Pro tip: count noses.

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Smokey’s parents moved from Chicago to Palm Harbor FL after my FIL retired. We visited them for two weeks every Christmas; our boys never saw an actual white Christmas (Day) until they were 11 and 6. Generally, we drove the 1,600 miles from Minnesota to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. although we did fly a few times*.

On the trip when ES was 2 or so, we took my Subaru station wagon for the trip. As always, we drove straight through, with stops only for gas and food. On the return trip, Smoke drove through the first night, while ES and I slept in the back. (The back seat folded flat, so we were able to stretch out in our sleeping bags. It was fairly comfortable. (And cheap.)) In the morning he stopped at a Tennesee McDonald’s so ES and I could have breakfast before I took the wheel for the next few hours; he wasn’t hungry himself and would rather dive into his own sleeping bag than eat.

ES and I had our pancakes and sausage and a bathroom break, then got back into the car and headed north again, with Smokey buried in the pile of pillows and blankets in the back of the wagon. We played music and story tapes on the car stereo to keep ES amused, but I made him keep the volume low so as not to disturb the sleeping Daddy.

Ninety miles later, slightly befuddled, I was pulled over by a Kentucky state patrolman. I was driving the speed limit, Smoke had checked all the lights on the car before we left home to be sure all were functioning — why was I being pulled over?

When I rolled down my window, the patrolman looked pointedly at the back of the car, smirked at me, and said, “Missing anybody?”

When I turned fully around and looked in the back of the station wagon, it was clear that no one was buried in that pile of sleeping bags. I had only glanced back when I had gotten in the car and driven off… leaving poor Smoke back in that McDonald’s. It turned out that while ES and I were in the bathroom, he had come in to use the men’s room. Like ships passing the night, we never saw each other.

An hour and a half later we were all reunited, no one was mad, and we added another to our collection of stories.

Apparently we are not the only ones to do something like this. Thanks for the link, Chris!

* Coupla other FL stories:

  • Elder Son, about 3 at the time, had a window seat on the plane with Smokey next to him. Smoke was explaining to him that the lights he could see were actually on the ground far below us and that we were very, very high in the sky. His explanation went on for awhile, with lots of detail. When he finished, ES pointed out the window and exclaimed, “Dark outside!” That phrase has become our oblique reference to overthinking and/or over-explaining anything.
  • I was not working outside the home for the four years after Younger Son’s birth. Every winter Smoke would watch the newspaper ads (remember newspapers?) for cheap flights to Florida, and whenever there was a particularly good one, the boys and I would fly down to visit Grandpa and Grandma for a week. One year when we all flew down for our annual holiday visit, Smokey volunteered to wrangle the boys during the flight “…so [you] could read in peace on the other side of the aisle. And give us dirty looks if they are noisy.” What a guy!
  • The year that we had a Japanese foreign exchange student living with us, we took our camper for the annual FL trip, and after Christmas we continued on to the Florida Keys to show Miwa another bit of America. Since the camper had a good-sized icebox, we filled a dishpan with snow before we left and shared it with G&G’s neighborhood kids, who had never seen snow. They had what was probably the only snowball fight in the history of Palm Harbor.
Posted in Andrew, Smokey, Stories | 6 Comments

It’s Black Cat Appreciation Day! (and kitten update)

The kittens have been with us seven days. So far, they have:

  • Been confined to the bathroom for two days, then…
  • Been released into the wide world of our bedroom.
  • Almost immediately discovered the joy of Sticking One’s Paw Under The Door and finding… another paw to play with!
  • Decided that, although they were not litter mates, they can act like it.
  • Employed  the time-honored hissing response when faced with a dog.
  • Had one paw-swiping-across-the-nose-with-claws-extended encounter with one of the dogs.
  • Been largely ignored by Milady ever since.
  • Continued to hiss at inquisitive Misha.
  • Endeared themselves to us by purring loudly whenever they are touched.
  • Awakened Smokey one morning by chewing on his thumb.
  • Confused us by being so very, very similar in appearance. (We solved this by getting a red collar for China and a blue one for Marge.)
  • Decided that the only way from point A to point B in the bedroom is to run across my chest while I am reading in bed, perhaps with a brief stop to purr and rub my chin.
  • Been fascinated by the moving cards when I play Solitaire on my iPad.

