)?  They got married and Amelia’s pregnant!  They met at the Gathering 4 years ago.  We all got a little misty when Roach told their story.  And then, after the circle, a guy came up and said “Hey, are you from Maryland?”  And I said yes.  “Where?”  Frederick.  “Me too, I live out near Detrick!”  Yes, another guy from Frederick was there.  We have no overlap that I can discern, and yet we both made the journey.  Wild.

We had to break up the games of Foot tag and Red Rover that the kids were playing on the beach so that we could trundle off to bed.  Sundown means bedtime ’round here.  They all cried “No Fair!” but by the time our lot had brushed their teeth and gone into the tents I could hear that the games were over and everyone else had gone “home” too.  I fell asleep listening to a fiddle playing down the beach, serenading the 20somethings as they danced under the full moon.  I wondered if I could have enjoyed this as much at that age.  I’m not sure I was that girl, but I sure wish I was.

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send...Zac. WHAT is on your head?"

Ben is airborn for a Red Rover breakthrough attempt

There was a light rain in the night, but Tuesday dawned bright and cloudless.  I’d planned to go into town with Steve, so I didn’t sign up for a morning class.  After Joe hauled our van out of the ditch on the side of the road (it claims many vehicles every year), Ben joined us and we headed off to Bayfield for some smoked fish.  SUCH a cute town.  I was totally ready to move there.  I didn’t take my camera and I can’t find a shot on the web that really captures it, but it was a perfect little sea (okay, lake)-side village.  It’s a fishing town, so it even smelled right and the gulls were noisy b/c there were people to give them french fries.  It’s built on hills, so it looked like Cornwall, England (my newest obsession after seeing it in the show Doc Martin) and I want to live there.  Now.  Forever.  Apparently, and of course, it is expensive.

We were on Knife Quest 2011, trying to find Ben a fixed blade knife.  He was at his usual level of obsession.  We searched everywhere and came up empty.  We soothed the pain by stopping at Tetzner’s Dairy and getting ice cream to bring back.  I can’t believe we never got a shot of the ice cream gorge, since we did it 3 times, but we were “The camp with ice cream.”  Good ice cream.  Like you’d expect to get from a Wisconsin dairy where you drive to the farm and put your money in the envelope and take the ice cream.  good.

We swam again when we got in and then made dinner.  The kids got up a rollicking game of Capture the Flag, cutting up a yellow and a red Tshirt to give everyone an arm band.  The teens, in particular, really enjoyed these games and they were playing as often as not.  I know my kids got more exercise in that week than the rest of the summer–counting swim team!  It was good to see, but it made me a little sad that there are no neighborhood pick-up games like this.  Capture the Flag was elaborate and wide ranging, with “guards” in the water and up in the camp as well as on the beach.  Kids from 6 or 7 up into the 20s were playing.

Julianna and others "in jail" waiting to be freed

The first night of the trading blanket didn’t go well for Ben.  Last year, he’d made a wooden knife and traded it for a real (if rather crappy) folding knife.  He made another one this year, even less well-crafted, and was disappointed to get no more than a cigar box and a couple of turkey feathers (“From the guy that gives you something if no one else will!!”)  It was hard to see him so sad, so often, but hopefully the good times won out.  He seemed to settle in and find a way to get along as the week went on.

After Capture the Flag, Michael and Skogin (one of the “freegans”) were grappling on the beach.  in their drawers.  We’ve teased them (and they play along) about their “bromance” and much hilarity surrounded their lake-side wrasslin’.  One kid, though, thought Skogin was a girl and was utterly scandalized that anyone would get that close to a girl.   Ew.  Like turning a hose on the dogs, though, it started to rain and we headed back to batten down the hatches, expecting a doozy.

Where are our pancakes?

