Archives for posts with tag: wisconsin

As planned, after posting about Eastlake, I put on my mittens and thermal underwear and headed off to the Vilas Zoo to look at penguins.

It was about 15 degrees out and snowing–big, loose, fluffy flakes. The surrounding park was empty and covered in deep drifts of snow. I couldn’t see a soul and wasn’t sure if the zoo was even open, but apparently it was:

I headed to the penguin exhibit, but they were nowhere to be seen. Same with the polar bear enclosure, and most of the other animal pens: empty, clean, silent.

The lion was gone, hidden away somewhere and dreaming of the savanna, so I had to settle for the stone sculpture at the gate.

It wasn’t clear where most of the animals had gone. A few of them were still out in the snow, or visible in their normal shelters: the Great Horned Owl was glowering out from its nest box, harbor seals were swimming in their pool, the camels and alpacas huddled in their barn so that only their snow-dusted rear ends were visible, and the Barbados sheep were milling around the door anxiously, waiting for food, perhaps.

Every so often I’d see someone else pass by, bundled in winter gear, but mostly the zoo was empty.

Some of the animals were in buildings right by their normal pens.

The giraffes normally have a big pen outside.

In the winter, though, they’re confined to a tiny concrete cage with acacias painted on the walls and artificial suns above.

Inside the aviary building, it’s as steamy and verdant as ever.

And inside the aquarium, as dark and cool as ever. Stingrays and arawannas swim endlessly through the dim light, unaware of the seasons changing.

The most surreal juxtaposition was probably the flamingos. I saw their cheerfully painted building through the blowing snow. It looked like a little piece of Florida.

Inside, the flamingos wander around on concrete painted to look vaguely like sand, wade in a shallow pool of water in a corner where the floor dips down, and strain their brine shrimp from black plastic buckets instead of silty shallows.

Oddly, they seem just as happy here as in their little lake outdoors, occupied with dabbling around in the various buckets and tubs, but since I’m not a flamingo, I can’t know what they’re really thinking, what makes a flamingo happy.


This morning I woke up late to an empty house. The weather outside was classic autumn weather, cool, gray, drizzly. As I made my coffee, even with the windows closed, I could hear the lion at the zoo roaring from about half a mile away. Auuu–auuu–auuur. It was a strange, sad, peculiar sound, coming over the blazing yellow treetops, over the hills and houses and neatly raked leaves. Inside, the infestation of ladybugs continued, and the lion’s roaring was punctuated with the tinny tapping of ladybugs buzzing against the lightbulbs and windows.

It’s been a beautiful weekend so far. On Friday night, we headed out to the High Noon Saloon, where the Halloween concert was one of the best I’ve been to in the past few years, and the costumes made it even more fun.

Here are two of the winners of the costume contest. I love that Beaker outfit.

I started out in the beard hat, but eventually got too hot and put on the kitty hat instead. Rahul wore a ski mask topped with a trucker hat. Here we are with a couple of friends–they are dressed as a witch and what I thought must be some European soccer player but is in fact “a bunch of things I found at Walgreens.”

The lineup (local bands pretending to be other bands):

We arrived around 8:45, during the Low Czars’ set as The Kinks. They did a fantastic job–very tight, lots of energy, and they dressed up nicely. I was impressed with the fake gap the lead singer put between his front teeth to impersonate Ray Davies.

Next up were the appropriately nerdy band The Shabelles as Weezer clones “The Buddy Hollys.” They played lots of my favorites from the blue album, and their pigtailed female lead singer took the place of Rivers Cuomo.

Apparently Nothing played Nirvana. They were a kick! The lead singer had this ridiculous fake-looking shiny blond wig on to play Kurt Cobain, and the classic grunge outfit as well. They played 99% of Nevermind (skipping “Polly”) and their set featured some guest appearances from Courtney Love and a crowdsurfing Zombie Kurt Cobain.

