Tuesday, December 29, 2009


We went for the walk through this morning. Uneventful. Except that we didn't have a key. It seems our real estate agent lost the only key while traipsing through the snow with the roof inspector. (The roof has been certified for the next 5 years, and the one little iffy spot has been patched.)

Never let it be said that I let something as insignificant as a key stand in my way. (I once got a job in Illinois Government because I knew how to pick a lock. I kid you not.) I didn't have the proper tools to pick the lock, but I was able to open a small window and send Norbert through to open the door. The walk-through proceeded right on schedule. (And a locksmith will have everything straightened out tomorrow morning.)

I can't be upset with her -- she has been so helpful during this process. And she gave us a wonderful housewarming present -- a $100 gift certificate to Driers Butcher Shop! Smoked meats, here I come!

Some of the furniture we loved stayed, and some left. Ah well. We shouldn't be greedy. We have a sofa. We having a dining table. We have dressers and some glass-fronted cabinets. We do not have any beds, but we have inflatable mattresses which will work for now!

I cleaned the kitchen -- all but the floor -- and got the cabinets lined, the dishes unpacked and washed and put away, and all of the boxes we brought today unpacked. Tomorrow Norbert and I are taking another load, and I plan to sweep and wash all of the floors. Then Thursday he and I will go out and Myfanwe will join us after work and we will spend a relaxing 4 day weekend!

Myfanwe and I have talked about having a place of our own in Michigan for 17 years. It often made us sad, since we always thought it would be out of our reach. We hate to think we took advantage of the state of the economy, but in some respects, we did. We never could have afforded to purchase the house if the real estate market hadn't taken a serious dip. (I think it's on the rebound, by the way.) In another respect, the seller needed to sell the house, the realtors needed commissions to pay their bills, the bank needs to make money off of mortgages...we were sort of doing what we were supposed to do, right?

I'm tired, and I still have a van to pack. There will be pictures soon, but I don't know when. We won't have the interwebz in Michigan, so I probably won't post pics from there.

Thank you to all of my friends, both near and far, for their stalwart support and for never once telling me that I had grown tedious with all this talk about a stupid summer home.

After the closing we stopped for lunch

Sunday, December 27, 2009


We close on Shell Cottage on Tuesday.

We have packed dishes and pans, sheets and pillows, flatware and utensils, a down comforter and the extra coffeemaker.

We have purchased towels and shampoo, inflatable beds and a dish rack, glassware and dish towels.

You will notice that there isn't a lot of furniture on that list. That would be because we don't have any. Our plan has been, at least for the present time, to sleep on the inflatable beds in our respective bedrooms, then carry them to the living room or family room to lounge -- just until we can afford to purchase more, um, substantial furniture.

Yesterday, however, the phone rang. It was our real estate agent, Jaye -- who is really spectacular, so if you are in the market, you should really use her -- calling to say that the owner's agent had called because the owner was going out to Shell Cottage to get some personal items and wanted to know if it would be ok if she left some of the furniture! I nearly cried.

The only thing we know for certain she is leaving is the dining room set -- which makes us happy because now we can leave the Arts & Crafts set that we bought at an estate sale in our Chicago condo which actually IS Arts & Crafts! (Myfanwe wanted to all along, and I love being able to make her happy!) I would be so happy if the owner were to leave one of the couches. But I shan't get my hopes up. I also love all of the end tables -- they are all old 40's and 50's pieces painted white. But again, I shan't get my hopes up. We will know for sure when we arrive at the cottage for the walk through on Tuesday.

I'm going to bake some cookies for the owner tonight. And maybe some more tomorrow. She's been so very, very good to us and helped to make a long-held dream come true.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tales From The Crypt

Thursday evening, when I last posted, I had a bit of a cough.

By Friday morning it had developed into a raspy cough, a heavy chest, runny nose, fever, chills, headache, body aches, and a couple less pleasant maladies.

Having been vaccinated for the seasonal flu, it is just assumed that I have H1N1.

I don't feel great today, but I don't feel worse than yesterday, which means I'm not still on the downward path. I just basically am ticked because I have a lot of work to do before vacation. And I can't put vacation on hold, because vacation this year is moving into Shell Cottage.

