Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Random debris.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

1. We have all had the hype of Fifty Shades of Grey inflicted on us against our will, yes? You can try to avoid it but it will hunt you down and poke you in the eye when you’re least expecting. So I imagine many of us have seen the commercial where Christian Grey vigorously mooshes mouths with Anastasia Steele in an elevator.

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Okay, when you see this do you also think of the mudskippers fighting for a mate?

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Just me? That’s fine.

 

2. Some bread from Japan made into the shape of beetles. Had I seen these, I would have bought them. I would have bought them so hard.

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3.  Spam! I haven’t posted about the spam comments I’ve been getting because they haven’t been all that interesting. But recently the spammers have been using small sentences they clearly pulled from somewhere and I like to try and guess what the reference material is about.

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This one I’m guessing is about the healthful, kimchi-like qualities of ginger and how they can help you naturally recover from psoriasis.

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Wow. Ummm, so maybe North Korea made an app that, once activated, will cause you to bleed from the ears and die, so if perchance you should download it under the impression that it was new emojis or something, be careful because even a short exposure will cause your cat to die. It most definitely doesn’t like you (it’s trying to kill you, after all).

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Awww. This person likes to sew and make their own clothes but they have a tendency to flail their arms a bit. Once, mid-conversation, they hit Grandma in the face and they’ve never really recovered from that. Therefore, all garments must have pockets for them to shove their fists into. Grandma still has a dent where the class ring embedded itself. It haunts this person at night.

Germany Part Done (technically Prague).

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Our first night in Prague after we returned from visiting Prague Castle we were freezing and keen to eat something warm. We found a traditional Czech restaurant where I saw an interesting delicacy on the menu – “Moravian Sparrow.” Oooh, that sounds intriguing, some little forest bird. Nope. It’s pork. Pork with onions and two kinds of dumplings. I feel like that is false advertising. Do not sell your meat by the name of another meat. It’s deceiving. That being said, it was also delicious, so my intentions to write angry letters to the Czech president were sated with tasty tasty pork ‘n’ dumplings.

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After getting our fill of this scrumptiousness, we walked back to our hotel for some much-deserved sleep (remember our truly atrocious travel experience the day before). I realized our hotel butted up against one of the finest examples of art nouveau architecture, the metropolitan pavilion. Even though the chill pierced your clothes and got down to your bones I made Neenernator stand there for a minute while I gawked and sighed and generally had emotions over this building. So good.

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Then we went back to the room and passed out. The next morning I was in no shape to get out of bed at 9:00 so Neenernator went to the Jewish Quarter to see the cemetery by herself which is fine, I’ve been before. The tombstones are still wibbly-wobbly. We met in the central square to join a tour I had booked at 11:00 to go to Kutna Hora. I’m glad I left the hotel early because I got an opportunity to see the tiny petting zoo right next to the tree.

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Now, both Neenernator and I were looking forward to sitting quietly on a tour bus and having a relaxing time, but I had not read the small print on the tour site so I blew it. We were on a eco-friendly tour that only took mass transit. Lotta trains. Lotta walking in the icy air. I felt terrible. Neenernator was a trooper, but I could tell she was super-bummed. I gave a her a foot massage when we got back to the hotel that night to make up for it. We went to the train station and caught the one that takes one to the bone church. It was about an hour ride which gave me the opportunity to enjoy the communist buildings scattered around the countryside and stare intently at the pattern on the train seats. At first I thought they were abstract elbow macaroni, and then I thought they were peppy modern swastikas. I settled on pasta-inspired third-Reich symbols filtered through the 1960s aesthetic. That seems about right.

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After then taking a little tram we finally made it. Now I felt like the last tour guide I went with gave me a nice overview of the interior of the church but this guide elaborated and I discovered some neat new things. Here is the blog entry of my previous visit. Once you’ve read that I will add additional information. So, same place. Walk in, go down steps, be visually assaulted by a colossal amount of bones. Awesome every time. BUT, here’s some things you did not know. For example. the chandelier, contrary to popular thought, does not contain at least one of every bone in the human body because there’s a rinky-dink bone in your ear and it is not represented on the chandelier so to say there is all 206 bones is false. The Schwarzenburg family crest off to the side, I now know what the four quadrants represent. The top two and the lower left-hand one represent land ownership and growing assets through various marriages, but the bottom right one, that one is an event. Right before 1600, the Turks and the Hungarians were fighting over a fortress. The Turks lost and the rule in war is after the fighting is over you go and retrieve your dead for proper burial. But the Schwarzenburgs who were in charge said No, Turks, you leave your dead there and watch crows peck their eyes out. And now that’s what that lower quadrant is – a skull with bones shards coming out the top representing the high ponytail the Turks rocked at that point in time, and a bird off to the side of the eye. Interestingly, the wing of the bird is made using a hand that had such crippling arthritis that all the bones are fused. Altogether a lovely addition to any home.

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The other piece of knowledge I acquired was a small display case off in the corner. Several special examples of skull damage are there. The one on the left was whacked with an pickaxe, the one in the middle got a solid wallop from a mace and the one on the right had signs of healing so it appears that that skull had rudimentary surgery performed on it, possibly due to brain swelling. You go Europe, doing brain surgery back in the 1200s.

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After we had stayed our allotted time we went to the Church of St. Barbara. I realized that I called it a cathedral in the post from 2010 and I was corrected. Do you know what makes a church a cathedral? I did not. I thought it was about size or how the floorplan was laid out, with transepts and naves and whatnot. Nope. In order to be a cathedral it has to have a bishop. And even though the Church of St. Barbara is huge and was supposed to have a bishop, it never did so it’s still just a gigantic church.

