44 posts categorized "Travel"

07 November 2013

Chicago weekend - part 2

After a short walk for coffee and breakfast on Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel and started to make our way north!

First stop:  The Spice House. We were there a few minutes before they opened, and the aroma was amazing even out on the sidewalk! This was my first visit to The Spice House, and I had a few things on my list! Those items procured, we walked down the street for coffee. I'd checked in on FB and my friend Amy piped up about their Chicago Spiced Sugar being a favorite, so we went back for that... and more!

I seriously love that about Facebook... and my friends... when I'm in a place that's new or unfamiliar! It was SO helpful when I planned the trip Sharon & I took to Las Vegas a few years ago, and there's just nothing better than a recommendation from a friend!

Buttons! Now to get them sewn on...

Our next stop was Soutache. I learned about this shop at Stitches Midwest where they had a booth. We visited earlier this year, but I had left all of my sweaters-in-need-of-buttons at home. This time, I'd grabbed a couple of Zim's in need of closure, and Ali and I had a fun time choosing... including some cute vintage buttons. It's not as extensive as Tender Buttons, but it's as close as I've seen.

Another planned stop was at The Container Store. We'd spied it on our way out of town last time and immediately put it on The List. Ali was looking for some baskets for shelving in her new bathroom -- and if you can't find something like that at TCS... 

Lunch break:  Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine. Delicious. It was nice enough that we were able to eat al fresco. I also had my first San Pellegrino Grapefruit -- yummy! Like Fresca, but not Fresca.

Our last stop before heading home was Bellybum Boutique. I have a feeling we were at that store before, but Ali thinks not... that it's the one that was closed that day. I dunno. Cute shop, lots of great stuff for babies, their mums, and even their grandmums-to-be!

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Thank for all the wonderful birthday wishes!

No cake, make mine gelato! Also, nice books. #happybirthdaytome !!

I had a great day! No cake, but gelato works (Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip). Phone calls, Skype chats, both lunch & dinner away, hearing Zim's heartbeat at Ali's midwife appointment (next one in two weeks!), a couple of new books from my Wish List, a video "Happy Birthday" sung in Portuguese from Mack & Addy! Really. How could it be better?

 

04 November 2013

A weekend away - Chicago

Having last left Chicagoland with a few things still on our to-do list, Ali and I took off on Friday afternoon with an aim to cross them off.

And we did.

And then some.

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We stayed at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Chicago for a pretty good rate via Hotwire, and had a great view from our room on the 27th floor. Parking kills ya, but it's not like it's a surprise; I like to mosey my way out of town, so this works best for me/us.

I never made it over to The Palmer House where Vogue Knitting Live was happening. I'd just been to Stitches Midwest in August... had almost a half-dozen projects in various stages of finishing with me, as well as one on the needles, and plenty of yarn at home. Someday, maybe.

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We bundled up on Saturday morning and took a walk to Navy Pier. Had we been looking for something to do all day, SOFA would have been fun -- the only other time I visited Navy Pier was years ago for Art Chicago -- but we just enjoyed the walk and the scenery and that was that.

It's changed a lot since I was there, by the way; and is very family-oriented in terms of shops and attractions.

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From our hotel room, the Navy Pier ferris wheel was visible to the naked eye there between those buildings. Oh, I do love those tall buildings. Having never lived in the big city, someday -- in this life or one of the next -- I'd love to, even if just for a while.

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On a whim, having never done it before, Ali and I walked through American Girl Place (and what a place!) on our way out of Water Tower Place. I nearly plotzed when I spotted JULIE ALBRIGHT - 1974! That's me... us... a mash-up of all of us -- me, my sisters, my friends. Crrraazy! I had a lot of those outfits. Heh. Ali was looking for some of her faves... Felicity, Samantha, Kirsten are all "in the archives" now, and another (Molly?) will soon be joining them.

We closed out Saturday by going to the movies! We saw Ender's Game. I enjoyed the movie more than Ali, but she read the book about a thousand times in middle school and I had no expectation since I haven't read it even once! It was entertaining enough; I was quite captivated by the young lead actor/character and how much he reminded me of my nephew Mack!

To be continued...

06 October 2013

Black Point Estate

Black Point Estate is one of the Wisconsin Historical Society's sites. The only public access to the property is by boat! One of many boat tours operated by Lake Geneva Cruise Line, it also includes the scenic tour of other historic and notable properties around the lake -- titans of Chicago such as Wrigley, Maytag, Sears, and Schwinn had summer homes there, as well as many other names that you might not recognize but whose companies you certainly would! Those summer homes came in handy as refuge following The Great Chicago Fire; with easy access by train, many of those leaders moved their families to their homes in Lake Geneva and lived there while rebuilding the city and their businesses.

The house is located on a bluff and is not really visible from the lake. After climbing about 75 of the 120 steps to reach it, this was my first view:

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Being the first (with Rusty) to reach the top, I (we) was awarded with a bumper sticker to proclaim that fact! 

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Conrad Seipp made his fortune making beer, founder of the Seipp Brewing Co. in Chicago (home beer delivery? OK!). Conrad died not long after Black Point was completed, but his wife and other members of the family managed -- and even grew -- the estate for many years.

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Many of the furnishings were "hand-me-downs" from their elegant home in the city. The cherubs on this bedroom set caught my eye. What you can't see in my blurry phone photo is the large mended patch on the bedspread! Waste not, want not.

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The historical society rather scoffs at the bright green shag rug in the bedroom across the hall! I love it. While many of the furnishings are "antique" and certainly quite valuable, and much of the home is like a "time capsule," it's things like this rug that let you know it was lived in and used by many generations. The knit & lined blanket also caught my eye, of course.

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Upstairs hall: there was a closet exactly like this, mirrored on the other side of the hall.

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An enormous doll house sat at the other end of the hall, with a large cabinet full of extra furnishings standing nearby!

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Stencilled burlap wall covering in dining room. Burlap covered many of the walls.

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Exterior and gardens. The house is beautifully painted. One of the descendants of Conrad was a "collector" of trees and, according to our guide, there are 70 different types of evergreens planted on the property, along with the black oaks and other native trees.

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I found gingko!

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We'd walked the Geneva Lake Shorepath Walk in one direction on Saturday. While Rusty went in the other direction after the tour on Sunday, I did a little knitting (baby pants for Zim) at the beach. 

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And then it was time to go!

We stopped at Gooseberries on the way home for some groceries, but mostly to surprise long-time virtual friend Gretchen!

I feel recharged and maybe slightly less overwhelmed after that little break. Man, there sure is a lot to do around here... maybe it's the time of year! I'm finding myself wishing for winter ***ONLY*** because it takes a few things off of one's plate just because, you know, it's winter.

Forget I said that, and let's revel some more in autumn...

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For as long as we can!

04 October 2013

Weekend get-away

When Ali messaged me a few weeks ago that she didn't have anyone available to work the market with me on a particular Saturday, my wheels immediately started in motion.

#7 on my list of 10 Things I Want To Do This Summer was:  An overnighter to the Lake Geneva area and a visit to Black Point Estate. It turns out I was able to make it a two-nighter (so happy that I did) and the particular Saturday was Saturday last! We set out about mid-morning.

First stop:

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Bungalow Quilting & Yarn in Ripon. I see their billboard on the highway every time I head south... always on the way to somewhere else, you know? Well, what's a road-trip vacation without a little detour here and there to do things you've been wanting to do!

