Thoughts on packing

I used to say that my mother had more style in her little finger than all of her children had combined -- and none of my siblings would disagree with me. She always looked great -- even at work! She was a surgical nurse and hated wearing the required headwear, but found fabrics she liked and made her own! She had a very distinct style and a clear understanding of what she liked and what worked for her.

Fashion and style were never all that important to me -- I was always more about comfort, though I drew the line at sweatpants (overheating being the biggest reason). I'd have my moments, and there were even some things that Mom & I could share -- we'd traded stuff since I was in high school, even though our "styles" were quite different. I've become a bit more interested in developing and figuring out My Style over the past couple of years, and it appears that my interest is growing now that my #1 style icon is no longer with us. Taking up the torch, perhaps; missing her; paying homage. Surprising myself, I've even added a few "over-50" style blogs to my list of blog reads, and created a couple of boards on Polyvore for this post! ha.

Also, I was quite pleased about successfully paring down my packing list for our recent vacation to Mexico! After struggling up a couple flights of stairs in Glasgow last spring while juggling/dragging a large bag and two suitcases full of crap I never used, I finally learned the lesson. (Not to mention lugging it all through airports, shuttles, the streets of Edinburgh, and various locations in the Highlands.) (Similar lesson during our first UK trip having completely bounced off my brain.)

This time, I gave a little more thought into what I was packing and how it all worked together and fit everything into two bags -- a single checked suitcase and a large carry-on bag. Granted, I still had at least one pair of space-hogging shoes too many in the suitcase, though thankfully it was mostly sandals and not boots! My large leather  carry-on held camera, lenses, tablet, phone, chargers, earbuds, all travel papers, sunglasses, chapstick, tissues, ibuprofen, and even a small knitting project. That's it! No extra carry-on and no purse to juggle!!

To the Beach


The leather bag is heavy even when empty, but it was so much easier to switch up when I wasn't juggling it in addition to another carry-on and/or a purse. The bag also has adjustable straps and it can be carried in many ways, including as a backpack. My recently finished Tasha bag was packed in my checked bag and I used that for day-to-day running around during vacation -- it was perfect!

I really don't mind checking a bag, so my goal was never to fit everything into a carry-on, but it's sure nice to be a little more efficient and, especially, to not lug around stuff that I use only once... or never.

For the record, and with an eye on possible improvement next time, here's what I packed  and how each item fared. I've used the roll-up method of packing for years to optimize space and minimize wrinkles. (Except for the Karina dress, the Eileen Fisher dress, the Fluevogs and the Keens -- all recent sale/reward acquisitions -- it's all stuff that I've owned, most of it for quite a while.)

  • Karina Dresses "Audrey" (shown below) - wore 2-3 times
  • J. Jill mid-length tie-die dress (shown above) - wore 2-3 times
  • Eileen Fisher long black dress - wore once
  • Eileen Fisher navy tunic - wore once
  • J. Jill black tunic - wore 3-4 times
  • Coldwater Creek long black sweater - wore on the plane
  • Merona black shrug (similar, shown below) - wore almost every evening
  • (2) Eileen Fisher tanks (taupe, gray) - one of these would have been fine
  • (2) J. Jill knit capris (black, gray) - one of thesewould have been fine
  • (2) Lysse Women's Cotton Capri Leggings (navy, white) (shown above) - wore white 2-3 times
  • (2) Black leggings - wore 3-4 times
  • (2) Bathing suits - wore one - didn't really need either of these
  • Undergarments, socks - wore a pair of socks when I wore the tennies
  • (3) Shawls, scarves - used only one
  • Brazilian Canga towel + a long dress made from a canga - used the canga a lot on the beach, and never wore the dress as a dress, but used it to drape around my neck/shoulders - they're very lightweight and easy to tote
  • Wolky sandals - wore a lot 
  • Taos sandals (shown above) - wore a lot
  • Keen closed-toe sling-backs - wore on the plane to Mexico
  • Fluevog sandals (shown below) - wore two evenings
  • Tennis shoes - wore on the boat
  • Sun hat (similar, shown above) - wore everyday
  • Tasha hand-knit bag (similar, shown above) - used everyday
Karina Dress & Fluevog Sandals


I'd leave a few pairs of leggings at home, for sure, as well as a few pairs of socks and at least one of those bathing suits. The longer black dress was in case I needed something slightly dressier for an evening, the navy tunic was the only piece other than a sweater that wasn't sleeveless. I've actually just ordered a couple more cangas because those things are wonderful and summer is coming! And shoes... well, at least sandals don't take up THAT much room!