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The inside is gorgeous and lofty with remnants of polychrome on many of the surfaces.

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Another janky tree on display.

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The windows are almost all art nouveau and they’re great.

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One window is very clearly late 20th / early 21st century work and even though I don’t love the style I was delighted to see hedgehogs represented. A whole family of hedgehogs.

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Most of the chapels have an enormous black and gold baroque altar as the centerpiece.

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One had a considerably older Madonna and Child with it. I started chortling because for a long time sculptors didn’t understand how to distribute weight and balance in their figures, and in this Madonna, combined with her bored-looking expression, made me think she was mid-neck swirl. “Oh no you dint!”

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Another altar had a suit of armor with a bit of muffin-top and a bellybutton.

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The pulpit was also clearly baroque.

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The tour guide took us to several different important things in the church. One was a sculptor of a miner holding a lamp. Kutna Hora used to be a major source of silver and was the mint of the area so most of the people working there were miners. Our guide explained to us that the reason the miner is wearing an leather apron backwards is because it took them two days to climb down into the mine. Eventually they built a wooden slide to get them down faster but it still took forty minutes and HOLY CRAP BUTT SPLINTERS ergo the leather apron to cover your hind-bits.

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The miners are represented in various places throughout the church. There are these smarmy rich guys who owned the mines. “I’m Duke de Wealthy Off The Backs Of Others!” “Oh, are you? I’m Lord Haven’t Done A Day Of Hard Labor In My Life! Pleased to meet you.”

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In one area they show how the money was actually minted. There were two people. One had a decent job, the man who swung the mallet. The other guy, wow. Rough. He had to hold the slug of metal and pray that hammer-dude didn’t miss his mark and smash his fingers. This job was so disliked it was offered to prisoners who had committed robbery in exchange for a substantially reduced sentence. The theory was after six months of holding this position their hands would be so permanently destroyed they would never be able to steal again.

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After four hundred years of rockin’ this terrible technique they finally figured out a system that maimed no one and that was implemented.

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There were many medieval paintings throughout the church. Sadly, we as a people did not know how to “make art good” at that time. Perfect example ? an enormous painting of St. Christopher. St. Christopher was a giant, so large that he used a tree trunk as a walking stick. There was a river that would flood and he would carry people across it, giving him the name “Opher” or “One Who Carries.” At one point a small child came to him late at night and begged St. Christopher to carry him over. Even though it was late St. Christopher obliges, and strangely the child gets heavier and heavier as they are crossing, almost drowning them both. But they make it and when they reach the other side it is revealed that the child was Jesus Christ, which is how the “Christ” got added to the “Opher” making his name “One Who Carries Christ.” The act of St. Christopher crossing the river is supposed to be depicted in this mural but no one knew how to paint water so they put fishes near his legs in the hopes that you, the viewer, would understand that St. Christopher is crossing water. But mere fish wasn’t enough, the artist thought. Let’s throw a lobster in there. And hey, why not add the ugliest mermaid in the world? Put her in there too. Every little bit helps.

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While the paintings got better in the Renaissance, there was still some struggling. Another example – This huge mural of St. Ignatius sick and in Africa. Considering that this was probably painting in the mid-1600s, the artist had not been to Africa and had to resort to heresay about how to represent the continent. So, starting from the lower right-hand corner, there’s a blue genie (à la Aladdin), a horny camel making sexy-face at the viewer while licking his lips, a bunch of guys in turbans, a valiant attempt to render a lion, an equally valiant attempt to render an elephant, and one black guy who might be Indian. Africa!

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After the church we went to an authentic restaurant for lunch where I had, what else? Meat and dumplings. This time it was wild boar goulash. And it was lovely.

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The restaurant itself was amazing. First of all, they had a great menu translated in English. Both Neenernator and I had a giggle over 3A.

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A freaking sword, people!

Whoever decorated the restaurant really embraced the weirder side of old European painting. I was totally loving it.

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Post-lunch we headed over to the mint as the sun was setting. We only had a short time there, but we got a chance to see the now-cemented-over doors of the individual money-makers.

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And the fountain that they really should have turned off before it got so cold out.

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As we headed away from the church down the hill to the train I turned around and got this neat shot.

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The next day we flew back home. That was my trip and it was great. Once again, much thanks to Neenernator and her family for making me feel so welcome. Here are a few pictures that were left over.

The train station in Neenernator’s home town. That particular area of Germany uses bricks predominantly in their buildings but they’re all these grim brown ones. The train station used these delightful orange ones. C’mon, rest of Ottersberg! Orange bricks! Get on board!

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This bakery is called Le Crobag. It seems like an insult. I have taken to calling people “crobags” under my breath.

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The perpetual rain in Germany isn’t all bad. Some beautiful moss grows because of it. This was a rock right outside Neenernator’s front door.

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A sign on the side of a German elevator. It appears from the picture that you should not elevator. I wish it was more specific.

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The most terrifying stairwell I have ever seen. It was in the Bremen town hall. The fact that the Amnesty International booth was directly under a railing that looks like a torture device was not lost on me.

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Some beer tankards in Prague that look like startled fish.

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And a stone carving.

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That’s it. My trip to Germany.

Germany Part 6 (technically Prague).

