A Good Yarn

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Mexico

First off, here's the bracelet I made before I went to Mexico:

It's called the "Winter Doldrums" bracelet and is meant to be made with bright colors to chase away the winter doldrums - I think I embraced the bright color theme! I'd really like to make more of these with other color combinations.

Here is the group project we had in Mexico:

As you can see, it's a double-knit scarf in a checkboard design. It's really soft and I'm happy with how the Dune and Cashmerino Aran compliment each other. There are cute clover shaped tassles made from i-cord on the ends, but I need to practice a bit, so I hid my first one. Bernadette St. Amant was our knitting teacher and did an awesome job! She's a natural teacher and has the most calm, gentle style I've ever seen in any craft class. She was lots of fun to have on the trip too!

Here's another towel sculpture housekeeping left on my bed on day 2:

After knitting in the morning, I spent a little time shopping in the shops at the resort and then watched the epic Colts v. Steelers game in the martini bar while writing some postcards home. I just watched the second half of the football game, but it was such an exciting game and we had a fun little group of people in the bar, so I'm glad I did it.

In the afternoons of day 2 and day 4, I also went to the beach to either read or knit. Here's proof of my knitting on the beach:

This was obviously BEFORE I had a spa treatment! After dinner on Day 2 I got a spa pedicure and manicure and my toes were so much cuter after that. The spa was very nice and comfortable. The mani/pedi was almost 2 hours long, so it was a very thorough and relaxing experience. My favorite was the peppermint foot mask. The beautician didn't speak very much English, but we managed to talk a little bit with my limited Spanish. Anyway, as I was saying, I loved the beach. The water was really nice and warm and it was easy to find a little chunk of beach without a ton of people around:

There was a moonlight dinner on the beach too, but that was just too romantic for me to partake in alone :-) On the second evening we were having a bit of a problem with electricity going on and off. It didn't bother me all that much, but I would have liked to maybe fix my hair before dinner. I had dinner in the outdoor restaurant that evening, so it didn't really matter that much when the electricity went off a couple of times because we had the moonlight and candles on the table. The food that evening was wonderful! I had a baked provolone cheese appetizer, a French Onion Soup and a prime rib with red wine sauce. Everyone else I ate with really enjoyed their dinner as well. For dessert I had a creme brulee. It didn't have the crust on the top as is customary with this dessert, but it was still delicious!

Day 3 was my trip to Chichen Itza and I'll cover that next time - it was a fantastic experience!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hola Amigas!

I'm back from Mexico!! I had an awesome time and I'm so glad I went on the trip! I have a lot of stuff to share, so I'm going to break this into a couple of different entries over the next few days.

I had a busy and fun week before I left on vacation too. On Wednesday night I took a bead class at Bead Gallery in Woodbury. I really enjoyed it and I think I'll take some more classes there. The teacher gave an overview of what we were going to do, then she went through each step slowly. The overview was enough for more advanced beaders and one woman learned everything she needed to and left class after about an hour. For the rest of us, the step by step instruction was very clear and easy to follow. I finished up my bracelet when I got home and I'll post a picture of it later in the week. Thursday night I went to the Gopher Women's Basketball game with some friends. Such a great game! It went into overtime, but the Gophers lost :-)

Friday I went home right after all my meetings were done, but I still ended up staying up pretty much all night packing. I didn't get completely done until after midnight and then I had to get up at 2:30 to get ready and get to the airport by 4:00. Such an early flight! It was my first time flying Sun Country and we had no problems. I did miss the in flight movie I may have gotten on NWA, but it gave me plenty of time to finish up reading "The Three Junes". I really enjoyed the book. The book is broken up into three Junes (thus the title), the first told from the viewpoint of a widower, the second told from the viewpoint of the widower's son and the last told from the viewpoint of a woman the widower met in the first section. The action moves back and forth in time within each section and I really enjoyed the non-traditional structure. I love books about family and relationships, so this book was good for me.

Since we left so early in the morning, we arrived in Mexico while it was still Saturday morning. We flew into Cancun and took a shuttle to the resort. I saw a lot of uprooted trees and a lot of activity on the streets, cleaning up debris, but that's about the only evidence I saw of Hurricane Wilma. The resort had been cleaned and reopened beautifully. I believe all the pools and restaurants and even the Casitas had been reopened by the time we stayed there. The resort was absolutely gorgeous. We were greeted in the lobby with a glass of champagne and an explanation of the amenities and activities. My room wasn't quite ready yet, so I had lunch in one of the outdoor restaurants and chatted with some of the other women in our group. The food was amazing - I had a chef's salad for lunch and then the waiter chose a special dessert for me - a chocolate cake with ice cream on the side - so good!

