Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I've been to more festive pig slaughters.

It is always a lot of work for everyone involved when a pig is slaughtered but when you do it on a rainy, windy, 30 degree day people's temperaments get a bit strained. I can't imagine a worse day, weatherwise, to kill a pig than last Saturday.

I'm from a rural town in Wisconsin. There, a popular party is a pig roast. Those of you who have been to a pig roast - forget it. A pig slaughter is nothing like a roast, well, except that the pig ends up dead after both events and the people attending dine on pork. A slaughter is not a party, although there are a lot of people there and a lot of eating and drinking goes on. A slaughter is work.

Before anything, you must understand that we are talking here about a pig whose body is as wide as my kitchen table and longer. In other words, huge.

The work begins very very early - this is the men's part. They kill the pig, shave it, rub it down with boiling water and lemons, then start operating (ie: cutting it into workable parts). I don't know all the intricacies of this phase of the process since, as I said it's men's work and, while everyone is nice to me when I pop in for a visit, I'm really not supposed to be there. This I understand by the stares that David gives me when I do show up. That and the fact that all the women are in the house no where near this. I'm really observant, no?

This is the women's part:
Yes, those would be the innards being cleaned for sausage casing. (I can't wait for the day when technology has progressed to scratch and sniff pictures. Boy would you all be in for a treat if you could smell that one above. ) I won't go into a detailed description of just how the stomach and intestines are cut from the pig, then carefully cut apart from the maze they are in into one long tube (10meters to be exact when stretched out) and then how they have to have gallons of water flushed through them to get "the big stuff" out, and then how they need to be washed and washed and washed, turning them inside and out with lemon juice, vinegar and salt. I won't go into all that because unless you see it you won't believe that people go to this much work for something they can buy in any butcher in town. OK Ok, any of you knitters out there would understand that part. How many times have you heard from a non-knitter, "why don't you just go out and buy a sweater - it's cheaper and a lot less work" . Hello, not the same thing. And my two friends say the same about the real casing versus the purchased stuff. This year I was actually able to help (it's my 3rd year). I still haven't actually touched the stuff (maybe next year) but I did convince the women to use my kitchen to do the cleaning. As it was freakin' freezing, frosimminent their hands was immenent as they held them under the ice cold water (getting the "big stuff" out). My kitchen has heat (even if it was only a space heater - pellet problem persists) and warm running water. We have an electric hot water heater so after 3 hours of washing and rewashing innards, even my hot water ran out but at least there were 3 hours.

After this was over, we all did this for the remainder of the day:

Friday, January 27, 2006

Just a small preview for this weekend's events.

That, which is a little difficult to see in all its beauty, because I photographed it in my fridge...is gelatino. Yes, it is just as it sounds. Well, wait, if you have an impression of lime jello with bit of pineapple and canned peaches in it, then, no, it's not what you think.

Actually, I'd really like to tell you just what it is but I'm not exactly sure. The gelatino in our fridge is one of the by-products of a pig slaughter.

Remember I told you that a few weeks ago some neighbors killed a pig? And remember I promised more on the topic? Well, here we are.

Last night David and I were enjoying our evening happy hour (little snacks, some wine, and a game of cards) when we heard a car beep outside. It was Carmello with a little gift from his slaughter. The gelatino. I think, this was an amazing gift from our friends.

As far as we can remember from last year (when we tried it for the first time) and from a bottle of wine's worth of staring at the jar, it is gelatin with pieces of pig skin. It's sealed with pork fat. We also can't remember how one is supposed to eat it. As is with a spoon? Spread on bread?

More will be revealed tomorrow since another neighbor is slaughtering his pig. We've been invited to this entire event. I'll bring the camera for the blog and a notepad for the gelatino.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A knitterly day...

What a knitterly day I had today. Well, it was a lot like most of my days...I got up, did some journaling while drinking a cup of instant coffee (yes, in the land of amazing coffee I drink instant...forgive me but I like a big ol' mug in the morning and if I have big ol' mug of Italian coffee, well, I can't even think about what would happen). Then I started knitting. Stopped for some lunch (and a sudoku - this is a new addition to my routine). Then knit some more. Then stopped for ... well, you get the idea.

The difference with today was that I actually finished some stuff. The biggest news is that I finished Christmas knitting. Amazing and true, at the same time. Here is the proof to you Thomases:

That is the LEFT mitt to the mitts I tried to give to my friend Chiara on Christmas eve.

This is a sweater for a 5 year old, with arms also for a 5 year old.

I also cast off this.

It's not really done - I mean, according to the pattern it is supposed to be triangular in shape (mine is more of a trapaziod) but according to me it is, well, according to me and the fact that I ran out of that yarn with no chance of getting more. Yes Yes Yess, Ok, if you look closely, it's not exactly done - according to anyone. I still have to weave in all those ends and block it, etc. etc. I usually consider a piece done when I cast off...which usually makes me crabby when I am still working on the thing weeks later doing all those stupid things (like weaving in ends and blocking) that actually do make a difference.