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It's a great shop, full of fabric and yarn, wonderful decor, and the owner was very friendly and helpful. I ended up with a book of baby knits and yarn for a baby sweater.

I just love the "stained glass" "quilt block" window on the outside sign!

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Our next stop, on the way, was at Mullen's Dairy & Eatery in Watertown.

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Walking through the door there was like entering the Way-back Machine! Holy cow. Among my favorite things: Shakes and Malts available in Light, Medium or Thick; Lily Cups; Johnson's Toasted Nuts display (I had to get some!).

We arrived at McIntyre's Resort at about mid-afternoon -- our home until Monday!

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Adorable and cozy pretty much sum up the situation there! We were in one of two cabins on the property; there is plenty of room for camping; plans are underway to add four more cabins (I think) next year. They're tiny... no real sitting room, outside of the screened porch, but we really weren't there for sitting...

We walked in the woods:

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Oh, the pines smelled SO GOOD!

Paddled around the lake:

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Went to an apple festival at The Apple Barn Orchard and Winery:

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Did some walking around Lake Geneva:

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And on Sunday morning, we went to the last Antique Flea Market of the season at Elkhorn.

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Oh my. It was HUMONGOUS! I haven't been to something like that in quite a while and it didn't take long before I was completely overwhelmed. We both managed to walk away with some treasures... mine were knitting needles & a nice book of patterns for the grand total of $2.

Which reminds me, knitting du weekend was some baby pants and the knitting is done! They need a light blocking and a little mattress-stitch seaming... oh, and a cord of some sort... but they're adorable! Colorful without being loud, they'll keep Zimmy toasty warm through winter!

Monday was reserved for the Black Point Estate tour... stay tuned!

15 August 2013

Packing it all in

The sweater -- Pull Gaspard -- that I was fixing in the last post looked like this on Tuesday:

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And this on Wednesday:

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I did some knitting in the car yesterday while Kate took a turn at the wheel and we day-tripped up to Door County. It was a beautiful day, but other than this:

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and these:

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Behind the Minnetonka moccasin shop; on the shore in Ephraim

And despite taking my big-girl camera along (I haven't tripped that shutter in ages), I only took mobile-phone photos of menus and food.  ;)

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That's the Turkey, Cream Cheese & Cherry Chutney sandwich at The Cookery, one of my favorite places, and definitely one of my favorite sandwiches of all time! I haven't eaten an actual "sandwich" in about a year, so this was really a treat... and, oh, so worth it. I even said to Katie, while eating it, that one of the things I love about it (and I love all the things about this sandwich) is that they use RAISIN bread. I also love and look forward to the accompanying dill potato salad and chunky applesauce. I enjoyed a glass of Island Orchard Apple Cherry Cider and helped Kate with her bottle of Crispin Artisanal Reserve Honey Crisp Cider, and we shared some eggplant fries as an appetizer -- so light and crispy, better than I'd even hoped. There are many amazing eateries to choose from in Door County, but The Cookery is consistently at the top of our list.

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We made our way north to Ephraim and Wilson's -- an institution up there, but to which I'd never actually been -- and enjoyed a couple of root beer floats for dessert. Second dessert, actually, as we'd found ourselves in a chocolate shop and one certainly can't leave an establishment like that empty-handed.

If that wasn't enough for a day, we ever-so-briefly cooled our jets at home before picking up Ali and heading up to the Farmers' Market on Broadway (in Green Bay) for more food and fun! That's been on the list for a while and I would certainly like to return.

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It's a combo farmer market/festival -- LOTS of fresh produce and meat, arts and crafts, food vendors, live music, beer. I didn't have any beer, but I'm happy to know that it's there.

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A good time (and funnel cake) was had by all!

Tonight is a company picnic at the local baseball stadium, and sometime between now and 8 a.m. tomorrow we'll be setting up for a 2-day rummage sale in Ali's driveway! Jeepers, it's a busy month.

I'm trying to keep it all together and make the most of every minute -- packing it all in while counting down the days: (1) 'til Maddy heads back to school, (6) 'til Ali's next midwife appointment, and (22) 'til Kate flies over the ocean.

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Meanwhile, Saltires are popping up.

I've cast on another baby sweater by a French designer! Le P'tit Mousse has been on my radar (Pinterest board) for a long time! I'm so happy to have an actual reason/baby to knit some of these sweaters!

I'm pretty sure there's more, but that's all for now!

 

09 March 2013

Obrigada, Brasil!

My flight didn't leave until 8 p.m., so I still had an open morning on my last day in Brazil! Another place on my short list was Parque Lage, so that's where we went.

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Have I mentioned graffiti? It is EVERYWHERE!!

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The mansion now houses an art school and there's a little cafe; beautiful views from everywhere, and there are a lot of trails and paths, little bridges and stairways, and cave-like areas (with aquariums & fish!).

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Still in awe of nature and the things that grow "wild."

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So lovely.

Also one of the locations featured in Snoop Dogg's video, "Beautiful." This might possibly be the first Snoop song I've listened to in its entirety, and it was mostly for the pictures. Haha. There are some other familiar sites, as well!

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Oh, I do hope I can go back someday.

It was Friday and it's Rio, so one wants to leave plenty of time for traffic tangles on the way to the airport, plus it was an international flight and I didn't speak much of the language, so a friend of Ann's & Brian's came to pick me up at 1:00!

I snapped one more shot of my favorite view -- misty and smudgy, for some reason, but my eyes were welling up a bit so it's perfect.

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And one last hug with my boys.

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Traffic. It was still "summer vacation" when I was there, so they tell me that traffic wasn't as heavy or congested as usual, but it was pretty crazy! Crazy like there's the constant "beep beep" of motorcycles, alerting drivers to the fact that they're there... between lanes, riding the lines, basically, and it's OK! There's a lot of jostling and wiggling and weaving -- cars, motorcycles, trucks, busses, they all do it! If that's not crazy enough, as we neared the airport and traffic was heavy and a bit more stop-and-go, kids from the favelas would walk the lines between lanes and sell snacks and water and whatnot.

You'd think there'd be hot tempers and lots of fender benders, but there's not. No one raises their voice in Brasil unless it's in song or at a soccer game! Surprised that my brother-in-law still had side mirrors on his car, I really only saw a few cars with scrapes or little dents. There's just a weird etiquette and flow to it all; everyone knows what they're in for and it's just the way it is.

So not like big-city American traffic! Those motorcyclists are some kind of something, though; serious daredevils.

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I arrived in DC for re-entry to the U.S. and the climate change was immediately evident in my hair... it was dry and full of static and pulled back into a ponytail before I even made it through Customs! That tropical air really was wonderful for my skin and hair, even with only a week!

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There's No Place Like Home! Hm.  ;)

And that, my friends, is it!

 

03 March 2013

Cook In Rio!

On Thursday morning, I watched the boys while Ann & Brian went to renew some government paperwork stuff -- which they weren't actually able to do because "the computers were down" and so, you know, as people do in Brazil, it was on to Plan B! (In this case, Annie went back to work and Brian tried for the umpteenth time to get their international banking figured out.) (FYI: It didn't get figured out until I'd already been home for days!)

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Addison had some fun with my camera phone.