I was very pleased with my room. There was a lovely canopy bed and there was usually some sort of towel sculpture left by housekeeping. There was a lovely heart when I first arrived:

There was a jacuzzi in the room, but I only used it once. I had a problem with water temperature control, so it was super hot. I didn't really have time to take a jacuzzi the rest of the days I was there, otherwise I would have asked housekeeping to look into it. There was a nice patio that overlooked the central courtyard:

I quite enjoyed sitting on the lounge chairs on the patio to write in my journal or lay in the hammock and read. It was very hot while we were there, but there were nice breezes off the ocean all the time, so I never felt hot.

The first evening we had a group welcome dinner. That was probably my least favorite meal, with a chicken pasta that wasn't all that flavorful. However, I enjoyed getting to talk with more of our group. After dinner I headed to the Martini bar to watch the NFL playoff game. A couple of other ladies in our group were in there with their husbands, so I ended up doing more talking than watching football, but it was really fun. I could really get used to the all inclusive meals and drinks, too!

The next morning I found these guys sitting on my patio:

I really enjoyed having the peacocks as company - they made me feel less homesick for the puppies. After a lovely buffet breakfast we all got down to the knitting instruction. We were given the martini lounge as ours for the mornings, so we all gathered on the balcony overlooking the resort on down to the ocean to sit and knit together. Here's the main building of the resort, which included the martini bar:

Here we are knitting together:

And here's our view:

It was so gorgeous and so relaxing and fun! I tended to stay a little later and knit on into the afternoon on the days I was there. I spent one day on a trip to Chichen Itza, which I'll share with y'all next time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stash Enhancement, But Not Really

This weekend I'm going to Mexico with a group from The Yarn Cafe.

Yes, I am very excited. It's not all that cold here, considering it's January in Minnesota. However, it has been very gray and it's still heavy coat weather, so it'll be nice to wear light clothes and soak up the sun! Not to mention getting away from everything and relaxing. I did have a good morning at work yesterday, though. I actually felt like I made a difference in a child's life. Some days I wonder if I'm just a cog in a big machine that really doesn't matter. Yesterday I felt like I made a difference. But the afternoon was back to the stress and conflict, so I'm looking forward to getting away.

I'm a little torn about vacationing at this point. When I booked the trip, getting away in January sounded like such a good idea. I'm not sure I'd plan a January vacation again. It's too close to Christmas and all the Christmas bills. Plus, I've already had short weeks the last three weeks. It'd probably be better to be more in the day to day drudgery in February or March. Plus, I'm not that sick of winter yet - again, just wait until February or March. Nevertheless, I'm super excited about the trip! I think it's going to be so much fun.

We will be working on a group project in the mornings. It's a double-knit scarf, so I went to the store this weekend to pick up the supplies. I decided to go with my old favorite, purple.

That's Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran and Trendsetter Dune. They're both really soft and I think they look great together. I also saw a new Noro yarn and picked up three skeins:

It's the gorgeous colors of Noro with a shiny metallic thread. Here's another picture, without flash, that shows how the metallic almost glows:

Love it! They had a little felted pouch that looked really cool, so I'm going to make another booga bag. I think I'll bring it along to Mexico since my current projects are not very portable.

Speaking of current projects, I ripped the neckband off Lucky last night and started knitting it longer. It took a really long time to undo that whole neckband! I brought the finished snake scarf with me to the indoor park that Michael and I met Bill and his family at last night. Red seemed to like it, but Bill totally latched onto it. He was very impressed that I had backed it with fabric. He wore it around his neck all night and never did give it back to me, so I'm trying to remember how many stitches I cast on....

Monday, January 09, 2006

FO, but not really

Technically I have 2 FOs, but neither of them are truly finished. As I suspected, I wasn't happy with how the neckband of Lucky turned out. It's really, really hard to take a picture of myself wearing a sweater, but I did get a bad picture of the neckband.

