A Good Yarn

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cruise, part I

First of all, I went out for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants last night, Fire Lake. I am sure I've posted about it before, but I wanted to give another kudos for an excellent meal. They feature a lot of locally grown and raised food, the atmosphere is lovely, the service is excellent, the food is delicious and the prices are really reasonable. If you are looking for a nice place to eat downtown, check out Fire Lake.

After dinner, we went to the Illusion Theater to see "Iron Kisses." The play is about family - your typical mom and dad with a son and a daughter, and the relationships in the family. The son is gay, so that adds a little extra wrinkle, and her "compensates" for being gay by trying to be the ideal son. The writing is a bit trite and nothing too surprising or interesting happens. However, the play is acted by just two actors: Dane Stauffer and Beth Gilleland. They first met in the mid-80s while at the Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop, which is where I first saw them. In particular, I'm a HUGE fan of Dane Stauffer. 9 years ago he moved to San Diego, so he hasn't been around here lately and it was so awesome to see him on stage again, especially with his good friend Ms. Gilleland. They did bring life to the play and I really enjoyed watching them, even if the words they spoke were a bit banal. The play runs through April 21 if you want to check it out.

FINALLY, I want to talk about my cruise. It was my first cruise ever. I took my mom for her 60th birthday, as she's never been on a cruise, either. She's really never been on much of a vacation, as a matter of fact. I think she enjoyed it and I would definitely do the cruise thing again.

We went on the Celebrity Century. Here she is, docked in Key West:

I was very satisfied with this ship. It's an older ship, but they just remodeled it, so everything looked very nice. The beds and linens are comfortable and soft. The room was of course very small, but I didn't spend much time there except for sleeping anyway. The dining room was absolutely gorgeous and the different bars and theaters were very nice. The food was excellent - we ate in the main dining room every night because we didn't want to miss any of those wonderful meals. For breakfast and lunch we either got room service or ate in the more casual dining areas. The pizza and pasta bar was ok, as was the big buffet. The breads were really excellent. There's a sushi bar every evening, so I had sushi as an appetizer one night and it was pretty good. If it had been available for lunch, I probably would have had sushi for lunch every day I was on board. The shows were not outstanding, but they were entertaining enough. There was a movie theater on board, which was really a big screen with a DVD projector, but I watched a couple of movies in there and it was fun to see them on a big screen - I wouldn't mind having that set up at home. We spent some time in a couple of different lounges and the different music acts that played were all very enjoyable. I took a couple of wine classes on board that I really loved. I also visited the spa and got a mani/pedi, which was very relaxing and enjoyable. The prices weren't too bad, except she sold me on a few extra products to take home which I really didn't need. I spent a pretty good amount of time just reading in a lounge chair and I had lots and lots of these:

Prices for liquor and wine were typical of a restaurant, but since it was like living at a restaurant for a week, I spent way too much money on drinking. They were good, though, and it was enjoyable.

We had two ports of call on the trip. The first was Key West. Here's my mama on the dock, ready for a day on shore.

As you can see, we had a gorgeous, sunny day. Since we were only days away from one of the biggest snow storms in the last few years, it was awesome just to be among the palm trees, wearing short sleeves and sandals! We took a tour of Key West on the Conch Train:

It was a great way to learn about the history of "The Conch Republic" and learn about interesting plants and architecture, which I probably wouldn't really even notice if I was just walking around alone. To the right of the train in the background you can see the Shipwreck Museum, which we also toured. It was a really neat mix of actors bringing history to life, displays of interesting shipwreck items and films. We didn't climb to the top of the tower where shipwrecks were spotted, though. We also went to the Key West Aquarium, where we saw some pretty cool marine animals. The conch is pretty darn ugly:

But the nurse shark is pretty cute:

We also had lunch on Key West - most of the bars/restaurants were already full of spring break kids, so it was a bit loud and wild for our tastes. Of course I had to have Key Lime Pie, and it was SO GOOD! I really wish I could have brought one home. From the Conch Train, I spied this sign:

I managed to not jump off the train immediately, but of course I insisted that we go back there after lunch. I never expected to see a yarn shop in such a tropical location, but it was a perfect shop for vacationers. There was a good selection of needles just a few different lines of yarn in a wide variety of colors. Perfect for picking up a quick project for vacation knitting. I was actually really glad to go there because I had brought along my nephew's sweater to work on and the needles I brought were way too short and the stitches kept falling off. So, I was able to pick up some longer DPNs to work on, when I had the time to knit. I also picked up one skein of "souvenir" yarn:

This reminded me of a sunset we saw one night on board - the sky was a really pretty pink and the water was a lovely blue. So I'm calling this color Caribbean sunset.