Tangy played as “Manchester United,” covering songs from the Manchester 80s and 90s music scenes: The Stone Roses (I was thrilled by this, they’re one of my favorite bands) and Oasis. They claimed they’d play The Smiths, too, but I don’t remember hearing any Smiths songs. I was a bit distracted, though, because their guitarist thought it would be a great idea to toss soccer balls into the audience, so I ended up mainly paying attention to the rambunctious soccer game in front of the stage so I wouldn’t end up with a ball to the face, or with someone’s drink spilled all over me.

Last up were The Gomers as Spinal Tap. They set it up so their drummer “died” between the songs! I was kind of hoping they would lower themselves onto the stage in big pods, but I guess logistics didn’t allow for this. It was after 2 AM by this time, and I’d started the complaining-nonstop-about-my-feet portion of the evening, so we left partway through their set. Here are the Gomers. (Most of my other concert pictures didn’t come out very well.)

The next day, I was up bright and early (well, at 9 AM; that’s early considering I went to bed at 3) for OMG A FIBER FEST!!!11!!!!1

The Wisconsin Spin-In was nearly 2 hours away. Mary’s Hindi teacher kindly offered to drive, since he wanted to check out the charkha selection–we’d been teaching his daughter to spindle and wheel spin; being Indian, he had spun on a charkha in school, and was thinking of getting her one so she could try it as well. I guess the charkha thing didn’t work out (apparently even the best, top of the line charkhas in India top out around $75, while the cheapest one at the show was the Babe’s Fiber Garden Liten Spindle and cost around $120). They did get some other fun stuff, though, like some sparkly pink roving and lavender soap.

In a curious juxtaposition for a charkha-shopping trip, there was a gun show located next door. I was curious about it, but ultimately didn’t end up going.

Here’s the Spin-In marketplace:

My excellent companions:

Some stressed-out alpacas, who spent the whole show making urgent humming noises, biting each other, and putting their ears back:

And last but not least, an overview of my amazing haul. I thought I’d have kind of a remorseful shopping hangover this morning from buying too much, but when I woke up, I still felt really excited about each and every one of these purchases, and looking forward to using all of them. Click through to the Flickr page to see annotations of the photo listing what the various goodies are.

Particularly exciting finds (well, all of it is exciting, but a couple of things to call your attention to): the Spinner’s Control Card, which I balked a bit at first at paying money for (it’s just a little piece of acrylic, and I found out it’s $1 cheaper from the same vendor online!) but I love it already. It would be easy to make as a DIY project, if you’re willing to put some work into it. Basically, it’s a clear piece of plastic with lines on it corresponding to a wpi measurement. You can just lay your yarn over the card every so often as you’re spinning and compare it to the thickness of the lines to make sure your grist is consistent. It’s faster and easier than doing the WPI “the proper way,” so it’s really good for just checking quickly on your yarn every now and then.

And the Bosworth Mini spindle in the middle of the picture. It’s a lovely piece of work, rim-weighted, with the grain of the dark wood showing through clear and beautiful. It’s made from Morado, and weighs 22 grams/0.77 oz. I love spinning on the wheel, so I wouldn’t have bought this, except that I heard through the grapevine that Jonathan and Sheila Bosworth will be retiring soon, and their spindles (widely considered to be top of the line, the creme de la creme of spindles) will soon be very scarce in supply and high in demand. I told myself that if I ever did become a spindle spinner at some point in the future, I’d really kick myself for having the chance to buy a Bosworth spindle and not doing it–and with the quality and reputation of the product, I shouldn’t have any problems unloading it for retail or near-retail value in the future if I changed my mind.

As it turns out, this spindle may have converted me to spindling (at least for fine yarns). I’m having a great time spinning the lustrous raspberry-colored Corriedale-silk from Handspun by Stefania. Spinning on this spindle is a wonderful, a real pleasure–it spins fast and stabilizes quickly, and it cheers me up just to look at the beautiful wood as I wind on the singles. I wonder if I should have bought more of them. Maybe three of them. (What do you think, Mary?)

Sooo… fiber fest over, I headed home and Rahul and I went out to the Halloween Freakfest party on State Street (infamous for the rioting, mayhem, and tear gas in previous years) but decided to skip the $10 admission fee and just people-watch from the perimeter for a while.