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Prague! God, I love Prague. The architecture never stops being the best. So stabby and pointy and riddled with Art Nouveau. It’s got to be one of my favorite cities.

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After we checked into our hotel (The Grand Hotel Bohemia, fantastic hotel, I highly recommend it) we trekked up to the top of the mountain to see St. Vitus’ Cathedral. Neenernator loves Mucha and so do I, so I wanted her to see the stained glass window in the cathedral. I actually prefer St. Barbara’s Church (the church in Kutna Hora that we went to the next day) but St. Vitus is nothing to sneeze at.

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One of the things I enjoy the most in St. Vitus is how they just smashed all the different styles all together with zero concern for flow. The baroque is smacking right up to the medieval which is snuggling with some modern what-not, it’s like a attic of design. A big pile o’ art.

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Plus there’s tall vaulted ceilings and regular, non-Mucha stained glass windows.

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AND there’s a lot of dead people tastefully displayed. I’ve talked in the past about my love of reliquaries, so seeing bits of saints in glass cases just brightens my day.

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I have seen the Mucha window before, but it doesn’t matter how many times you see it, it flattens you every time. Just blows you away with its beauty. Ugh, right in the heart.

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There’s a tomb area where a bishop is laid to rest, but both Neenernator and I showed our complete lack of reverence in our own special ways. I was delighted by the dragons above the grave.

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And Neenernator was convinced the bishop was a giant fish.

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Behind St. Vitus’ Cathedral is an additional, considerably older church called St. George’s Basilica. It’s from, like, 1000 A.D. but at some point the powers that be decided that there desperately needed to be a garish Baroque facade on the front. And so it came to pass.

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The inside continues to be regular old. No baroque.

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In the basement was a crypt with one of the creepiest sculptures I’ve seen in a while.

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St. George is big in Prague. I cannot figure out why, since there are no ties between him and Prague in any way, but periodically as you walk through the city you will find a sculpture or tableau or painting of him on a horse slaying a dragon.

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St. Vitus’ Cathedral and St. George’s Basilica are part of a large complex called Prague Castle. There’s all kinds of buildings in there, it’s pretty much an entire village. There are streets that show where the cobblers and metalworkers and ceramicists lived. In front of the former ceramicist’s house (all the tiny homes have been converted into wee museums or shops) there was a delightful wreath covered with small ceramic wares.

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Many of the storehouses were turned into museums as well. Neenernator’s favorite was the armory.

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I posed with the rack of angry-villagers-attacking-Frankenstein’s-monster weapons.

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There were a great many combo-weapons. This one is a gun-sword.

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And this is a neato device. Fire off your shot, then flip it over – poof! It’s a crossbow. It made me think of The Janitor from Scrubs.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x22yNaLdiGA

Off to one side of the armory was a shooting gallery where, if one desired, one could fire a crossbow of their very own. Neenernator was super-excited to do that. She didn’t do too bad either. When the apocalypse comes and the zombies arise, hang out with her. She can handle her zombie-killing tools.

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After we had checked out all the things in the castle that we wanted to see we walked back down the mountain to our hotel which meant we walked right through the middle of the central square. Still awesome but, as opposed to the last time I was there (around Easter), there is a giant glittering dripping Christmas tree.

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It’s a standard European Christmas market but with a few local twists. For example, you can get a thing that I call a turtleneck. It’s spelled trdelnik and it’s a piece of dough wound around a large wooden dowel and then baked over a fire. Then sugar is quickly poured around the outside and it is slid off the dowel and handed to you. The particular booth we went to gave it to us with plum jam on the inside. As you can imagine, it is delicious.

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A few things before I head into Kutna Hora and the surrounding area:

The Christmas tree at Prag Castle. I’m telling you, Europeans have no problem with jacked-up looking trees. They’re much more tolerant than we (Americans) are.

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Neenernator standing next to a door at St. Vitus. She is five-foot-one, maybe five-foot-two. That gives you an idea of the door’s height.

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An awesome weathervane.

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A chess set that is gnomes versus dragons. I was tempted. I don’t play and have nowhere to put it which is why I ultimately didn’t purchase it, but I thought about it.

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And the sweet (no pun intended) gingerbread house in our hotel.

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Next, the final installment of the trip: Kutna Hora.

Germany, Part 4.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Before we continue on with my German Christmas, let’s look at some things I came across while driving in the countryside with Neenernator.

Trees! They line all the roads. They’re big. And old. It’s pretty awesome.

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Look children, look at this remnant from the past. This is a movie rental store. See, you go here where a monk is standing behind the counter. Then you rent a DVD and he scribes on a piece of parchment with his quill which movie has been tooken out. At some point Gutenberg will show up and show the monk how to use a printing press but it hasn’t happened yet, so he still quillin’. You watch it at home and then when you’re done watching it you bring it back. This particular video store doesn’t even an after-hours slot, you actually have to come back when the store is open to give the movies back. The monk needs to be in attendance! A slot is too advanced!* Neenernator told me that TV is Germany is lame-o, therefore people rent movies. Not gonna lie, it was really fun. It made me feel like I was back in college.

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Various barns around the area. Many of them have biblical sayings over the door. Neenernator has a barn on her property and she’s an atheist, so we decided that we should paint a saying over her big barn doors in that blackletter calligraphy but instead of being from the Bible it would say, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons because you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”

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It’s very windy in this area so there are those industrial windmills all over the place. However, in addition, there are old cutey-patootie windmills! I saw one from a distance in Bremen.