What are your best packing tips?

Weekending: Knit In

I went to a Knit In and came home with yarn... and a beer glass! My friend had an extra, so also the matching wine glass! Welcome to Wisconsin!!


I had a great time at and around the 2015 Madison Knitters' Guild Knit In over the weekend! Ann & I made a few stops along the way. Susan's Fiber Shop -- incredibly, for the very first time* but not the last. Bradbury's for coffee and crepes -- we split one savory, one sweet. The Sow's Ear, not exactly on the way but worth the stop; we shopped and knit and sipped away the remainder of the afternoon.

On Friday night, we had dinner at Red Sushi. My nephew Dylan is on the wait staff there and it was fun to have both his guidance and Ann's, especially since I'm basically a sushi newbi. I can definitely proclaim myself a sushi lover, though, and I'm already looking forward to next time. Great cocktails at Red Sushi, and also at Merchant, where we went after dinner; I'd like to eat there sometime!

Saturday was full of classes. Ann & I both took Annie Modesitt's "Mad About Plaid" and enjoyed it very much! It was fun and informative; Annie is a great teacher, not to mention entertaining, brilliant and creative.

I also had a class in the afternoon about working with hand-dyes -- identifying techniques and patterns to help them sing to you as much when knitted up as they do when they land in your shopping cart! I thought this would be beneficial, not only as a yarn collector and knitter, but also as a sometime dyer.

Ann had both the Wine & Yarn Pairing and the Beer & Fiber Tasting events on Saturday afternoon... I'd signed on to take part in only the Beer event on Sunday.


Each event had its own custom pattern and a mini-skein kit designed by Jimmy Beans Wool and custom dyed at Koigu. And that glass! We tasted beers from Wisconsin Brewing Company: #008 - Old Reliable, #002 - American I.P.A., and #003 - Brown & Robust Porter. I've had the I.P.A. before (I love a hoppy beer right now and can't wait to find PSYCHOPATH!) and the Amber Lager -- good brews!

We visited the marketplace between classes and during our free times. I was delighted to finally lay eyes on (and even hug) some long-time virtual friends, including Kathleen Pascuzzi who is Annie's partner at ModeKnit Yarn, and Emily Parson from Sophie's Toes!

There were same changes to the event this year -- a new, larger venue that cost a ton of money, I'm sure. That cost was passed on to attendees and vendors alike. Unfortunately, it was not very walk-in friendly and people who wanted only to shop were not too keen on paying $15 admission on top of $7 parking just to get in the door. I think some of the vendors did okay, but I'm afraid that many may have done less than okay; booth fees, travel, lodging -- and some came a ways (Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, New York) -- I'm all too familiar with this scenario from Rusty's art fair days! I hope something can be done to make vendors more accessible to the public; they're not going to come back if they're not making (or, in the end, only breaking even or losing) money, and I think they're a big attraction.

On Saturday evening, we were joined by others, including Ann's long-time friend Lisa, caityrosey, and Java Jennie/Kitchen Counter Crafter (great bags and fun fabrics!). We went to Grampa's Pizzeria and OH MY... that's not my grandpa's pizza, but it is some of the best pizza I've had in a while! One of our pies had brussels sprouts and chunky bacon, another had pesto, and we all tasted/shared a ginger cake for dessert. Delicious. Afterwards, we made our way to Old Sugar Distillery Tasting Room for a taste and some shopping. I had a delicious and refreshing drink based on the Brazilian caipirinha but made with Old Sugar's Honey Liqueur.

I may have had two. *clink*


My main knitting project over the weekend was Deep End II. I managed to work the sewn bind-off by lunch time on Sunday! I need to weave in some ends, give it a soak, and lay it out to dry.

On the way out of town, we stopped at Jamerica for a bite to eat before heading home. That was an unexpected but delightful stop!

I was asked a few times what my favorite part of the weekend was and I really couldn't single anything out -- it was ALL my favorite part:

Friends Old & New, Fiber & Yarn, Food & Drinks!

 It doesn't get much better than that.


*I have visited the large Susan's Fiber Shop booth at all three NY Sheep & Wool Festivals, as well as at WI Sheep & Wool, so not a complete stranger!

