Thursday, January 27, 2011

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib

This is to send my thanks to Maud Hart Lovelace (aka Betsy). I suspect I've got plenty of company in not only remembering those books fondly, but re-reading some of them on a yearly basis. I like her high school years onward, but the saga begins when Betsy is five.

Mrs. Lovelace, so the blurb in back of the books tells us, wrote these stories after telling them to her daughter, Merian. They're the tales of a girl in a solid middle class family in the Midwest (Minnesota) from the late 19th century into the beginning of the Great War.

They are a terrific introduction to the times, and more than just an escape. The writing is funny and charming and pulls the reader in to a world of comfort and privilege...but there are sad moments. She doesn't dwell on them, but parents of friends die too early, young hearts are broken, and the necessity of being good to other people (and some of the consequences, if you are not) are laid out for you, too.

These books have been in and out of print since the first was published in 1940. I don't know which, if any, are available in new editions, but keep your eyes open. Look in used book stores, antiques stores, and online used book sites.

It doesn't matter if you're 8 or 85, you'll find something to love in the Betsy-Tacy books (Tib is their the chum, she comes in after the first book), and it's also possible that you'll learn something about writing, and story telling, if you're a writer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Madhouse: Shoes

Shoes. What about them? I'm no Imelda Marcos but I like them.

But as is often the case, my taste in them has changed somewhat. I remember pleading with my mother for a pair of Candies high heeled slings, only to be told that it was trashy to wear heels with pants! (This was in the dark ages...I mean, late 70s, folks.)

In high school I remember when she and a salesclerk talked me into a really handsome pair of burgundy leather slingbacks instead of the rather awful ankle strap shoes I coveted at the time. They were right. Classic is a really good thing. I wore those shoes all through high school and college...and beyond, until they literally began to fall apart.

So we're still with heels, but now classic. College mostly meant boots and tennis shoes and so on; I went to New England Conservatory after SCCC and walking around Boston and taking the T makes you fairly practical, even at 20 or 21.

Back to heels next, fairly classic. That continued for a while, though I developed a taste for silver shoes for formal wear, instead of black. (That trend continues...only now they're glace leather, not glitter!)

In the 90s I began to swing dance. Oddly, for a while that meant I started to wear absurdly high heels to dance in. Four inch heels and doing swing-outs? Sure, I'm still indestructible, I'm in my 30s! Eventually I went to lower heels, wedges, oxfords and the occasional vintage shoe in good condition.

This is what really cured me of very high heels, though, and it was only about 5 years ago. I was working in a downtown office and that day was wearing my brand new white stiletto pumps. When I say stiletto...I mean five inches high. Yes.

And on this day, the office jerk (there's one everywhere, as a rule) decided that I (the acting receptionist, not mail room clerk or delivery clerk or runner) would walk a mile across the area and make a hand delivery for him. Never mind the phones.

I damn near killed myself. (I had plans for him, too, but decided I didn't feel like finding out what my bail would be in the circumstances, though I knew that it would be justifiable...whatever-I-did-to-him.)

Now it's 2.5 or 3 inches for heels, lots of loafers and even ballet flats.

Haven't you heard? I'm a knitter now. How else can I show off my handmade socks?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Madhouse Post: Ugly

H'mm. For some reason, "jolie laid" is the first response that comes to mind; a woman so "ugly" that she is beautiful.

When I use the word "ugly" myself it does tend to the bad. I find it springs to mind when someone is being particularly nasty, unkind, selfish, or mean.

Just now I took down my copy of the Pocket Oxford Dictionary to find this:

ugly (adj.) Unpleasing or repulsive to sight; morally repulsive, vile, unpleasantly suggestive, threatening; formidable antagonist; ugly duckling person who turns out the genius of the family after being thought the dullard

Yes, that'll do for definition(s).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Year of the Sweater?

It's mid-January, and I have two new sweaters of my own making. Admittedly, one was a UFO from last year, but the second was cast on, knitted and finished after New Year's Day.

I don't make many sweaters...I get bored and move on to another pair of socks, or some lace, or even a scarf. But lately I haven't found as many modern sweaters I liked, and though I have found some lovely vintage pieces they aren't quite scratching the sweater itch, if you will.

Last night I found myself wondering if I really did buy a cone or two of Shetland this past summer (don't think I did) and wondering why not. My 1930s knitting books seem more enticing than ever lately, and I keep thinking of cones of Shetland and eyeing the yarn I bought for the Dr Who scarf (safely underway now) and thinking, "Wouldn't that be great sweater yarn?"