Did I mention I was supposed to go get vaccinated for H1N1 on Friday?


Thursday, December 17, 2009


More Tales of the Home Inspection

Yesterday the inspector went to check the house out after the installation of new plumbing and the new hot water heater.

When he got there, the furnace was out. Again.

Thank Bob the temperature had only dropped to 47 degrees, so there was no damage to the plumbing, but the furnace is obviously a big problem.

Last night it looked like we would have to walk away from the house. This morning I was sort of resigned to it. This evening the owner is installing a new furnace and we are paying for half of it.

Shell Cottage will soon be ours. And it has new appliances, new windows, new plumbing, new heating, new floors, and is freshly painted. In 5 years we will put on a new roof, and the place will be so nice we won't know how to act.

Now I can turn my thoughts to varieties of climbing/mounding roses. I want to plant big mounds of roses on either side of the steps so when Myfanwe sits out on the porch in the morning, reading the paper and drinking her coffee, the scent will waft through the screens.

I feel like I have aged 20 years this month. I had no idea the angst that would accompany the search for and purchase of an hermitage. Please say a prayer that we make it through the closing on the 29th without heartbreak or heartache!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shell Cottage

Tales of the Home Inspection

The inspection didn't go exactly as planned.

As warm as the house looks, it was actually only 32 degrees on the first floor, and colder upstairs. The pilot light had, apparently, been blown out by the sustained 70 mph winds from the mistral two days earlier. To make a long story short, the entire house has been re-plumbed. The house also has a brand new water heater. We are thrilled, although also a little embarrassed that our good fortune comes at the expense of someone else. (Please note, though, that as soon as I save $1,500, I'm putting in a furnace without a pilot light so that this can't happen again!)

So -- the new pictures. (I didn't take as many as I might have, as it was REALLY cold!)

This is a bit of the kitchen -- we plan to put a kitchen cart or island here to hold the microwave and the coffeemaker. I love the framed chalkboard. If the owner were to leave it, I would not cry foul. The same goes for just about every piece of furniture in the house. The owner had a very, very good eye.

This is the living room. The corner on the right -- behind the sofa -- is where the gas stove will eventually go. I haven't decided if it will be centered between the window and the corner, or if it will be angled in the corner. I have time to decide that, though, as I will have to save for quite some time to pay for it. Norbert loves the chaise and seems rather sad that we would somehow let this slip out of our grasp!

This is the dining room, looking towards the living room. The door to Norbert's room can be seen on the right.

Norbert's room. The only color in the house that I am not completely over the moon about, but Norbert thinks it is the very best color ever chosen for a room and that any talk of glazing it or in any way muting it will be met with strong opposition.

This is the third bedroom. Myfanwe calls it The Loft, as it is open to the staircase. We plan to put a futon sofa in here, along with a big old steamer trunk, upon which will sit a small tv/dvd player. We won't have cable or a digital converter, so it will truly be just for videos. And the guest sheets and blankets and pillows can all reside in the trunk when not in use! I meant to buy some lavender this summer to make into sachets. Maybe I'll have to plant some and make my own. Lavender keeps away moths, doesn't it?
I really do love all of the white painted furniture. It is a fairly laborious process, but I expect we will become very adept at painting furniture in the next couple of years!

Please keep your fingers crossed and remember us in your prayers. Everything is going so smoothly -- the loan is in place, etc. -- but all three of us are frightened something will  pop up to crush us. We close on the 29th. Two weeks from tomorrow. I don't know whow we will survive it!

We are going to spend New Years and my birthday at the Cottage. I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


OK. So we lost The Store in Watervliet.

Never let it be said that when the going got tough, I just crawled in bed, pulled the covers over my head and said, "It's too hard!"

This is our new home in Three Oaks, Michigan.

We saw it on Saturday. We mulled it over on Sunday. We made an offer yesterday. And it was accepted today. (And an hour after our contract was accepted another offer came in. Thank Bob we got ours in when we did!) We close on December 29th. (Record speed. My head is spinning a little.)