WHOA...that was hard! I actually wrote a whole blog without making it a list with numbers (did you notice that in most of my blogs this is my prefered writing format? Check the old ones, it's true).

Monday, January 23, 2006

Too much learning...

Ok, my head is going to explode from learning too much.

It seems I learned a few things from returning home as well as from the trip. (Dad, if you are reading this, please skip number 2…it’s best for everyone involved, probably mostly best for Mom if you do) :

1. If you clean the house before you leave, it’s still clean when you get home. That’s really nice.

2. If you live in Italy, take a trip in January, and this is your central heating system

you should stock up on pellets BEFORE you leave. That sleek looking system is a stove that burns little pressed wood pellets instead of real wood. It seemed like such a good idea when we bought it – no stacking endless piles of wood, no lugging the wood inside every morning to start the fire, no little splinters of wood all over the kitchen. This pro list for the pellet stove seemed to go on without any entries in the con column, until now. Who knew that the entire region depends on ONE factory for all it’s pellet needs? Apparently something happened while we were gone and they temporarily stopped producing, therefore putting their supply to sellers a little behind. They’re back in production now and shops are anticipating “the end of the week” for their shipments. (They didn’t say the end of which week but I will optimistically assume this week).

3. When you are cold, you can knit really fast (could be all the hot liquids I’ve been pouring into my body, they all seem to involve caffine).

4. Do it right the first time. This is a picture of a completed sweater (note the buttons are even on it!):

Ok, obviously it’s not completed any more. I had to take the whole thing apart because I made a sweater for a 5 year old with sleeves for a 5 month old.

I will close this post here.

In the next ausnit…

Will Lynn be warmer?

Will the sweater grow longer sleeves?

Will Lynn have to respond dishonestly because her dad snuck a peak at number 2?


Will Lynn reveal what this is?

In the Land of the Great Danes...

After planes, trains, and automobiles (I mean that quite literally…well, no, I’m exaggerating a little. There was only one train, two planes, two cars, oh yeah, and there was also a bus, and a 3 km walk) I made it back safe and sound to our little hill from visiting friends Mette and Teddy. You wouldn’t believe it by looking on a map that the short distance between Aarhus, Denmark and Taggia, Italy could take 14 hours to travel but it does.

Please forgive my absence from blogging. I was too busy learning. I learned so much that I didn’t have time or energy left enough to process and write. Let me see now if I am able to summarize a little of the what was covered in the integrated curriculum of the Knudsen/Oestergaard teaching team.

Here are Mette and Teddy, the teachers:

Here are some of the things I was exposed to. I won’t say that I “learned” them all because some will just simply take a life time to learn. These are not in any order of priority, chronology, or importance, nor will this list be all inclusive.

1. When you come across a question in life…always look up the answer immediately if you can.

2. In Denmark they eat cod trousers for breakfast.

Ummm, that’s a terrible photo but right there behind the butter is cod roe. It comes in sack like skin that is shaped a little like a pair of pants – thus the Danish name. It’s smoked and very tasty!

In fact they eat a lot of fish roe and, well, a lot of fish in general in Denmark. It makes a lot of sense if you think about their geographical position.

3. Roe is the English word for eggs of a fish. (Maybe that’s not new information for a lot of you but I learned that. One of the things I love about living in and visiting countries where English isn’t the first language is how much English I learn)

4. How to crochet. It would be sacrilege, here on a knitting blog, to go into this in depth so I won’t. (WRONG! I’m sure I will be sneaking in a few pictures of new crocheted projects in the future…I just don’t have any right now.)

5. Having a sense of humor when times are a little stressful is very effective for everyone. (Owning a full chef’s suit is also helpful, funny, and just a good idea for a lot of reasons)

6. How to pick up and knit around armpit holes and necklines (PROPERLY! I mean, so it doesn’t look like crap).

7. Generosity that comes from “because I want to” is the best kind of all. I was showered with gifts on the trip – both tangible and intangible. Here are a couple I can photograph:

(That’s brown sugar in those bags, in case you can’t read Danish. And that’s my foot with toe socks, in case you thought I had really short fingers)

8. It is possible for 4 mature and sane (relatively speaking) adults to find these three words worthy of so many jokes: snit; wennig; ausnit (sorry to any Dane reading this blog…I’m sure all three are misspelled) – roughly translated they mean, respectively, (v)to carve; (n)a sentence or a line; (n)part or episode of a story. In case you were wondering, it is possible, if you snit the language properly to get all three words in one wennig without need of an entire ausnit.

