Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Tribute

We returned from our trip last night at 9:30pm, but the stories about this trip will have to wait. Today is a day of tribute for a fallen soldier.

John O. Tollefson died in the line of duty on Wednesday. While I only met him a few times in person, I feel that I knew him because of the stories that my sister-in-law has told me about him over the years. He was her nephew, and she held him in high regard. It turns out that she wasn’t the only one. You can read the article that appeared in John’s local newspaper yourself. He was truly a remarkable young man.

My sister-in-law (while I visited her this past weekend) talked about John’s reasons for joining the Army, and his life-long goals only days before those dreams would end. While she knew that his job was a dangerous one, she, like the rest of John’s family, prayed for his safe return home. Their homes are now filled with a heavy sadness, a sadness that I can only imagine. Even though I didn’t know John that well personally, I am also left with a truly heavy heart when I think about John and the other 1,985 soldiers (as of tonight) who have given their lives while in the line of duty.

I hope you will take a moment to be thankful for the sacrifices that have been made.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

AND...... WE'RE OFF!

I have packed up a bunch of knitting.

Why, You ask?


1. Friday morning – drive to Hayward, Wisconsin (6 hours)
2. Friday through Sunday –visit with my brother and his family
3. Sunday morning – drive home (6 hours)
4. Sunday night – drive to Cape Canaveral, Florida (24 hours)
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6. Wednesday – play in the ocean
7. Wednesday night – drive home (24 hours)
8. Thursday night – arrive home and SLEEP!

Thank you NASA, for keeping the smiles on my family.

I do have an FO to report, but it will have to wait until I get home. By then, I may have two projects to show you!

Four days of knitting in the car = HEAVEN!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Day at the "Door"

After staring at my dejected family for a few days, it was time. Time to leave the comforts of air conditioning and brave the elements for a day of fun. If NASA wouldn’t cooperate with our plans to drive to Florida to see the launch of the space shuttle, we would have to do something else. Something probably a little less exciting, but still fun, right?

When we moved to the area of the state where we currently live (a BIG 35 mile move that shattered many people in our family because we were now SO FAR AWAY!) there were many differences. One thing that happens every spring in this area is the Fish Boil. Now think about it. You take hunks of fish, pearl onions, red potatoes, and carrots and basically boil the snot out of it in water that is so salty you could float a rock in it. Then serve it with about a pound of melted butter poured over the top. What starts off sounding rather revolting becomes bearable. Anything is good with melted butter on it! When we went to our first Fish Boil, we were hesitant. Afterwards, we became junkies. If there was a fish boil within 50 miles, we were there. Most of the fish boils around here are fundraisers for local volunteer fire departments, and they are served to a mainly Catholic community on Fridays, especially during Lent.

My family became so addicted that I even found an online recipe and made one here at home. It was even better than most of the places we had gone, and I make it fairly often now.

Well, the Fish Boil originated in Door County, Wisconsin. If you look at the shape of Wisconsin, it looks like the mitten for a left hand with a skinny thumb. Door County is the thumb that pokes out into Lake Michigan. It is mainly a playland for the wealthy Illinois tourists, but locals love it also. It has become famous for its cherries, the shopping, the scenery, the resorts, and fish boils. If you want an authentic fish boil, this is the place to be. This was our mission.

We drove up to Sturgeon Bay, and stopped at two local yarn shops. I knew about one, but the second was a surprise. I satisfied my fiber craving and the girls satisfied their sugar craving at Apple Hollow Fiber Studio. They have a large website, but the actual shop was small. I was greeted by the most beautiful hanks of wool as I opened the door. They had some skeins, and my oldest daughter found some yarn that she wants for her helmet cap, so we bought that. Afterwards the girls shared a smoothie and we sat at the cute tables in the middle of the shop. The owners were very friendly and helpful. Next, we drove down the road about 6 buildings and went into Temptations Needlework, described as a needlework, yarn, knitting and crochet shop. I wasn’t optimistic. Oh, my! Inside was a huge selection of almost any kind of yarn you can imagine! At every turn there was a hidden room loaded with yarn. And buttons? She must have every button ever made. My youngest daughter was in heaven looking at them, and DH sat down and watched us with a smile on his face. You see, it was his idea to stop at the yarn shops as a special treat to me. Another reason I LOVE this man!

