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18 posts from March 2011

31 March 2011

Feeding the passions

Sharing the love.

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We've stayed most of our time in Scotland at Millstonford House B&B in West Kilbride, North Ayrshire, Scotland. I don't remember exactly how I stumbled upon it, but it just seemed right from the get-go -- all of it, from the farm-fresh eggs at breakfast and availability of bicycles, the proximity to castle ruins and islands and coastline and Highlands, to the Craft Town Scotland designation that appeals to the artists and artisans amongst us and the connection to St. Brigid that appeals to me (knitter of sweater of same name).

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While I often refer to "the curse of the internet" -- that it can bring us so close to people whom we may never meet -- I usually only feel that way when a far-away friend really needs a hug, or when it would be just great to join them for knit-night, or pop in for a cuppa and some catching up.

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When I mentioned to Yvette where we'd be going, she told me some of the shops in the area that we might check out -- including Old Maiden Aunt Yarns, which I'd never heard of before, located right in West Kilbride! This is completely the opposite of "curse of the internet." This is "what in the world did we do without the internet?" (and, I might add, "...Garmin, too?")

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When I read about Lilith's yarn dyeing workshops, it was pretty much a no-brainer.

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As you can see, it was a pretty great call. I wish you could have heard the cooing! There was all sorts of yarn love going on, and they are pretty excited about their yarn!!

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Me, too!

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Many thanks to Lilith for a wonderful time; sincere condolences about the microwave but kudos for pinch-hitting and making it all work! We had a great time.

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We've had such a wonderful time in Scotland. I can't wait to come back!

Tomorrow, we head for Wales and meeting up with Maddy for a couple of days before we (most of us) head back home. Kate will spend a few days in London with Maddy before heading to Barcelona, I believe, and before Maddy departs with her group for the "continental tour" portion of their program.

30 March 2011

West Highlands

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This was our "worst" weather day so far -- a wee bit o' light rain, on and off, mostly a cloudy light mist -- and we did see a little sun in the late afternoon.

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We visited Inverlochy Castle before heading south from Fort William this morning (Wednesday).

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Castle Stalker in Appin.

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Standing stones!

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Random scenic view. I pulled over... um... actually, one does not ever just "pull over" to the side of the road in Scotland, or anywhere in the UK that I've driven. The roads are narrow and there is NO shoulder. I meant to turn onto a road, then into a cemetery but missed them both because the signs are right >< there when you need to turn and there's often little or no warning. I turned around, instead, in someone's "driveway" -- it's all so different here -- I don't think she was too happy -- and then scooted off the drive leading to an attraction of some sort. There are frequent "Parking" turn-outs, but they aren't usually where there's something amazing to see or there are trees blocking the view.

That said, I am freakin' driving in the Scottish Highlands, man, and I am NOT complaining! Nor will I ever complain about narrow roads at home. I will complain about rude American drivers, though... it's all so different here. I don't think I've seen a single stop sign, and traffic lights are the exception rather than the rule. I still think roundabouts are kind of a pain, but I also see their benefit(s) and maybe I'll try harder.

Anyway, the rain made the colors POP today and, oh, it's just so beautiful!

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These are at Jubilee Point in Argyll Forest Park.

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Hi Mom! I'm here and I'm having fun, too!!  ; )

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These also from Jubiliee Point -- it reminded me a lot of northern Wisconsin (there were even some swimming ducks), except for them thar hills.

We're back at our B&B -- it's an "activity day" tomorrow!

 

29 March 2011

The high road

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Stirling Castle.

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Loch Lomond.

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The Highlands. This is near Glencoe. We had a wonderful dinner this evening in Fort William, then had a walk about the village and stopped at a pub for a pint. Southerly, back to our west coast B&B tomorrow!

This is amazing.

28 March 2011

A day of activity

So far, we've balanced the active days and not-so-active days pretty well. After a long plane ride, we spent a day walking around London; after a day of driving to Scotland, we ferried to an island where we rented bikes and rode the 10-mile isle circuit!

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The ferry from Largs to...

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...the Isle of Cumbrae. The Isle of Arran was also on the list of possibilities, but we all liked the idea of riding around the entire island. That means I'll have to come back another time to visit Machrie Moor.