Grandfather stones

Ezra crafting armpit hair for Grace

Okay, we didn’t really search for Spock.  But it isn’t really Hippie Camp.  The name really doesn’t fit, as “hippie” suggests a sort of dirty, free-loading, space cadet.  These folks may be dirty (certainly at the end of the week), but everyone I’ve met in the last three years (with a few exceptions, of course) is hard-working and sharp.  The “camp” part, though, really does fit.  After 3 years, it feels like going back to summer camp, seeing our old camp friends, playing games, doing crafts, learning new things.  I always wished I could be a kid that went to camp every summer and as an adult, I came to long for a vacation spot we returned to at the same time each year.  Once I dreamed that would be Nantucket, but life didn’t turn out that way.  It’s okay, though, because I’m quite fond of my Lake Superior family, free of Topsiders though they may be.

We rented a van again, to save the mileage on our 2001 van (and to avoid being stranded in the Upper Peninsula at midnight).  This time, we picked it up on a Thursday, to have it loaded and ready to go Friday morning.  We’re not out-at-the-crack-of-dawn sorts of folks, but we did make it off by 8:30 am.  I’d packed some mini-quiches and hard boiled eggs and seasoned nuts and such and we didn’t need to eat at restaurants.  Steve isn’t one of those push-through-and-hold-your-pee guys, so we stop a lot to stretch legs, grab a snack from the cooler, compare the rest areas of various states (Ohio wins, a far cry from the odd hole-in-the-ground stable-themed toilets from when I was a child traveling the state).  Ipods make good travelers.  My kids bicker as much as most, but they are well behaved in their own cones of solitude.  Or when they nap inside sweater hoods:

We stopped in Rockford, Illinois for the night and had breakfast the next morning at “the Machine Shed”–the restaurant Cracker Barrel is trying to be.  Yummy, hearty food.  Unfortunate overalls for the wait staff, however.  I’d have to be making BIG tips to be willing to wear overalls.

We made it to Ashland around 3:30, stopped at the co-op for some provisions, and got to camp around 4.  Our tents were set up, thanks to Michael and Emily, in our usual area.  This year, Michael rigged a great tarp for our kitchen space instead of the EZ up/EZ down. Lily was off with friends before I was even out of the van.  Michael and Emily got a new tent this year when the zipper on the old one broke (REI just gave them a new one.  REI rocks).  We got another REI tented neighbor and ended up looking like a planned camping community:


The weather for unpacking was lovely, sunny and breezy, but the skeeters were BAD.  Big and slow, which is nice, but numerous, which is not.  This was the only year we’d really used bug spray and we went through several cans.  But I don’t use it at all the rest of the year, so I’ll push those DEET worries aside. (natural repellents, you say?  the mosquitoes think you are adorable.  And delicious)  We had a group dinner (that was really meant for instructors, but hey, there was plenty!) and then sat with the kids on the beach beside the fires they’d made.  perfectly idyllic.  Too nice to even go get my camera.

Sunday morning, I made bacon and eggs from home and Emily made pancakes.  perfect camp breakfast.  It got warm pretty quickly, so we went into the lake.  It’s cooooold.  Maybe 60 degrees?  But it is refreshing for sure.  So clean that you can see your feet in water to your neck and because it’s fresh water, you don’t feel all sticky when you get out.  Tingly and alive!  There were some nice little waves to jump and then we sat out in the sun to dry.

After lunch, I went into town with Michael, Grace, and Julianna.  Grace had music to share and she had that young teen earnestness about music that I remember with a bit of a cringe.  “You have to listen to the words!”  Some horrid R&Bish rappish thing about a guy apologizing for how he treated the subject of the song and how he thought he’d seen said person but then knew it couldn’t be so…because he was DEAD.  And was his DAD, not a girl at all.  Just like an O’Henry story.  for realz.  She was disappointed in my lack of enthusiasm and punished me by making us listen to another of this dude’s songs, about his home state of Minnesota.  It contained the line “And the women are beautiful (at least I think they are).” which totally cracked me up and made her angry again.  I made some crack along the lines of “Well, it’s just nice to know that you have black folk in Minnesota.”  To which she said “Oh, he’s white!”  Which explained a lot.  It was my punishment, really, for forcing people to seriously! listen! to Beatles songs long past when they stopped caring.

I met Steve in town and we got some groceries and a knife for Ben.  He wanted a fixed blade knife, but all I could find were big ol’ Bowie knife type things, so we got the recommended folding knife.  Turned out it was NOT what he wanted, and was hard to close.  And he’s not good at faking enthusiasm.