We'll see what happens.

What projects are haunting you these cold winter days?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Usual January Knitting Frenzy

It's finished. No, no new photos yet, but the long-suffering "30s Sweater" is finally done.

Now I need to seam (and decide on a closure) for the top-down raglan I made last week--it's a heavily modified version of a pattern I knitted about five years of those that swim around in your head for several years and when you finally pick up the needles it's all there, just waiting to be knit.

I'm also working on some [gift] and a [gift] and am plotting some more [gift]. There are two--okay, four--UFO socks. Two will be frogged, two finished. And a bolero which I began and nearly finished in 2008 (!) will go with me to Area 51 to be finished (that's for UFOs specifically).

I want to knit another 30s skirt. In gray, I think. And I spent much of Tuesday on Ravelry, digging up more 30s patterns.

My 30s knitting books are calling to me too. The hardcovers. One in particular has a few good pages on embellishments/trims. Lace falls, bows, etc.


Friday, January 07, 2011

Remember This?

I'm in my workroom, breathing in the wonderful (to me) scent of wet wool.

Why is it wonderful? Well, two reasons. One: I just plain like it. Two: I am blocking a sweater.

This is the 30s sweater that I knitted in very short order late last winter and promptly put away unfinished. D-Day is Monday; I'm planning on attending Area 51 at Fresh Purls to begin seaming and picking up for the neck ribbing.

Now I just have to find the rest of the yarn. I know I saw it around here somewhere....

Thursday, January 06, 2011


(This is for a "Madhouse" entry. Sorry, Kate, I'll probably continue to be hit or miss on it.)

Exoectations? Whew. I've had a few!

As a very little girl, I thought I'd be a ballerina. Nope, didn't happen...though I did eventually become a decent (social) swing dancer.

In my late teens and early 20s it was opera. To that end I studied voice for ten years...scrimped and saved and bartered for voice lessons, scraped by on "no money" and finally gave it up because though my voice is actually pretty good, my technique and self discipline were not.

In general as a child and young woman I didn't have set expectations about my personal life as an adult, perhaps because I came from a small family without lots of "examples" to see.

I didn't expect to be divorced. Or re-married. I am, it's working, but is work. (That's something you don't generally expect as a child!)

I certainly did not expect to be staying at home (albeit because I am presently unemployed)...and most especially did not expect to like it. Liking it still makes me feel rather guilty (lapsed Catholic and feminist that I am).

Most of all, I did not expect to be good at it, nor so very domestic. What did I do yesterday? All day? I mended, cleaned, and ironed.

Cooking and baking? Yes, the expecation of enjoying that and being good at it was the one thing now occupying me that is not a surprise.

Life is full of expectations...and life goes on in spite of them!

Vintage Cookbooks

How Mama Could Cook! is one of my recent acquisitions.

It's a keeper. I love older cookbooks, especially from the 20s and 30s. This one was written in the 40s, and contains the reminiscences of a daughter about her mother's brilliance in the kitchen, and flamboyant, marvelous personality.

Scraps of stories surround the recipes, and nearly all of those recipes are ones I'd like to try. To date, I've made the White Velvet Cookies (good, but would be better in a cookie press than rolled and cut, as they become tough very quickly).

I bought it for a recipe entitled Brimstone Duck. How could I resist that one? Duck with apples, onions, and applejack. Sounds like a very good thing, does it not?

There are also some very interesting ideas for preserves and cordials, even homemade wines...if you love to cook, and especially if you love to dig around in vintage cookbooks for ideas, search out a copy of this book. It's brilliant.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Year's Resolution #1: Dr Who Scarf

Today I ordered the yarn online. I did try to buy it from a couple of brick-and-mortar shops, but no go.

This particular version is the Season [Series] 13 scarf, and I'm going to make it with Brown Sheep Nature Spun in sport weight. That should result in a scarf that measures about 10 feet, give or take a few inches, what will varying gauge and blocking.

Yes, it's a vintage thing! Mind you, not nearly as vintage as my usual, or even (gasp!) as vintage as me, because although the series premiered in 1963, the scarf is associated primarily with Tom Baker, who debuted in 1974.

I am using a pattern provided by Tara at Witty Little Knitter

Wish me luck! It should make good standing in line or television knitting. (What a fabulous excuse for a Dr Who marathon!)