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Self-portrait: Addison

Later that day, Annie and I got to do the thing that we'd been trying to do ever since I arrived: COOK IN RIO! Originally planned for Friday, my first full day in Rio, it didn't happen. We rescheduled for another day but were late (as is often the case in Rio), so it didn't happen then, either. After many phone calls, several missed connections and problems with email, and changes of venue, some people were doubting that it would ever even happen.

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But it did and, WOW! So worth it! The venue was amazing, though if you go there's a good chance it will be elsewhere, as our instructor, Chef Simone, was planning to open her own nearby restaurant within weeks (which means it should be open now)!

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We all had little tasks to do. Annie made caipirinha, I sliced and cooked peppers for moqueca. We made fried cheese sticks (Brazilians love cheese, but it is a little different there) and farofa, too. Talking with my hands, I also flung the farofa off the stove but, luckily, much of it landed on the table rather than the floor and could be salvaged. I didn't care for farofa the first time I had it, but by this time I rather did... and this time it was made with onions and bananas, which sounds VERY weird, but was so good!

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We learned so much about the history and culture of Brazil from Chef Simone, and all of the influences on Brazilian cuisine. It was simply fantastic and so worth our never giving up!

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A word about food; here and there.

I wasn't terribly concerned about food while I was in Brazil because, hey, I was in Brazil! I didn't throw the book out the window, but I never said "No" to anything before me because of "diet." While I've started on this path to improve my health, I have no medical issues preventing me from eating anything I'd like.

That said, my feet, ankles, and legs did swell up quite a bit, but I can't say that it was all (or even mostly) due to diet -- travel does that to me, the weather was VASTLY different, I over-did it in the sun, etc., etc., etc.

Given my pattern over the last several weeks, I was reminded that I am definitely an emotional eater and stress plays a big part. There were a few days when I just wanted to crawl inside a bag of potato chips and forget the world for a while... but I didn't. I had a few indulgences, but even my indulgences are ridiculously controlled or just healthier than I'd have had before. It helps when there aren't bags of cookies or chips in the cupboard!

And, as of yesterday, I hit a new low in the weight department, registering 42+ pounds less on the scale than this time last year. It feels so great!

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That's not all!

My next post will wrap up this ridiculously long travelogue. (Thank you for indulging me, it's been kind of fun to draw out and re-live my week-long tropical vacation over the past month and a half.) And, believe it or not, KNITTING is set to return! There is an FO on the blocking board, as we speak... an actual SWEATER.. for me, even! It's ne of the 8 +/- sweaters-for-me-in-progress that I have had aging around here (and one or two of them for about as many years).

Care to take a guess as to which one? In alphabetical order, is it:

  • Cromarty
  • Going To The UK
  • Habu For Me
  • Hand-to-Hand Aran
  • Highland Tempest
  • Low Tide
  • Oblique
  • Wisconsin Tunic

 

01 March 2013

On Wednesday: Here comes the sun!

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Perfect morning to head to the beach!

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This time, São Conrado. I don't think I'd ever been to the beach so early in the morning.

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There were quite a few hang gliders jumping off that mountain and, eventually, sometimes landing on the beach. Lots of joggers on the beach, too.

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I think that's Dois Irmãos at just about dead-center, above; the gorgeous mountain that serves as a backdrop for all the pool photos taken at Annie's house (the photo at the top of this post). Let's say that this view is from the west, whereas the view from home is more from the north.

After lunch, we hit the road again.

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Can't express the love I have for this "junk" sculpture!

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Of course. You can see Cristo Redentor from just about anywhere in Rio and he, of course, sees it all, but one must actually go up Corcovado! Amazing: the bus ride up there, tip-toeing around all the people lying on the ground to take pictures, watching out for arms flung wide "Cristo-style"!

The view from here:

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Wednesday was also Annie's birthday!! We had a lovely dinner at Porcao, a sort of churrascaria.

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This amazing plate was from my trip through the "salad bar." It was all so good! Each person at the table had a little paper disk that read "YES PLEASE" on one side and, of course, "NO THANKS" on the other. When we were ready, we flipped over to YES and servers came around table-side with skewers of meat -- chicken hearts, pork sausages, many cuts of beef -- and sliced or served a portion directly onto our plates. It was basically an all-you-can-eat buffet, but with service, linens and nice tablesettings, a beautiful view...

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...and of a quality that I've never experienced here. There are a few Brazililan steakhouse/churrascaria in Chicago and I'd love to check one out sometime now that I know what to expect.

The original vacation plan was to fly out on Wednesday/arriving Rio on Thursday, with departure the following Wednesday/arriving home on Thursday... and back to work on Monday. (Next time? Longer than one week.) Because of the decidedly unfabulous start to my trip, spending my first night in Houston rather than a plane and delaying arrival by 24 hours, I took a cue from some younger but obviously more savvy fellow travelers to see if I could extend my trip. I explained what happened and they were fairly quick in granting a 24-hour extension... but I lobbied for an extra day, besides, now that arrival back home would be on the weekend and I didn't have to be at work until Monday. That would give me an extra day both in Rio and at home. Happily, that request was granted, as well!

Even though I now had extra time in Rio, by Wednesday we were still feeling "the end" looming. On Tuesday we might have been quite satisfied with a day that included the beach, Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer, and an amazing dinner; on Wednesday we weren't.

A place that had been on my Do Not Miss List ever since Annie shared pictures of their first visit was Escadaria Selarón.

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It was a bittersweet visit, having read about the death of artist Jorge Selarón less than a week before I left for Brazil. The boys had met him on their earlier visit, and there was a great photo of Brian and Jorge sitting on the stairs and talking -- I'd just devoted a whole page in their 2013 family photo calendar to that visit. It was heartbreaking.

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Suicide? Homicide? It might never be known for sure. Not exactly the best neighborhood, there was police presence... though there is constant police presence in a lot of places in Rio.

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By the time we arrived, it was already getting dark. We almost didn't make it at all -- it was on the long journey between Porcao and Selaron that Annie, frustrated by map reading and our inability to read street signs 'til we were on top of them, said, "I give up!" And the boys chimed, "No! You can't give up." Addison adding, "You can never give up on your birthday!"

So we didn't.

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From top to bottom, and even ON top, simply amazing. A person could spend days there. I know there's at least one Wisconsin tile, because Selarón himself had shown it to the boys, but they didn't remember and I didn't find it. I did find a few other fun tiles, though.

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Those look like knitters to me. What do you think?

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Overall, it was a spectacular day!!

20 February 2013

Art on Tuesday

No two ways about it, on Tuesday it rained quite a bit.

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Brian and The Boys and I ended up at Instituto Moreira Salles. We passed this place everyday on our travels, but no one had had a chance to stop before. It was a beautiful place, inside and out!

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The exhibition was by William Kentridge called FORTUNA. It was a bit distracting with the boys, and there was the language barrier in print, but the art itself was... really pretty fascinating.

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The rain let up by afternoon and while the boys played in the pool, I had my nails done! Both a mani- and a pedicure, pool-side, as I'd dreamed ever since Skyping one time with Annie while she was having hers done that very same way!

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I enjoyed my first (and only) Guarana!

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And, later, an Itaipava beer! (Woman does not live on caipirinha alone.)

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The rain let up. The kids had swimming lessons. We had pizza for dinner again, but this time from Sasso, and at a co-worker's house. It was a lovely visit with our hostess, a long-time employee of the school, and her Brazilian husband, as well as another newly arrived teacher from America. Even sitting amongst them, with my own sister who is one of "them," it's hard to imagine picking up and moving to another continent. Obviously, at least in current company, that's just me!