But he will totally cut you.

Buying the wrong knife eventually led to Knife Quest ’11, but more on that later.

We went to the “Open House” for the classes being offered.  There were a lot fewer folks there this year–150, rather than 250–and that meant fewer instructors, too.  There wasn’t much that really grabbed me.  I opted to do some spoon carving and asked about making some hurache sandals, but the instructor was cagey and borderline panicked about having more people than materials.  I did not drive 22 hours to be stressed about “getting in, ” so I let it go.  Instead, I knitted on the beach, made some dinner, and chilled.  There was a Women’s Sharing Circle, and as you can imagine, I opted out.  I wish I hadn’t, though.  My fear of people oversharing kind of gets in the way of my feeling included.  Next year.

The moon rose a gorgeous deep orange, so lovely we went after cameras, for all it was worth.  Hard to take a pic at night with a point and shoot.

Julianna has a fancy-pants camera, but she hasn’t really learned to use it.  It’s like she uses a Porsche to drive from one hole to another on the golf course.  She used me as a tripod, though

Accept my butt! Before it destroys you!

Hers came out even blurrier than mine, though.

The night was still, which unfortunately brought home how hard it is to have other people about 3 feet from your head when you’re trying to sleep.  Our neighbors (in the REI Kingdome, far left, above) were NOT the early-to-bedders that we are.  I was murderous by the end of the week.

Sunday pics:

Lily, Christy, and Zora in the ever-present mud puddle

Standard scene: Emily and I cooking, cloud of children drifting around underfoot

Julianna takes a break from wave jumping

More to come…

…DOS, get it?  Day two!  It was much warmer.  Still a bit of a chill, but I switched back to my standard long hippie fairy skirt and shoes with soles that kept me out of the mud.  Saturday is always more crowded than Friday and the weather was pretty close to perfect so it was packed.  Still lovely, though.  Still peaceful.  The mid-day drum circle was too crowded to really be fun, but the last one of the day was fantastic.

We’d tried to get there at opening to get our pick of volunteer jobs.  Breakfast in our hotel, however, was a languorous affair.  Even so, we got to go back to the arts and crafts table.  this time, we got to make a LOT more wings.  Julianna and Blair made fairy monocles.  The too-young-to-volunteer folk went out to buy junk food and check back in now and again.  As usual, I left scheming how I could stay longer next time.

Opening Maypole dance.

Lily, Anika, and Brooke

Julianna and I watching a show

Cindy-lou Who eats the chocolate off a pretzel

The wonderful Sheherezade the Gypsy, who remembers us each year and greets us at the gate with warm smiles and hugs.

Oops, had the pics set small.  too lazy to go back…

Look! It's Stacey! She met us there the second day, with Anika

Me 'n' Bev. I'm a delight to have as a friend.

Annika and Lily watching the dancing

Moss Man and entourage

Lily, Ben and I spent quite a while racing leaves in the creek. Like Poohsticks, but with leaves. And cheating.

Ben up a tree

Julianna and I "dancing"--in my case, stomping rhythmically and swishing my skirt.

i much prefer drumming to dancing.

This was Day One, but I forgot it. Molly and Julianna

I loved the drum I could straddle. I missed my calling. Instead of dating drummers, I should have BEEN a drummer.

I don’t really have anything for that title.  I’ve just been cracking myself up with the notion of a Kubiandos and -don’ts list for the Fairie Festival.  This was our 7th year back to Spoutwood Farm for the May Day Fairie Festival.  We look forward to it all year.  Ben went for the first time last year and has joined us in our love of the event.  And that speaks a lot to its charm.  Ben could not care less about being sparkly or about fairies.  He really doesn’t care that much about costumes.  He likes fantasy, but that’s not the draw.  It’s just…nice.  Only at the Traditional Ways Gathering (Hippie Camp) do the kids have this atmosphere of total freedom to roam around and meet new people and see new things on their own.  No one is trying to get anything done, there’s no computer or TV, all you have to do is Be.  It’s an excellent break and recharge.  Also, I give them 10 bucks a day to blow however they’d like.

