Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Did We Think This Would be Fun?

We pulled out a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle last weekend. As of today, we still have 1,750 pieces to put in the puzzle. This thing is seriously HARD. Kirdy, we need you!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Prairie Progress and a New Pattern

I ditched the blue/purple shawl I was knitting and started the Eden Prairie shawl. So far it's looking good.

I also just finished creating a pattern for this cowl which Pia photographed for me. Hoping some knitters like the pattern and I sell a few!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We Did NOT See This in Scotland

And I'm sad. These Shetland Ponies in hand knit sweaters are the models for this year's tourist campaign.

Bundled Up

Cara is modeling all the projects I finished today plus my Advent lace scarf. She looks like someone's Russian granny. I like it.


I got a cute thank you note in the mail today from Miss Hadley and her mama. Megan is a world champion thank you note writer, and she's passing on this excellent habit to her kids. Miss Manners would be so proud. And excellent training from Zaide!

Megs, I hope Hads actually enjoys the Nat Geo kids mag when they finally start arriving. I imagine I could have just signed her up for junk mail catalogs and she'd be happy to be getting mail lol. But it is a cute magazine for little guys, the boys love getting their issues. And who doesn't love a surprise in the mail?

And Mad Men Too!

New season in April! Will Don embrace the groovy fashions of the late 60s? Are Don and Megan still married? Has Sally smoked pot yet? Is Betty still going to Weight Watchers? All will be revealed

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Day Spent Making My Head Explode

My store has needed a facelift for AGES.  I have been using the same fugly home page for years, which I designed using the long-defunct Netscape Navigator (I think that was it, so long ago and so many computers ago, I don't remember)

So today I decided to open up Dreamweaver and get to work.  Ack!  I haven't used Dreamweaver in years, so it was basically start from scratch and relearn everything.  And I'm really not one to read tutorials or practice.  I just plunge in and start creating.

Result?  I have a slightly better looking home page here.  Suggestions for making it MUCH better are welcome :-)  It's still pretty rudimentary, no fancy bells and whistles.  But I think it's an improvement over the fugly fuggerson old page.

I also fixed up my "free patterns" page with all of the patterns I've created over the years, including the Weldon's projects.

Now to un-fug the "discontinued yarns" page.  Tomorrow.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I'm on a "Prairie" Style Kick

As in Frank Lloyd Wright "Prairie" style, not Laura Ingalls Wilder (though that's tempting too)

Now that I'm released from my self-imposed moratorium on knitting anything that wasn't in a 19th century pattern book, I've been adding projects to my queue willy-nilly.  And I seem to be loving this style a LOT:

"Oak Park" and "All the Shades of Truth" are from Laura Aylor's Mid-Century Collection (here)

"Eden Prairie" is from Nancy Whitman (here)

I now have 111 projects in my queue.  That should keep me going until I die (the plan is I don't die until I finish everything in my project queue.  So if I keep adding new projects...UNDEAD KNITTER)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Downton Abbey is Back!

And I couldn't be happier. Despite accidentally reading a HUGE spoiler when we were in England.

Lady Mary and Matthew finally got hitched, and her dress was suitably 1920 style. I was really hoping she would wear a headpiece like Toddie did when she got married (right around the same time period). Toddie's reminds me of the Queen Mum's, I guess loving the royals runs in the family.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year, Back to WW

In my annual ritual, it's back to Weight Watchers along with every other fatty. I'm still down 22 pounds from my high, but I took quite a few months off ad that holiday eggnog didn't help. So back on the horse and working toward a healthier 2013. And really, WW is easy to follow and I feel so much better when I'm eating healthier. So no excuse not to do it. Except the "I'm lazy and I love to eat" excuses.

My goal this week is to eat a fruit or veg at every meal. Not that hard to do

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

British Super-Post

We're home, laundry is done (well, mine is done -- which needed to happen as I failed to find a laundry facility anywhere in England, and had to purchase new socks and underwear plus wear every garment at least 3 times.  Ugh), we've slept in our own beds again, caught up on all our TV shows and I'm ready to recap our fabulous adventures in England!