I already have plans in my head to dig up the raggedy shrubs in front and replace them with climbing roses. I will enjoy being able to cutmy own flowers to bring inside. And I love the soft, oppulent look of mounds of rose bush.

Three Oaks is a lovely community ninety minutes drive from Chicago. It is 5 miles from Lake Michigan, so the prices are not as steep as on the lake shore, but it is very popular with young, creative, artistic people. It is a town with a population of 1,700 which is able to support a professional theater, an art cinema, a silent film festival, and six art galleries. On Saturday evenings everyone packs a beverage and snacks, grabs their lawn chairs and walks to the park to hear music at the band shell.

Myfanwe really loves the style. It's growing on me. Although I expect I will end up having to learn how to paint furniture so that it fits with the shabby chic cottage decor.

Some day in the not so distant future I will take out all of the upper cabinets, patch the wall, and put up open shelving. The upper cabinets are -- I kid you not -- only 8.5 inches from the counter top. My coffeemaker won't fit on the counter. Neither will a microwave. Or a vase. Or a glass of milk. And I'm thinking of taking an occupational therapy class at the Lighthouse For The Blind before I chop anything on the counter, cuz I won't be able to see what I am doing.

Doesn't this look lovely!

So once again, the inspection is Friday. It's a pretty full day. I will drive to Michigan for the inspection. Meet with the insurance agent. Stop by my real estate agent's. Drop by the mortgage broker. Drop a load of stuff for the house at a friend's place to store until the 29th. And make it home in time to make dinner for the first night of Chanukah! But (ptew, ptew, ptew) I won't have to drive to Michigan again on Saturday!

The plan is still to ring in the New Year in the new home, enjoying the quiet, peaceful nature Harbor Country. I need to make a note to myself -- somewhere betwqeen now and the 29th I need to get up north and buy a mezuzah!

All country homes need a name. What name do you suggest? I think Norbert and Myfanwe would like something Harry Potter-ish -- The Burrow, maybe? It's not hobbitty enough to be Bag End.


I have been making slow but steady progress on the Cathedral Window. I am on row 22 of the last 49 rows before the edging. Pictures soon -- but I'll warn you right now, it looks exactly like a placenta right now. But when it is blocked, I think it will be beautiful.

I think a shabby chic cottage in Three Oaks is just SCREAMING for some hand knit doilies, don't you?

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Because of a serious structural defect identified during the inspection, we have had to walk away from the darling little house in Watervliet, Michigan. I am seventeen ways to sad.

And as I was talking to my real estate agent from the inspection to let her know, another call came through -- notifying me that a friend had -- not unexpectedly -- passed away.

I just got home from the funeral.

This has not been an upper of a weekend.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Myfanwe and I have made a big purchase. Monday we made an offer on a vacation home in sleep Watervliet, Michigan. It was rejected. An improved offer was made today, and it was accepted. It is a beautiful, quirky little place on Main Street. The back overlooks a river and a beautiful park. It used to house a store in the front, hence the way it looks...

It has a lovely deck over the garage, and it has a large screened in porch. Noticed the terraced gardens on the left. They are lovely, and NO LAWN TO MOW! Yeah me!

This shows the dining and living areas...

The floors have been re-done since these were taken. We purchased an antique Ford & Johnson arts & crafts pedestal table and 4 chairs for the dining room from an estate sale here in Hyde Park. It is a beautiful set.

The kitchen is small and very workable.

And THIS is the crowning gem -- the old storefront. Which will be our rumpus room. Try to picture it with the shelves stocked with board games, an air hockey table, a ping pong table, a couple of comfy chairs, and -- someday in the distant future -- a woodburning stove or fireplace!

This is the smallest of the three bedrooms. I don't have pictures of the other two, but I will after the housing inspection.

We close on the 29th, which gives us the opportunity to start the new year in our new (vacation) home!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Although I finished this in August on the flight home from Dublin, I didn't block it until today.

Pattern: Ishbel by Ysolda Teague. Yarn: Malabrigo Lace in Glazed Carrot. Less than one skein. (I still have 1.25 skeins left. Any ideas what I should do with them?)

This is for Myfanwe. She's allergic to lace, but I think, since it is in her favorite color, she might be able to wear this one.

