Friday, December 08, 2006

Wooly Things and
Tinkly Things

Have a look at the start of the corrugated-rib sleeve of Dave 's sweater in LaLana's
Forever Random. I am using two closely related colorways: one is mostly sandstone colors with a sprinkling of spruce and sage green. The other is mostly sage and spruce, with a bit of sandstone.

I am cranking away madly at this, because it is a Christmas gift. When I say "cranking away madly," I mean that I am knitting on Dave's sweater every single minute that I am not working, cooking, doing the rest of Christmas, brushing my teeth, finishing the work on Mom's house, driving, feeding cats, paying bills, knitting Mom's Einstein, going to the store, taking a shower, or sleeping, which I really need to do soon, because it is midnight already. But first I have to run the pipes, because it is still phrasin.'

I love this yarn. Love. It.

It is soft and dyed with natural plant dyes. It retains lanolin from the sheep which provided the fleece. It makes me feel peaceful as it flows through my fingers. The colors are wonderful. I tried a photo against a light background first, but the colors looked funny, so I placed the sleeve on a maple chair and the photo came out fairly true to color. I love the way it looks like the colors of the woods in autumn.

I even hauled the sweater down to Mom's house so I could work on it for awhile when I took a break from helping her get re-settled in her house, now that nearly all of the repair work is done.

Now that we are moving things back into Mom's freshly-repaired kitchen, one of the matters that needs to be addressed is what to do about the dishes. Because of the tree falling on the house, what was left of the kitchen got rained into, and what didn't get broken, got mildewed and molded on, and then it got packed away until now.

New Orleanians are calling this dried-on gunk "Katrina Crud." The natives spend a lot of time swapping tips for removing it. The big winners are:

1. Dawn dishwashing liquid, sinkfuls and bathtubs full of warm water, and a good long soak therein, for anything too delicate to put in the dishwasher.
2. Cascade 2-in-1 Action Packs for anything that conceivably can be put in the dishwasher, followed by a bleach cycle.
3. Oxyclean for anything of the fabric persuasion
4. Bleach. Rivers of bleach.
5. Nail brushes, old toothbrushes and baby bottle brushes.

In addition to all this, in my own personal regimen, everything gets a final soak in veterinary sanitizer, and then a good rinse, before it goes back on the shelves. I firmly believe in veterinary sanitizer. I know what it does to scary microbes out there that most people don't know about.

Even if you live in the un-flooded slice of New Orleans, you still had a fair representation of creeping mold on just about everything in your house, if you got any water intrusion from broken windows or a damaged roof. So anything you might possibly eat or drink out of -- like Granny's china in the dining room cabinets -- needs The Treatment, and all the furniture and carpet needs to be cleaned and freshened as well.

China is scary. I am flat-out terrified of china and crystal, and always have been.

Being in charge of cleaning all the Katrina Crud off my mother's dainty, breaky, tinkly things makes me more than just a little bit nervous. For the first decade or so of my life, I was forbidden to go anywhere near it.

For my readers in Oz, I thought I'd celebrate cleaning this stuff without breaking it, by having a nice glass of South Australian Shiraz.

A lot of this stuff used to reside in the parlor belonging to my father's mother. On 363 days of the year, Grandma Margaret permitted children to do precisely one thing in her parlor: walk directly through it.

On Christmas, you went in there to open your presents and on Easter you went in there while you still had your church clothes on, to have punch and cookies from the Italian bakery.

Under no circumstances were you to touch anything that was on a shelf, in a cabinet, or on a side table.

This is the same stuff.

I know what you're thinking: "Don't be silly. You're all grown up now, with grey hair and reading glasses and everything. It's different. You'll be fine."

Before you continue on that path of kindly thoughts, I should tell you that, right this very minute, am nursing a couple of bruised ribs on my starboard side, that I sustained in a dumpster-related incident.

You see, I needed boxes for some of my office stuff. So I went to the dumpster at the LWS (local wine shop) because they always are inundated with nice, clean, empty boxes, which you can just pick off the top of the pile. However, on this occasion, the dumpster-dumping service apparently had arrived earlier in the day, so the dumpster was not quite as full as usual, and then, so I could be taller, I stacked up some of those red plastic crates the Coca-Cola people deliver 2-liter bottles in, and ... let's just say that this is not an OSHA-approved use for red plastic Coke crates, and that red plastic Coke crates are especially not designed to make you taller unless you weigh a little less than I do. But don't worry -- it's only a bruise, and I didn't need to do anything even more embarrassing, like go to the doctor and try to explain it.