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But Neenernator, being the consummate host, found me a windmill I could walk right up to. And hug, which is precisely what I did. They had taken the fins off the mill for the season but I was still delighted. I hugged a windmill, y’all!

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So, the day before Christmas after we had explored most of the villages in the area of Ottersberg we went to the gigantic shopping mall called Dodenhof to wander around and allow me to see what a gigantic German shopping mall looks like. It’s pretty great. It’s like the best qualities of Ikea combined with Restoration Hardware and Trader Joe’s and a million other stores. You know how you occasionally hear about people living in a Wal-Mart for a month or whatever? I don’t know if I would do that, but I sure as hell would live in Dodenhof for an extended period of time.

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The entrance we went in (there are a ton of entrances because this place is the size of Lichtenstein) was the furniture department where Neenernator and I were greeted by some of the most awesomely garish living room set-ups I have ever seen in my life. I have a very limited knowledge of Germans and their interior designing tastes, but based on the living rooms I’ve seen they tend to go sensible, well-made and in neutral colors. I didn’t want to make assumptions based on the three German houses I’ve been in so I turned to Neenernator and said, “Who… buys these?” She was flummoxed. She said, “No Germans I know.”

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On top of being wildly vibrant, these couches were huge, like room-sized beds. Neenernator insisted I sit on a side chair. You’ll note that I look uncomfortable like a perched bird and that is because the chair was six inches wide so only about one half of one butt cheek fits on the seat part. Seriously, though, never mind the Germans – who on this planet buys these things? It’s uncomfortable, expensive, hard to clean, etc.

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We eventually ambled out of the furniture section into the light fixture section (I wanted many, many things but thankfully our plugs are different here in the U.S. so I could buy nothing). Then next part we entered was the grocery section. It was enormous, the size of a supermarket here. They sold all of the items you can imagine, but this being Europe they also sold alcohol. Remember the feurzengenbowles from the first German vacation post? Dodenhof had a kit so you can make them at home. Neenernator got one. There’s a little metal clamp you attach to the side of the mug to hold the cone of brown sugar that you set on fire and pour the wine and rum over. It’s hardcore.

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Outside the grocery store there was a full-size Lego Santa with reindeer that some kids were posing on.

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And a forest tableau populated by Steiff animals, one of which was a large huggable cuddly wild boar, about three feet long and two feet tall. I wanted him, but Neenernator pointed out that it was probably $1,000 so maybe not. I took pictures of him, though.

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On the top floor, that was the piece de resistance – the food court. It was glorious. As you enter all you see is the gelato counter. They ain’t playin’ at the gelato counter.

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Then, off to the side was the actual food area and that’s all well and good, but beyond that was the dessert bar. The magical, magical dessert bar.

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You see that? That there’s Jello. And in the middle, that’s the most wondrous substance in existence. Custard. You may think that’s the light from the ceiling illuminating the custard, but I prefer to think it is a halo bequeathed by the Lord on a dessert item plucked directly from the Garden of Eden.

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I got myself a dinner, a basic, no-frills dinner. A basic, no-frills dinner was THE BIGGEST HOT DOG EVER, some curry sauce, french fries and a salad. Neenernator got a salad and a kiwi juice. It was meat-licious meal.

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The next day was Christmas Eve which is the day that Germans open their presents. Neenernator’s family is not even the slightest bit religious so we had a lovely secular day. We went to see Frozen in German, the sing-a-long edition. I warned everyone repeatedly beforehand that I would be singing along in English. I did, doing complete hand gestures to accompany the emotions. I can now say I know what “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” in German sounds like (it sounds like this).

When Frozen was over, we returned to the homestead to wait for lasagna. I watched German television. It was a game show where Irish musicians played bagpipes, fifes and drums and then contestants guessed if they were wearing underpants beneath their kilts. After filling up on lasagna (bechamel sauce instead of ricotta, OMG) we made our way over to the tree to open presents. We had to roll two die and whoever rolled the highest number got to open their present. It’s a good technique, keeps things moving. We needed to keep things moving because there were a ton of presents.

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Post-present-opening we had more food because why not? I don’t have gout quite yet, let’s go out with inflamed toes. It was dessert – baked apples, cored, with melted gingerbread cookies in the middle. I haven’t been to many Christmas dinners but I think I can say this was a great one. Mellow, pleasant, lots of deliciousness and chatting and general friendliness. Good stuff.

The next day, Christmas Day, we went to the spa. If this sounds like no big deal, you don’t understand the magnitude of this. We went, as a family, to the spa for five hours. We brought towels and books and slippers and drinks, it was a massive undertaking. The spa we went to, Oase Spa, was in a built originally as a waterpark under a giant glass dome but all the screaming children’s voices reverberated off the hard surfaces and the dome and it was achingly loud. So, because it had all the pipes and whatnot, they changed it to a quiet peaceful spa. Where everyone is naked all the time. I’ll repeat that: where both men and women wander around with no garments covering their components. I can now say, between Burning Man and this, I have seen all the penii and scrotaa and boobery that I ever need see. I have a wonderful range of knowledge about them now, I’m good for the rest of my existence.