As you can see, I had to gather the body a lot to ease the neckband in. I don't like that much gathering. Plus, it's actually too close-fitting now. I don't want it to be as wide as it would be if I didn't gather it at all, but I don't want it this close, either. I'm not upset that I sewed it together even though I knew it wasn't going to work well. I was able to try on the sweater and the rest of it fits pretty well, so I know it's going to look pretty nice once I get the neckband figured out. Which gives me great motivation to get that right. And now I know how much more neckband I might need. I'm going to rip it out and knit another 10" on the neckband and try again.

I also finished one of the snake scarves:

I sewed the scarf to a piece of fabric on the back so that it doesn't curl any more. I had knit a 4 stitch garter stitch edge, but that didn't keep it from curling, so I turned that edge over and sewed it to the fabric to cover the cut edges. Now I have to knit another one just like it for the other boy. That's the part that sucks. I think the scarf turned out really cute and I like how it looks around the neck - with the head hanging down on end and the tail down the other. But knitting two of the same thing is so very, very boring.

As you may have noticed, I did pin out and block the scarf. Which means I FINALLY tried out the steamer. I wanted to provide before and after pictures, but stockinette stitch in black really didn't show anything. I definitely could feel the stitch opening up with the steam, though. I think it'll work really well with lace! And it's much quicker than wet blocking.

I also tried the steamer on some clothes. It worked pretty well, though I'm not sure it's superior to ironing. It may be a little faster, but it's not as crisp as a good pressing. I took pictures of some pants. Here's the before:

The steamer came with a creasing attachment that allows you to clip the steamer head into the object and create a crease. That works very nice with pants:

As you can see, most of the wrinkles were removed, but it was hard to get the area in the middle, near the seam. Of course, my pants are pretty big, so if you have smaller pants, the attachment would cover more of the pant leg. There are a couple of water spots on there too, so you obviously wouldn't want to use a steamer on any fabric that you can't get wet. The attachment made a really nice crease. Here's a close up without flash because flash overexposed the photo.

Very nice crisp edge. I probably will use this to quickly steam out the major wrinkles and create a crease on pants, but will continue to use a regular iron on blouses and skirts.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Not Quite Done With 2005 Yet

Every year I create my own personal Top Ten Films list, but I'm not quite ready to do that yet. There are a few more films I'd like to see first. However, I'll be surprised if I like anything better than this:

EXCELLENT film. I just loved it. Amazing performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. I've been a Gyllenhaal fan for a while, but I've always thought Heath Ledger was just a pretty boy. In this film, wow, he knocked my socks off. His performance as a tightly contained man longing for happiness and true freedom is so real and so believable. Don't get me wrong, these are two damn pretty cowboys - I can see why they'd fall in love with each other - so sexy! The script co-written by one of my favorite authors, Larry McMurtry, is heartbreaking. And of course the film is beautiful. When you've got the big mountainy backgrounds, that's a pretty good canvas. The boys are sheep herders, so I quite enjoyed seeing all the sheep - well, except when one sheep got killed. There's a shot in the film where the entire screen is filled with sheep - it's amazing. That's why I love seeing film in a theater, on that big screen. The film is just so moving and has stayed with me ever since I saw it. I know everyone (including me) labels it "the gay cowboy movie", which it is. But it's so much more than that. There's a line in Roger Ebert's review that really explains my reaction to it: "I can imagine someone weeping at this film, identifying with it, because he always wanted to stay in the Marines, or be an artist or a cabinetmaker." Yes, I felt deeply for these two men, for their inability to create the lives for themselves that they both wanted. I reacted to the love story the same way I did in "The English Patient" or "Titanic". However, I think the depth of my feelings and what makes this film great is that it goes beyond just the specific characters in the film to a more universal theme of fulfilling your dreams and how the choices you make in life echo through the years.

Hopefully I'll be able to see the rest of the films I want to over the next couple of weeks. I think I may have delayed too long on "Walk the Line" though. I can't believe I didn't see that - I absolutely ADORE Johnny Cash and wanted to see that film so badly. I blame my illness around Thanksgiving time, when I normally would have rushed out to see it.

I still haven't had a chance to try out the clothing steamer, either. Last weekend just blew by and I wasn't home for very much of it. Hopefully THIS weekend I'll have time to set it up and give it a whirl. I even have something to block! I finished knitting the first snake scarf. I think I'll pin it out and steam it and then sew it onto a fabric backing. Pictures will follow.