Pictures are courtesy of Pia and Katie; I was handed a camera on Day 1.  It was taken away from me on Day 1.5

Our first stop was the beautiful city of Edinburgh ("The Athens of the North")  We definitely could have spent more time exploring Scotland.  Plus we all fell in love with the delightful people (and the accents!  Why don't Americans have good accents?  We sound like crap)  We were a mite slowed down due to my head cold, but managed to get in visits to Edingburgh Castle (fantastic!) and The National Museum.  Plus our hotel was great, right off the Royal Mile and set up like an apartment so we could cook.  I won't say our meals were great, but they were a mite cheaper than eating in restaurants.

Katie and I with our trusty Starbucks cups, admiring the magnificent view from Edinburgh Castle

 Amazingly, THIS was the view right out our hotel room window.  It's a cemetery with a monument to Scotland's Poet, Robert Burns.

 We picked up a car and headed down the coast to London.  I'm still in AWE at Katie's ability to drive on the left hand side of the road, with a manual transmission, through heavy traffic and the CRAY CRAY English roundabouts.  Never went the wrong way down a street.  Only missed a couple of exits off the roundabouts.  Only nearly crashed a couple of times -- those "mini roundabouts" are deadly, folks.  And Pia navigated the trip with skill, plus our Tom-Tom.  I wisely was kept in the back seat, where I could do little harm.

 One of the highlights of the trip for me was to see Hadrian's Wall (the remnants of a Roman wall -- originally 20 feet high -- plus forts etc that spanned England and kept the Celts on their side of the Roman Empire)  Although the museums were all closed (wah), we were able to hike up to the remains of the fort and the wall at Housesteads.  It was chilly, and it was just us and the sheep that day.  Katie will never forget the hair-raising drive -- the GPS navigated us to a route that included a VERY narrow country lane, with a stone wall (and steep drop) on one side and a lot of blind corners.  She was sure we were going to meet up with an oncoming hay lorry and be killed.  

 We really did well with all of our hotels on the trip.  Except maybe this one.  It had 3 beds, which was good.  And no bedbugs (that we could see).  But it was a bit tatty, maybe 2 steps above a youth hostel.  Oh well, it was only one night.  It's also where we learned that we don't really love the full English Breakfast.  Beans, tomatoes, fried bread?  Not for us.  We did love the toast rack, though.

 Our next stop was York.  Love at first sight!  This beautiful walled city has retained much of its medieval architecture, and it was so charming.  We went to the Jorvik Viking Centre (cheesy but fun, kind of like a Disneyland ride)  We all most remembered the SMELL there, evidently the museum has conjured up "the 10th century urban odor".  Ugh, I'm glad we have sewers etc.

This was the view right out our hotel's front door:

"Clifford's Tower" dates from the time of William the Conqueror (1066)

One of our favorite sites was York Minster Cathedral.  Dating from the 8th century, it's amazing.  While still a "working church", it's full of fabulous art and architecture.  We got a great tour from a parishioner/tour guide.  In the gift shop, we found knitting patterns for gargoyles and had to buy them (which necessitated a trip to "Ramshambles", a cute knitting shop in the Shambles, York's medieval shopping area):

Next stop: Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour, just north of London.  I wasn't expecting to love this, as I'm generally all about seeing the REAL historical sites, but the girls were excited and they'd been such good sports about seeing all the (probably boring) things I wanted to see, I couldn't say no.  And it was really cool!  The studio has transported the film sets, props, costumes, special effects, and much more to this HUGE building and it's well worth the visit for any HP fan.  I wish they'd had more costumes (I am a sucker for the textiles), but overall it was a lot of fun, and amazing to learn how movies are made.  Here we are in Diagon Alley:

We finally made it to London!  Turned our car in (Katie was then able to unclench her jaw and relax), and took the tube to our hotel in Wembley (we were about a block from Wembley Stadium, nothing going on there over the holidays, but it definitely looks impressive), an easy 15 minute tube trip to the city centre.  A brief aside: the tube system is AMAZING.  Built in 1863, it's still the best way to navigate the city and so convenient.  Of course, I never managed to figure out what stops to get on and off, which direction we needed to go, or much else about the tube, but I didn't need to with my two excellent navigators.