As usual, I can only see its flaws. I am an average knitter, but I am a below-average finisher. If they had taught blocking at my high school, I would have finished in the lower third of my class.


OK. I know this must be getting tedious. Once a week I check in with a few words about the Cathedral Window Shawl with no pictures. Well, this is no different.

I managed to get all of the stitches picked back up and have now made it to row 12 of the 24 row repeat. Then I'll knit an eyelet row and do another 24 row repeat. And then I think I will be able to start the 1154 or so rows of edging. And then I will be done.

So, if I stick to the current schedule -- which I rarely, if ever, do -- I will need another 3 weeks before I start the edging.

Edging which, now that I look at it, I have absolutely no idea how to knit. So I should probably figure that out.


Myfanwe and I have been looking in Southwest Michigan for a second home -- a weekend retreat in a greener setting...someplace quiet, with a fireplace. We found the perfect -- the PERFECT house. A 1960's rach backing up onto woods, 200 yards from Lake Michigan, on an acre of land.

We made and offer. Then an improved offer. And we lost it. And it has nearly broken my heart. We are still looking, but I feel like a mourner at each showing.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I have been working quite diligently on the Cathedral Window Shawl. Earlier this week I executed the next increase to 1152 stitches per row, inserted a lifeline, and began plugging along, knitting happily on the next 49 row repeat.

I was on Row 4


As I was knitting this morning, about 30 stitches slid off the left hand needle. And promptly -- given the taste of freedom -- practically danced out of the constraints of the stitches beneath them.

I had to take the shawl off the needles and rip it back to the lifeline. I now have to pick up all 1152 stitches from the lifeline.


P.S. I'm hoping to have some really exciting news very soon. Cross your fingers! Say a prayer!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Calling Out to My Seattle Peeps.

I have a lovely niece -- for the purposes of the blog, I think I will call her Newsie -- who is currently a graduate student in Museology at the University of Washington. She is intelligent, articulate, hardworking, thorough, and trustworthy young woman. (She's also funny, talented, clever, mischievous, and cute!) She moved to Seattle in August for school and is still looking for a part-time job. She has experience in a law office setting, a pharmacy, box office, and hospitality (culinary) industry.

If you hear of any openings, could you please forward the postings to me? I'd appreciate it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'd Write a Haiku, But I'm Too Damn Tired.

When last we commiserated the Mollywobbles family was leaving to spend a weekend with the Royal Family. We had a wonderful time at St. George's Castle, and the Principessa was thrilled with her shawl. She's looking great for someone who has been under the weather, and we had a celebratory birthday feast -- my first Peking Duck! -- and a fabulous, relaxing weekend with the de Rumball-St. George's and the adorable Infanta, Little Bird.

It was hard to drag my tuchas in to work on Monday morning, but I did. And it may have been the worst day I've ever had in the office. We were informed that a big case had, overnight, become a BIG CASE and would require Herculean effort to accomplish. And they laid off one of the staff that provides me and my boss with a huge amount of assistance and has been working on our stuff for the last 8 months.

I don't know how I'm going to manage the amount of work we have. I feel lucky that we have identified some able people who can give me some of their time, but I could use a LOT more people. I feel so close to panic all the time.

I'm still trying to get in at least one hour knitting a day. I can usually bank on getting half an hour in the morning and I try to get another half or a whole hour when I get home -- 8:30 or 9:00. Sometimes I'm just too tired, though. (And knitting lace isn't something one should do when drowsy -- a lesson I learned after some oral surgery.)

The Cathedral Window shawl is up to 544 stitches in a row. I'd post pictures, but right now it looks like a placenta. I won't know until I've finished the 49 rows of 1088 stitches if it will need another increase to 2176 stitches. When I've finished the 49 rows of 1088 stitches I plan to run a huge lifeline and then take it off the needle and pin it out to see how bit the sucker really is. Then I'll make a decision.

I'll post again when I can. Stay well. Be good. Have fun.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I grafted the hem on the Lace Dream shawl on Saturday evening, and I blocked it this evening. It is prettier than I imagined -- even with my wanting skills and poor blocking.