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When we arrived we picked out lawn chairs on the second level and Neenernator showed me around. There’s indoor sections, there’s outdoor sections, it covers a lot of terrain. Because Neenernator is “with child” she could only go in the most temperate of saunas and steamrooms and thank God for that because I did not want to experience the extreme rooms. The cooler ones were pretty hot, thanks ever so much. Here’s where germaphobes and people with social anxiety will need to close their eyes for a while: there are signs with the pour schedules and they say things like, “11:00 a.m. in Himalayan Salt Room. Cedarwood pour and gong. 12:30 in Nordic Sauna. Wildberry scrub.” We went to the Himalayan Salt Room for the Cedarwood pour and gong (whatever the hell that was) and slowly I realized that everyone was showing up for this. Meaning small portions of my naked sweating self was up against other people’s naked sweating selfs. It could not be avoided. Luckily I totally do not care, but a typical American would have burst into flames. BTW, the Cedarwood Pour involved pouring cedarwood-scented water over the coals and then fanning the yummy steam over our faces and bodies with a giant fan, and the Gong was… a gong. That was rung several times, I imagine to increase the soothing nature of the activity.

Post-sauna you are encouraged to sit quietly in a normal temperature and recover for about forty-five minutes while drinking a ton of water. I brought a book and Neernernator snuck a photo of me with her phone. Don’t worry, I’m wearing a robe.

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Neenernator had booked me a massage, something with hot foam and I’m down for whatever so off I went with her mother for our tandem hot foam massages. First we got all nekkid and laid down on our personal marble tables, like Cold Stone Creamery but warm. Then the nice masseuse lady assigned to me scrubbed my entire body with a mitten made of cat hair. (It felt like cat hair. It looked like cat hair. Tell me different.) Following the scrubbing the masseuse did something interesting: she filled a nylon bag the size of a pillowcase, similar to the kind rice is sold in, with hot water and soap. Then she waved it in the air several times and squoze the hot foam created all over me. She did this over and over until I was completely covered. Lemme tell you something. Here, lean in, this is important. It feels amazing to be covered in hot foam. Seriously. So so good. You know what doesn’t feel so good? When the nice masseuse lady reaches through the foam and attempts to rip your body apart like bread to feed the ducks. At one point she put all her weight on her elbow which she dug into my spine and dragged down the length of my back. I thought she was trying to fracture a rib. The whole next day I felt like I had been hit across the back with a stool in a bar fight. It was brutal. I think my hands were shaking because at one point she asked if I was alright. I was honest with her, “I’m… fine, I’m no hero, I can handle this, I can’t hide that it hurts so much.” “Well,” she responded matter-of-factly, “At least you know you have muscles now.” When she had massaged me completely from head to toe (she washed my hair so she could massage my scalp), the masseuse told me to sit up, put one hand on my heart and the other on my stomach and then she threw a bucket of cold water on me. I would have imagined I would have screamed or something but… nope. It felt jarring but okay. I think my body was so grateful she was no longer acting like there was a dinosaur buried in my flesh and she was a paleontologist with a shovel that it didn’t care cold water was being chucked at me. After that she gave me a glass of apple tea and sent me back to my lawn chair to chill out for another hour or so. Now the sun was setting so they turned on these lovely interior lights. Neenernator snuck a shot of that too. She’s a good friend.

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We went to one final sauna (it was packed, they gave us honey to smear on ourselves and then blasted us in the face with steam), we returned home looking like shiny pink piggies. The Oase really took it out of us so hey, let’s have another feast! This time it was fondue. I made myself useful peeling vegetables and setting the table and all that, and then we all settled in to eat three different kinds of meat that had been boiled in oil.

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After filling up on delicious meats (and three different dipping sauces!) Neenernator and I packed because we were going to catch an overnight train to Prague. I say “was going to” because we did not, and I will delve into that joyous bullhorse in the next entry.

 

* It wasn’t really a monk, it was a middle-aged lady with an unfortunate bleach job, but it’s such a blast from the past I felt the need to go all 1100 A.D. on it.

Germany, Part 3.

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Verden! It’s pronounced “Fairden” and it is where Neenernator went to high school. She went there to meet up and chat with her old high school English teacher, so Neenernator’s mom took me around to see the sights of this small country town while Neenernator was meetin’ and chattin’.

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We walked around in the center of town where this photo was taken as well as some of the side streets that had old buildings with no right angles. Saggy, charming buildings.

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There was a sculpture in town of some horses and I guess there’s a guerilla knitting group in town because there was socks for the hoofies!

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They had a big ole church and anyone who knows me knows I love me some big ole church, so we went there.

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It was really interesting on the inside. The whole interior was painted but instead of being polychrome and covered with patterns it was all white with a rich burnt orange ceiling. Nothing else. It gave a strong sense of height and freshness to the place. I think they had performed a nativity play the night before because when we came in they were breaking it down.

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Please note that the Christmas tree is sparse, branchwise. This was a big trend I noticed. In America the Christmas trees need to be full and bushy so they can hold up ornaments made of iron and bronze or whatever dense weighty material they’re constructed out of. In Europe the most common decoration is ribbon tied into bows or creatively folded straw, so the trees can look like Christian Bale in The Machinist and still work just fine.

In a hallway off to the side were some super-ancient ladies. I hope the sculptors were not being true to life back in 900 A.D. because these women are… strong-looking. And mad. One’s boobs were all over the place. They are not pretty ladies. But they were in excellent condition and it was cool to see them.

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After checking out the church Neenernator’s mom and I sauntered over (in the rain, always rain) to the high school Neenernator went to. I was unaware that she went to Hogwarts.

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Seriously, Hogwarts. Here’s the entrance hall and the stairwell.

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Here’s their auditorium.