So this year, I decided I was going to change up my look.  I’ve been a Sea-themed Fairy for several years now and I like keeping the same look so that the regulars recognize me as I do them.  So I kept my rather awesome crown and came up with a new costume.  Fail.  Not only was it the first cold Fest day in anyone’s recollection (and I was in a shorter skirt and a tank top), but the look just did not work.  Which was okay, b/c I spent the whole day wrapped in Bev’s car blanket.  For day 2, I went back to my usual.  Much better.

Eh,  the particulars don’t matter.  New this year: we volunteered 2 hours each day to get our admission cost back.  Made fairy wings for wee folk, it was fun.  Even though it was hard to make my frozen fingers tie knots.  Day one, the music was kinda lame.  Every band seemed to be dulcimer-heavy with wailing lady singers.  Day two brought back some of the awesome Celtic rock sounds.  Thank heavens.  One can only take so much duclimer and mournful wailing.  Drum circle remains my favorite.  I really, really like drumming.  We stayed the night at the Yorktowne Hotel in downtown York, PA.  It was charming and historic.  My kids thought it was the height of fancy, which was kind of funny.  Who am I to disavow them of that notion?  Everything’s gravy if your standards are low.

Let’s get to the pictures, shall we?

There just are no good pics of the new costume b/c it was not a good costume. Making a pixie skirt does not make one a pixie, it turns out. Who knew?

But look how good Julianna looks! Of course, it was warm in Frederick. We were in tank tops. Not so much once we got there...

Lily and Brooke, now wearing sweatshirts, get their gift from a Pocket Fairy

the Calling of the Tribes. River, Meadow, Woodland, and Mountain. River's coolest, of course.

Lily and Emma. Lily decided she was warm enough. Let's face it, the sweatshirt didn't match the costume.

Bitty wee fairy!

Opening greeting from The Greenman and his wife, who own the farm

Twig the Fairy does not talk, which, to be honest, annoys the crap out of me. But she does look like a Real Fairy and kids respond well to her.

Ten bucks a day to blow on chow! Woo!

Droppin' trou' at the Utilikilt booth. This sight never stopped being funny to me.

All the fashionable ogresses are carrying pouches made from hollowed out cane toads. Imagine: that is someone's JOB--hollowing out toads and putting zippers in them. Stay in school, kids!

Lily dancing at the drum circle

Ben wanted to get warm in my blanket.

...and then Lily showed up to share the space...

Ben banging the lollipop drum

Julianna doing her stint as a "Yellow Pages" volunteer (she had to be roaming Information)

The swanky lobby of the Yorktowne

with its super-swanky letter box and mail chute system...

...and dead goat in a box. All the best hotels, you know.

Okay, Day Two in the next post…

I’m just going to jump in here with a post only 2 or 3 of you will care about b/c if I try to write the ones that are burbling in my head, I’ll give up and never write.  So maybe if I go with trivial, I’ll come back later and post pics of the kids and talk about winter and stuff like that.

So.  A good Goodwill day!  I went in to try to get a crockpot made by Hamilton Beach, since theirs might not leak as much lead as the Rivals apparently do.  Grr.   Also looked for curtains for my bedroom to stop the arctic winds that whistle through my windows.  The windows on the side of the house have shutters that I’ve closed, but the West-facing are still coooold.  No dice there, either.  BUT I was also looking for cheap leather or suede so that I can make some shoes.  Oh yes, you heard me.  And there, I scored!

and if I take it apart, no one can ever wear it!

I’m currently taking out the lacing and making big flat pieces of suede.  eight bucks!  And I can get at least two pairs out of this.  I’m going to make them out of wool first, then the leather… More as that develops.

But then!  On my way out, I spied a vintage Diane von Furstenberg clutch coat!  In my size!  Woo!  Ten dollars.  FAR more than I ever spend on anything at Goodwill, but c’mon.

Peggy shows it off:

It’s far cooler than I am, frankly.  If I knew how to find the Williamsburg hipster that would pay me $200 for it, it would be out of here in a hot minute.  But until then, I get to pretend I’m chic.