 

17 February 2013

Monday, Monday, so good to me

Monday, Monday, it was all I hoped it would be.

Annie had to go back to work on Monday; my brother-in-law would return the following Monday, and the boys (and other students) would go back the Monday after that.

The boys and I spent a relaxed morning at home. It was a little rainy, but they did a lot of swimming anyway. I might have done a little laundry. Or that might have been another day. I did do laundry one day... the washing machine is outside, under a little roof but basically outside. If there was live-in help, the laundry area is located right outside their rooms, and fairly close to the kitchen. Even if they don't live-in, a lot of people have daily help; Annie and Brian have someone that comes weekly and works harder and longer than anyone I've ever seen.

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We had lunch at the school and the boys gave me a little tour -- showing me where their rooms were, even if they weren't open. (Heh, these photos are not taken at school.)

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Annie was able to spend the afternoon with me and we grabbed our umbrellas to head to Jardim Botanico -- the botanical garden.

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One might think that two would wait for a sunny day to visit the garden, but a "less than perfect" day is actually THE perfect day!

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We lucked out and never had to open our umbrellas, but had the benefit of lovely light filtered by clouds.

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People, the plants are different in Brazil.

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Or, maybe you recognize them but they're SUPER-sized and growing WILD! I noticed the tiny red flowers on the hedge, above, while I was taking photos of the priest, below... and they were so familiar! Where had I seen those flowers before? And then I noticed the structure of plant itself (thorns!) and remembered the tropical potted plant we call "Crown of Thorns" in the greenhouse window at work. But this was HUGE, a whole HEDGE, planted IN THE GROUND! There were a lot of other familiar plants, too, though the type that I'd never dream of planting outside. "Wandering Jew" was basically used as a ground-cover plant in many areas. Craziness!
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It was just lovely.

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And then there was the Orchideario.

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The Orchid House. Photos don't do justice. It was amazing!

Our first choice for a dinner spot wasn't open that day, so as usual, it was on to Plan B! We had to stop and get our bearings, ask directions... it's really weird listening to your sister speak a language so completely foreign to you... and eventually we made our way to BRAZ!

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I was offered an English menu, but our waiter didn't speak a word of it... I still managed to order wine. We were able to order three different types on one pie -- I know we had Funghi and Alcachofrinha, but I don't remember the third.

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It was all delicious (with leftovers for breakfast!) and we had a fun Brigadeiro (on a spoon) dessert.

Ann told me that I had to go to the restroom before we left.

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The photos are awful -- I had nothing but my cell phone and it was dark. It was up a flight of stairs and when I entered I noticed an open doorway on the opposite wall. It opened to a little rooftop patio -- so wonderful!!

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Not bad for a Monday, really.

 

12 February 2013

Carnival!

This week, because of Carnival, there is no school and the boys have been spending hours upon hours in the pool.

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Annie updated her Facebook status on Saturday, writing:

Ok, it's Carnaval in Rio. Hotels are at capacity and every bed in my house will be occupied by people I don't know. Guess what I'll be doing?

Guesses amongst friends included sleeping, camping out, getting one of any number of Brazilian "treatments," dancing in the street, going to the beach, doing taxes, and *DING*DING*DING* LEARNING SAMBA!

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So I lucked into a ticket to be one of the people behind the Imperatriz Samba School when they compete Monday night (1:00 a.m.)! I am learning the song and if I can't dance at least I might be able to move!

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Yes, those are dolphins on my shoulders. And I get to keep the costume forever (gasp!).

There was some chatter on Annie's wall about the possibility of live-streaming telecasts and the timing for CST viewing was quite favorable, so I thought I'd check it out. I found a few choices for live viewing, including a channel on YouTube. I ended up watched on Globo.

Here are the Imperatriz (Empress) highlights. There's a general wrap-up in The Rio Times, and for good measure here's some embedded footage:

There are plenty of Carnival-related videos to watch!

I actually watched all of the Grande Rio performance, thinking it was Imperatriz Leopoldinense -- it was hard to know for sure since I couldn't understand more than three words of the broadcast! By the time I realized that I was watching their predecessors and that the schedule was off (as usual, it's Brazil!), I'd already had so much invested... I had to stay up and watch! Double your fun! It made for a later night than I'd intended, but it was very exciting to watch when I saw those dolphins samba across my screen.

When in Rio...

(I really can't wait to see the boy's Halloween costumes this year!!)

 

08 February 2013

Two Brothers

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Dois Irmãos. Two brothers. This is Rio to me, and always will be. These mountains, this view, those sounds, Rocinha.

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Day 3. That would be Sunday, January 20th. (Happy 28th Anniversary to Us!)

We climbed Morro da Urca and caught the tram from there to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf). It's an easy hike, even for someone like me who isn't really a hiker, but overnight rain and a light morning shower or two affected the condition of the trail and made it a bit more challenging.

We snacked on pao de queijo (what else?) while waiting for the tram and the ride to Sugarloaf. The view from the top:

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Spectacular!

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We took the tram all the way down, and then made our way to Feira Hippie de Ipanema...

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The Hippie Fair! That was a lot of fun and I found some treasures, both to keep and to give away.

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There was a pretty good downpour while we were there, too, and we waited it out (i.e., shopped) in a stall with lovely jewelry!

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There were quite a few artists displaying their work. I loved these "field" pieces!

After all that, we were hungry for more than a snack. Mack is a bit of a soccer nut these days, and was drawn in by soccer on TV at Torre do Barao, which was right next to the Gringo Cafe where an NFL play-off game was being televised (and we were ever-so-mildly interested in the outcome).

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I had fish. It was delicious! It didn't even occur to Ann until after I left that we never ate a meal at home. I had a small yogurt every morning there for breakfast, and Brian made pao de queijo one day for the boys (it is their favorite thing!) and I had one or two, but otherwise we ate out -- at restaurants or as guests at other people's houses!

 

04 February 2013

Still peeling

Day 2: Prainha (a beautiful little beach) and Churrasco (a great little BBQ)!

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See that unshaded shoulder? Other than my forehead, that spot was probably the worst of my sunburn. Three things: 1) make sure the sunscreen is evenly applied everywhere, 2) re-apply, and 3) it's probably not best for a northern girl to go bobbing in south-of-the-equator waves when the mid-summer sun is near its strongest on a sunshiny day.

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I was driven into the sandy beach by waves a few times, nicely exfoliating my legs. Um, yeah. That only happened a few times before I figured it out!

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I wore my new bathing suit and I was not the only woman wearing a one-piece on the beach! (Close, but there were a few others.) I listened when the saleswoman told me that people tend to buy suits a size larger, when really they should buy a size smaller because they stretch when they're wet; so I bought the smaller of the two I'd tried on, and should have gone down even one more (this may not hold true for a two-piece -- I'll never know -- but a one-piece really does get weighed down by water!).

I brought two cover-ups with me and never wore either one, opting instead for the the canga with the Copacabana design that I bought at the beach! I love that thing. It's what everyone wears/uses at the beach and they come in a zillion different designs. I even bought a dress made from a canga. I can't wait for summer so I can wear it!

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We rented an umbrella and a couple of chairs, and settled in (or got wet, or dug a hole in the sand). The woman visible just left of center, above the large rock, was carrying a large selection of bikinis for sale; she found willing customers in the folks just behind the rocks on the right!