On the way home, just two blocks from our house, we saw a couple of young guys going from car to car, accompanied by the sound of broken glass. “Are those guys breaking into those cars?” I asked and Rahul biked up to see. I looped around and came back–they were still heading up the street and I could see that they were carrying drumsticks and apparently banging on the passenger side of the cars. “Hey! What the hell are you doing?” I yelled.

“Don’t worry about it,” yelled back one of the guys, and fixed me with an intense stare. I got kind of scared and biked away to find Rahul, who had vanished in the meantime. I found him around the corner, calling the police. Unfortunately, by the time he got off the line and we went back around the corner, the two vandals had run away. We went to take a closer look and it seemed like they hadn’t actually broken windows, but had broken or broken off a number of side view mirrors and dented car doors with their stupid drumsticks. I just hope one day those two morons find themselves having to file an insurance claim for property damage. Scratch that, I hope they find themselves having to pay out of pocket for bodywork as many times as the number of cars they thoughtlessly damaged last night for fun. If only I’d had my camera with me!

From my copy of Dairy Goat Journal, I’ve learned so much about wattles in the past couple of days. I basically knew what they were before, but not so many details…

  • “Wattles on dairy goats are hair-covered appendages of flesh hanging from the throat area of a goat” (OK, this much I knew already)
  • Goats can have either one or two wattles, and like the appendix, they serve no purpose. They can grow in many places–cheeks, shoulders, and even dangling from the ears, like earrings.
  • Registered Nubian does show better without wattles, so they are typically cut off or rubber-banded at birth to remove them
  • They can appear in any breed of dairy goat, including Alpines, La Manchas, Nigerians, Oberhasli, Nubians, Saanens, Sables, and Toggenburgs
  • Wattles on a dairy goat are apparently an indicator for good milk production potential! According to the Journal of Dairy Science, “…heterozygous polled goats or those with wattles are more prolific than horned animals or without wattles.”
  • Goats can sometimes develop wattle cysts, but these are benign and non-contagious

Now you know, too, and knowing’s half the battle.

I was also tickled to see an article in DGJ about a visit to Capriole Goat Farm, located near Bloomington and a regular with tasty cheeses at the Bloomington farmer’s market.

Anyway, on to less wattley topics. Here’s the final installment of my posts about the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival: what I ended up buying. I pretty much limited myself to the two stalls I’d been looking forward to since seeing them at The Fiber Event in Greencastle, IN: Briar Rose Fibers for yarn, and Handspun by Stefania for roving. There were a lot of really tempting things to look at, though–Wisconsin is home to many fiber-related companies, including Babe’s Fiber Garden (home of cheap PVC spinning wheels), Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mills (home of squishy, wooly yarn), and Kimmet Croft Fibers, home of the Fairy Hare yarn officially sanctioned for use in the reproduction Bohus sweaters in Poems of Color. (It’s also home to Elizabeth Zimmermann/Meg Swansen’s Schoolhouse Press, but they weren’t at the festival, sadly.)

So one unplanned purchase was about 1/2 ounce of purple wool, a little sample from a local fiber CSA called Four Crows Farm, just to see how it spins up:

Egged on/enabled/encouraged by Mary, I got 600 yards of Briar Rose Celebration, a DK-weight merino-bamboo blend. Yes, it does look pretty much exactly like the yarn I used for my Shetland Triangle. But they’re good colors. Rose, peach, gold. I’m not sure what to make with this yet, though.

A 478-yard mega-hank of Briar Rose Sonoma, a bulky weight wool. My skein is beautiful deep reds, rusts, and browns with a little shot of olive:

I’m thinking I’ll make a quick-knit striped pullover with this and the leftover brown yarn from my Leaf Lace Pullover.