We continued up the peninsula (discussing why it is called a peninsula when it is really an island. At Sturgeon Bay the waters from Green Bay and Lake Michigan actually meet) searching for a specific shop that sold British goods. We found it in Fish Creek, and inside Made In Britain we indulged ourselves with treats that reminded us of our trip to England a few years ago. I bought a bunch of candy and then remembered another one that I had planned to buy. Off I trotted to pick it up while the family waited outside. When I walked out of the door of British Goods, there they sat with smiles on their faces, all eating the candy and moaning in happiness.

Next we went to Peninsula State Park and swam. This didn’t last very long because the water stunk so badly that we became sick to our stomachs. My thought is that with all of the hot weather we have had, the shallow water there has had bacteria growing, dying, and stinking up the place at a much faster rate than normal, so it literally stinks! We left, rather disappointed, and drove up to Ellison Bay for our fish boil.

The authentic Scandinavian Fish Boil is a little different from our volunteer fire department boils. They use fresh whitefish from the lake instead of cod fillets. This means that there will be bones. Lots of them! They also think that boiling the vegetables WITH the fish will taint the flavor of the fish, so the fish is boiled alone. We call that tainting FLAVOR! After shelling out $62 we watched for the boil over (a tradition that looks cool, but I’m told by a friend from the area who is related to a master boiler that this is really only for show) and got our trays.

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On average, a local fish boil will cost $8 a plate, this one cost $13, and it wasn’t very good. I was the only one who actually ate the fish, and that was more because of my miser tendencies than any great taste coming off of the plate. So, I have a recommendation. If you want a really good Fish Boil in Wisconsin – come to my house!
On our way home, we stopped in Kewaunee for a frozen custard, and guess what? It was the start of their Trout Festival, and we had made it just in time for the fireworks. A great ending to a great day.

Today we rest!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


As I was catching up on my blog reading this morning, I happened to read about the problem Julie is facing with the magazine, Belle Armoire. You can read about it on her July 10th post. Basically, the editor of the magazine contacted her about a story it planned to do about a bag similar to hers. The editor promised to list her as the originator in the introductory paragraph of the story. The editor also promised to list Black Sheep Bags in the resource section of the magazine, list her pattern on the sidebar of the website (I looked and there doesn't appear to be any sidebar for felted knitting), and offered her a free subscription for six issues.

Well, the article was published, and none of the agreements above were honored. I looked at the online closeup of the article, complete with pictures, and you can see that these bags were inspired by Julie. Compare for yourself... Belle Armoire's purse and Julie's Bag.

Please think about lending Julie your support. I have sent an e-mail to the editor of Belle Armoire, and I hope that you decide to send one also! (the e-mail address is Maybe you could help spread the word by posting something on your website about this, too!

As Julie said, she is "not looking to get rich from this," but the magazine should honor their agreement, don't you think?

Monday, July 11, 2005

There's Something in the Water

When Sharon, my friend from New Zealand, lived in London, I made a promise to her. She wasn’t going to live permanently in London, and knew that one day she would move back to her home in NZ. I promised her that before she moved back, I would come to visit her in London. A few years ago, we made plans for a “girly weekend” in New York City. It was halfway for both of us. In October of 2000, we met at the airport and spent the weekend shopping and talking. Time melted away as it always does when we get together, and people looked at us often, some even had the courage to ask, “Do you two know each other? Your accents are so different.” Each time someone asked us this, we would be reduced to teenage fits of giggles. We must have looked odd. Sharon with her flaming red hair, skinny stature and Kiwi accent, and me with my Midwestern twang, large frame, and teacher voice. Both of us obviously tourists, but from opposite ends of the Earth. We answered, “Isn’t it obvious? We’ve been friends for almost 20 years!”

Sharon was my closest friend the year that I lived in New Zealand. Our friendship has lasted throughout the years, and it means the world to me. That year I was in New Zealand, I was able to meet people from all around the world. Some of my closest friends in the exchange program were from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. I worry about them, and wonder how they are, especially those Sri Lankan “boys” who are now men, who have had to suffer so much.