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I really can't think of a better way to spend the better part of Day 2.

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After a few hours at the beach, we made our way over the mountain to a co-worker's house where we'd been invited for churrasco. It was a lovely house with a beautiful outdoor kitchen/BBQ, fully plumbed, and a sauna. Who knew? The house that Annie lives in has a sauna room, also. Saunas are quite popular in Brazil!

The sauna might have actually helped my sunburn, which was quite fresh at the time, by super-hydrating my skin. I don't know. It was never really painful, except for my shoulder and that was because of irritation from various straps.

The food! The drinks! Our hosts & new friends! So many delectably grilled meats, I lost count; farofa, salads, and other beautiful side dishes. I managed only to photograph that lovely lime dessert, of which I indulged in two pieces (and that was really one too many but it was so good). Caipirinha with lychee and lime and other citrus. Our hosts were a co-worker of Annie & Brian's, his wife, and another couple who are very good friends; the co-worker and the wife of the other couple spoke English (he very well, she learning). It was all very fun, with lots of kisses and hugs.

Impressions: Not everyone in Brazil looks like a model. Not even close. Most looked a lot like me. Wearing a bikini. (I did not, would not, will not wear a bikini.) MORE CRAZY DRIVING! Beach. Sand. Even more relaxed. Vacation. Food. Laughter. Friends.

 

02 February 2013

Arrival!

I quickly passed through all of the airport security lines without problem, retrieved my luggage and peeled off the last little bit of "Wisconsin winter" clothing along in the process (except for the leggings and compression knee-highs, which, you can be assured, I took care of ASAP), looking for familiar faces... which I did not see! I stepped outside and realized that I didn't know what make or color of car to even look for, but stood out there for a while anyway. Then went back inside. Then outside. Inside. Outside. Inside. Every time I went out, I'd be approached by one of many a nice young man wanting to hail a taxi for me. We didn't speak the same language, but the message was crystal clear. Also, how damn friendly they all were, and cute.

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Finally! I heard my name and saw Annie, Brian, and the boys. Turns out they were looking for me in the right place, generally, but a level above!

We stopped for a bite to eat, at Casa da Tata, where I had my first pao de queijo -- the boys' favorite thing to eat!

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Afterwards, we went to their house and that spectacular view I've seen over the past six months is, well, truly spectacular. The mountain formation is the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) Peaks, with a portion of the largest favela in Rio, Rocinha (ho-seen-ya), visible at its foot, and the Zuzu Angel Tunnel running through it.

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That's the view from the pool-side doorway to my bedroom.

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We dropped off my luggage, I took a quick tour of the house (the 3rd floor porch view, above), and then we headed off for Cook In Rio!

And that did not happen.

Long story short: My first lesson in Plan B, which we basically made up as we went along.

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Coffee break at Cafeina.

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A walk on Copacabana beach (where I may have gotten a little wet).

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Caipirinha!

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Copa sidewalk design.

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Dinner at Zaza Bistro Tropical. This was actually on Annie's list of places for us to go, so when we found ourselves in the neighborhood -- early enough that we were able to sneak in ahead of reservations -- it was just moved up on the list!

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The line was too long at Garota de Ipanema, so we had after-dinner drinks across the street instead. Garota de Ipanema means "The Girl From Ipanema," and that bar is supposedly where the girl from Ipanema walked by and voila, a song was born. The lyrics (in Portuguese) are written on the sign on the side of the building (barely visible in the photo above).

I thought Herb Alpert sang the version that's been running through my head, but it must only have been his instrumental (he didn't sing much) version of this wildly popular mid-60s song. Those were my formative years, musically speaking, and I'm pretty sure I somehow mashed up the rare Herb Alpert vocal on This Guy's In Love With You + The Girl From Ipanema.

We stopped at the grocery store for a few things before hailing a taxi for home.

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Rocinha was simply amazing. I never tired of looking and listening, day or night. In the week that I was there, it was never ever dark. It was quite loud, all night long -- music, voices, life -- on the first few nights I was there, but eerily quiet on the last few. Except for the dogs. A chorus of barking would rise up and move 'round at regular intervals throughout the night, every night. And the roosters. I smiled to myself the first morning and thought, Hm, they must not have those rules about not having roosters in the urban chicken coop here. Heh.

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Ann and her family are very lucky to be able to live in such a fantastic house during their first year here. It's quite close to school/work, very roomy, and quite comfortable. It would be pretty near perfect if the neighbor's/landlord's gigantic dogs didn't keep eating their car's windshield wipers for lunch!
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That's my room from the outside looking in.

First impressions: Hot. Humid. Tropical. Big City. Urban Graffiti. Damp. CRAZY DRIVING! WHAT? Dare-devil Motorcyclists. Beach. Sand. Relaxed. Vacation.

 

30 January 2013

Never Give Up!

Bags packed.

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Lift-off.

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24 Hours in Houston!

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In retrospect, the missed connection in Houston was the PERFECT start to my vacation, an appropriate set up and learning opportunity for "the way things are in Brazil." It was definitely not the last "missed connection" and I quickly learned from my little sis to "Always have a Plan B!"

Late on Wednesday we were driving around, trying to find the Escadaria de Selaron before it got too dark, my brother-in-law Brian at the wheel (traffic is CRAY-CRAY in Rio!!) and Annie wedged between car seats in the back with the map. The street names are all enormous but on teeny-tiny little signs that you can't see 'til you're right on top of them... and that's too late! Annie was frustrated, at the end of her rope, and declared, "I can't do this. I give up!" To which Addison replied, "Noooooo, Mom! You can't give up! NEVER GIVE UP! You can never give up on your birthday!" (Which it was.) (And she/we didn't.) And that instantly became the theme of my vacation, neatly summing it up in three little words.

Never Give Up. (Great things await!)

* * * * * *

I will certainly be back with much more about my week in Rio, but am a little stressed with so many little things needing attention right now! I am thankful for an unexpected "snow day" today and the opportunity to get caught up on some things at home.

In the meantime, here's a little item I recently found being talked about on the Storey Publishing Facebook wall:

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Keep Out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse: A Step-by-Step Guide

Haha! It's my hubby's book, a labor of love that he's been working on in one form or another for a very long time. It won't be released until April, but is getting some great reviews, and is available for pre-order on Amazon -- in both print and Kindle editions! I'm hoping to snag a copy, at some point, for a give-away or something. Looks like we have another little (book) baby to celebrate in April!

* * * * *

Back soon.  :)

21 January 2013

Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf)

We climbed Morro da Urca and caught the cable car from there to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
"Cook in Rio" remains elusive... still on the To Do List.
Originally set to depart on Wednesday, it will instead be Friday!
It's nearly impossible to comprehend that schools are closing early at home because of frigid temps.

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18 January 2013

Copacabana

Made it!! Internet is spotty (currently posting from the boys' bathroom during mid-night potty break - I'll take it when & where) but I've got it! Almost nothing has gone according to plan. Having an amazingly great time!

;)

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17 January 2013

Not Rio

Delayed flights and missed connection (by only :15... so frustrating).

One daily flight to Rio.

24 Hours in Houston.

The view from here.

Next up: 9 hours at the airport.

Sigh.
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15 January 2013

Another "rainy day" in Rio

This morning's photo:

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Two sleeps to Rio -- one in my own bed, one on an aeroplane -- and then I'll be sleeping pool-side, behind the two doors on the right!