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Here’s the hallway filled with local taxidermied beasties.

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Here’s the courtyard where the peacocks live in the non-winter season (not making that up).

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We ran into the janitor and he was straight out of a book about gnomes or goblins. He complemented the oldey-timey magical quality of the school perfectly.

After Verden we went to a town Neenernator called Fischerhuder (Fisherman’s Hood). Neenernator warned me the town would be picturesque but I was not prepared. It was adorable. I wanted to snuggle with the buildings and the trees.

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Many of the houses were topped with these crossed horse-head carvings. I loved them. Very Norse.

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I also liked whoever planted this hedge, alternating the yellow-green and blue-green.

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The first building we came across was the local church. It’s a very old, very small church and I guess in the 1600s and 1700s there was a graveyard that got knocked down due to weather or war, so the wall around the church was partially made of the headstones.

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Some particularly weird-looking angels.

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Some particularly Mozart-looking angels.

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Any ones that were different heights were scattered around on the church property.

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After went into a antiques store where I bought a porcelain dish featuring a small child taking his friend the insect for a walk (I tried to find a picture of it online, I could not so I will take a photo and post it at some point in the near future) we checked out the Watermill. There was a little stream that went through town and it powered the local mill which had been turned into a restaurant since milling is not the thing it once was.

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Oh boy! Tradition AND charm! Can’t wait.

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Here we go!

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Aaaaaand there it is.

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See that stain on the side of the building? That’s where the water wheel WOULD HAVE attached if there had been a DAMN WATER WHEEL there (*cough* false advertising *cough*). Shame on you, Watermill. You may be traditional, but you are not charming. There. I said it. I say harsh things when you rob me of the joy of a water wheel. Also they were closed for the season which compounded my sadness.

However, not all was lost! Another facility was open! It was post-lunch so all they were serving was tea and cake, but tea and cake is awesome so we went with that. This is one of the many times in my life where I wished I spoke another language well enough to read the signs and understand them. See that sign?

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If you know German, you would know that it says “Doll Cafe and Restaurant.” Doll Cafe, otherwise known as Nightmare Fuel Establishment. Neenernator isn’t scared of anything so she had no problem, but as soon as we walked in I knew that I would spend most of my time in there staring intently at the tablecloth.

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Oh, this doesn’t look so bad. It’s quaint and inviting.

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Those cakes look amazing OH NO DON’T TURN AROUND

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THEY’RE ALL FACING ME WITH THEIR DEAD DOLL EYES

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PLEASE DON’T SIT US NEXT TO THE SCARECROW great we’re sitting next to the scarecrow.

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They brought us menus and proceeded to read every damn word on that menu so I wouldn’t have to look up and be in my own personal version of a 1980s horror flick. The slices of cake were enormous so they recommended that we get half of one kind and half of another kind. Then they brought us our tea and cake and it was presented so beautifully I almost forgot to freak out.

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Neenernator got a blackberry cake and a yogurt and fruit cake. I got a citrus cake and a gooseberry cake. Oh my God. The citrus cake was wonderful, but the gooseberry cake… it was exquisite. I’m not exaggerating. It was so light I thought it would defy gravity and float away. I’m get a wee bit drooly right now thinking of it. So yummers.

I also noticed the art nouveau light fixtures. I thought they were abstract swirlies and nothing more, but Neenernator pointed out that little gnomes are struggling with inside-out umbrellas on the side. That made me like the lights even more.

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After we had our afternoon tea like civilized ladies Neenernator went to the bathroom while I waited outside. When she came outside she was grinning. “I’m so glad you didn’t go to the bathroom in there,” she said. Apparently there’s a guy who greets you as you approach the lavatory:

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And this lovely lady keeps you company in the stall.

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HELL TO THE NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Germany, Part 2.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

More Bremen! Finishing up with the Christmas market, there was a booth where a woman dipped your hand in wax, pulled it off, filled it with shredded wax, put a wick through it and – yay! – your hand is a candle. I cannot for the life of me imagine why someone would want this, a waxen version of one of their limbs that they could watch melt, but there’s something for everyone out there I suppose.

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In front of one of the rides I mentioned yesterday was the creepiest Santa statue I have seen in a good long time. The combination of the jacked-up beard, the slender hands, the weirdly poochy pants… not a good scene.

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There was a booth selling Christmas decorations and I appreciated the fact that they separated the cool LED lights from the warmer-style lights.

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There was another Christmas decoration booth with a cute version of the Bremen animals in front.

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I saw the real statue at some point in my travels around the town. It’s very sweet.

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Because the weather is so sucky (have I mentioned the suckiness? I feel like I should mention it again) there are wonderful fire stations for you to warm your toesies.

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Many of the booths have tableaus on the top part, often of farm scenes or Christmas stuff. Sometimes random gnomes or snowmen make an appearance.

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There was one that caught my eye and it was certainly distinctive. What precisely is going on with those reindeer and their antlers?

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There’s a big old (seriously, old, like 1400s) sculpture of a fellow named Roland in the center of town. I liked him.

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Moving around the city: To get from the main train station to the market, Neenernator and walked through the former butcher’s district. See this here sign? It says “Bone Breaker Street.” I am not making that up.

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And nearby is a sculpture of a man blowing a horn with his dog and his pigs. Very cheerful and friendly looking pigs, they are. It’s a famous statue so the lighting above mirrors it.

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There was also a beautiful chandelier hung between some buildings. It was a lovely visual touch and added some life to an otherwise pretty dark corner.