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The beauty is incredible -- and we are so fortunate to have hit a good patch of weather. It's likely we'll see more clouds and some rain over the next few days.


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Inspiration is everywhere!

27 March 2011

Driving!

We ended up in Bishop Auckland last night (Saturday) and the table was set this morning for our cooked breakfast before we headed off for Scotland.

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I'm driving! Well, so is Kate... but I'M DRIVING! On A roads and B roads and M roads, on the other side of the road, on roads with many, many roundabouts, on roads where chickens and sheep may also share the road, on roads that are more like a paved wide path! Not only that, I've been driving down those roads on the other side of the car! There is nothing quite like it.

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We drove north and north-west through England today and said "Hello" to Scotland!

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After a quick dash to the shore and a few minutes to explore, we found ourselves some dinner and then said "Good night" to Scotland, too. Tomorrow's another day!

 

25 March 2011

London

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After two cancelled flights and a last-minute drive to Chicago -- in less than stellar conditions, but improved as we made our way south -- we arrived in London only three hours later than originally scheduled. That does mean that someone is going to have to drive a vehicle back from Chicago upon our return...

We made it and we're glad! It's spring in London and I've been told we've had the best days of the year so far. Daffodils and other flowers are blooming everywhere, and trees are budding. I've walked a million miles, ate some delicious sandwiches, stopped for some lovely coffee, visited and shopped and saw a lot of sites! We met up with our friend Maro this evening (Friday) and went out for fish 'n chips; it was wonderful.

The reports from home are great (always a relief). More to come, though I'm not sure exactly when!

23 March 2011

Travel talk

The weather outside is frightful! Our flights have already been rebooked to later departures, so we're spending more time than expected at home than at O'Hare today but will arrive in London only three hours later than originally planned.

There are still weather advisories, watches and warnings, 99.9% of schools in the area are closed today, and it's actually snowing again. It's possible that we'll get bumped back again, but I'm keeping my chin up and hoping for the best -- hanging on to a glittery nugget from Katie who told me that she was in the vicinity of the airport last night (when things were pretty bad) and she saw airplanes coming and going.

We considered having someone drive us to Chicago -- the weather isn't quite as bad there -- or even driving ourselves, but that opens other cans of (unpleasant) worms and we've decided to just go with the flow and the airlines' automatic rebooking... It's all an adventure, right?

So to help keep the thoughts happy and up, let's move forward with a little preview of what we'll be doing.

Leaving our home, dog and cats in capable hands, we'll take a Wednesday evening flight from O'Hare, arriving in London and likely hugging Madeleine by noon-ish (local time) on Thursday. We'll settle in and rest for a short time and then probably hit the streets, meeting up late for coffee with a former neighbor girl (now woman) and classmate of Ali's -- still friend of us all -- Maro, who lives in Greece but will be in London! Katie actually went to Greece and visited Maro on her last trip to Europe.

One or two people might get up VERY early on Friday morning to stand in line and see if tickets might be secured for Frankenstein! If so, we'll likely be SRO on Friday night. (The more delayed we are, though, the less likely this will be; I have consoled myself with the thought that perhaps they will hit Broadway and then I can go to New York again.) (That works for me!) During the day on Friday, we'll see London a la Maddy and Katie.

Sometime on Saturday, Rusty, Kate, Al and I will make our way north a bit and pick up our rental car. It is going to pain me to leave Maddy behind in London, but she is there for school and that's important. This is not the last we'll see of her, though, and so we look forward...

We'll drive (drive!) north in a sort of easterly way, seeing whatever we fancy, finding a place to stay the night, sightseeing our way to and through Edinburgh, over to Glasgow, and then, by Sunday evening, to the west coast where we've secured lodging at a B&B for our entire time in Scotland.

On Monday, I expect to take in the sights, possibly ferry over to the Isle of Arran. Or maybe back to Edinburgh or Glasgow. It's all a bit unstructured, which suits us!

On Tuesday, we'll be driving north into the Highlands. Originally, I wanted to go up to Inverness (actually, the further north I looked, the further north I wanted to go) and drive down the Loch Ness shoreline but, unless we want to spend our entire vacation in the car, it's just too far. I've decided to save that for my next visit. We'll probably go westerly -- I'd love to see Stirling Castle, visit the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond...