I know you are all breathlessly waiting to find out their new names. There were many excellent contributions, a couple of them clear audience favorites:

  1. Thelma & Louise (nancy davis, Chris, nothingbutknit2, Diane, Pat M)
  2. Lucy & Ethel (Mary Jo, nancy davis)
  3. Ella [Fitzgerald] & Billie [Holiday]
  4. Ebony & Ivory
  5. Salt & Pepper
  6. Cagney & Lacey
  7. Penny & Amy
  8. Scarlett & Melanie
  9. Katniss & Everdeen
  10. Katniss & Peeta
  11. Black & White
  12. Ozzy [Osborne] & Elvira [Mistress of the Night]
  13. Blot & Spot
  14. My Cat & My Other Cat
  15. Bonnie & Clyde
  16. Yoko & John
  17. Blackie & Blacker
  18. Sonny & Cher
  19. Simone & Garfunkel
  20. Sly & Stone
  21. Spot & Puff
  22. Ottilia & Lavinia
  23. Jolene & Dolly
  24. Jing & Ping
  25. Inky & Blinky
  26. Itsy & Bitsy
  27. Char & Coal
  28. Mickey & Oswald
  29. Tacy & Stacey
  30. Lottie & Lisa
  31. Sun & Moon
  32. Diana & Artemis
  33. Frick & Frack
  34. Mr & Mrs
  35. Stitch & Angel

And the winner is…

Thelma & Louise!

Seriously,  how could I not choose  the names suggested by so many different people? My other personal favorites were Scarlett & Melanie, Ozzy & Elvira, and Simone & Garfunkel. But we had already decided that, 1, the names should be two syllables each, and B, they had to not sound too much alike because kitties are not the brightest critters on the planet. China, the more active, inquisitive, and assertive one, will be Louise; Marge, the shyer, more reticent one, will be Thelma.

Since there were multiple suggesters of the winning names, I did a random drawing:


and the winner is nancy davis. Nancy, I have emailed you to send me your snail mail address,

Thanks to everyone for playing along with me!

Posted in Animals, Louise, Thelma, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Unraveled #10.

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Actual unraveling has happened. This pattern, as intriguing and attractive as it is, wasn’t turning out as well as I had hoped. Like any number of others, if it had been for me I might have kept muddling on going. But it was to be a gift, so it had to be perfect. It was the increases that create the hidden gusset — specifically, where the beginning of the round is; why should that be so hard? — that didn’t look right. The pattern still intrigues me; I may make a pair for myself to see if I can get it right.

Instead, I am winging it with my standard pattern for fingering weight yarn: ribbing for awhile, +/-6 rows of plain stockinette, pick a stitch to be the base of the gusset and mark it off with stitch markers. increase one stitch inside the markers every third row; keep going until the gusset is deep enough, usually ~ 21 stitches wide. Put the thumb stitches on a piece of waste yarn, cast on one stitch via backwards loop; knit until it is time for ribbing. rib until done. Pick up thumb stitches and cast on one stitch via backward loop; knit stockinette and/or ribbing for ~8 rows; bind off.

I should be able to work on these on my trip to Eclipse Land on Sunday. Younger Son is riding down with me, and I plan to assign him driving duties so that I can knit.

I finished The Crow Trap (Vera Stanhope #1) by Ann Cleves; it was good enough that I will keep going with the series. I found the ultimate killer to be a bit forced: the I’ve written this great thriller with lots of red herrings, now I’ve got to pick one and finish it syndrome. But I will give her another chance.

Last year I searched for all the books about dogs I find in our library consortium’s online catalog. I requested them all, but there were so many I ended up freezing many of the holds. One by one, I have released them, and the latest was All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. The PBS station in the Twin Cities used to run the British TV series based on Herriot’s books every Sunday afternoon, and I always watched them. I didn’t expect the book to be as entertaining as the TV show, but it definitely was. Nothing terribly deep, but still very good reading.