Diamonds & Pearls

30th Anniversary = Diamonds (Modern)

We found some in Mexico!


Water sparkling like diamonds.


Diamonds in architectural elements.


We even walked on diamonds.


And found a refrigerator magnet souvenir!


30th Anniversary = Pearls (Traditional)

We weren't really looking, but found a big one in Mexico!


I like this photo of us...


...but this one shows the pearl better.

This was on the waterfront promenade in La Paz, filled with all sorts of sculpture! It was a fun stroll.


FO: Deep End The First



I love this shawl, and wear it most often as a scarf! It was perfect for traveling and perfect for Mexico!

I've started another for Alison in almost all the same colors -- I've switched out (and began with) another of my Make.Do hand-dyes in place of the very similar Eden Cottage, followed by the Great South Babes (which is where I am in the project right now); I'll probably follow that with the Undyed, the Celeste Polvere, then a slash of RED, and probably another Undyed (or maybe one of the bolder colors) to finish.

Or who knows!?


Details and a few more photos are on the Ravelry project page.

Did I mention that I love it?

Photos were taken by Rusty at Casa de Piedra, Las Tunas, Baja California Sur, Mexico. This is the home we stayed in for our week's vacation, booked via airbnb. (You may click that link to sign up and receive a $25 credit, if you're so inclined; I'll also get a credit if/when you book or host).

This was my third airbnb experience: the first was an adorable 2BR walk-up in Glasgow, second was a cute little A-frame in Door County for a cycling weekend. I'm sure there are some not-so-great experiences, but I don't even look at a listing that doesn't have at least one recent review or have a known connection to the owner.

We stayed 7 nights in Mexico at $200 night (including all fees) -- the entire gorgeous home (inside & out) to ourselves for less than a "deluxe suite with garden view" at a nice hotel in the area -- and we had spectacular views of the ocean, the desert, the mountains, the pool, and the garden. 5 Stars!!

It was SO hard to leave...


La, la, L.A.

(A picture-heavy post. Just so ya know.)

I winged my way to Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, invited by my sister Ann to be her guest at a wedding. We both had enough frequent flyer miles for the trip but, alas, on different airlines. Thankfully, we were able to depart/arrive to/from the same airports with no more than an hour difference and only a terminal/gate away, as the case may be! (I love GRB & ATW, my small city airports!!)



The flights both there and back were incredibly beautiful. We arrived in L.A. on Thursday evening, found each other, took the shuttle to Avis, waited in a very long line (that, thankfully, moved right along for the most part), and rented a car -- a red Mustang convertible! It's California!!


We put the top down and drove to the Wilshire Motel, where we were booked for our first two of five nights. What a great little place -- cute, clean, good location, and very reasonably priced! The only improvement I'd make would be in decor; absolutely adorable on the outside and almost untouched structurally/architecturally on the inside, some vintage-y colors and furnishings would knock it out of the park. Our hosts were fantastic. I would stay here again in a heartbeat (with or without improvements in decor!). (I'm available for consult!)



Santa Monica Beach was just a few mile straight down Wilshire Boulevard. We easily found a place to park in the morning (watch for cyclists!) and it was a nice walk, either by sidewalk or sand (we chose sand), to the Santa Monica Pier.


The park was closed 'til mid-afternoon for a private party on Friday, which was absolutely fine because we'd already planned on our "real" visit for nighttime. Bright lights!



We got our tourist on and went up to Hollywood Boulevard to walk amongst the stars. My main mission there was to find (Sid Grauman's) (Mann's) TCL Chinese Theatre... it will always be Grauman's to me. We weren't disappointed!


A portrait of Eminem at Sweet! made of... M&Ms!


We did some shopping (souvenirs and candy, along with some window- w/selfies in the mirror) (I believe I am now the shortest person in the family!), took pictures with wax figures and sidewalk stars.

On the recommendation of the guy at the flip-flop store (!), we had lunch at the Pig 'n Whistle. He did not steer us wrong! Annie had the most amazing Roasted Brussel Sprout Salad, and mine was Roasted Beet (how could I not?). We had dessert at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain... and, OMG, that was almost too much! Good thing we were on vacation.