...maybe over to Oban, up to Fort William -- I'd be thrilled (for some reason) if we made it all the way out to Mallaig. Truth be told, I wouldn't be opposed to double-booking and staying over up there somewhere -- going with the flow!

Wednesday will be more of the same -- a variation of either Monday or Tuesday -- it all depends!

On Thursday, the girls and are doing something fun and fibery! I am indebted to Yvette, who no longer blogs but is a FB friend, for mentioning a recent trip home to Scotland (from France) which prompted me to ask questions and she told me about some yarn shops close to our location. (And, OMG, this is where I declare my love for the World Wide Web and technology and the amazingly wonderful and connected world in which we live!) There'll be more on this, but all I'm going to say right now is that I am very (squee!) excited about Thursday and can't wait to share!

On Friday, we'll leave Scotland and head south to Wales where we'll meet Maddy -- possibly picking her up in Liverpool or thereabouts. That's all a bit unplanned yet, too. DumfriesThe Lake District, The Pencil Museum... come what may! We'll spend Friday and Saturday nights in Wales, and head back to London on Sunday.

The return flight leaves bright and early on Monday morning! Katie's actually staying on for another 9-10 days; she and Maddy are talking about taking the Chunnel to Paris!

 

22 March 2011

Ten on Tuesday: Spring in her step

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Reasons To Be Glad It's Spring

Supposedly.

I've signed up to be notified of flight changes as we're in the midst of a Winter Storm Warning/Watch -- and we are right on the line between okay and sucky. It's raining here now; with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, it's sometimes the sleety slippery crappy shit known as the Wintry Mix falling from the sky, and may or may not later (or sometime) turn to snow. If Spring is nothing else, it is definitely a time of unpredictable weather that can literally change minute-to-minute.

My eye is on the prize, people. Plan B has already been discussed, interested parties alerted, and I've given notice: We're going on vacation. Do not effin' mess wi' me! I've had my fill over the past few weeks -- which I've handled with utmost patience and understanding, I might add -- with (mine or others') shoe problems, mechanical problems, timing problems, back problems, intestinal and assorted other "I don't feel so good" problems. Take a hike!

It's Spring and here are 10 Reasons Why I'm Glad!!

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1. Vacation

2. Vacation

3. Vacation

4. Vacation

5. Vacation

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6. Vacation

7. Vacation

8. Vacation

9. Vacation

10. Vacation

Heheheh. Spring is my favorite season. Being Midwest-born and mostly -bred, I had a hard time with the subtlety of the seasonal change when we lived in the Pacific Northwest. I love the dramatic awakening! The dogwood has been brightening for weeks, and I noticed the change in the willows over the weekend. Tulips are coming up, and very soon there'll be bloodroot and snowdrops blooming in the back yard. Buds will begin to burst. The air will smell like worms and warmed earth. The days are longer and brighter (generally speaking) and warmer. Oh, the warmth! There will be birthdays to celebrate and, this spring, a traveling daughter to welcome home (on her birthday!)! That we'll be traveling some, ourselves, with said traveling daughter while we're on VACATION is just a super-duper spring-time bonus this year.

That sure doesn't happen every year. Or, like, ever before. I was raised only a token Catholic, but somehow still managed to absorb the near-full measure of guilt. I have to keep reminding myself that it's okay to go, to shut out or screen the larger problems of the world (that I am unable to solve, anyway), to trust, and to have some fun.

There's about a day to make your guess in my Seven-Year Blogiversary Contest (now closed). In addition to the contest winner, I've decided to pick at least one random winner from all entries (on that post only)! Yay!

P.S. Have you purchased your Mitered Crosses Blanket Pattern yet?

20 March 2011

And then there were seven

As in seven years ago today, I wrote a couple of paragraphs and made my first blog post @ knitorious. It is mind-boggling to think of all that has happened in that time -- wonderful, tragic, happy, heartbreaking -- hmmm, I guess that's life.

I continue to be immeasurably inspired not only by the knitters (designers, spinners, dyers), but by the entire World Wide Web of creativity and beauty -- and humanity -- that's out there and available to us all with only a few keystrokes and/or clicks of a mouse.