In no particular order, here are a few of the things we saw and did in London:

The Tower of London.  Last trip, Cara & I didn't go in (she refused to spend the 20 pounds for admission), but this time, I got my wish and we toured.  It was especially interesting to me this trip as I'm reading a book about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn -- and the Tower is where poor Anne was imprisoned and beheaded.  We climbed stairs, checked out all the cool prisoner graffiti from the 1400s-1700s, and ogled the Crown Jewels.  Damn, they are impressive.

Yarn store!  We made our way to charming Loop in Islington.  Somehow, my yarn compass kicked in and I spotted the "passage" the shop is on.  A windy little back street off the main road.  The shop was delightful, and we put a dent in our souvenir budgets with yarn and pattern books.

Here we are in front of Buckingham Palace.  The queen wasn't in residence, so no chance of repeating my famous Helen Mirren encounter of the previous trip.  We tried to view the Changing of the Guards, but it was super crowded with umbrella-wielding tourists so we took a pass.

And here I am in front of the Queen Victoria monument, wearing the "Barrister's Wig".  I think we look quite a bit alike, don't you?

 Our first night in London included a candlelight program of Handel's "Messiah" at historic St. Martin in the Field Church.  It's beautiful and the music was fantastic.  Unfortunately, I could only stay awake for the first half of the program and we ducked out at intermission. 

No visit to London is complete without a stop at the British Museum.  It's the most fantastic museum I've ever visited.  Here I am checking out a mummy.  We saw the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, many Egyptian artifacts, tons of finds from early British history and Roman history and so much more.  I couldn't resist buying this tiny little helmet, a mini reproduction of one of my favorite British Museum artifacts, The Sutton Hoo Helmet:

What else did we do?  Visited Westminster Abbey (I'm still amazed that you can walk into a tiny chapel, and find Queen Elizabeth I's burial monument:

"Poet's Corner" is also amazing, with plaques dedicated to England's literary greats, including Shakespeare.  There's something fantastic to see around every corner.

We braved Boxing Day at Harrod's, despite the Tube drivers going on strike, which meant no tube travel in the heart of the city :-(  We bussed it around, which was crowded to say the least.  And ended up with a 20 pound cab ride to get to our station at the end of the day.  Harrod's was crazy crowded, but not nearly as horrible as the stores that were actually doing their big "Boxing Day" sales, like Selfridge's.  Apparently, shoppers started queueing up there in the wee hours and it was utter madness.  We visited the Diana and Dodi memorial on the 2nd floor escalator landing at Harrod's (cheesy but still...)  and made a few purchases, including "Lemon and Rose Turkish Delights" for Cara (she says they are super sweet and weird.  But we knew that)  We also tried to find prizes for Lulu and Walt in Harrod's Pet Kingdom, but nothing was as good as our own "Joan" dog toys so they got nada.  Also oohed and aahed over the baby clothes; we wanted to buy something adorable and British for baby Colie, but she's going to have to do with American clothes, the stuff in Harrod's was ridiculously expensive.

We visited Kensington Palace (no royal sitings there alas), which was lovely with Christmas decor.  They have new exhibits here since my last visit, we especially enjoyed touring Queen Victoria's rooms, with lots of things from her childhood, her reign and her family.  

This is how we dressed every day.  It was chilly, but we lucked out on the weather overall:

Luckily, we had plenty of hand-knit hats, scarves and gloves to keep us warm!

I'm sure I'm forgetting all kinds of stuff.  It was a fantastic trip, and I couldn't have had two better traveling companions (I only had to tell them to stop fighting a couple of times lol)  Thanks for using all your vacation time to accompany me to England, girls!  I'll never forget it!

Next time, Italy with ALL THE KIDS.  This means YOU, CARA AND TONY!