We drove over to The Huntington Library, but it was not long before closing and not quite worth the full price of admission, so we spent some time -- some very good and productive time -- in the gift shop. Fabulous gift shop at The Huntington, in case anyone needs to know. I left a lot behind.

We stopped at Whole Foods on the way back and bought more beet salad, some crackers, goat cheese, local beer, and ate a wonderful little dinner in our cute little kitchen on Wilshire, and then...


We made our way back to the Santa Monica Pier to ride the ferris wheel and rollercoaster. It was a beautiful evening, and a lovely end to our first day in L.A.


The wedding was on the beach at Oxnard, so we checked out of the Wilshire Motel and drove up through Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway.


We didn't stop in Malibu, but we did find ourselves at the gate to The Getty Villa! I apologized, intending to turn around, as I was aware that (free) tickets were required and we didn't have them -- not really planning that stop -- but the gateman gave us a couple and we parked our steed. We took a small guided tour -- loved our wonderful young docent -- to learn about some highlights of the collection, and then wandered the grounds a bit on our own, had a little lunch. There was an art class happening, so busy people were sprinkled throughout. It was all rather unexpected and fun to come upon them here or there, one or two or three; quite lovely. I'm so happy we accidentally stopped there.

We arrived in Oxnard prior to normal check-in time, but I'd called the day before and while not guarantted, the wonderful folks at Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor had our room ready early... thankfully! We had just enough time to freshen up and get dressed, before heading to the beach for the most wonderful wedding!


SO WONDERFUL! Reunited after 40+ years (they'd dated in high school), the couple incorporated so many things about the people and places that are most important to them. One of the (many) things I loved best was the sand... it was "supposed to be" mixed together -- sand from Portugal, Yosemite, Brasil and Hawaii, all special to this couple in some way -- but they layered it, beautifully, and then each scooped some sand at their feet and poured that on top... because Mandalay Beach at Oxnard, CA, is now quite special, too!



The reception was held at Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine. Oh my. Nearly everyone who works there is from Brazil! The food was fantastic, the caipirinha flowing. We danced all night...



There was a beach barbecue on Sunday and all I kept thinking was that we were those people -- the people at the beach having a party and a cookout and agreat time that you always wished was you!

That was us! There was swimming, body-surfing and boogie-boarding; music and singing and juggling; food and drink and laughter; birthday massages on the beach!!

That was us! We were those people! It was so fun.


Never far from our minds was our family, in particular those we've lost and the one that should have been with us. We had some signs -- the guy in his own red convertible who drove up behind us at a stoplight, Andrea Bocelli blaring (Hi Mom!), the street performer singing Tracy Chapman's Fast Car on Hollywood Boulevard (Hi Sharon!).

When we saw the Kombucha DEPARTMENT in the refrigerator case at Ralph's on Sunday, we absolutely thought of our sister Karen. We even took a photo and sent it to her, fermenting fiend that she is, at the moment. Karen shared the photo on FB and wrote, "My sisters are making me jealous! They are like the wicked stepsisters sometimes! Ha, ha!"

And I'm pretty sure she won't miss the next outing with her sisters! (She had a good reason.)

We brought home some more groceries to "eat in" on at our hotel on Sunday while we watched American Hustle in preparation for Monday.


The view of the harbor from our balcony on Monday morning... "paradise" comes to mind.



But first, La Brea Tar Pits! We didn't have time to visit the Page Museum, but we did have time to visit the gift shop... we had a good time in gift shops on this trip!

Then there was a long period of standing in line in the hot, hot sun. Then sitting around in the shade. Then walking up a bunch of stairs to wait in line again, and finally into the studio. Without cell phones, as they warned us that they wouldn't be allowed and we'd have to check & then claim them, so we actually talked with our neighbors in line and it was GREAT! There were actually two shows taped that day, both Monday's and Friday's, because Craig was going to be at Comic Con in San Diego on Friday. The big name stars were were Octavia Spencer and Bradley Cooper (hence, American Hustle the night before) (were were unaware of the second show, or we might have also watched The Help!). I'm looking forward to Get On Up.


After the show, we went over to The Grove and had dinner at The Whisper Restaurant & Lounge. It just happened to be "seafood month" and the featured dish that week was half of a grilled lobster with a Blackstrap cocktail and dessert (grilled figs on honey mascarpone)... so good.