I am humbled when someone writes to me and thanks me for being an inspiration... for quitting smoking, for knitting a complicated sweater or a big-ass blanket, for putting it out there. I don't know -- I don't dwell so much on the why or the what, it's the good feeling that sticks.

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Anyway, I walked around the yard with the rented lens the other day. I think I'm going to like it!! I also found some tulips coming up at the back of the house.

We went out for pizza last night -- which I'd had a hankering for ever since Tuesday when someone included pizza on their Ten on Tuesday list of 10 Favorite Pies. And then we drove out into the country to wait for the moon to hit our eye like a big pizza pie!

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The sunset wasn't all that spectacular, but pretty enough thanks to the clouds; one way, then another.

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I love the silos in this photo.

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The one and only photo I shot of the moon -- this is straight out of the camera just as it fully appeared over the horizon. It stayed this color for only a short time. I wasn't too impressed with the size of the moon -- I have seen it much, MUCH bigger than that -- but perhaps it was more impressive elsewhere in the world. I should be lucky that I saw it at all. It was fun to find a spot to sit and watch. We enjoyed listening to (one of my favorite Wisconsin authors) Michael Perry on Tent Show Radio while we waited.

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I cashed in my Penny Parfait the other day. Let's have a blogiversary contest! Beginning now and ending at 9 a.m. CST on Wednesday, the person who guesses the closest without going over will win a yet-to-be-determined prize. Since I'm leaving later on Wednesday for an amazingly awesome, pinch-me type vacation, chances are the prize won't be from around here. For what it's worth, the jar was full to the neck when I took it in; the amount was more than twice what both my husband and I thought it would be -- just an off-the-cuff amount that we both happened to choose based on nothing but our feelings. Mwah! Good luck and, whether a reader for the past seven minutes or the past seven years, thank you. Thank you for your inspiration, encouragement, wisdom, and love.

 

19 March 2011

Deja vu

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I believe I took these on Wednesday, but didn't get around to posting. Things have been ramping up here with travel prep and whatnot... so many things to scratch off the list(s)*. Plus, we had tickets to Riverdance -- a show that Kate & Al have wanted to see since they were kids. We had dinner at Pasquale's International Cafe on the way to the show, and had a nice evening out.

I'm really missing Maddy, now, and can't wait to see her! I wish she could spend the whole time with us; we'll have to be happy with bookends.

I wanted this shawl project to be restarted on well on the way before we left, so cast on again using a needle two sizes larger than before -- I was able to add a couple of repeats last night, and I'm much happier. We'll see!

*I just took my shoes out of the freezer. Yeah, I'm still working on my shoes! After having them stretched twice at the store, I furthered the mission by using some Glovolium to soften the leather. I considered other products, mainly Hot Glove, but real heat -- as in 350F -- was required and I'm not sure how the crepe soles would fare. The Glovolium worked well (I used it on a checkbook cover, too). I'd also read about slowly stretching shoes by placing plastic freezer bags filled with water into the shoes and putting them in the freezer. In theory, the water would slowly expand as it froze, thereby slowly stretching the shoe. Not a lot, but that's good. I've worn the shoes several times, all day, and they are quite comfortable -- most of the time. Just a teensy bit tight, I've no doubt that with continued wear they'll soften, conform, fit wonderfully, and we'll have a long and happy life -- I'm just trying to hurry that process along. I can't get the bags of frozen water out of the shoes yet, so the final report on that strategy will have to wait.

Have a great weekend! Don't forget to watch for the full super moon tonight!

17 March 2011

And then there were six

Six years ago tonight I smoked an after-dinner cigarette with my brother and his wife on my mom's driveway. It was Michael's birthday and, though I don't specifically recall, we likely had corned beef and cabbage -- which I sometimes like and sometimes hate. It has everything to do with the corned beef. (I never love it.) What's up with corned beef?

I might have smoked another cigarette on my way home.

I know I smoked another cigarette at about 11:00 on the walkway between my house and the garage. I smoked that one very thoughtfully. I knew it was my last. And then I said good bye to the rest and tossed them into the trash.