And a few balls of roving from Handspun by Stefania. I was all excited when I walked in because I had been really looking forward to their booth, and they were right by the door of the first barn. But then I ended up kind of peeved because I took a photo, intending to blog about how awesome their roving is and how pretty all the naturally dyed colors are together, but when the flash went off, Stefania’s husband’s head whipped around, he told me sternly that they had “had too many problems in the past” with people taking photos of their booth, said I needed to ask before taking photos in the festival, and made me delete the photo I had taken from my camera. I can’t imagine what kind of issues they’ve had in the past with this–I would imagine that photos and positive word of mouth in the blogosphere would only have done them good. Instead they get me being cranky about it all (but they still made the sale) and nobody on the internet gets to see the vast and lovely variety of roving, kits, and handspun yarn at their stall.

Anyway, weirdness about photos aside, I’ve really liked spinning their roving in the past (previous skeins here and here) and here’s what I ended up with this time:

The sunlight kind of washed out the colors of the greens for the most part, but there’s one plain spring green ball (8 oz.) that was in the end-of-lot 20% discount bin, and the ball in the bottom photo that’s a slightly more olive-toned green shot through with gold silk (7.7 oz. Corriedale and silk dyed in osage and indigo).  Bouncy, soft, and very lustrous, though I don’t know how much of the shine is the silk. My plan is to make a two-ply of these two fibers and make an actual handspun sweater out of this. Wish me luck.

The blue ball of roving is 4 oz. of Coopworth dyed in indigo to what I thought was a medium blue, but seems quite a lot darker now that it’s at home and on the bobbin. I was thinking I would make some kind of winter accessories with this handspun–mittens, hat, or scarf. It’s soft, lustrous, and has a nice long staple of about 6 inches–easy to spin, though a little pre-drafting helps.

More pictures from the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival:

A baby lamb, born the day before! CUTE! Also covered with an alarming number of flies. NOT SO CUTE!

In the shearing demo area, a man with a spectacular amount of raw fleece in a couple of giant plastic bags:

Some sheep with lovely natural-colored wool

Sheep who did NOT want to go home

We wandered into the 4-H judging barn, where the judges would stride up and down and say things like “This is a fine example of a Lincoln ewe, good volume in the hindquarters, good muscle, nice and square, but if I were going to change something, I’d want to see a bit more femininity in the haunches.” They all looked like just plain sheep to me. Perhaps one day I’ll be a connoisseur. (Though I generally disapprove of breeding animals for form, a la the AKC, maybe it’s different for sheep, more functionally based? Who knows. Perhaps my Sheep! magazine will tell me.)

We tried to feed our carrot tops to these sheep but they were pretty “meh” about it.

Carrots? meh.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing some sheepdog herding trials. It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. This border collie (I think his name was Ben) was having the time of its life herding these ducks around the pen–slinking around, eye-stalking, running around the edges and chasing them through tubes and over stairs and between traffic cones. It was hilarious (watching birds run is inherently funny) and heartwarming at the same time, seeing this dog doing what he was born to do. (More or less. I bet he would have preferred sheep.)

Look at him on his belly, watching them run.

Good boy, Ben!

WordPress just ate my goddamn post so I’ll just tell you that I went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival today with Mary (aka turtleknitter) and had a great time. More details later, when I stop being pissed off. (Note to self: never, ever click the “Toggle fullscreen preview” button. It will delete your entire post and the “autosave draft” function is apparently completely meaningless)

Anyway, a few photos that require little explanation…
Here’s Mary in front of the barns.

I finished my Cherry cardigan and wore it today! Buttons: 5/8″ gray shell. I’ll have to take some better photos later. But you can kind of see it in these two photos… me petting a giant fluffy bunny:

and me and Mary and some mohair:

Here is a strange Christian wool vendor proclaiming “No sales on Sundays.” I got used to the blue laws in Indiana prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays, but I’ve never seen Sabbathday restrictions on wool sales before.

A sheep in a jacket.

A scary devil sheep (actually a four-horned Jacob, I think)

A tiny pocket sheep (actually a Shetland). WANT!

Here are some freebies I got from one of the booths.

