Thursday, March 29, 2007

This week is a gift!

Someone ordered up a near-perfect week for me after a couple of fortnights from hell. So many things happened to make me happy -- I really don't know where to begin, so chronologically seems like the right way. Well, we can start here, with Jess -- I met her last summer and we instantly bonded.

Last Saturday was the second Frog Pond Fiber Frolic, hosted by the one and only Chocolate Princess. Picture yourself in a room full of friends with wheels and fiber, and hours of un-interrupted spinning. Then, imagine that people start giving you things. Wonderful things you never even asked for, like an expandable hand-made fiber/yarn/etc. bag from Vicki, or massive amounts of free fiber from Liz, or a wonderful cake from E and Jess! These women are the most wonderful spirits in Michiana (and beyond!!!) They all welcomed me into their group, submerged me in the fiber world and I resurfaced as a spinner, really truly spinning wool into yarn! And they never asked for anything in return, just wanted me to be happy. I love them and am going to be so sad when I leave for the east coast in May. Man, am I digressing from the fiber-post at hand, but I can't say enough about these ladies.

So back to the frolic re-cap...Charlotte was there with bags full of Shetland Icelandic cross fiber from her own flock for sale, and I bought a pound of white wool. I was also lucky enough to win Charlotte's door prize of home-grown honey, home-made bath scrub and more fiber! Janet, the spinning wheel guru, solved a tension problem on my wheel with a literal turn of her wrist. My drive band kept on spinning without driving the wheel -- and that's its job, to drive the wheel! I was so frustrated. Janet told me to turn a knob that I had previously thought was just for decoration...and this magic knob raised the flyer and spindle and adjusted the tension and relieved my main wheel problem. By the way, Janet knows a LOT about wheels, and she has a lot of them too, and she's selling if you want to buy a wheel, let me know and I can give you Janet's info. She's the procurer of Charlotte's walking wheel, which I previously posted about.

Beyond the Frolic, the weather has been gorgeous! So much so that Dave & I had to get out of town on Sunday and drive up to Saugatuck, where we wandered the streets wearing nothing but a skirt and a honeymoon cami -- well, that was me, Dave was otherwise attired. The day was so beautiful!

Monday afternoon I headed to NYC for work, and this time I got to go to see my girls at NYC SnB! I stayed with the gracious hostess Claudine, and we did a lot of knitting (and frogging -- well, I did the frogging, Claudine did the convincing...I think I really did need to rip back that sock that had a few too many decreases after the heel flap...although I had the opposite conviction at the time). #1 needles are really really small...I had to buy impersonal metal dpn's because I kept snapping my hand-loving wooden set with my brute strength while knitting. These socks are coming out really nicely now, though, and should fit Dave's feet. Thanks to the guru for the yarn and to Claudine for putting my stitches back on the needle (and for letting me cuddle with Murray).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fiber Frolic!

Tomorrow is the Frog Pond Fiber Frolic, and I'm very excited! I'm going to pick up some lamb roving from Charlotte, and I'll get to spend time with my fibrous friends/fiends. More important than the roving, I hope to leave with some spinning tips. I'm doing a lot better with that craft but I have so far to go. It is veeeery addicting, though...

I spent some time in DC last weekend with the guru, and she took me to a wonderful place called the Springwater Fiber Workshop. They had all sorts of roving, bobbins, classes, yarn, needles...everything! And it supports local fiber artists -- I'm all about local. I bought this blue roving, I'm not sure what it is beyond "some sort of wool" and the cashier wasn't sure either. But it's pretty with its greenish hints, and I'm almost done spinning it.

I also "set the twist" on some of my yarn in my bathtub with a homemade contraption. This consists of a pants hanger, a shower head and a lunch bag full of small cast iron skillets. It's as unwieldly as it sounds. But it works! Look!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Prairie Winds Farm

What a weekend to be without my camera! David better come back from Europe with some excellent photos...

On Saturday, Jess and I went to local farming guru Charlotte's Praire Winds Farm, just south of town. This is a sustainable farm and nature retreat -- Charlotte has sleigh rides in the winter, prairie walks, spinning events, etc. She also does historical spinning re-enactments. It was an AMAZING experience I wish I had gone there earlier. And I wish I had my camera!!!