9. That Sudokus are extremely fun, highly addictive, and can seriously cut into a gal's knitting production.

10. Love, Strength and Courage are about the most important things that exist. If you can share them with friends, well, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

not a real post...

I really meant to make a real post today, but, well, this isn't one. In my infinite wisdom and travel planning, I left scrubbing the house down so that no critters invade while we aren't here for the last minute. In my defense, this would seem to make sense...I mean otherwise you just get the place dirty again before you leave...I mean, if you clean too early or too often.

Anyway, I hadn't calculated into my plans that perhaps the pipes would freeze AGAIN. So I washed the floor (and the stove, and the fridge) with bottled water today. Not a big deal, except, it does take a little longer than when you have actual running water at call from any tap in the house. So then, in my terribly amazing schedule, I was behind in the shopping for the Danes, packing, teaching (ok, only one class today and I was on time except my "lesson plans" left a little to be desired), and, needless to say, I couldn't take a bath on schedule.

When I got home from teaching and shopping we did have water (so, if anyone was worried...I did get to bathe prior to the trip and will not be ill-representing Wisconsin, Colorado, Liguria, Elkhorn, Denver, Maberga, the Midwest, Italy, or the USA when I make my first visit to Denmark - well, at least not for how I smell).

So now I have to go to bed because we have a mighty early morning.

Real posts from Denmark...I promise, technology permitting.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A busy weekend in Maberga...

It seems that I haven’t posted to my blog is so long. I’m sure you all were just out of your mind, waiting and checking each day for a new post. Well, since my last post I have been oh so very busy. Here are just a few things I’ve been up to:

1. I attended the first evening celebration of a pig slaughter. I’m sorry I have no pictures to share. It was quite a spectacle. About 10 of us crammed into the country kitchen of Lisa and Franco eating (eating pig, of course, served with cabbage) and drinking and singing some song about sausages. For those of you not familiar with the pig slaughter tradition, it is very elaborate and a lot of freakin’ work. From the first squeal to the finished soprasatt and sausages hanging in the cantina is about 3 days. It’s pig slaughter season so I’m sure I will have more on this topic in weeks to come, along with some beautiful pictures.

2. I caught a cold. A cold that is just bad enough to slow me down and piss me off but not bad enough to keep me in bed.

3. I finished these…

Sorry, I can’t spread them out to show them in all their glory because they are gifts for some people who may or may not be reading this blog.

4. I started this (ok, I didn’t just start this, I’ve become obsessed with this)…

(note to my dear, non-knitting sister who thought one of the other beautiful projects highlighted here on the blog was a pair of underwear: It’s a shawl.)

5. I ate pasta piena – that means “full pasta” and boy was it ever and boy was I ever after I ate it. Imagine a moment… penne pasta noodles in a large casserole dish with slices of egg, cheese, sausage, and meatballs, baked. Whoa. Sorry, no pictures of this either. Maybe next time.

6. I baked some incredibly dry peanut butter blossom cookies. Does anyone have a substitution suggestion for brown sugar, which is not sold anywhere in this country but is involved in every recipe that I have? The folks that I delivered these peanut flavored, molded saw dust to were very kind about them. They tried them, complimented me, blah blah blah as they always do to try to encourage the “kitchen challenged” American. Actually, the recipients were much happier about the plate that the cookies came on … hand painted by David and me. “Everyone has their own talents,” as they say to me always here…do you think they are trying to tell me to stick to my other talents and stay the hell out of the kitchen?

7. And, last, but not least…I discovered a post-christmas sale on wine at the grocery store. 1 euro a bottle! Yippee.
David went back down this morning to stock up.

Now I’m going back to my shawl…and the couch that I actually spent 90% of the time on since I last wrote.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Did you know that Santa...

Did you know that Santa Claus is a woman? And she’s English? Look what she brought me yesterday:

Ya know what was inside?


Can you believe that?! Isn’t that beautiful?! Santa (who goes by the name Natalie when she is at her residence here in Italy) cleaned out her stash of all the “bits and bobs” as she calls them. She thought I might want them. Are you kidding?! Wanna see it again from another angle…

Wow. I must have been a good girl this year. I have a feeling I will be creating more than a few things with “bits and bobs” in the name (the Bits and Bobs Ski Hat, the Bits and Bobs Bed Socks, the Bits and Bobs Thank You Santa something!).

See that bag hanging from the chair up there? All mohair! All mohair…in rainbow colors! Incredible. I’m still in shock.

I have to go now. My head is spinning with the possibilities and I’d rather be sorting, counting, and just generally fondling my new stash addition.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Well, this has been a frustrating knitting day. Ever feel like you’ve UNknit more than you’ve knit in a day? Yeah, me too…today.