I am also almost completely finished with piecing "Lucky" together. I am just sewing on the neckband. I ran into a bit of a problem that I haven't yet decided how to solve. Since I was part of a knitalong with this project, I learned from others that you need to sort of gather up stitches on the body of the sweater in order for the wrap to look like a v-neck instead of being wide open like a boatneck. So I pinned it all together and it looked like I was going to have to do quite a bit of gathering because the body of the sweater was quite a bit longer than the neckband. Then I realized that I hadn't left 17" of the neckband off the edge for the tie. So the body of the sweater is way, way too big for the neckband. All the sizes of the sweater have the same neckband length, which I should have realized would be problematic for the largest size that I knit. So, I probably should unseam the portion of the neckband I already sewed in, undo the bind off on the neckband and knit it quite a bit longer. However, I do really want to draw the neck in because it was way too wide when I tried it on. So, I'm going to keep sewing the neckband on, gathering stitches as I go, and see how it turns out. If it looks awful, I'll just rip the seam then and knit the band longer. Hopefully I'll only lose 2 days of work by trying this out. So much trouble on finishing this sweater! The good news is, it seems to fit ok. The upper arms are a bit more snug than I would normally like, so I'll definitely have to wear a sleeveless shell underneath this thing rather than a long-sleeve top. It's also shorter than I would normally like, falling just at the top of my waist. That's the lenght it's supposed to be - once again, I should have looked at it and realized I wanted something longer. It was just taking so dang long to knit this thing that when I got to the part where I could start decreasing for the arm holes, I couldn't resist. Maybe in the new year I'll learn to think more while I'm knitting and not be so impatient about that little warning voice in my head.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a fantastic year in 2006. I'm really looking forward to this year. 2005 was a good year - nothing too terrible happened for me, unlike many, many other people in this world, so I feel very fortunate.

I always make one very specific, obtainable resolution each year. I make it specific and obtainable so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment and will actually make an effort to stick to it. And if I do, I make a nice improvement in my life. My resolution for 2006 is to track how I spend all of my money in 2006. I created a budget for myself about 10 years ago, but I haven't even tried to stick to it in a long time. This year I'm going to enter my expenditures into my budget spreadsheet. I may not be able to stick to the budget, but I think if I can see how over-budget I am in some categories, I might think twice before whipping out the credit card.

While I still had free reign, I did visit a couple of yarn stores. On the way back from Sioux Falls I stopped by Mary Lue's Yarn and Quilts. It was my first stop at the shop, although I've bought things from them at the State Fair many times. They carry a lot of sheepy gift items, so it's a fun shop. I bought a new pair of fleece-lined slippers (this time in pink!) and a beaded knitting kit:

I also picked up Elsebeth Lavold Designer's Choice Book Six. I haven't liked the last couple of books in the series, but this one matches my taste well.

I visited Bear North Knitting in Calhoun Square yesterday and couldn't resist this luscious yarn:

It's so hard to capture red, but this is a gorgeous color. And it's amazing soft. It'll be a real treat to knit up.

All of the holiday celebrations are done now. It was a really nice holiday season. I managed to keep from getting too stressed out. I cut out the baking and only one person mentioned it, so I guess I probably won't bake for the holidays any more. I'll just bake during the rest of the winter when it's not so busy. I was really busy with the rest of the prep, but it didn't get too difficult. I hit the wall on wrapping and ended up using a lot of pretty boxes and bags toward the end. I received a lot of really nice gifts - I'm very lucky! I tried out the FoodSaver my dad gave me last night and LOVED it! So cool! I almost don't want to eat the leftovers I sealed up so I can see how long they last. Almost. I also received some lovely knitting related gifts from Kerry. I LOVE this bag:

I love the colors! I love the stripiness! I love the sheen of the silk! I love the handles! It's awesome!! Finbar likes it too, as you can see. Kerry also tucked these goodies inside:

They're awesome hand-crafted lotions and soaps. I tried the peppermint foot lotion last night and liked it a lot - thanks, Kerry! As you can see, I also got a very cute addition to my tape measure collection - such cuteness! In case you can't tell, the picture on the little ball is a cell phone!

And now it's time to look to the future. I've decided to join the Aran Knit Along from the Aran List. I'm going to use this Galway that I've had in stash for a long time - in fact, this yarn was the beginning of my stash. Before I bought this (and some other yarn at a sale at Bank's Salvage Store), I only bought yarn for one project at a time. Oh, the road I headed down when I bought this yarn!