Have I mentioned how much fun I had planning this trip? Annie said "let's go to L.A." and I pretty much took it from there. I love planning trips like this! The Farmer's Daughter Hotel kept showing up on my radar and finally I clicked and booked us for Monday night -- it was exactly where we needed to be! Annie was pretty happy with all of my suggestions and choices until this one, which we happened to pass a few times on Monday morning -- there were just a couple of things that made her question my choice (something about window treatments) -- but it turned out to be a STELLAR choice. Not only were they having a whiskey tasting happy hour when we checked in, our room was absolutely adorable (yay decor!), and the staff was amazing. Walking distance to CBS, Farmer's Market, and The Grove... it was perfect.



I opted to include breakfast at Tart in our hotel package, and that was magnificent. That's my crab cakes benedict, Ann had corned beef hash -- both excellent.


We made our way to the aiport to return our car and make our way to the terminal. It could not have been a better trip, and I like L.A. so much more than I ever thought I would! I can't wait to plan our next get-away! Heh.



Did you know that L.A. has an average of 329 Days of Sun each year? It says so right there on a can of lager than I brought home in my suitcase. Cheers!  :)


Scotland is for Selfies... especially at Castles

I started with the selfies even before departure. Here we are, having both sailed through security at our local airport with TSA Pre-check. Rusty had his paint box packed in his carry-on, which included a few tools and things, and that was enough for a special look-through and no TSA Pre-check for him on the way home. I had it, though, and I'm not ashamed to say that I used it. I was hot, I was tired, I comfortably waited for him at the end of that long, long line. Heh.


I started taking them at every castle we visited and next thing you know, the SCOTTISH CASTLE SELFIE SERIES was born!


Edinburgh Castle


Inverness Castle


Urquhart Castle


Eilean Donan Castle


Dunrobin Castle


Old Man of Storr (not a castle, but towering)


Eilean Donan Castle again (WC/coffee break)


Balloch Castle

 Once in selfie mode...


Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh


across the street from Mackie's of Scotland - Ice Cream (also maker of good potato crisps, including Haggis & Cracked Black Pepper flavor) (when in Scotland...)


at Inverness Castle - River Ness behind us


in the rental car at Inverness, READY TO GO!


I have no idea where this is! Judging from attire and windblown-edness, it's somewhere on the Isle of Skye, maybe near Storr.

I think the smiles say everything that needs to be said here.  :)



Ten on Tuesday: Memorial Day Weekend

Ten on Tuesday/Wednesday:  10 Things I Did Last Weekend

Well, it was definitely not a typical weekend -- holiday or otherwise! We returned home on Tuesday (yesterday) from 12 days in Scotland, so the weekend was the end of a pretty great vacation.


1.  On Saturday morning, I woke up at Croft 23 after the last of our 5-night stay. People, there is truth in advertising! If nothing else, just take a minute to watch the slideshow at the top of that page; minus the brilliant sunsets, the northern lights, and the sheep (they were apparently happy elsewhere last week), it was just that beautiful. Mark and Jan were our warm and welcoming hosts, and they were marvelous. Mark is an amazing landscape photographer and it's worth a "Like" on Croft 23's Facebook page just for the almost daily photo.


2.  Later on Saturday morning, on our way to Glasgow, we stopped at a castle to use the facilities, and also to get coffee... and a selfie. Ha. Yeah, we really did! We'd already visited Eilean Donan Castle as admission-paying tourists several days before.


3.  We drove through more of the never-tiring Scottish Highlands. Even after six days of driving through the Scottish Highlands, we still pulled over at almost every opportunity to take photos!


4.  We had lunch at Crannog Seafood Restaurant -- a place I've been to before!! Fort William was as far north as we'd ventured three years ago and it was on our way to Glasgow this time, so we retraced some steps. It was kind of fun to feel a bit familiar with a place.


5.  We arrived in Glasgow for the first of two nights at an adorable 2-bedroom 3rd-floor walk-up in the west end that I found on airbnb. It was my first airbnb experience and it was good; the place was just as advertised, easy to find, very clean, and well appointed. Cute enough to live in!


6.  On Sunday, while Rusty walked about Glasgow*, visiting galleries and museums, Katie and I drove west and met up with Yvette! I've cyber-known Yvette for years -- 10 years, to be exact (through the magic that is searching the archives, I've determined that the first time she commented on my blog was May 31, 2004!) -- and had missed her move back to Scotland from France three years ago by mere weeks. It was so fun to meet!!