During one of my unknitting stretches today I got to pondering the concept of giving up. (I don’t know why, could have had something to do with one “experiment” that has caused me so much backward movement today). When is it that one decides to call quits on something? When do you say, Basta! (that’s Italian for enough – I’ve always liked that word)? When do you realize that it, whatever the it may be, is not worth sticking with? What psychology is behind such decisions? What personal experiences?. (It seems that I also go deep while I’m going backward.)

I thought back to the 3rd grade when I mistakenly joined the choir – I had no business being there and I certainly wasn’t enjoying myself. I told my parents after session number 2 that I’d had enough of the choir. “But you don’t want to be a quitter do you?” Hmmm…I had to think about that for a while. No, I definitely didn’t want that but, god did I loath Wednesdays when I had to go to choir practice. (why it was exactly that I didn’t want to be “a quitter” is a mystery…what did I know of quitting, I was 9?!) I stayed with it another month and then said Basta – call me a quitter, I don’t care. It’s got to be better than the choir. The choir director was probably secretly relieved.

With further stitch pulling out I got to thinking of all the things in my life since the 3rd grade that I quit, that I didn’t quit, that I didn’t quit but should have, of all the stuff I quit too late. (I won’t go into all this here…trust me, it’s better). I was trying to find some pattern to my decisions (and that could perhaps shed some light on my decision about this current knitting project).

I found none.

That’s when Adrianna popped into my head. Adrianna was a 4th grade student of mine a couple years ago. One day while I was listening to her read I interrupted to ask her if she was enjoying the book because she seemed to be missing her usual dramatic intonations while reading. She said, “No. I hate it. It’s boring. But I always finish a book I start because something good might happen at the end and I don’t want to miss it.” Hmmm…yes, I understand.

Thank you, Adrianna. Sometimes I too just want to see if anything good happens in the end. I think I’ll continue with it:

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Christmas knitting

Well, the New year brought with it sun, warmer weather, and yessssss, running water. Today I did about 20 loads of laundry (the only water involved task that I haven't figured a way to do when the taps are dry - well, I could fill the tub with water that I've carried in from outside and heat it on the stove and then wash stuff by hand, then empty the water and carry in clean water to rinse the clothes, and then repeat that rinse process a couple more times because I just can't agitate the way the washing machine can - but frankly, I'd rather wear dirty socks).

I also took a long, hot bath which was very relaxing until I got to thinking about all the knitting I still have to do, for Christmas. It hardly seems possible given that today is, what? January 3rd, that I could be behind in my Christmas knitting, but, I tell you it is. Here's what happened to me:

It was the end of November and like a good and thoughtful person, I started making my knitting gift list. I even started knitting the stuff on the list but, you know, only half- heartedly because it was still so early and I got distracted by, well a lot of other projects. Then it was the first week in December, I had one of the gifts completed I was feeling pretty good. Then I got a call to participant in the artisan Christmas markets. Cool. I'd like to do that. But wait, I can't fill a booth with just this stuff I have so I started making hats. I must have made 20. They looked like this:

By the time the markets were over, I had one week before Christmas deadlines started. No problem, I thought. I’ll just get on this marathon type schedule and all will get finished. Well, ok, small problem. “I’ll just scratch off all the stuff on the list that needs to go to the US. I’ll ship them just after Christmas. It will be better, I mean, everyone is shipping things now. They will probably get there faster even if I wait until after Christmas,” as the rationalization went in my head. And so the post Christmas list began.

But wait, it gets worse.

“I don’t really have to knit the stuff for Mette and Teddy. I mean, heck. We’ll be in Denmark to see them on the 11th. I can hand deliver those.” List gets longer.

Then, the ultimate in Christmas procrastination knitting karma slam…At 4:30 on Christmas eve I finished the second of a pair of the fingerless mitts I was knitting for our hostess that night. Feeling all smug because I finished everything on my knitting list (so what that I modified it and that it was actually only 1/10th it’s original size!), I went to try the beautiful mitts on only to notice that I made two right hands. Ahhhhgggg. After shouting that plus a few other, very non-Christ-like things, I wrapped one right hand mitt up for dear Chiara along with a promise for the left hand after Christmas. Post-Christmas Knitting List Item Number *%^$#&! gets added.

So, I better cut it short now. I have a little knitting to do.

Happy New Year.

PS. I must correct myself. In a previous post, whilst whimpering about being stuck on the mountain I said that no truck-toting-plough pal would be coming by to help. But alas, the Maberga version did indeed show up…

This is Agusto with some kind of mechanized, wheelbarrow type thing with tank-like rollers on the bottom. It was filled with salt which he, David and Franco (seen below – note Franco’s very stylish hat. Last year’s Christmas gift. Please do not note that my husband is wearing a Chicago Bears ski cap…very embarrassing for a number of reasons) shovelled onto the road