I've been smoke-free ever since. Sometimes it's been really, really hard. At first it was. Man, I remember wondering if I could ever think of anything or do anything again without it somehow leading to a cigarette. Get the mail, talk on the phone, have a beer (or any other beverage except milk), take a walk, need to think, wanna get away, vent, cry, laugh, cry, yell, celebrate a touchdown, argue, relax, pick me up. Heh.

Now, I am always surprised when I realize how infrequently I think about smoking.

I can't say that I'd never have done it without the blog -- in particular, without the urging of my fellow quitter Ann (*sniff* there's no purlingswine domain anymore???) and the invaluable support of Cara, and each and every person who helped with their comments and emails -- but I know I wouldn't have done it six years ago.

Man, I love you guys! XO

15 March 2011

Ten on Tuesday: Pie

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Favorite Kinds of Pie

First and foremost: Homemade.

1. Cherry. I like a light filling full of cherries -- preferably Door County cherries (not only are they local, they're also tart -- Wienke's Market makes some of the best!).

2. Blueberry. Ditto.

3. Apple. This is Rusty's favorite kind of pie to make and to eat; the recipe (including the crust) is in a state of constant flux. I love it mile-high and with a variety of apples, still warm from the oven, and occasionally with a small scoop of ice cream. Once, I had it with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. I should try that again.

4. Pumpkin. This is Rusty's second-favorite kind of pie to make and to eat! I like it with freshly whipped cream.

5. Mincemeat. In small doses.

6. Lemon Meringue. This is one of my favorite pies to make! (I love almost anything lemon.)

7. Key Lime. Tart and sweet!

9. Banana Cream. This is another pie that I've frequently made.

10. Vinegar. I had this for dessert as part of a historical dinner during a themed cross-stitch retreat several (going on many) years ago. I was unable, then, to come up with a search result for a recipe, but the internet has grown to provide an abundance of them. I've never made it. It may be one of those things that, though surprisingly delicious, is sweeter in memory.

I'm hungry now!

14 March 2011

Holding it together...

I just had an email that my rented lens is on the way. People! I think that means the final countdown is underway!!

I switched, last minute (not realizing that it actually was last minute), the 15mm fisheye for a 14mm ultra wide-angle lens. It's super wide, but without the distortion -- I love playing around with the fisheye, but worry about over-doing, and if I use "once-in-a-lifetime" thinking and keep my main subject in mind as my decision-making guide, I want "fun" but not "funny" and think the 14mm will be a bit more versatile.

We celebrated a couple of birthdays on Saturday. I made Chili All Day and Annie made chocolate mousse from scratch. Oh, yum! My stepdad's big day was Saturday, and Michael's is coming up on Thursday... also known as St. Patrick's Day and, for the past six years, Quit Day!

Speaking of quitting, I'm not quite sure what's going on -- I made neither a conscious decision nor a declaration -- but I've all but quit the Diet Coke. I've had no more than two a day for the past week or so (except for three on Tuesday... old habits) and there hasn't been a 2L bottle of the stuff in its usual spot in the fridge for over a week... the first time in, well, for about as long as I can remember. Maybe I'll quit the Coke altogether on the 6-year anniversary of quitting cigarettes! I feel a difference in my whole body. There's less puffiness in my face, and I can even feel the difference when I put my hands on my hips. Let's not get carried away... there's still quite a bit of fluffiness in that area, but that's different than puffiness. Heh.

We took care of a few more trip-related items on Sunday, including taking Mickey for a bath at the "Shiny Dog" dog wash, and stocking up on the pet supplies for our pet- and house-sitter (thanks Kevin!).

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I felt like I had a big hug from two friends the other day when I opened a package from Celia that contained a signed copy of Rachael's new book! And I can't tell you how tickled I am that the mitts I've been working on match the book I'll be reading! Plus, I have enough of that yarn for at least a couple more pairs of mitts (perfect travel knitting for a non-sock knitter) -- maybe even some Heart Back Home Mitts!

 

11 March 2011

Random sanity

I think I'm keeping my sanity by driving those around me crazy. Haha! Truth be told, I'm going a little crazy, too, but it's all good... planning... full of possibilities, adventure, exploration, fiber, food, family, and other folks.