Next I read The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.  I gave it three stars; interesting but could have been better written somehow. Within the first few pages I knew this author was not a brilliant master of the language. Having finished the book, I now give her credit for creating complex characters, even a bit too complicated. Okay, recommended for anyone who likes WWII fiction.

In my ears is Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs; I’m about half-way through — it’s 25 hours long! Given that my drive to Minneapolis to pick up YS will be ~2 hours and the drive home on Tuesday will be at least 10, I should finish it within the week. I listened to Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein a couple years ago and liked it; that is why I chose his biography over the several others available. Jobs certainly could be a jerk, and he certainly was genius. Interesting life.

Next listen will be one of these two:

  • King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. The paperback version of this sat on my bookshelf for nearly ten years. I wanted to read it, but life and other books always got in the way. Audio is the way to go for this one.
  • Alexander Hamilton. I am not likely to see the musical, so I shall deepen my knowledge and understanding about this founding father though this (36-hour!) biography. (Now that I noticed how long it is, I kinda wish I had chosen the 11-hour abridged version.)

Or maybe I will download podcasts of Radio Lab

Posted in Unraveled Wednesdays | 4 Comments

Button up your knits.


“Guerrilla kindness meets guerrilla art.”

Socks knit with intarsia in the round; intriguing.

Nope. It’s not really a question.

Cats are really smart.


Cool thing of the day.


Posted in LInks knitting | 4 Comments

Say hello to the kitties: a contest!

The kittens are currently confined to the bathroom for a couple days until I feel like they have bonded properly (and have the location of the litter box firmly embedded into their teeny-tiny brains). Then their world will expand to our bedroom and eventually the entire house. That is as far as they will go, however; given what happened to Hannibal and En Esch, these gals will be indoor cats.

The names they came from the shelter with were China and Marge, but those names must go. We have been playing around and have come up with these:

  • Snowball and Inkblot
  • Volt and Ohm (China is kitteh-ADD, Marge is so laid back as to be nearly a slug (that’s a good thing))
  • Cleo and Patty
  • Stripe and Spot
  • Tiger and Leopard
  • Patty and Selma (from The Simpsons)
  • Guinevere and Morgan la Fey (or Morgaine)
  • Blondie and Angel [Eyes] (Name that movie!)
  • Milo and Otis (Name that movie!) (Yeah, these are both females. What’s your point?)

Clearly, we need help. Throw your suggestions into the comments by noon CDT on Wednesday, 8/16, and we’ll pick the winner. I’m not promising that the winner will be one of you, though. It is remotely possible that we may come up with the perfect names ourselves. In that case I’ll draw someone to be an alternate winner.

All prizes will be awarded.

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Watery links.

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Lightning strikes a river.

Creative use for a glowstick.

What is your opposite job?

“The basic problem is that most families used to receive something approaching their fair share of economic growth, and they don’t anymore.”

This makes me happy, not least because the White Earth rez is very close to where I went to high school in Park Rapids.

Ta-ta towels.

50 ways to use your smartphone. In the same vein, 10 really good uses for magnets.

Posted in Links | 2 Comments

Guess what?


Yesterday was my birthday! I had kinda forgotten about it. If you had asked me I would have said it was sometime next week.

This is what happens when you get old. Thank you to all who sent me good wishes on Facebook, and yes, I really am 112 years old, just like it says there.

I got two great, slightly non-traditional birthday presents. First, in a couple weeks I am going to Missouri to visit an internet friends whom I have *known* for ~20 years but never met IRL. She lives in or very near the totality zone so I will get to see the eclipse! Another virtual friend will be there, so we can all discover each other’s real faces 🙂 Thanks, sparrow!

The other present is an email I got on my birthday from the director of our local humane society. I had a standing order with her for a pair of black female kittens, preferably littermates, to replace our two boys that disappeared last fall. She has two for me! They were getting spayed yesterday; we will go pick them up today. Kittehs, yay!


Posted in Miscellaneous, Silliness, What's going on | 13 Comments

How I matched the colors.

I know you are all thinking, How did she figure out how to match the colors for the [Lilo &] Stitch? Since I am all about being helpful and transparent, here is a short tutorial in Matching Color To An Image Lifted From The Internet™.

Step 1: Find your image. Remember: Google is your friend.