7.  We drove a bit north, again on some familiar roads, to another familiar place. We'd visited Portencross Castle at West Kilbride a couple of times three years ago. I'd scattered some of Sharon's ashes there -- because she loved Scotland and had influenced our decision to go there (instead of Ireland) -- and it didn't feel right to be so close and not visit.


8.  On Monday, we returned our rental car in Glasgow. We had one of the most uncomfortable encounters of the trip -- any trip any of us have ever been on -- when a guy from the rental company gave us a lift to the train station. He obviously didn't want anything to do with us -- because Americans? tourists? -- no greeting, no response, completely ignoring questions and attempts at conversation, or grunting a barely audible one-word response. Thankfully, it was a short drive! It was a quick train ride back to Edinburgh for our last night.


9.  It may seem strange that our last meal in Scotland was at Wannaburger -- basically American fast-food burgers, fries & shakes -- but it is what it is, and it was really good! I'm more than a little envious of the food scene in the UK, and these weren't your typical American fast-food burgers! Wannaburger is a favorite of the American students in Edinburgh -- comfort food. Anyway, we ate very well in Scotland. If Wannaburger was the worst, then it was the best worst. Heh. I feel as though I've gained 20 pounds in the past two weeks (is that possible?). Anyway, while Rusty took one last walk-about in Edinburgh after dinner, Katie took me to a fun and gorgeous place called The Voodoo Rooms, right around the corner/behind our hotel for cocktails (mine, left, is Where The Wild Things Are, and Kate's is Mother Earth)


10.  Finally, having learned a little bit about whisky on this trip, we enjoyed a lovely last view from the lounge at Motel One while the sun set on our visit, capping the night with a glass of single-malt... neat (eventually adding a wee bit of water to taste).

* * * * *

Vacation was quite lovely. I fully intended to blog along the way, but our days were packed and connectivity limited. Don't worry, I'll fill you in!

* * * * *

*The Glasgow School of Art was on the list but was devastated by fire just days before our arrival in Glasgow. One of Glasgow's -- indeed, Scotland's -- great treasures, firefighters took extraordinary measures to save as much of the structure as possible, well deserving of a lovely Thank You.


Taste of Wisconsin Weekend


Well, it was a pretty good weekend, starting with the "Taste of Wisconsin" at UW-Stevens Point on Friday evening -- showcasing food & beverages made in Wisconsin -- from beer, wine, and potato vodka to cheese, sausage, and pizza. So much fun.


It was a fund-raising event, we're just doing our part! I picked a spot with terrible lighting to take a photo (complete with toothy, blurry photobomb) but no matter, it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.

Karen & I spent a fair amount of time on Saturday morning at a Call It New/Call It Antique. An enormous but clean, well organized, and well lit combination thrift store/antique mall. I found a few interesting cotton shirts to cut up and use for future Alabama Chanin style projects, and Karen came away with a tacky treasure or two.

We stopped by Maddy's apartment, which I hadn't seen since move-in day, then drove out to Crafter HQ: Herschnerr's Outlet Store before heading north to Wausau.

We visited Black Purl, and if you'd have told me that it's been almost 9 years since I was last at that shop -- in a completely different location -- I'd never have believed it. Man oh man. The shop I originally visited was a second-story downtown location. Now (for the past 4.5 years) it's a little further north in stand-alone and very interesting shop -- quite lovely!

I haven't been knitting much lately (though I am back on track, following and making progress with my Arrow), nor feeling terribly inspired, but I really couldn't resist when I saw the POP Blanket shop sample. I've had the pattern since it was released... and I think it's time. Mine will be a little different than most. Surprised?

We stopped into a bunch of other thrift/vintage decor shops, clothing/shoe stores, a co-op, and then it was time for food! The Great Dane Pub was on the way back to our hotel, and they were one of the vendors at the Taste of Wisco event.

On Sunday, we took Maddy to breakfast at The Wooden Chair, a fun little restaurant that I've already been to a few times over the years. We walked down to Call It New/Antique so Karen could purchase the jardinere that she spotted on Saturday. After much consideration and "sleeping on it," it was meant to be! We also stopped in at the Stevens Point Area Co-op before dropping Maddy off. It's tiny but fab, in a great historic building and so cute. Karen has begun working part-time at her local co-op, so she/we were a bit more tuned in!