I keep printing out maps with alternate routes and destinations. It's a tricky thing, on a trip like this, to a faraway place that none of us has ever been to before, to do enough but not too much, to see stuff and not miss something big (although there's your return ticket), and to make the best choices for all of us. (There's absolutely no danger of doing too little). We all want to be happy and satisfied... and I think we will be.

It was still (barely) light out when I got home last night, so I grabbed a camera and threw my shawl down in the snow and... there was no memory card. That took what little wind there was right out of my sail. No photo.

And guess what? By the time I went to bed last night, there was no more shawl, either! I'd been thinking that, the way things were going, it was much more likely I'd have a new shawl than a sweater for the trip, because the patience for sewing up Montparnasse is just.not.there right now. As far as sweaters go, I'm much more likely to sew up my overdue Habu... and, really, it would be PERFECT! And, as stated, it's WAY overdue.

The shawl... I picked it last night up and some familiar thoughts ran through my head, ones that have passed through regularly over the past few days. I'm over half-way! This sure is a small shawl (looking at pattern photo... of a girl wearing shawl... mental recalculating for adult). It sure seems like I'll have a lot of yarn left. Then I'd stretch and pull and try to imagine that it would block (and stay) to somewhere in the vicinity of finished measurements. I'd be okay if it was smaller, but not too... I want more shawl than shawlette. Ya know what? I don't think so. Rip!

The yarn's rewound. I've grabbed a pair of needles a couple sizes bigger. I'm ready to go again!

Meanwhile, I picked up some vintage Brooks Farm Four Play (ca. My First Rhinebeck) and cast on a pair of mitts! Photos over the weekend, I promise.

 

08 March 2011

Ten on Tuesday: Big whiff

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Favorite Smells

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1. Lilacs

2. Spring

3. Good wool

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4. Fresh 'n clean babies

5. Good soap

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6. Line-dried laundry (especially sheets and nightgowns)

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7. Grandma's house

8. Bread

9. Chocolate chip cookies

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10. Summer

* * * * *

I've got summer on the brain. And Scotland. The trip-planning madness (in a good way) continues... TWO WEEKS!!

 

03 March 2011

The "L" Word

Dare I say it?

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LACE!

I'm ready. I have started (and restarted) (innumerable times) a few lace pieces but have never completed one. I'm aiming to change that. My beautiful Transverse sits, more than two-thirds finished, pulled off the needles after a mistake. Heartbreaking. (I can't believe it's been nearly two years since I started... and restarted that project!) I've tried to recover a couple of times but, boy, one sure needs to be in the right state of mind to do that; so far, it's always been one of those two-steps-back enterprises. It doesn't seem like it should be so hard, but I guess lifeline (under "Fixing Mistakes") is an accurate term. I have resolved to try one more time and, if unsuccessful, have also resigned to frogging and starting again... let's hope it doesn't come to that.

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This is Katara by Corrina Ferguson for PicnicKnits, available both individually or as one of the eight patterns that make up the collection in Sideways Shawlettes. Katara is a possible travel project, depending on how it goes. The lace is only at the edge of an otherwise garter stitch shawl. I prefer knitting with straight needles, so sideways works for me! There is some intriguing short-row shaping to keep it interesting... and also to add some shaping! I'm about to commence the first short-row section.

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This is Ella Rae Lace Merino. The color is a non-descript #128 and totally the reason it's mine... absolutely gorgeous! And I love how it's knitting up so far in this project. I'm having fun... have had to rip back a few rows a couple of times, but I feel like I'm getting it.

Question of the day: Are my first-stitch yarn-overs too loopy?

02 March 2011

Work-in-Progress Wednesday (Wordless)

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01 March 2011

Ten on Tuesday: Marching orders

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Things to Like About the Month of March

1. My brother's birthday is on...

2. St. Patrick's Day!

3. My blogiversary is on...

4. The First Day of Spring!

5. I doubt we've seen the last of it, but the season of snow is definitely waning.

6. The sun is getting stronger and stronger.

7. Return of the light!

8. For me and my family, this year, a most excellent adventure to England...

9. Scotland...

10. Wales!

Oh my goodness, what would I do with the blog??? Thank you all so much for your encouragement and advice regarding packing, travel, and new shoes!

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