So, remembering those dumpster-related bruises, if you want to get a really good idea of what it's like to put me in charge of delicate vases and crystal glasses and Grandma's eggshell-thin china, try to imagine putting Steve Irwin in charge of a tea party.

In the field.

With crocodiles.

Ordinarily, the only remotely dainty thing I do is knitting lace, and I do not even do this in a dainty manner, unless swearing and throwing it across the room counts as "dainty."

There is another critical consideration in lace-making:

I cannot break it.

I can drop it, squish it, frog it, cuss at it, stretch it, sit on it, stain it, abuse it, screw it up, rip it out, steek it, felt it, spill things on it, and possibly even tear it if I tried hard enough.

But I cannot break lace just by breathing on it.

The same is not true of Mom's tinkly things.

I look at this stuff and try to imagine a time when people actually used this stuff on anything but the highest occasions. Did people ever actually slow down enough to pour water into a delicate glass pitcher, and from that into delicate stemware, which was lifted ever so carefully to the lips? Was there ever a time when people could keep cups and saucers in the same place, without carrying them all over the house to set upon countertops and desks, to slurp at their coffee while they did something else?

Did people ever actually do one thing at a time?

Washing these things forces me to do one thing at a time, and I suspect that my blood oxygen level drops considerably from holding my breath while doing so.

Somehow, I got through boxes and boxes of plates and glasses and suchlike almost uneventfully.

Except for one item.

I put one of a pair of Granny's white porcelain flower vases into a sinkful of lukewarm water. By itself, with a rubber pad on the bottom of the sink. Very gently. Didn't bounce it. I let it soak for awhile and then I came back with a nail brush.

The other vase had come out just fine.

But when I picked this one up, a piece fell off.

I panicked for a second, and then I studied the miscreant piece of porcelain

There was a trace of brown substance around the edges.

I stared at it incomprehensibly, and then the light bulb went on. Long ago, someone had broken it, and glued it back on with the kind of glue you make from boiled horses or something like that. Ugh. The glue had dissolved in the warm water, and thusly the piece fell off.

Whoever did this long-ago repair job did it well, because I had never noticed the repair before. When I showed it to Mom, she didn't remember noticing it either.

So I washed the component parts and allowed them to dry thoroughly.

Superglue to the rescue.

At home today, I had a cursory look at our own dishes.

Dave and I have some nice, white, textured china, passed down from Dave's Mom when we got married, which is thick enough to not be frightened of, and which can be placed in the dishwasher, but we hardly ever use that because it is too nice. We had an exceedingly informal wedding, so we didn't register for crystal and all kinds of stuff like that.

We also have some of Dave's Granny's china, which is waywayway too delicate for me to put red beans and rice in. That stuff stays in the china closet, along with the matching teacups.

Our own wineglasses came from the restaurant supply store. There is good reason for this.

Otherwise, most of our dishes look like this:




At 4:04 AM, Blogger Ann said...


My "good china and good crystal" are covered with a nice protective coating of dust. My everyday stuff looks a lot like yours.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Melissa said...

Yes, I believe there was a time...when someone ELSE, usually dressed in a modest dress and apron, filled up the pitcher in the kitchen FOR YOU and THEN brought it through the door into the dining room where you were sitting waiting for it.

Ever since then, we multi-task. And we use Tupperware.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Barbara-Kay said...

Wow, shades of my childhood! Your post sent me scrabbling to the top of my kitchen china keep to look at my Grandmother's Noritake - Castello pattern. I'm not sure, but I think it's your Mom's pattern!

At 6:05 PM, Blogger noricum said...

I'm impressed... I would have broken something. Multiple somethings!

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous oneken said...

me-proof is a great pattern-- i've been collecting it for years, and it never goes out of fashion.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Jo said...

Came on here to say I loved the yarn at the top of your posting and that I was going looking for it right away... and then stayed to laugh through the tale of too-tender-for-use china and glassware. We inherited several sets from all sides of both families, and are happily working our way through the breakages. You have to get used to it. (But the chipped Waterford glass I keep - you can always slug wine out of the unchipped edge, after all).

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Jo said...

Mambo, Mambo, email me.
Celtic Memory


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