A weekend away with my sis and a little time with one of my girls... just what I needed, I think!


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!

* * * * *

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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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...

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:


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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

I found gingko!

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. 

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...

For as long as we can!

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:

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!

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!

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

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!

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:

Oh, the pines smelled SO GOOD!

Paddled around the lake:

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


Did some walking around Lake Geneva:

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

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!

Packing it all in

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

And this on Wednesday:

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:

and these:

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.  ;)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


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.

Have I mentioned graffiti? It is EVERYWHERE!!

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!).

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

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!

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.

And one last hug with my boys.

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.

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!

There's No Place Like Home! Hm.  ;)

And that, my friends, is it!


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!)

Addison had some fun with my camera phone.

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.

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)!

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!



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!

* * * * *

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!

* * * * *

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


On Wednesday: Here comes the sun!

Perfect morning to head to the beach!

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

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.


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.

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

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:


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

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...

...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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Overall, it was a spectacular day!!

Art on Tuesday

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

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!

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.

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!

I enjoyed my first (and only) Guarana!

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

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!


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.

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.)

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

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!

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

People, the plants are different in Brazil.


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!
It was just lovely.

And then there was the Orchideario.

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!

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.

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.

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!!

Not bad for a Monday, really.



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

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!


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!


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!!)


Two Brothers

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

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:





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

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

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!

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).


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!


Still peeling

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

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.

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!

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!


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!

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

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.



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.

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!

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.


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

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.

Coffee break at Cafeina.


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


Copa sidewalk design.

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!

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.

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.


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!

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.


Never Give Up!

Bags packed.


24 Hours in Houston!

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:


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.  :)

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.


Another "rainy day" in Rio

This morning's photo:

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!


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!

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!

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?


"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!

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
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.


Flying the friendly skies

I'm still bitter over the demise of yesterday's post, but it's time to Just Do It again. New plan: upload all the photos, then add the words.

Last year, for the first time ever, Rusty flew out to California for his more-or-less annual ocean/beach infusion. He was in a position to give up his seat for a later flight on the way home, as is sometimes requested, and was awarded a travel voucher in return. Offered up for any of us to use, I had thoughts about Rhinebeck, Kate had thoughts about visiting west coast friends and, just like that, a year goes by, expiration is looming, and Brazil is on the table.

I did some research and found that it would cost $x in addition to the voucher, which just so happened to be the total cost of a flight to Brazil on a different airline (practically from my back door, too). Well, that's sort of a no-brainer, huh? I booked a mid-January flight to Rio on the other airline -- and still had a voucher to use!

This year, Rusty's trip west not only occurred later than usual, he'll also be away longer. He's working his way from the first stop in Idaho, through Washington and Oregon, and eventually all the way to his brother's and dad's in Southern California. Also gone for my birthday, we determined that he'd be in the Bay Area then and, well, wouldn't it be nice...

I landed in San Francisco early Friday afternoon. Rusty'd packed a little lunch and our first stop was at the beach for a snack. Having done only a drive-by of Chinatown when we were there in 1995 with the kids (not to mention that my main focus then was on a 4yo, not sightseeing), I wanted to visit there and also Fisherman's Wharf.

On the way, we drove through the beautiful Presidio and also stopped at the Palace of Fine Arts - just as a couple of bridal parties were arriving for photos! Adorable.

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Chinatown on a Friday afternoon is very busy! We walked up a crowded "local" street and back down another that was definitely more geared toward tourists. I was intrigued by the roasted birds of all sizes in the windows -- chickens and ducks, certainly, but also some small enough to fit in my hand. Rusty found himself at a bakery counter ordering what he thought were two large almond cookies... and, um, they were not almond cookies!

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I posted the photo from Alioto's on Fisherman's Wharf the other day. The view was spectacular, and we had a fabulous dinner. Rusty had trout, I had sand dabs (similar to flounder), and we shared dessert.

We stayed in San Rafael -- the first night in the guest room, but the rest of the time in the houseboat.

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Toto, we're not in Wisconsin anymore!

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Our host (Rusty's been here before) helped to build the houseboat in 1980, then lived in it while he built his househouse. It is absolutely adorable, full of light from leaded and stained glass windows, and beautiful wood throughout!

It was very hard to leave.

On Saturday, we stopped at China Camp State Park for a clam chowder lunch on our way to Berkeley to and a meet up with Celia!