The airline just called to tell me that it's time to check in online!

Of course I've known that English isn't spoken much in Brazil, but I realized yesterday that I've actually never been to a non-English speaking country before -- not even Mexico. That prompted me to make doubly sure that I have contact info and back-up contact info, and a Plan C!

I have LOTS to do! I continue to update my lists and reminders, striving to streamline everything, but even so I may start bouncing off the walls soon!

* * * * *

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Tips for Sticking With Your Fitness Routine

1. I don't have 10 tips for this.

2. I don't even have one.

3. Fitness routine?

4. It's the missing component.

5. I've been very satisfied with the results that have occurred in my body over the past 4-5 months by just changing how and what I eat.

6. Last Saturday I was back down to pre-Christmas weight and then some, marking my lowest weight so far on this journey.

7. There's been a lot happening in my life and the lives of people around me, so I'm quite happy right now to limit my focus to the food aspect.

8. I have a gym membership and I know how to use it.

9. I just haven't used it in quite some time.

10. I'm looking forward to spring and hopping back on my bike -- the 30+ pounds I've lost will make that even more fun, I think!

 

14 January 2013

Three sleeps to the wind

Humor me.

It's "3 sleeps to Rio," but mashing it up with "3 sheets to the wind" makes me laugh. I'm not staggering (yet), but may be getting a little punch-drunk!

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The extended forecast in Rio, for as far as I can see, is for temps in the 80s (F) and scattered or PM thunderstorms every single day! I was bummed about that for a bit, but the partial sun peeking out from behind the clouds and raindrops made me feel a little better, and I also realized that it also means dramatic weather. I do so love dramatic weather!

Dramatic weather in the mid-Atlantic rainforest? I'll try it!

Annie sent me this morning's photo of the boys in the pool, above, and said that the forecast for today was also rain; it was over by 9 a.m., though, and had been mostly sunny since!

I know the weather can change in an instant, and I'm counting on a little bit of everything -- and trying to prepare.

Meanwhile, after last week's "January thaw," the temp plunged over the weekend and it was cold outside!

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I had an outdoor photo shoot tentatively scheduled for Saturday afternoon. It was iffy in the morning, but was better by afternoon and it was a "go." The young woman has been Ali's BFF since high school and she works part-time at the coffee shop. I've taken photos of her family a few times over the past couple of years. Her boyfriend called me to schedule a couple's session - at least that's what he told her - for her birthday. In reality, he was going to propose and I was in on it (and in possession of a HUGE secret)!

I don't think I have to tell you that she said YES!

Or that they're both ridiculously happy.

And also adorable.

LOVE! Ain't it grand?

 

10 January 2013

"I am not the landlord."

Five little words every traveler should know, don't you think? That interesting phrase was among the first I came upon in the free Brazilian Portuguese flashcard app I downloaded the other day. "I am not single." "I am an extrovert." "I am extremely generous." "Is your house far?" "We are joyful and creative." "I am ready."

There are some more useful ones: "I am on vacation in Brazil." "I am at the beach with friends." "I am thirsty."

"The party is in the backyard" is probably the most useful, so far, since I'll actually be going to a Churrasco a week from Saturday!

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winter flowers are life-savers, aren't they?

I made a great dinner last night (if I may say so*) and we bid farewell to my niece Jena, who had been visiting for a couple of days, and my sister Ann and her family after their unplanned visit this holiday from Rio de Janeiro. The sweetest part of that, for me, was saying, "See you next week!" when I gave my good-bye kisses. Hello. I cannot wait!! It was fun to show Annie my swim suit -- more fun to actually be OK with the idea of wearing it! I am VERY far from LOVING how I'll look in a swim suit, and I'm sure I'll be the only woman on any beach in Brazil wearing a one-piece (unless you count those possibly wearing one piece) (ha!). The last time I bought swimwear, I successfully avoided the water and returned it to the store on the way home! Anyway, there are certain things/places that Annie's been wanting to do/go that her husband isn't interested in, so it was fun talking about all the things we're going to DO next week! In Brazil!

I love "doing" vacations."

Oh, and that reminds me: Whatever's available and listed in the Make.Do Shop will be up over the weekend, but it'll all come down and the shop will close for a little while. I'll ship any orders on Monday/Tuesday. Things being what they are, priorities have conspired to put dyeing in the back seat of late, but don't worry (or do, it's up to you), I'll be back!

*Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower & Shrimp

Riffing notes on a favorite recipe from MyRecipes.com
This quantity will feed a crowd (8-10 adults)

4 lbs. shrimp, raw/thawed & peeled
8 c. (roughly) broccoli & cauliflower florets
Fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Heat oven to 425F. Normally I'd maybe use 3-4 Tablespoons of lemon juice; Mom's not tolerating the acidity of citrus very well, so I used barely a Tablespoon. About a teaspoon each of salt and pepper were combined with the lemon juice, then added to the shrimp and it was all tossed very well.

The original recipe calls for blanching the broccoli, but boiling a huge pot of water for one minute of cooking time seems idiotic to me, so I just loaded up my Pampered Chef 2-Qt. Classic Batter Bowl with veggies (do not add water) and put it in the microwave for about 3 minutes on high. When I do this combo again in the future, I'll cook the broccoli alone for 2-3 minutes and then add the cauliflower for 2-3 more -- the broc needs just a bit more time than the cauli; it was good, but could be better.

Combine the veggies and the shrimp in a large baking pan (I used the 12x15 +/- that I use for roasting tomatoes). The shrimp were larger than I usually use, so I roasted for about 8-10 minutes, removed the pan and stirred it all around, then roasted for another 8-10, until the shrimp are done!

SO easy. There's lots of room for playing around, too, which I love in a recipe. I've been much more adventurous in the seasoning of foods lately, but some things -- like shrimp -- are perfect with nothing but salt and pepper. Yum.

I served it with a bowl of simple mashed sweet potatoes and it all made a very pretty plate.

 

11 October 2011

Ten on Tuesday: Weekend update

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Things I Did This Weekend

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1. Road trip! Heh. Not across the pond -- that's Isle of Cumbrae, above -- but across the state! The weather was similarly spectacular, though, for our three-day weekend.

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2. The long way. We took "the long way" on way west through our little metropolis -- though not as far west as the Port of Oakland (above)! We drove the newly opened eastern section of Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton -- shut down the last TWO summers for construction -- and significant because that's where my most-local LYS, Iris Fine Yarns, is located. We didn't stop this time, but I've stopped plenty in the last couple of years -- pfft, "Road Closed"? Watch me.

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3. Westward-ho. We chose US Route 10 as the departure point for our meandering trip to far northwest Wisconsin. Along the way we checked out a new shop I'd heard about, The Knitting Nest* in Weyauwega. There were two other customers in the store at the time, one of whom I recognized -- she used to work in the children's department at our library! It was funny to run into "neighbors" at a shop so many miles from home.

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4. The Kitchen Table. We were close to Marshfield when we started to get hungry, so drove into town to see what we could find. I remembered The Kitchen Table -- and where it was, even though they were closed the first time I tried to go. We had THE BEST LUNCH (he, omelette; me, sandwich) we've had in a long time. Great atmosphere, friendly service, fabulous food -- and I mean real, good food. I meant to buy the cookbook, and I've heard good things, so I'll have to order it.