I knit this shawl for my dear friend, the Principessa Maxine de Rumball-St. George. Maxine spent the greater part of this year very ill, and I was very worried about her and felt very impotent, being far away from her. I knit this shawl as a vehicle for focusing prayers for her health and well being. I wanted something really spectacular for her. As I neared the end of the shawl I received word that the Principessa's health was, finally, making improvements and that she had passed the first, most important milestone on her way to a full recovery.

I don't know if it was seeing the pattern finally revealed and realizing that it was even more than I imagined, or if it was a sense of relief and gratitude for the Principessa Maxine's recovery; whatever the reason, I was moved to tears.

I couldn't wait to show it to you. It may well be the most beautiful thing I've ever made. I still can't believe I could make something so beautiful. Tomorrow morning it will be off the wires and I will take more pictures. I will probably be working a great number of hours between now and Friday -- when we leave for the de Rumball-St. George's -- so I may not get to post more until after the weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I recently made this Brown Butter Pound Cake and can't stop thinking about it. It was so, so delicious. It kept well. And it doubled well. Reviews mentioned it being too dry, but I didn't have that problem. I think it is important not to overbake. Leftovers were yummy for breakfast.
I'm now looking for reasons to make pound cake.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


As my regular readers will attest, I am incredibly fond of buying things. I reserve a greater fondness still for buying books. One of the few things I like more than buying books is knitting lace. And one of the things I like doing most of all is buying books on knitting lace. This, however, is a rare sort of treat, as good books on lace are few and far between. I have only a couple books devoted solely to lace. (I am still looking for an affordable copy of Gladys Amedro's Shetland Lace. Myfanwe refuses to let me spend that kind of money on a used knitting book. But please don't judge her. She's a muggle. She just doesn't understand. )

I recently -- ok, today on my lunch hour -- purchased a copy of Marrianne Kinzel's 1953 book, First Book of Modern Knitting, which has a few interesting patterns. I've already read all of the substantive text and the line by line of a couple of the patterns.

What did I think? Well, it's mostly stuff I would never make -- doilies and tea cloths, each knit out of crochet cotton, starched, then blocked withing an inch of its life. But her technique is good, and her method of blocking is interesting. And I'm thinking that the same pattern for a 64" square tablecloth, knit in a drapey alpaca or silk blend, would be a wicked shawl! And who knows. I might find it in me to knit a doily or two some day. They look to be quick and would make lovely gifts for the 80 year old women on my gift list. (Wait. I'm the only 80 year old woman on my gift list. Hmm.)

The book is a little anachronistic. It was written for housewives. Housewives in the 1950's. Kinzel's stated aim was "...to inspire the needlewoman of to-day [sic] to take up, in a new fashion, the old and fascinating art of lace knitting which enjoyed a tremendous popularity in the 18th & 19th century." (I'm not imagining it, am I? She did just call me a needlewoman, didn't she?)

The dedication of the book reads thusly: "A Dedication to ENGLAND, refuge through centuries of the persecuted, the proscribed, the people without a country, where my husband and I sought haven in exile and found most happily a welcome, a country, and a home."

I don't know where she was from originally, but I'm willing to bet it wasn't Ireland.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Like, Cosmic, Man.

My niece pointed me towards this, and while I wasn't quite sure I would find this sort of thing interesting, my niece is pretty cool, so I gave it a shot.

This is a video remixing parts of Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Stephen Hawking's Universe series, setting it to music using autotune on their voices. It is actually really awesome! (I'm not sure what Autotune is, but just go with me.) Check it out!


Everything but the grafting of the hem done on the Lace Dream shawl. I plan to undertake the grafting next Saturday or Sunday.

I cast on the Cathedral Window shawl. I'm not entirely sure I've got the right needle size. I figure I will wait until the first full pattern repeat is completed, then I'll look at it and see that I think. So far I've done the central few rows, plus half a repeat of the main motif -- at which point it starts over with the motif on row 1 through 24. I'm on 6 now, so tomorrow I should know if I'm going forward or if I'm ripping back and starting over on size 2's.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


...this spoke to me. Except that, even as a child, I loved her so.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Over the Rosh Hashanah holiday I mentioned to someone I know that, as I've been knitting recently, I was praying for a friend who had been ill for quite some time. This person was less taken by a man who knits than she was by a man who prays. (And this was at synagogue. Go figure.) She looked at me as if I'd just farted on her new sofa.