From left to right: Sheep!, Dairy Goat Journal, and Backyard Poultry. Dairy Goat Journal has some especially inviting stories this month–let’s take a closer look:

  • Make Goat Cheese Easily
  • Nubian Judging Quiz
  • What Are Wattles?

Less than 2 miles from my house, about a 10-minute bike ride away, there’s a local yarn shop named Lakeside Fibers.

I was feeling a little cooped up today, so at lunch, I decided to pack up my laptop and go down there to look at buttons for my Cherry cardigan.

Let’s take a ride, shall we?

My house is on a tree-lined residential street in the Vilas neighborhood, a few blocks from UW-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium. Some fairly large and busy streets (Park and Regent) pass through the neighborhood. Park runs north-south and is lined with some interesting shops and restaurants as you go further down–a very large Asian grocery store that sells fresh durian, a tiny taqueria with whitewashed walls, an “Oriental Store” (I haven’t been in yet to figure out what, exactly, they sell–it doesn’t look like a grocery store), a South American handicrafts store, a Peruvian restaurant. Sadly, the Vietnamese restaurant called “I’M HERE” doesn’t seem to be there anymore, just its sign bearing false witness.

If you cross Park, heading east, you reach a bike trail that runs around the shores of Monona Bay, a round little pond of a thing scooped out from the much larger Lake Monona. It’s a beautiful place to ride, with mallard ducks and Canada geese resting in the shade on the banks, and an occasional muskrat making an appearance from among the rocks on the shore. Here’s a view looking across the bay towards the yarn store.

If you ride on this dedicated bike path, tiny private piers on your left, eclectic and doubtless very expensive houses on your right, you’ll eventually loop around till you meet Lakeside Drive. Turn left, and just before the railroad tracks you’ll see a tiny block of cute little shops. Lakeside Fibers is just up ahead, on the left, by the rainbow flag.

In one of the windows is a yarn bouquet.

Step inside, and there’s a table of the newest pattern booklets on the front table, and the most delicious luxury yarns all piled up high–Classic Elite cashmeres, Hanne Falkenberg kits, Shokay pure yak, glittery, beaded Prism yarns, Claudia hand-painted sock yarn… and on the back wall is a big Wheel O’ Berroco, just above a mega-sized ball winder and a box of partial skeins (no labels) on sale for $2 an ounce. The buttons are over to the left. (I didn’t find anything suitable, but they do have a nice selection.) The needles and pattern books are over to the right, and the single patterns are stowed in binders under the windows.

Here are some Mountain Colors handpaints…

and my favorite ones to look at, the Dream in Color “veil-dyed” yarns (the Shokay can be seen in the lower left-hand corner):

In the next room back, there are tons of Rowan yarns and a large selection of chunky and tweedy yarns along the left wall:

And finally, in the back, you reach the cafe, the Washington Hotel Coffee Room. There are couches here for knitting, and tables, and the walls are lined with yarn. The stairs lead down to a room of coned yarns for weavers and machine knitters.

The cafe serves lots of locally sourced and organic foods. I had a slice of onion and kale quiche with warm, seedy toasted buttermilk bread slathered with fresh butter, and later on, a big mug of hot chocolate.

On the back wall is their selection of Cascade 220. On the right, their sale yarns–among the good finds were some Habu kits and Muench Touch Me. There’s an outside wooden balcony with tables, too.

And, of course, sit down for a coffee and you get a beautiful view of a park and Monona Bay:

The wi-fi worked wonderfully, and I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening working there and looking out the window at the lake and the dogs playing fetch in the park. They played some Sufjan Stevens and some Sun Kil Moon. I approved.

(The two downsides I’ve found so far: the cafe is pretty expensive, and the train comes by periodically and makes noises like it’s about to burst through the wall of the yarn shop.)

Some of our new neighbors at the Vilas Zoo, which is in a beautiful public park a few blocks from our house and has free admission to all ages:

And in case you’re curious, here are some photos of the best features of our new place–please excuse the mess, we’re moving! There’s also an office, balcony, and bedroom that I didn’t show in these photos because the pictures didn’t come out well.