My mom and dad were both born and raised in Marshfield, so before we left I directed Rusty on a quick drive-by of tour of (my personal) highlights: Grandma & Grandpa's house on Cedar St.; Great Grandma & Grandpa Blum's house on Bakerville; I pointed out some of the important landmarks like the location of Jimmy's Cafe where my mom and dad first met; Weber's and Mitten's; the original Penney's (where my mom once worked, and cried in her Easter Bunny costume because she didn't want to be Easter Bunny! Poor, sad little Easter bunny...); Sacred Heart and the original location of the Marshfield Clinic... I tried to remember where Karau's was (I remember going with Grandma), and to conjure the distinctive (and pleasing) aroma of Grandma's house, and remembered picnics at Wildwood Park with Dad, etc.

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5. 1964 World's Fair Wisconsin Pavilion. Continuing west, we went through Neillsville, and we actually turned around and went back for a better look at this -- it's so fantastical in a 1964 way! Those are NEON letters spelling out WISCONSIN on the spire!

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6. Karen's. Our destination on Friday was my sister's house near Rice Lake (about an hour north of Eau Claire). We had a great visit there, watching baseball, knitting, eating, and Rusty helped with a couple of putzy house projects (he's a good craftsman and a great problem solver).

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7. Reunion. The main purpose for this trip, and final destination, was Rusty's class reunion of unfathomable years in Grantsburg. He'd never been to one before (not even one of mine, because I only went to the first, which was the fifth, and we hadn't yet met). You are correct if you think he mostly went to school -- and graduated -- in California, but the first semester of senior year was spent at a small-town high school in NW Wisconsin -- and they always invite him to the reunion! He was living with his uncle's family at the time, and had a cousin in the same class -- another cousin ended up marrying a classmate. It was a memorable semester for him as the "new kid."

image from www.flickr.com

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8. The Farm. We visited the farm last May... as you can see, there have been some changes since then. A spring tornado made a big difference in the landscape. The recent death of the farmer's wife makes it that much more mournful.

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It's all a bit melancholy as the farmer is fading, too.

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9. Thorpedo. We'd have gone back through Marshfield on the way home to eat again at The Kitchen Table if our timing had been better; instead, we stopped at the Thorpedo Restaurant in Thorp. I remember eating here for the first time, years ago -- the summer before 7th grade -- when I traveled with my glass-blowing aunt and helped with her booth at county fairs in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Good food, friendly service.

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10. Sports Fan! It was another great weekend to be a Wisconsin sports fan, as the Brewers inched their way closer and the Packers came from behind to win! (We actually listened to the baseball game on the radio in the car... rather unheard-of... football, yes; baseball, not really.)



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*A more photo-heavy post than usual. Some were chosen at random, others with a definite tie-in -- they all have the sky in common. I have been paying even more attention than usual and have been gathering appropriate materials for some interpretation of a sky scarf. Fun, huh? To further the cause, I nabbed a likely hank of Cascade sock yarn in colors of the sky at Knitting Nest. I shall soon devise a plan.

Meanwhile, the Caera Cowl is blocking!

 

03 October 2011

Study this

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Not only did I get to visit Silver Lake with Margene (one week ago today!), I was also able to photograph a fresh Different Lines there with Margene as my model! A little overwhelmed was I, what with being at Silver Lake with Margene, and the moose, and the kids, and SILVER LAKE with MARGENE! They're pretty standard FO shots... except, you know, they're at SILVER LAKE! Whew!

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  • Project: Different (Different Lines Shawl) by Veera Välimäki, 100% Rain
  • Yarn: Malabrigo Sock (eggplant) from Iris Fine Yarns, Appleton, WI
  • Yarn: Knit Picks Bare Superwash Wool & Nylon, fingering, Make.Do.Dyed for Project Spectrum in a shade of pink that reminded me of Grandma, so called "Virginia"
  • Needle: Susan Bates Quicksilver 6US/4.25mm
  • Mod: Knit one row and cast off in contrasting color
  • Start to Finish: August 31, 2011 - September 26, 2011. Finished while at the Rocky Mountain Knitters' Retreat at Alta Lodge in Utah!

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Margene took one of me, too!

I had a great and busy and quite productive weekend -- cooking, knitting, dyeing, harvesting, dyeing some more! Also gearing up for a brand new, twice-monthly Knit Night at the coffee shop beginning this Thursday... Wish you were here!

21 September 2011

You, Ewe, Utah!

You know, I can hardly believe that we're in the last third of September already! It's been pretty jam-packed with goings-on, and I guess that's why it's flying by -- all good, but a bit too whirlwindy for me. It's the "lazy" and "hazy" parts I like best about Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of (late) Summer!

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It was only a week-and-a-half ago that I was at Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival -- it seems so much longer than that! My one and only purchase there, greatly encouraged by Rae, was a huge hank of mohair from Ewetopia Fiber Shop in Viroqua, WI.

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A slightly more easterly route home from Iowa earlier this summer means we missed Viroqua by about 15 miles. I'd like to visit someday and, since LaCrosse is still on the list of Sister Weekend possibilities, it's likely that someday I will.

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Yep, it's as soft as it looks. So pretty! I have to admit that the sample Fern Lace Mohair Shrug hanging in the booth sort of sealed the deal. It looked so warm and cozy and I'm all about that with the onset of autumn! The colors are more reminiscent of summer -- sky, water, grass -- they ought to be nice, hopeful reminders in the dead of winter of what's to come.

I think I'll be winding this baby up and taking it with me to Utah! I'm flying out on Friday to meet up with Margene and heading to the Rocky Mountain Knitters' Retreat at Alta Lodge on Saturday & Sunday. I'm.so.excited. I've lamented to and commiserated with Margene, possibly more than any other blogger I've "met" in the past 7.5 years (and possibly because I've "known" her almost as long), about "the curse of the internet" -- we're so close and yet so far away! I'm actually pretty lucky in that I have met Margene -- five years ago at Rhinebeck. The atmosphere at a festival can be pretty frenzied, though, and I'm looking forward to a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere... at a ski lodge... in Utah... in autumn. Oh, it's going to be wonderful, gorgeous, relaxing, inspiring, rejuvenating, maybe even clarifying!

That means there's only two more sleeps... and I'd better start getting my shit together. Other than the above (not yet wound, as we speak, never mind locating needles, etc.), my camera and "some clothes," I've no idea what I'm bringing or how I'm packing!

 

13 May 2011

Hi, back in Scotland now

Not really. And I was going to post something else, but I read a few entries on Facebook from a photographer friend who is vacationing with her family in Ireland right now, and I felt a pang...

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Truly, a wee hieland coo. Right at our B&B.

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And the grown-up Highland Cows.

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And our gorgeous breakfast egg-layers in West Kilbride.

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The so amazingly beautiful and breathtaking Scottish Highlands.

*Sigh*

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Some perspective.

Happy weekend! Ours is going to be cold and gray. Good sweater sewing-up weather, I guess.

13 April 2011

It's a whirlwind over here!

More accurately, on Sunday evening, it was a tornado. One minute we're storm-watching on the porch, the next minute -- sensing that it was *time* (pretty much just after we heard a big bang, all the lights went out, and stuff started hitting the windows) -- we're in the basement. We were only there for a moment, and when we came up we could see siding, shingles and insulation littering the yard, in the trees, all over the street. There was significant damage to over 100 homes -- two of them on my street, exactly one block away! I believe it's five homes that will need to be razed, and one of those is only another three-block walk. Power was out all night, finally restored at 6 a.m. There were lots of downed power lines, and many trees were lost. Luckily, there are barely buds yet, much less leaves, on the trees -- that would have made a drastic difference.