Also, cashmere sweater for 4 dollars.  I love you, Goodwill.

Julianna got her Martin Luther King, Jr award on Thursday night.  It is apparently part of the “Character Counts” program (in which, thankfully, our school does not participate), with the nominations coming from the teachers.  We showed up at the high school a little later than the requested 6:30 to find the lot nearly full, no seating for more than two people in a row, and slight sense of chaos.  Julianna got whisked to her seat and the rest of us split up to find chairs.  I did my usual grumbling that stems from not liking it when things do not go the way I expect them to.  But seriously folks, assigned seats.  Every group of two or three or four left at least one empty seat to keep the next icky group of two or three or four from being too close and giving cooties or assuming amorous intent.  So there were all these empty seats, but no where for four people to sit together.  grr.  Anyway.  Lily and I found a spot, Steve and Ben found a spot, Grandma and Grandpa found a spot.

It was probably for the best that I didn’t get to sit next to Steve b/c we tend to get a bit snarky in these settings and set a bad example for the children.  When the main speaker introduced himself as “the supervisor of Education That is Multicultural and Gifted & Talented” our eyeballs likely would have smashed into each other as we rolled them.  I mean, seriously, what the hell does that title mean?  Was there racial segregation in the G&T programs before?  Or did they only let the kids do advanced studies of The Wonders of White Culture?  Now when *I* was in the gifted program in high school, we primarily used the one period a week that each teacher was required to give us (so a total of 6 periods off each week) to take a whole day off and watch Monty Python.  Admittedly all white dudes, so point taken Mr. Supervisor.  Under this program, perhaps we’d have alternated Python with Eddie Murphy stand-up.  We did watch Star Trek though, which was famously multi-culti….

When the all-white African Drum and Dance club came out, I admit I did snort a bit derisively.  But, in the end, the drumming was really good and the dancers were clearly having SO much fun and the African Americans around me were really enjoying it and not nudging one another and threatening to start an all-black clogging club, so I let it go.  They were great.  Bless their hearts.

Of course the most important part of the night was Julianna.  Ask anyone there, they’ll back me up.

Only one kid from each school could get this award, so we’re pretty proud that it was OUR kid.

So how cool is she?  And we made her with stuff we had around the house!

The space between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is always kind of weird. Time feels suspended, somehow.  And because the kids have already had a full break’s worth of days off b/c of the snow, it feels…like too much.  They’re going to NJ tonight to see Oliver with the grandparents tomorrow, so at least that gives them something to do and gives me a break from the constant noise and interaction with People.

We went to Delaware for Christmas, as we do.  We arrived to great piles of snow on Thursday and drove out Saturday, heading for higher ground as the whole Delmarva peninsula began to sink like Atlantis.  The rain melted the snow very quickly and Delaware is mostly below sea level anyway.  The roads were like a path through a lake.  Good luck with those basements, folks!  We live on a mountain.  Suckers.

Anyway, it was a nice enough Christmas and I managed to take 3 whole photographs.  The digital screen on my camera is broken, so I’ll blame that.

Dean, Madison, Lily, Ben, Miranda. Or the other way for the twins. I don't know and neither do you.

Julianna and Steve

Ben and Dean in their matching jackets. Ben is, of course, holy and has a halo.

I also got the obligatory 20 seconds of video made while trying to take a still photo with the camera on the wrong setting.  As soon as I figure it out, I’ll post that.  Because what’s more engaging than accidental, poorly lit video?

We’d given the kids RockBand and Beatles RockBand for Hanukkah, so xmas was pretty low-key.  They got their gifts from family, about which they were happy, and from us they each got a stocking  and then the family gifts.  This year, those were the games “In a Pickle” and one of those “Find it!” tubes–looks like it’s full of sprinkles and industrial detritus?  Comes with a list of what to find?  Only THE LIST IS A LIE!  I have searched for the last 5 items until my eyeballs hang on my cheeks, dangling from their twitchy optic nerves.  It’s a cruel practical joke.  I respect the craft, but I will kill any of the designers that I encounter.  I will hit them over the head with the tube until it finally breaks open, showering down plastic sprinkles and random junk.  BUT NOT A WASHER, NAIL, WINGNUT, SCREW, AND PENNY.  Because they are not in there.  And that is what you get for lying–a book called “The Secret Files of Grown-ups,” and a set of Looney Tunes DVDs.   The children are delighted by the violence.  “He shot him in the FACE!”  I imagine Dick Cheney was reared on Looney Tunes.