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A parked ship. Bremen is a major port town so ships be comin’ and goin’ all the time. All the other ships were modern, but this one was old-timey and charming.

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Speaking of ships, Neenernator took me to her favorite part of the city, the area where the sea captains lived. It’s called The Schnoor and it is so adorable it hurts a little.

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Look, a little walrus above the door to keep the sea captains company!

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Some of the walkways to get from one building to another were tight.

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Super-tight. Shoulder-width. Neenernator is demonstrating for you.

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Gravity has taken its toll on many of the buildings in the cutest way possible. Look at the door and window frames of this tiny shop selling nick-knacks.

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The Schnoor was such a wonderful area to walk around I wanted to get a cup of tea and experience it further. We stopped in a local tea shop and had some fresh hot tea with German rock sugar and listened to the street musicians outside. The tea shop had a great antique cash register.

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There are stairs all over the city and since the landscape is extremely flat, people bicycle places. Neenernator pointed out that on the sides of many stairs is a railing meant for you to slide your bike down. Thoughtful, no?

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The upcoming post will be about a very nice village called Verden that I got to experience in the dripping rain. Get excited.

I’m back from Germany! Quickest recap ever: It was rainy.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

I have returned from my Christmas jaunt to Germany and I am now sorting through my not-too-many-but-still-a-lot pile of pictures. I shall be a-postin’ in the next few days, so get ready for that. I am sad to say that I did not see anything Krampus-related. In Germany and Austria and Switzerland, St. Nicholas is accompanied in a sleigh by a demon-lookin’ fella named Krampus. If you’ve been a good little girl or boy, St. Nick gives you a present, but if you’ve been bad Krampus hits you with a switch. If you’ve been REALLY bad, Krampus may put you in a basket on his back and take you away forever. Here are some vintage Krampus ads.

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And some great modern takes on the legend of Krampus.

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But there was no Krampus because I was in the North and I suppose he’s not popular there. Or perhaps parents are realizing that scaring the ever-loving bejesus out of their children is not the most efficient way to keep them in line. I’m not sure, but there was no Krampus. Boo.

Despite the absence of devilish Santa associates, it was a terrific trip. I ate and napped and saw churches and had a generally lovely time. I shall delve into the details shortly, so get excited for rain-smeared photos, because they are comin’.

 

All kinds of items from the internet.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

1. The world wide web has given us many treasures over the years. One is Birds With Arms. It’s a Tumblr. With Photoshopped pictures. Of birds with arms. Enjoy some of my favorites.

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Also, Drunk J. Crew. Someone noticed that the models in the J. Crew catalog tend to look inebriated. They added text to the pictures. The rest is magic.

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2. I was pottering around and saw this phenomenal artist Dashi Namdakov. He does Mongolian-infused artwork in a myriad of mediums. Giant bronze sculptures:

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Small sculptures:

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But (not surprisingly if you’ve met me) the work by him I simply adored was his jeweled creatures.

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Addendum 12/3/2014: Look at the commercial I saw today! http://www.tastefullyoffensive.com/2014/12/birds-with-arms-star-in-this-funny-new.html

Rhinebeck Sheep ‘n’ Wool Festival 2014.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I went this year! It was great. I drove up with my sister K. because she is a super-talented knitress and as opposed to me who goes for the sheep-petting, she actually goes to buy yarn like a normal person. This is some of her work:

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Yeah. She’s amazing. Anyway, we went up and I saw some excellent work. I considered walking up to several people wearing beautiful handmade sweaters/shawls/gloves/etc. and thanking them for making and sharing these wonderful pieces with the world, but then I decided that that would be way too weird even for me, even for the RSnWF. And let me tell you the RSnWF can get mighty weird. One example that immediately comes to mind is when I walked up to a woman, a professional woman, a woman manning a booth filled with wooly products for sale. She had a two-year-old child sitting on the counter in front of her and while this woman was talking to a client the child pulled up her shirt and was nursing from one of her breasts while finger-playing with the other nipple. All of her goods and services were hanging out into the great wide open and I mentally shut down. It was like seeing a griffin*. I’m all for breastfeeding but this was waaaaaaay too much. I think I got boobPTSD from that experience. My point is that one could walk up to a stranger at the festival and compliment their knittery without being the oddest thing that happens to them that day. BY A LOT.

We hit up a couple of specific shops K. wanted to purchase products from, one of which was Fiber Optic. They sell yarn groupings that gradually change from one color to another so you can make ombre-type scarfs. I LURVE me some ombre so I loitered outside their booth staring at the examples they had pinned up. So good.

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Other neat things I saw at the RSnWF: this sweater.

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This shorn roving with pictures of the sheepies that it was shorned from which makes me want to buy this fleece even though it’s probably greasy (lanolin) and I have zero use for it.

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The truth was I did end up buying some roving because I have a very special project in mind. Let’s start at the beginning. When my friend Ness turned 30 she and a bunch of her chums went to New Orleans to celebrate what she called her Dirty Thirty. At this exact time a hurricane had passed through the delta and drowned thousands of nutria (a giant South-American rat) and these nutria corpses were washing up on the beaches. I could not stop talking about it. So, in order to make Ness’ trip even more memorable, every time she would post something on Facebook I would comment with something about nutria. No context, no explanation. Every time.

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Then I started photoshopping her pictures.