Step 2: Search KnitPicks, Webs, and any other online yarn retailer you can think of to find yarn in the exact shades you want.

Step 3: Despair. This is impossible, not to mention extremely expensive.

Step 4: Step back and think. (I know; revolutionary, right?)

Step 5: Make multiple copies of your image. You are going to manipulate them.

Step 6: Crop each one so the selected color is right at the edge of the image.


Step 7: Rejoice in the cleverness of you.

Step 8: Click over to the Color Library | Color Formulas | 500+ Colors section of the Rit Dye website. Gasp at the virtual ocean of color chips.

Step 9: (We are getting to the good part.) Find the page with your color family. Open the cropped image of the color you want. Compare the two, searching for the exact match of your dreams.

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Step 10: Despair. The cropped color image is too small! What to do, what to do?

Step 11: Enlarge the cropped image. Duh.

Step 12: Compare. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

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Step 13: Ta da!

Steps 14, etc: Repeat for all the colors.



Step 15: Resist the urge to screw with the colors.

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Next up (in a few weeks): did this actually work?

Posted in Dyeing, Silliness, Yarn | 5 Comments

Unraveled Wednesday #9.

Not a lot of unraveling this week, thank FSM. I packed away the worsted squares afghan in order to start some Christmas knitting. (I know. Crazy, right?) I generally do not do Christmas knitting, although for the past couple years I have spent December knitting for the warm clothing drive sponsored by Wisconsin Tourism.

This year, however, I find myself with a quasi-daughter-in-law, hereinafter referred to a QDIL and a couple quasi-grandchildren, QGD1 and QGD2. They are *quasi* because Elder Son and GirlFriend are not married, and they are not married because reasons. I emailed with QDIL last week to determine what QGC1 AND QGD2 might like, and she was most helpful.

QGD1 would love a pair of purple fingerless gloves.


Purple fingerless gloves, check.

QGC2 would love a hat with Stitch of Lilo & Stitch on it. That sounds like an intarsia project to me. Here is the image I found of Stitch:


Anybody know of a good charting program? I know I could download knitting graph paper and chart the image manually, but whenever there is a choice between doing something with pencil and paper vs. doing it digitally, I go for the latter about 99% of the time.

My plan so far is to knit the hat in a neutral fingering weight so that the intarsia Stitch stands out. Yarn preference would be some blend that is not as warm as wool, since they live in New Mexico. After searching both Knit Picks and Webs, however, I have come to the conclusion that the only way I can get the right colors is to go with a major label 75/25 wool/nylon blend, at least for the intarsia. The rest of the hat could be non-wool. I just spent the better part of an hour trying to find machine washable fingering weight yarn in the right colors. It is possible, but not easy: I would have to buy an entire 200- or 400-yard skein of each color in order to get the few yards I need, therefore expensive, no one yarn is available in all the four colors so I would be mixing yarns, yada, yada.

Eventually a light bulb flashed on in my head: dye the yarn myself! The Rit Dye website has color samples for over 500 colors with recipes for each. Using the image above I found more-or-less exact matches for the purple ears and all three shades of blue. I already have about 500 yards of Knit Picks Stroll Bare Fingering so there is no need to buy more yarn. (Yay! You may remember I have been on a yarn fast for several years.)

Please feel free to chime in with your recommendations and comments. I am breaking new ground here for myself. (Not for the intarsia, though. Twenty-five years ago I knit Christmas stockings for the boys that each had an intarsia dancing bear wearing a checked waistcoat. As we all know, if you don’t know something is hard you just do it.)

On the reading front, I finished Beartown by Frederik Backmann last night. What a book! I cannot even describe how good it was. As I was reading I kept thinking to myself that the culture of the town seemed eerily similar to that of the Minnesota Iron Range. People are tough, don’t talk much about themselves; an insular culture that is hard to break into. Perhaps not coincidentally, hockey has always been a big sport on Da Range.

Posted in Unraveled Wednesdays | 7 Comments

Twisted knitting.


Behold, the shark that ate your boob.

This is many most all of us, right?

This is definitely us. All of us.

What happens to natural fibers vs. synthetics. via

Posted in LInks knitting | 6 Comments