In his stocking, I gave Ben some felt and a needle felting base.  He’s been learning how to needle felt at school, and they’d mostly been combining cut-outs from flat sheets.  He decided to make a bird out of wool roving (just loose wool) and I happened to still have my huge bag of naturally dyed wool from Hippie Camp in the trunk of the car.  So he set off to make a Baltimore Oriole and really kept at it.  Check it out, he did this all himself:

He still wants to add a bead eye.  Now he’s working on a female, but wants to make her much smaller. (and in case you’re wondering?  The orange is the alum mordanted wool that was briefly tossed into the cochineal dye bath, but then put into goldenrod.  The black is wool from a black sheep, mordanted with iron and dyed with black walnut. Now you know)

So the kids go to NJ tonight, I have a couple of meetings, and then fondue fest 2009-2010 on Thursday night.  No gluten in cheese.

We’re back.  It was a short trip, but fun.  We caught our plane at 7 am this morning, so nothing exciting happened today.  Yesterday, though, I went to the Mission area of SF to browse about.  It’s very funky and I wish I’d gone earlier so that I could have gone back again.  It started to rain while I was there and I didn’t stay as long as I might’ve.  My friend Karen told me about a discount fabric place and I spent a lot of time in there.  They had a HUGE selection of fun fur, but it was all $49 and $59 a yard.  That would make for a rather large price increase in the ol’ Nom Nom bags.  When I’m famous.  Then I’ll get all that fabulous fur.  They also had oil cloth for 2 bucks a yard cheaper than Britex.  Boo.  I did get some upholstery cloth samples that were only 99 cents each and are a bit bigger than fat quarter size, good for bags.

But I bore you.  I had pretty food at a Japanese restaurant.  I was about 3/4 through it when I thought “crap, that rice probably had some soy sauce on it.”  But it wasn’t much and it didn’t bring pain, so yay.  But look:

the carrots are flowers!  The gourd strips are tied into a knot!  Taro root loveliness!  Each veg was cooked perfectly, the rice was perfect and well seasoned.  AND they had the same rice cooker I do b/c I heard it singing in the kitchen.  So much good food to eat.  So few days.

Then I stumbled upon the coolest store.  It’s called Paxton Gate and it’s just…bonkers.  On one of their cards it has a quote from “Time Out London” that says “Martha Stewart meets David Lynch” and that is a perfect summation.   Apparently, it started as an eccentric gardening and landscape store and gradually branched into natural sciences and then home decor.  My first impression when I first went in was of an 16th Century artist’s cabinet of curiosities.  It was just little bits of lots of things, but arranged well so that they flowed from one thing to the next.  There was a table of things mushroom-related–a book about mushrooms, mushroom jewelry, dried decorative mushrooms, etc.  Then insects–mounted insects under glass, brass insects, books about insects, woodprints of insects.  It was all beautifully arranged and displayed.  There was also a lot of taxidermy, but it really fit.  Some were your standard mouted head, but also jackalope.  And mice wearing costumes.  There were signs everywhere that said “no photographs” and I tend to be a hopeless rule-follower in those situations, but luckily I found some rebels on Flickr and I’ve posted their photos.  most are from curiousexpeditions whom I wish I’d found earlier b/c there’s some other cool stuff in SF I’d like to see, now.

This is the counter in the front.  Each of those wee drawers has stuff in it–taxidermy eyes, cork bottle stoppers, dried insects–it was a delight for my nook and cubby-loving self.

This is just as you come in, on your left.  See how the first table there is mushroomy things and then flasks and bottles, then jewelry?

Flasks and bottles, looking cool.  I love these things. We use an ehrlenmeyer flask as a wine decanter.