We drove up the long dirt driveway, passing by a flock of sheep and a herd of horses and ponies, up to the house where we were greated by happy farm dogs. We were invited in and immediately served a delicious slice of pumpkin pie, followed by a little tour of Charlotte's spinning wheels. Dominating the living room (which had a series of enormous glass windows overlooking a beautiful prairie) was a larger than life walking wheel Charlotte had just bought. The wheel must have been at least 3 feet in diameter, and I got to try it out. You pretty much walk back and forth with the fleece in your hands, the spinning and winding happening as you move towards and away from the wheel. I'm not sure about all the engineering dynamics of this -- like how does the wheel spin if Jess isn't standing there giving it a whirl for me? But I'm sure Charlotte will have it figured out in time for her demonstration this week.

After the wheel fun, we went for a tour of the farm. It was extremely necessary to tuck our pant legs into our high rubber boots, as there was much deep mud and animal "discharge" to wade through. Many times during the tour we were warned: "Be very careful, you definitely do NOT want to fall down here!" We visited the sheep first (which Jess & I had to "herd" towards Charlotte so she could get a pre-sheared picture of one for someone who had bought a fleece from her), a turkey (really bumpy head), horses, ponies, a windmill-powered well, a pregnant goat (I felt her bulging (smelly) belly), and chickens. Oh and peacocks. Bunnies, too. Charlotte and her daughter showed me how to collect eggs from the chicken house (and they were delicious for breakfast the next morning!) And Jess and I bought a whole fleece -- it's still on the sheep though, I think they are being sheared this week.

So this post would have been a WHOLE lot more interesting if I had my camera. But you can use your imagination and just know that I had one of the best days ever!

Friday, March 09, 2007

I'm a Spinster!

Sorry for the long time between posts. David took the camera on his "class trip" to Europe, so I can't take any pics! And I do have things to take pics of! I've been spinning so much, it's so relaxing and fun. I think I'm getting better. I'm going to try to scan some skeins of yarn on my scanner later, but I'm not sure how that's going to work out. I'm ready to buy a whole fleece -- I can't wait until the next fiber fest!
I didn't want to leave you with NO pics, so here's one of some of my Italian ancestors -- this must have been taken in the late 1920's. I know the girl standing on the right is my grandfather's first cousin Italia, and she looks to be about 14 in that pic. His cousin Leah is also in the pic, but I can't pick her out. See, this sheepy thing is in my blood!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

In Memory of Gino Tosolini, 1916 - 2007

A lot has been going on in my life lately, but figuring most prominently is the loss of my grandfather this past Monday, Feb. 26. It is really sad to lose him, but fortunately he had a long and full life, and he died peacefully in his sleep, at home in his favorite chair. My grandmother was an incredibly giving wife, and took good care of Grandpa until the very end. I wasn't able to be at his service yesterday, so I just wanted to remember him here.

Grandpa Gino was always a kind of larger than life figure. He immigrated here from Italy in the 1930's, and always seemed indestructible to me. I mean, when he was a boy he was shot in the eye with a bow and arrow (inside an Italian hospital, no less), he's been in numerous car and tractor accidents, and he always seemed to come out of them a little bruised but otherwise in good condition. His father (whom I never met) was a cowboy! I always remember him tinkering around with machines, trying to keep things running. He used to lay out breadcrumbs on the hill behind his house for the birds when we were younger -- I remember saving the ends of bread loaves and slightly old bread in a bag in the fridge for grandpa all the time. He called everyone Luigi or Salami. He always gave us kids a butterscotch hard candy when he drove us someplace. He loved fishing -- he even had a little boat that we would go out on sometimes. He would get up at the crack of dawn to fish while they were biting. He used to take 5 mile walks every morning at 3am -- he was an EARLY riser. My grandmother didn't drive, so my grandfather drove her everywhere, patiently waiting in the car, reading National Geographic, while she did the grocery shopping or whatever errand she was on. He never complained about waiting around -- I think he kind of liked the time to read.

He slowed down a lot lately -- my most recent memories of him were when David & I lived in the apartment on their first floor for a month, and he would call me upstairs almost every day to re-program his TV remote.

I went to visit our cousin Mario in Grandpa's hometown in Italy a few years ago, and I scanned a lot of old photos there, some of which I'm sharing here. Rest in peace, grandpa -- I love you and will miss you!