Bike rack on the porch:

Storage room with color-coded yarn in the little fabric ladder thing on the left, and some very awesome folding shelves we got at Staples yesterday:

Kitchen, with gas stove! Hurray for BTU’s.

Living room


We moved into our new place in Madison on Saturday!

After saying goodbye to my knitting friends in Bloomington, we packed up our apartment… here are some photos of the goodbye knit night, at our regular venue (the Pour House) and a nearby bar called the Root Cellar:

Elli + Korknisse:

Kalani + Korknisse:

The gang at the Pour House… from left to right, back to front: Sara, Kalani, Norma, Katie, me, Nicole, Elli

Knitting with raspberry beer at the Root Cellar, which is located in the basement of a fancy restaurant named FARM:

Elli and the wall of bedpans at FARM. Apparently these bedpans really freaked out her husband, who didn’t realize that they were meant to designate the area where the bathrooms were located and were not just there on a wall in a restaurant for the hell of it. So I had to take a picture of her with the scary decor:

In the first half of the move (from Bloomington to Rahul’s aunt and uncle’s house in Illinois), our car was packed to the brim:

I had to huddle cross-legged on the blanket nest in the passenger seat, clutching a bag on my lap, for the entire 4-hour drive–and this was already after getting rid of a ton of stuff that we just had to buy again as soon as we got here (like paper towels, a microwave, a coffee pot, etc.) sending a van-and-U-Haul trailer load with Rahul’s parents, and leaving a van-load of stuff with a friend in Bloomington for later pickup. We made kind of a strategy error by packing the less important stuff with Rahul’s parents in their van and leaving just the most important stuff to take with us in our car. They left, and we were wrapping up and packing when we realized we wouldn’t have enough room–but we really needed to keep everything else we had with us. Hence the clown car full of blankets, clothing, computers, and guitars.

We stayed in rural Illinois for a week and had some long and pleasant bike rides through cornfields and tiny towns–the longest ride we did was about 30 miles and I had a great time because we rode on a nice, flat dedicated bike path instead of along the side of the road with cars. Here are a few of the sights along the way…

The two stores in downtown Owaneco, Illinois (a meat store and a wine shop):

A log cabin in Pana:

A pause along the bike path:

The second half of the move went smoothly. We were able to redistribute our stuff into the van when we met up with his parents in Illinois, so we could actually see out of the back when we drove the next 5 hours of the trip. We were able to get our stuff moved in within a few hours on Saturday morning, and had some nice Thai food and unpacked for the rest of the day. We only put things together backwards a few times while assembling furniture. A success overall.

So the new place is cute, though we have no driveway or garage–something we didn’t realize would be a problem initially, since we knew we could get a residential parking permit, but we found out today that Madison requires you to change your residential street parking spot every other day, or every single day in the winter, between November and March (park on the even-numbered sides on even-numbered days, and vice versa). Since neither of us is going to be driving on a regular basis, this is a colossal pain in the butt. Also, I won’t have internet access at home until Friday, which feels odd and crippling in a place where we don’t know our way around yet–all this calling 411 and consulting paper maps feels very strange and archaic now.

But these things aside, our new place is cozy and cute (read: kind of small!), and in a great neighborhood, quiet and residential, full of huge old trees, close to Trader Joe’s and a record store and a branch of the public library. After a hellish afternoon shopping at big box stores yesterday, we took a nice long bike ride in the evening around the park (we spotted bison at the zoo through the fence), along the shores of Lake Wingra, and through the beautiful Arboretum. Today I’ve been sucking down lattes at a local cafe and working, and I stopped in at the record store at lunchtime and bought this album on an impulse. This band totally cracks me up.

In the meantime, I’ll continue slowly working through my backlog of blog fodder. Next up, my most recent finished object (I have been less than prolific in the past month or so).

Pattern: Branching Out, by Susan Lawrence, from Knitty’s Spring 2005 issue

Size made: n/a

Finished dimensions: long and scarfy? I thought I’d written this down, but I can’t seem to find it. I’d guess about 60 inches long by 7 inches wide.