I love how displaying things as art makes them beautiful.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Tell me, vat do you see?  Intriguing display or big pile of dead gophers?

To your left as you enter.  Taxidermied unicorn and antique wheelchair.

View of the store from the front.

Big piles of ephiphytes.  There were SUCH cool plants. I don’t usually go in for weird-ass plants, I’m not a fan of orchids, really.  I find them interesting, but I don’t want to be bothered with them.  But they had all sorts of bizarre succulents and things that I found super cool.  I wished I could have taken them home.

And then…my favorite thing.  Equally horrifying and utterly charming was a display case of taxidermied mice in costumes.

Seriously, who WOULDN’T want dead mice on their wedding cake?  Name one person.

Check out wee Hamlet, with his little skull.  so. cute.   And, equally, creepy.  I couldn’t find any photos of the little mouse angels with their feathery wings and outstretched legs, hovering over the rest of the scene.  Seriously, I just gaped at these.

They also had a kids’ store a few shops up that had fake taxidermy that was aMAZing.  Birds made of paper that look like real birds until you’re right on them.  Soooo cool.  If you’re ever in SF, go to the Mission, go to Valencia street, 824, and enjoy!

Yesterday involved meandering and hanging with the gays.  A perfect San Francisco day, it seems.  I spent the morning poking around the Union Square area (where the Rich Ladies shop).  It’s loaded with super chic Asian 25-35 year olds.  It’s very good at making you feel poor, tall, old, and schlubby.  I bought a 6 dollar umbrella at Ross b/c it is supposed to rain.  It was that or the $500 Prada raincoat.  I came back to the hotel to do some last minute work on my dress for the party–I had to make the ribbon belt, add a hook and eye at the top of the zipper, and make wee belt loops to hold up said ribbon belt.  Also, ironing.  Then I met Steve at the Power Source cafe again.  mm.

I set out on my quest to find some of the things I wanted to see.  First stop: Alessi flagship store.  Alessi is an Italian design firm that makes happy things.  I adore them.   They put the fun in functional.  We have this corkscrew:

and a smiling pasta fork named Lola.  Not everything has a face (although I always did want to live in Rolie Polie Olie’s house), some things are just really cool, like the Phillip Starck juicer:

and some are just lovely, like the stemware and coffee service–clean, modern lines.  Like Ikea with a better-paying job.   The store was a happy place, the employees seemed to really like being there and weren’t at all “I work in an Italian design boutique.”  More “I work in a place where the spoons have smiles.”

Continuing my art adventure, I went to the San Francisco Museum of Craft+Design.  I was disappointed that it was only one exhibit, but it was at least a nice one.  Michael Peterson was the artist.  Lovely pieces, and it was very, very hard to obey the “Do not touch” signs b/c the wood was so smooth and “please touch me” looking.  There was a write up about the artist near the entry which of course blathered about his vision yadda yadda and his evolution from the use of the lathe to the chainsaw (okay!), and then said that he works out of doors, never using a tarp even in sun and wind and rain so that he can be at one with the elements that shape his wood…That, paired with the fact that he makes driftwood art AND that he lives on the Washington coast, makes me suspect that ol’ Len Tukwilla was inspried by Mr. Peterson.  Because lord knows I thought “I find a piece of driftwood that looks like a squirrel, and then I polish it, and then I glue eyes on it”…

All full of culture, I girded my loins for a foray into Sephora.  I wanted red lipstick.  I have purchased many red lipsticks in my time, and almost all end up in the trash b/c they look okay in the store and then look coral or purple when I get them home.  So I meandered around in the store until I gave up and found a gay.  Michael looked to be about my age and had the cynical twinkle in his eye that draws me in.  He took on my challenge at once.  “You need to match the red to your dress or go with a nude.”  I told him that I’d read that if I matched my lips to my dress people would point at me and mock me and I’d show up on Go Fug Yourself.  “Not for a holiday party.  But it has to be exact.  Do you remember the dress well enough?”  I told thim that I’d made the dress so I was pretty familiar with the fabric.  He dropped his hands to his sides and walked away a few paces.  Um, come back?  He turned around and said “Stop.  You SEW?!”  And seriously, it was like I’d said I was an alchemist.  Apparently it was a good thing b/c he dove in with new vigor.  Dragged me all over the damned place smearing lipsticks on his arm.  He looked like a teenaged cutter.  He’d smear one on and say “Is that red rusty?  Does it have an orange cast?” in a way that suggested I was being quizzed.  I think I did okay.  I’m no good at makeup but I do know color.