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I was shocked she didn’t come back and stab me in the face with a collectible plastic margarita glass shaped like a fleur de lis. I honestly expected the stabbing but I still couldn’t stop myself. Now Ness is getting married in May and the wedding is going to be in New Orleans, her reasoning being “it’s equally inconvenient from people on both the East and West Coast.” I cannot let this opportunity pass. I am making myself a Southern church-going hat to wear to the wedding and on top (you guessed it) will be a six-inch nutria doll made of felt. In order to make this felted nutria I bought some brown roving from a llama (no lanolin so naturally dry and clean) with tiny sparkly threads woven in. It’s going to be glorious. Get ready.

*”Is that half eagle, half lion? What’s going on with its front legs? I have so many questions and I cannot physically stare hard enough at this.”

A small medium at large. And all the dog memes today.

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Sorry for the long delay between posts. There just wasn’t a whole lot of anything going on. I was working, and then I was working some more, and then for a change, work.

The joke I am referring to in the title is this one:

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My sister K. is a producer and she asked me two weeks ago if I would be available to be filmed having a reading done by a medium. I said I had ebolaAIDSpinkeye and wouldn’t be able to go because I do not believe in hocus-pocus, but she needed bodies to populate this video so finally I acquiesced and said yessssssssss fine. On Sunday morning I woke up at 7:30 (before the sun which is the Lord’s way of saying don’t wake up yet), put on an appropriate outfit (no black, no logos), painted my face, brushed my hair and went to Manhattan where the filming was happening. I filled out paperwork allowing them to use my face and any corresponding footage for this video and possibly as filler in porn movies (I didn’t read the document) and then waited for the medium to arrive. The other producers asked me whom of my dead relatives I wanted to speak to, and I answered honestly. “Well, I would really like to talk to my paternal grandmother because she died when my father was nine and all accounts describe her as a very nice woman, but she only spoke Yiddish and chances are we might not be able to communicate. Most likely my maternal grandmother will come through who helped raise me and was a ‘strong woman.’ That’s a nice way to say it. I’ve heard her referred to as ‘soul-crushing’ and ‘emasculating’ but ‘strong woman’ is probably the best way to put it.” The first thing the medium, who was a nice tiny woman of about thirty years old, di when she arrived was burn sage and clear the room of negative energy (actual result: the whole space smelled somewhere between a Catholic mass and a 4/20 rally) and then she called the four people who were going to be read into filming area (me and three freshly-graduated NYU students). We did some meditation, clearing our minds and readying ourselves to contact the deceased. And then she began. I would LOVE to say she changed my mind and I got to chat with family members and I’m a total believer now, but alas, she did not. She asked incredibly vague questions until she narrowed it down to something tangible in your life and then she honed in on that. My favorite example was, “I’m feeling a twisting sensation in my belly area. Did you know someone who had gastrointestinal troubles or someone who internalized their feelings?” Why, yes, yes I do, because you’ve just described everyone who’s ever lived on this planet, ever. Thanks for that. She could have said, “I’m feeling a tender sensation in my earlobes. Do you have a relative who was able to hear in both ears?” Wow! As a matter of fact I did.

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In my follow-up interview I was very diplomatic. I said while I didn’t feel convinced that this was not an advanced parlor trick, if someone had lost a person close to them and was suffering and this medium brought them some peace, then I was totally okay with it. Placebos work too. I don’t think that’s what the people recording the TV show wanted to hear but I wasn’t going to lie, especially for what they were paying me (a fat hairy ball of nuthin’).

In a thoroughly unrelated note my friend Gem was in town for the Annual Gathering of the Nerds Otherwise Known as Comic-Con (did everyone see this amazing costume? It’s all the roles Johnny Depp has played on one person, that is GENIUS):

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And every time Gem comes to town she takes me to a different bar or eatery which is good because I am totally inclined to staying in my apartment and crafting while watching copious amounts of Nat Geo Wild and Investigation Discovery. This time she took us to The Dead Rabbit which is a bar in the financial district. It was extremely cool. I know exactly zero things about the original gangs that ran in New York during the 1850s and one of them was called The Dead Rabbits. I believe the movie Gangs of New York was based on them. We got to sit at the bar in the parlor which normally would bother me (I’m sad when my feet don’t touch the ground) but this particular time it was awesome because I could watch the bartendress. Her name was Jillian Vose and she blew my mind. First of all, there are seventy-two cocktails on the menu. Seventy-two. Twelve of them are seasonal and change regularly. Sixty-four are separated into groups based on different sections of the Dead Rabbit gang leader’s life, John Morrissey. Here’s a sample page from their menu.

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When an order comes up there’s a small screen under the bar that lists the ingredients but Jillian still had to figure out which bottles to use to make it. There were like fifty bottles with various concoctions in them, syrups and whatnot, all the same size, all unlabeled. You can see them in this picture from their website.

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She was amazing to watch. And then she would take large chunks of ice, put it in the palm of her hand and whack at it with an ice pick. I kept waiting for Jillian to give herself stigmata and a strong metallic taste to the subsequent drinks but it never happened. That woman’s a pro. In addition to there being a gazillion festive drinks and British foods (I tried a scotch egg for the first time, they’re pretty darn good, like a breakfast food orb) when you order your drink, in order to hold you over until your drink arrives, you get some house punch in a porcelain tea cup. How freakin’ cute is that?

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I would go back if it was on the grid, or near the grid, or literally not at the bottom of the island in what I consider a no-man’s-land of New York. Perhaps if someone else goes with me I will return. If left to my own devices I would get lost.