Is it so unusual to believe in prayer? Am I out of the mainstream, even for Jews? Is meditating on the life and health of a dear friend a sign of mental inferiority?


I'm approaching the end of the Lace Dream shawl. The length has reached my wingspan plus 4", so I expect I will knit another 8 inches or so and then begin the end hem. (I've not taken the time to figure out how the end hem happens. I figure I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!)

After that I will begin the Cathedral Window Shawl. I am going to knit it out of Cascade's Alpaca Lace in Amethyst -- this color way reminds me of the colors in the rose window in the Cathedral at Reims. (see the lovely picture.) I'll be using a finer yarn than the pattern and smaller needles. I will have to end up doing extra pattern repeats. I'm estimating that the edging will take me two weeks to knit.
It has not escaped my notice that extra repeats of the pattern will mean, when I get to blocking, I will have to pin out over 1,000 points on the edging. Does anyone know where I can buy T-pins by the pound? I've ordered 2 sets of blocking mats from Knitpicks. I figure they will come in handy when it comes time to block. Maybe I'll have a blocking party -- if 4 people are pinning out 1200 points, they only have to do 300 points apiece!

Does anyone want to come? Sometime next May or June? I'll make lunch?

Monday, September 14, 2009


Knitting at the seaside.

Grafton Street - one of my favorite places in Dublin. I didn't buy much, but the street was welcoming and vital and a wonderful place to watch people.

This is the best pastry I had in Ireland...an apple tart served -- of all places -- in the tea shop at the Newgrange/Boyne Valley visitors center. I never passed up an opportunity to sit down and have a pot of tea!

I couldn't help but think of my sock knitting comrades back in the States! I now have visions of 75 knitters rushing to the interwebs looking for transparent Converse sneakers/trainers!

Norbert took this picture of me knitting at Malehide Castle. I felt very much at home, knitting there. If anyone has a castle they aren't using, let me know. I'll go and knit there.

Myfanwe and I both fell in love. We both want to go back. Now. And every day away is just a little sad.


The holidays have snuck up on me. I have four days to plan and prepare Rosh Hashanah dinner. My house looks like we are housing the Jodes for the summer.

How long should a generous rectangular shawl be? Really. I need to know.

[Editor's Note: Norbert fell in love with Ireland as well. I apologize for the omission. In addition, he deserves an award for being a real trouper. He is really quite pleasant to travel with. We are, as ever, eternally grateful that G-d gave us Norbert!]

Thursday, September 10, 2009



These are just SOME of the pics. In no order. I'll post more if the whim strikes me.

We took a lovely hike on Howth Head. Aside from seeing Dear Sinead and Malachy, this may have been my favorite thing we did. Well, outside of the prison.

The views along the hike are breathtaking. The heather was in bloom. Those yellow flowers you see are orchids. Amazing. And then look at this:

This is Howth from the North. We hiked all the way to the end, around, then up to the summit. SOOOOOOO beautiful.

If you are ever in Sandcove, we highly recommend this pub. The BEST mushroom soup you could ever hope for. Perfect.

Rocks at the seaside at Sandycove.

Newgrange -- a Neolithic passage tomb in the Boyne Valley. Very, very cool.

The Boyne River. The water was high, and the river spirited.

The Hills of Tara. Note: The hills of Tara are active sheep pastures.

A statue of St. Patrick at the Hills of Tara.

And such a lovely view from Tara.

Dublin Castle

The castle garden:

The throne room.

Malahide Castle. (Which was in the Talbot family for over 800 years!)

Christ Church Cathedral:

Myfanwe and Nortbert at the water portion of the Guinness Storehouse tour.

I loved the name of this shop, but never got in to look for knoba for our diningroom sideboard.

This place is only open from 10 am to 1 pm, weekdays. And I was never walking by when it was open. I would have loved a keepsake tin or baking pan!