When I married my husband, we honeymooned in Germany. His parents moved here from Germany after WWII, and the rest of the family still lives there. We stayed with them for some of the time, and became close to two cousins who were the only relatives our age. Andreas and Christian are brothers, and we talk to them over the Internet often. Since our honeymoon, Andreas and Christian have come to the US twice to visit us, and during those visits we promised them that we would make the trip back to Germany for each of their weddings.

Two years ago, in November, I got an e-mail from Andreas. He was engaged, and hoped that we would keep our promise and come to the wedding. His fiancé was from Indonesia. I immediately told him that we would. A few days later, as I was looking up the different airfares available, Sharon e-mailed and said that she had decided to move back to NZ the next summer. It looked like we would visit both, and that is exactly what we did. We stayed in Germany for two weeks, and my daughters were flower girls in Andreas’ wedding. They understood only two words in German (good-bye and thank you) but followed what the other two girls did and stood quietly throughout the German ceremony. It was beautiful.

After our two-week stay in Germany, we flew to London and spent two weeks with Sharon and her boyfriend Peter, who is South African. Despite the heat wave that was going through Europe and England that year, we had a great time. Nothing was air conditioned, not like buildings in this country, but we sweat happily and had a blast.

Something seems to connect these two groups of people who had never met. They both e-mailed me about my promises within days of each other, and we visited both during our trip. I shouldn’t have been surprised when the phone rang on Saturday evening and Andreas asked me to guess his happy news. Sharon e-mailed me three days before to tell me that she, now married and back home in NZ, was pregnant. So are Andreas and his wife Lilis. My knitting needles will be cranking out baby gear big time, and I couldn’t be happier!

Oh, by the way, I did guess Andreas’ surprise correctly, although I wondered if his brother Christian, who is now engaged also, had set his date. He hasn’t, but we have again promised to attend, it seems like the wedding will be in 2007 – plenty of time for us to save. Andreas and I have already made plans! I LOVE having such an international family! We have "family" from five of the seven continents. We only need to have a family member from South America and we will have a truly world-wide family because no one can come from Antartica, can they?

Anyway... let the baby countdowns begin!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


No matter how much I love to travel, or love to camp, it is always nice to come home.
We returned late last night from another family adventure. This was our third camping trip of the season (we went to Arkansas in March, and camped in a local state park for DH’s birthday in April). For the third year in a row we headed to a national forest campground late on the holiday weekend without a reservation. This campground (Boot Lake in the Nicolet National Forest) actually doesn’t accept reservations, but on a holiday weekend it is normally full. When we pulled in, it was obvious that we might not luck out. There was standing room only on the beach, and cars and trucks with empty boat trailers lined the entrance road to the park. The parking lot was full. We drove around the campground, and every site was taken, but wait. On one site a man was shaking off the canvas above one bed of his pop-up camper. This is an international sign for, “I’m packing up to leave.” We stopped and asked him if his site would be free later that day, and he said that it would! And, it was a LAKEFRONT SITE (site number 9)! OH HAPPY DAY!
We had the best weather in a year of camping. In the past 9 out of 10 trips we either packed up in the rain, or packed up our pop-up wet and had to set it up again at home to dry out. This was a real treat!
This was a serious knitting retreat for me! I carefully packed one project to finish, one to start, and one “just in case.” I finished the second anklet in 24 hours in order to start a new project. A winter cap with ear flaps for my daughter. My typical camping day looked something like this. Wake up, knit, make coffee and breakfast, knit, take a walk, knit, go to the beach, knit, paddle in the canoe, knit, read, knit, and knit around the campfire until the sunlight faded away. Heaven! Oh, and the book I read wasn’t a kid’s book, it MUST be summer!
We would have loved to stay a little longer, but we had to come home. My youngest daughter goes to Girl Scout Camp today, returns on Saturday, and we are thinking about driving to Florida to watch the space shuttle launch. With the camper, of course. For this trip, I will have to make reservations. It’s an awfully long drive home if you can’t find a campsite! Another knitting retreat!