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Huey Lewis and the News have been to China Camp, too! This picture hangs just to the left of the open door you can see back there.

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When I turned, I saw myself in this O-L-D cigarette machine on the other side of the doorway.

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There were photos of John Wayne around the place, too, Blood Alley having been filmed there in the 1950s.

On the way to our main destination in Berkeley, we did a little recon to see if the warehouse that Rusty lived in and managed for his friend Tim in the early '70s was still there... and it was!

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Now home of Crixa Cakes, it's practically across the street from Berkeley Bowl!

We made our way to Lacis and I just don't know what I can possibly say. If ever you find yourself in the area, just go... take your time, and be sure to ask for a tour of the museum.

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Due to keen interest by all, including some young girls, we were given an extended tour by owner Jules Kliot. You could spend days there (three store fronts + upstairs) and not see it all!

Celia and I also made our way to A Verb for Keeping Warm (keep an eye out for the start of an AVKW Marin). Great shop -- friendly, nice selection of yarn, and also fabric, sewing machines and work space!

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner with Celia, her husband, her brother, and a family friend, followed by a walk to Ici for dessert.

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Mmmm, Celia and I had Cranberry Lime Sorbet, I'm pretty sure Rusty had Cookies & Cream.

On Sunday -- the best weather of all the days I was there (and none of them was bad) -- we hit the beach! Specifically, we drove out to Point Reyes National Seashore.

The waves were amazing -- again -- so I let Rusty hang on North Beach while I scouted Drake's Beach, South Beach, and the Chimney Rock area.

I hiked up to an overlook at Drake's Beach, which you can see above, and later we hiked out on the Chimney Rock Trail just about to the end of the point in the photo below.

I am reminded of Scotland for some reason... and I must not be the only one because we drove through Inverness on the way here, plus there were a lot of other Scottish place names in use throughout the area.


Never enough beach, there was one more quick stop before heading back!

And then it was Monday and a noon-ish flight back home. I managed to squeeze in a stop at Dharma Trading Co. on the way to the airport!

It was a quick trip, but jam packed and a perfect way to use that voucher!


Chickens, cousins, Grand Marais

It's always interesting to navigate in a city via second-person GPS -- where someone (me) is monitoring the electronics and relating directions to the driver (Rusty). In that fashion, we took an extraordinarily scenic drive to my cousin Gail's house in Duluth.

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The garage is to my left -- I'm standing in overflow parking (also basketball court) -- and this is the view from here.

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If you're not familiar with Duluth, it's hilly -- like San Francisco -- but with the added excitement of winter!! So here I am from the same spot, looking down at the entry to the house. The chicken coop (shown below) is right below me.

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It looks like a playhouse, doesn't it? When Gail saw some photos I'd posted of Rusty doing repairs to our playhouse, her first thought was, "That would make a great chicken coop!"

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This is the garage -- I was overcome by it all, I guess, so you'll have to imagine the beautiful view from the upstairs studio. Gail's jewelry studio -- RockOn Jewelry -- is up there. I don't know how she gets any work done. There's also room up there for her boys' instruments and whatnot.

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We met Gail's husband, John, and my cousin Gordy for lunch at Lake Avenue Cafe (I had the Squash Spaghetti Salad -- yum!). (I'll talk a little more about trip food in another post.) After some adjustments by both photographer and subjects, we had our picture taken.

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Too short of a visit, but I'm pretty sure I'll be finding my way back again before too long.

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Aaaaahhhhhhh. We did not mind one single bit driving up the scenic North Shore again on Tuesday afternoon.

Our destination was East Bay Suites, Grand Marais, where we planned to settle and make our base for a few days. It was spectacular.

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We had a kitchen, and a local food co-op was practically next door, so we were able to stock the 'fridge, cook for ourselves, and eat in for a few meals. Not to mention coffee. We're sort of snobs about that.

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The view from the kitchen/living area.

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The view from the bedroom. I took a photo from my pillow every morning!

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It's a great little town, and very "arty." The North House Folk School is incredible, and I would love to visit sometime and take part in a workshop. The Grand Marais Art Colony had just held Plein Air Grand Marais and we were delighted with both the venue and the show! We visited a number of terrific galleries during our visit.

Are you bored yet? More to come... food, knitting, yarn, adventures!