Yarn used: Farmhouse Fibers/Yellowwood Llamas Super Silky 100% Llama in Lily, 1 skein (200 yards, sport weight yarn)

Needles used: US size 6/4.0 Addi Turbos

Date started: July 10, 2008

Date finished: July 16, 2008

Mods: None

Notes: As I explained in my post about the visit to the llama farm, my friend Molly and I have a deep affection for llamas dating back to junior high school days or thereabouts. We wrote a parody of a romance novel called The Mark of the Llama… I remember very little about the plot except that it featured a protagonist named Coriander who floated about misty manor lawns in a diaphanous white gown, and a villain who, at one point, threateningly pulled a shotgun from his sock and waved it around.

Anyway, Molly has a wool allergy and always complains about being unable to find nice coats or dress pants for a reasonable price–they’re either cheap polyester or incredibly expensive cashmere. I’ve been encouraging her to learn to knit, and have been telling her all about No Sheep for You ever since it came out–it hasn’t quite taken yet, but she’s definitely intrigued.

More so, I think, after I gave her this scarf. I originally went to the llama farm with the intention of getting some 100% llama yarn to make a woolly, llama-y present for Molly. I could have gone with alpaca or cashmere or silk, but llama just seemed like the perfect fiber for a present for her. So I made this while I was in California, and presented it to her.

She was pleased and said it didn’t feel like burning. Her mom laughed and explained that this was what wool felt like to the rest of the world.

Anyway, now that we’ve moved, I hope I’ll be able to settle in quickly, find some new friends here, and get some more mittens made before the bitter Wisconsin winter comes. The Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival is coming up soon and I’m hoping I can make it… Lord knows I don’t need any more yarn or fiber right now, but Briar Rose and Handspun by Stefania will both be there for the ogling, and of course lots of cute sheep and other critters. Maybe even llamas.

I had a very traditionally American St. Patrick’s Day yesterday: we went down to Uncle Fester’s on Kirkwood and watched a Thin Lizzy tribute band and a Pogues tribute band called the Fauxges. We drank green beer because it was half the price of any other beer. I wore a green cashmere sweater and danced. Then some dudes in the front decided that they really wanted to mosh, so I wound up covered in green beer and standing in the back of the room so I wouldn’t get knocked over into the dirty green beer puddles on the floor or accidentally get Rahul’s MP3 player wet. Very traditional. At least the sweater was green too. And they closed their set with “Fairytale of New York,” complete with impromptu confetti snow from the balconies, so I was pleased.

So I think I mentioned that we spent the end of last week and the weekend in Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago, scoping it out. It seems likely that we’ll end up in Madison. Unfortunately, UW seemed like a much better fit for Rahul than IU–they’re small, they have an emphasis on nontraditional, innovative research, they have a broad range of good professors should he change his mind about what to study, and one of the top consumer culture theory researchers in the field works there. I say “unfortunately” because despite my best hopes, Madison didn’t strike me with the same kind of instant love that Bloomington did (despite the golf ball-sized hailstones and tornado I encountered in my first few hours in Bloomington).

It’s a much bigger town. A city. When I saw the Capitol Square on the map, I was hoping for a small, charming town square along the lines of the Courthouse Square. It’s more like the San Francisco Civic Center–too big to be a nice place to hang out. The streets are wide and full of traffic.

I just never got a truly homey feeling from any neighborhoods there. I suppose that might change if I have friends there, or during a more photogenic time of year. There was so much snow! (I hear it hasn’t snowed this much in a hundred years, though, so it’s not typical). It didn’t snow while we were there, but there were many uninspiringly huge snowdrifts piled around the streets, with bicycles or cigarette butts embedded in them. Here is Rahul, standing next to a relatively small example.
And people were skating around on the frozen lake.

However, on the plus side, we talked to someone in the business school who had lived in Bloomington for 6 years before coming to Madison for his Ph.D., and he said that overall, he liked Madison somewhat better. I can see his points–there are tons more restaurants and stores in town, including a Trader Joe’s, a really stupendously large bookstore and a shop that specializes in pelmeni, and I’m sure activities on the multiple giant lakes around town are wonderful in the summer. And there is a free zoo! It really lacks the tucked-away, cozy, communal college town feeling of Bloomington, though.