Hello! Scary!!

* * * * *

Meanwhile, one last (for now) batch of photos to share from our vacation. This was on Sunday, April 3rd -- Mothering Day! From the first day in London, I'd noticed advertising in shop windows and quickly realized that I'd get to celebrate Mother's Day twice this year!!

We drove from Betws-y-Coed back to London on Sunday, dodging rain and making a few stops along the way.

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We stretched our legs on the grounds at Stokesay Castle in Shropshire.

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And we did finally make it to Tintern Abbey, but with only five minutes before closing we weren't allowed entry. All of my photos were taken from this side of the gate. It never even occurred to me that it would be an "admission" sort of place. Too bad, because the weather had improved and the late-day light was just starting to get interesting!

*I* drove back to London -- well, to Wembley where we returned the car, just as departing traffic from a football event at the stadium was at its peak! We wrestled our bags onto the tube one last time to Regent's Park Station on the Bakerloo Line. ("The Bakerloo Line" is one of those things I like to hear -- and say out loud -- repeatedly. Betws-y-Coed, Tal-y-bont, Bryn Celli Ddu are others.) We kissed Katie good-bye at 5 a.m. on Monday morning and loaded bags into a taxi for the trip to Heathrow!

* * * * *

It's been over a week since our return and I am still on a vacation high -- and absolutely cannot wait for next time! Kate returns this afternoon and has another week's worth of her own adventures to share -- including a day with Maddy before her departure on Saturday for the continent (Brussels until yesterday, Trier as of today; Strasbourg and Frankfurt yet to come) and standing in line for hours in the early morning to score a ticket for Frankenstein!!

 

08 April 2011

Isle of Anglesey

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I'm sure I took a photo of the placard at this site. There were three horned sheep keeping the grass trimmed here. With all the grazing sheep, the entire UK countryside looks very neat and trim!

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My girls at the beach!

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On the path to Bryn Celli Ddu.

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Baaaaa!

* * * * *

Warm Hats Not Hot Heads - Update!

Way back in February, I talked about knitting and politics and the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads project which hoped to promote and raise awareness of civility amongst our elected officials. I knit a hat for Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and, in the spirit of civility, also for Congressman Reid Ribble. I'd hoped to personally hand-deliver the hats and my letter to their respective local offices, but my schedule never meshed with their office hours; however, I did manage to have Alison deliver them!

Upon returning from our vacation, I listened to a delightful message on my answering machine from Marlene at Senator Kohl’s office, telling me that the cap “is absolutely lovely” and that she didn’t know when she’d been “so touched - by your efforts and by the message in your letter.” She looked forward to sending it to Sen. Kohl and “wanted to call and thank you for your kindness. I know he’s going to appreciate it…”

I also had a couple of canned recorded messages from Reid Ribble’s office about his upcoming local appearances -- apparently, they just added my phone number to their database. I’ve had no personal response from him or his office.

* * * * *

I would like to talk about knitting again sometime, but suppose I actually have to start knitting again in order to do so!

 

07 April 2011

Wales

I don't know what I was expecting, but Wales blew me away with its beauty.

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Actually, the photos above might still be Scotland, or maybe even England, but the rest in this post are definitely Wales!

We stayed a couple nights at The Lodge Hotel in Tal-y-bont, Conwy. I couldn't come up with it on the GPS -- thought it was actually in Conwy, for one thing. I phoned and the innkeeper gave me turn-by-turn directions through the amazing walled town of Conwy, right to the parking lot where he said he'd meet us out front -- where we found him waiting! The accommodations were as wonderful as the hospitality.

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This is Betws-y-Coed, an adorable little village a few miles south of Tal-y-bont, where we stopped for coffee and whatnot on Saturday morning as we made our way to Anglesey. The sign out front of the white unit on the left read, "To Let." Oh, wouldn't that just be the perfect place to spend a summer?

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one... my girls dream even BIGGER! There was talk of buying and extended visits (and raising sheep)! This makes me happy. If nothing else is certain in the world today, uncertainty definitely is -- we're in the midst (on the brink) of enormous change -- and I'm happy that my girls have hopes and dreams -- and that they are big BIG dreams!

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One thing I noticed about Wales was the activity. People DO things in Wales! Perhaps it was because of the weekend, but everywhere we looked there were cyclists, kayakers, hikers, campers, surfers. Let me tell you, to be a road cyclist in Wales -- anywhere in the UK -- takes some pretty serious dedication and absolute fearlessness; there's barely room for two cars on most roadways, not to mention lorries, and being a cyclist in the midst of that? Makes me shiver.

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And, of course, there were plenty of sheep dotting the landscape.

 

06 April 2011

St. Brigid

One of the many reasons we ended up at a B&B in West Kilbride is because the village is believed to have been named after Saint Brigid. 

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Alison bore witness to some of my last-minute packing, in particular the decision to pack my St. Brigid sweater, despite its bulk and the taking up of MUCH precious luggage space. (Have I mentioned that I've learned valuable, indelible lessons about packing for an overseas trip?) I justified it, in part, because it did provide some nice padding for the laptop in my carry-on bag.

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There was no way we were leaving town without a visit to the beautiful hillside cemetery in West Kilbride and a photo shoot. A far cry from what I pictured in my head (for one thing, I don't think I was wearing 7-day-old jeans in my head), it is what it is... me wearing my St. Brigid sweater and standing by a Celtic cross headstone in a Scottish cemetery in West Kilbride, Scotland!

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Or West Kilbrreeedee.  ; )

And, yep, sheep -- you can see them in the photos both above and below... little white specs!

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So beautiful.

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I will need to go back someday.

We left there on Friday morning after breakfast. We needed to drive down and pick up Maddy at the train station in Conwy, Wales, by 6:30 that evening.

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I'd had to tell Maddy the night before that her precious pup, Mickey, had died. Mickey had escaped the house a couple of days earlier, as sometimes happened in the 7 years she's been in our family, and, no doubt, she followed her nose, as beagles do... and she always did. We'd been much more diligent and this little trick was becoming rare. Usually she'd come back fat and happy; sometimes she'd have a little tummy ache; this time, she must have found something really, really bad. My heart aches for Maddy, and the house is just not the same without Mickey!

When Addy found out about Mickey, he said that she's with Remy, Bompa, and Sharon! Remy was Annie's dog that Addison never even met and Bompa was his grandpa who died when he wasn't even 18 months old! That sweet little boy with a wise old soul... he just feels things and tells it like it is!

RIP, Mickey. We miss you. XO

05 April 2011

Little lambs eat ivy

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Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy, too. Wouldn't you?

I can hear my mother singing that song!

Have I mentioned the sheep? Sheep are E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. in the UK. Everywhere!

Lucky us, in late March, many of those sheep have a lamb or two or three at their side. OMG, the cute. They're skittish little things and it is extremely difficult to photograph a green hillside full of sheep or capture the extreme adorableness of little lambs -- the picture in your mind is likely better than anything on paper (or screen) -- and the real thing is simply indescribable. From the first to the last, we never tired of seeing them.

The additional pay off for trekking to Bryn Celli Ddu in Anglesey, Wales, were the lambs that had snuck under the fence and were running and jumping and playing on and around the mound!

* * * * *

Home. Catching up.

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.

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