He narrowed down our choices to two and plopped me on a stool.  We chatted while he worked and shared our love of Bravo programming.  Each time I said something that delighted him, he’d drop his arms and walk away.  It was totally cracking me up.  Also, he looked a lot like John Locke from Lost, but younger and gayer, and had the sort of face that hides not. one. thing. Every emotion he had went right to his eyebrows.   Once we’d settled on a lipstick (literally a stick, some kind of pencil that I then put a gloss over.  And apparently would never ever come off.  he emphasized how hard it was to get it off.) I asked him to tell me what to do with my eyes as well.  Off he went, back with two colors, a fleshy tone and a dark brown.  “You must never wear green, purple, or blue,” he told me.  So now I know.  He daubed away at my eyes and asked how I learned to sew, “My mom was a home ec teacher.” Drops the arms, but does not leave, just gives me eyebrows.  “And now you just sew and sew.  Do you pass it on to your kids?”  “I’m a 4-H instructor.”  He walks clear to the other side of the store and comes back.  “I grew up in San Francisco and all I wanted was to take 4-H.  But we didn’t have it!”  So I told him that Julianna was taking pack goat and I thought he was going to actually leave the store, but he recovered.  Clearly I come from a magical land far away.

He informed me that my eyes “love makeup.”  and I told him that they were lying to him b/c they wanted to look cool to the Big City Man.  He asked why I didn’t wear makeup normally and I told him that my life is not really very glam and that I’m very bad at applying it.  He insisted that I was just fine at it b/c I sew (yeah, I know).  Then I told him that I’m really only good with Fairy Festival makeup with swirls and flowers and glitter.  He was gone.  When he returned he clasped my hand and said “We’re kindred spirits.”  Which I totally knew and if I lived here we would be SUCH good friends and would watch Project Runway together.

I had about 90 min until my hair appt, so I went over to a little mall complex.  I caught sight of myself in a window–heavy evening makeup and an LLBean pullover fleece. Not a good look.  Like a hooker from Maine.  So I went into a bathroom and wiped most of it off.  The red came off with a bit of scrubbing, but first it smeared so I looked like Florence Henderson at the beginning of Shakes the Clown (go rent it, I’ll wait).  I went into the Sanrio store which was not as much fun as it used to be.  I think I’m close to Kitty-ed out.

I poked about Chinatown for a while.  I think maybe it needs to be renamed “the hideous light fixture district”  Mither-a-gad, that stuff is terrible.  I first saw this through a window:

(phone pics, sorry) and because of the angle, I saw that weird squiggly red and orange one first.  And I thought, “wow, that is an ugly light.”  And then I saw the giant blow-glass flowers and imagined that surely these were one-0f-a-kind.  Some artist friend of the shop’s owner, perhaps?   Then one shop over:

And a couple down from that:

But wait, that’s not all!  in addition to hideous glass you get questionable sculputure.  This guy is nearly my height:

It was truly a wonderland.  Like, “I wonder what sort of drugs you have to take to think this crap’s a good idea?”  they ship world wide, though, so that’s nice.

Then off to get a haircut.  While my stylist was washing my hair, he turned to the girl beside him and said, “I’m so glad you were honest with me.  it means so much to me that you trust me.  Still, I am sad.”  SEriously people, how do you–as a nasty East Coaster–not crack up?  he gave me a good cut though, and I went back to the room and suited up and off we went.

The party was at an apt in the Marina district, very pretty.  It was loud and too hot, but everyone seemed nice.  We were the chicest people there, of course.  And I certainly had the best bag.  Steve is too tall to be my official photographer, and I’m too light sensitive to be a Top Model, but here’s the look:

And now I’m off to explore some more.  We have a 7:30 am flight….


January 2019
« May