Some highlights from my trip:
– Eating these insanely beautiful sandwiches (chicken curry with almonds and Asian pear with gorgonzola, honey, and sage) at a charming teahouse named Macha, just like our old guinea pig

– Visiting a couple of lovely yarn shops, one with a fabulous coffee house with a view of the water… and I hear there are more in the area, too
– Going to to the Babcock Center to sample dairy products and discovering a new kind of cheese, called juustoleipa, or “Finnish bread cheese”
– Discovering that the golden statue of Wisconsin personified standing on top of the capitol building is apparently wearing a helmet with a badger standing on it. (There were many badgerful details on various buildings around town, which pleased me greatly.)

Here is a photographic series I call “Architectural Treasures of Madison”:
The Gothic tower with crows, and probably people getting beheaded inside.

The Laboratory of Hygiene.

The… what is this?

The business school.

I actually quite liked this carving of Jesus standing in flowers:

I also have a series called “Architectural Treasures of Chicago”:

No, we did not take a field trip to Cabrini-Green. This dilapidated FEMA shack is actually the Metra station at Roosevelt Road, the closest stop of “the worlds [sic] finest commuter rail agency” to Chicago’s world-class Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. Shameful. I am always embarrassed when people from other countries see what passes as first-class public transportation in the US, and this brings my humiliation to a whole new level. For a minute or two, we actually could not figure out how to leave the station because we didn’t think it was even possible to walk through that boarded-up shack… then we realized that part of the boards could be pushed open. (See the area directly under the hole in the roof, in the picture with Rahul? That’s a “door.” There are two shiny ticket dispensers inside the urine-soaked hovel it leads to.) It all reminded me of those cobbled-together buildings in There Will Be Blood that kept collapsing on people, except with more graffiti and plywood.

We had a great time at the Field Museum, we saw part of the St. Patrick’s Day parade from afar, and much to Rahul’s delight, we ate some deep dish pizza.

We also had to park our car a few blocks away from our hotel, because the Swissotel charged $49 a day for parking, and we also got charged $43 for drinks from the minibar because they are apparently RFID-tagged and detected that we had removed them from the refrigerator for a minute while trying to make room for our leftover pizza. They did reverse the charges, but on top of the 2 hours we spent stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the approach into the city, and the hour we spent on the phone with three different people from Expedia trying to cancel another reservation, it all made for a pretty frustrating trip. Next vacation, I’m going to the middle of the countryside. I’d rather be lost in cornfields than trapped in traffic.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you might enjoy some knitting content, too. Here is something I made a couple of weeks ago but only just photographed now.

Pattern: Cat Bordhi’s Moebius Cowl

Yarn used: Plymouth Baby Alpaca Brush, color 1000 white, a little more than 1.5 skeins (80 g total)

Needles used: US size 10/6 mm 47″ Addi Turbos

Date started: March 3, 2008

Date finished: March 5, 2008

Mods: I worked 12 reps of the diagonal lace instead of 10, and I bound off by turning the work and working k2, *put 2 sts on left needle, k2tog tbl, k1, rep from *

Notes: This is the second time I’ve made this lovely pattern–the first time, I only had one skein of locally raised worsted-weight alpaca yarn and a little bit of handspun angora, and ran short on yardage, so had to leave out quite a bit of the pattern. I like how large and fluffy this version came out, although it did get slightly too big after blocking–more capelet than cowl. The Baby Alpaca Brush is to die for–super-soft, fluffy, non-itchy.

Oh, and a bonus FO is visible in some of the photos of Madison above–the black hat Rahul is wearing in the photos of the hygiene building and the giant snowbank. Due to the cold, I had to make Rahul a super-fast emergency hat. I’ll write up what I did next time, once I pry the hat from his head and get a chance to measure it. It’s made from one skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca and is his current favorite, though he wants me to make it longer.