My favorite thing on Key West, though, was the roosters:

They were everywhere! When we first spotted one, I was so excited! By the end of the day we'd seen dozens of them, so it wasn't so exciting, but I still loved them. I really wanted to take one home with me, but of course I didn't.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Since I haven't had a knitting related post on this here knitting blog in AGES, I thought I'd at least post something knitting-related and show you yarn. While I was on my various travels, some yarn came in the mail.

This is the March selection for the Posh Sock Yarn Club. Once again, I'm not really thrilled with it. It was touted as colorful, which I guess it is, but I like my yarn brighter. Or, if it's going to be this muted, then I guess just one color, like an olive green. I will not be re-subscribing to the Posh Sock Club.

Sorry it's blurry. But this is what I call colorful! This is the March selection for the Sweet Sheep Sock Yarn Club and I'm thrilled with it. This yarn is from Sweet Sheep itself, called Sweet Socks. The colorway is Spring Tulips and I love it. Maybe this will be my sock yarn selection for the next Project Spectrum color group: green, yellow and pink.

Speaking of Project Spectrum, this is the Sweet Sheep Project Spectrum Club selection for March. It's a lovely silvery gray. I only signed up for the first four months of the PS Club, but I definitely want to sign up for the second four months. I've loved these mostly solid skeins in the PS colors.

I also bought some yarn this month, but I'll save that for later.

Speaking of buying yarn, I'm doing a re-set on my New Year's Resolution. I didn't join in the No Yarn Buying pledge, but I did make a resolution to stay within my budget - which would have really decreased the amount of yarn I've been buying. I've done very well so far this year in keeping track of my purchases and entering them into my budget spreadsheet. In January and February I was way over budget in some categories, so I was able to do some offsets in others. I was way over budget in the craft supplies (mostly yarn, of course) category. But this crazy month has set me off in every category. Being on vacation and then all of the traveling. I'm over budget in every category except rent (which is of course a fixed amount), utilities and taxes (ditto). So, rather than be so over budget in everything and have to try to live a monastic lifestyle, I'm calling a do-over. I'm starting fresh on April 1 and trying again to live within the budget.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

NOW I'm going to stay home

When I posted on Saturday, I mentioned that my sister could go into labor any day. Turned out, that was the day. Her water broke Saturday night and she had the baby on Sunday morning, so after I did a little work on Monday, I headed down to So Dak to see them. Introducing Jason Alan:

He's so little and tiny! It's been a while since I've been around a new born - I just forgot how tiny those fingers and toes are. He was 6 pounds, 5 ounces, 19.5" long. He seems to be a very good little baby. Pretty much every time I was over there, he was sleeping. I did get to see the first bath, which he did pretty well with. I got to feed him once too, but he didn't wake up too much for that. My sister claims he was up from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., but I think she's just trying to make me feel sorry for her :-)

I gave them the little football hat I knit for him, which they loved. Although he could wear it as an outfit right now, he's so tiny. It won't be long until his head is that big, though. I didn't finish up either of the other two projects I'm knitting for him, so I guess those will be presents later. Maybe I can finish the sweater by Easter and make it an Easter present. It's WAY too big for him right now anyway.

Here's how he looked when I left:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

No, really, did you miss me?

OK, March is just sort of a lost month. I've been a very bad blogger, and knitter for that matter. I still want to blog about my cruise, just for my own purposes because I forgot to bring along my travel journal. But, as soon as I got back from vacation, I was thrown into the work meat grinder. Last week I had to take a road trip up to Northern Minnesota - 4 hours up, 4 hours back. Long day! This week I had another trip, this one by air, to Utah. But we flew into Vegas and drove to Utah from there. Now that I'm back home again, I THINK I'm going to be settling into a normal routine. Although my sister should be having her baby any day now, so I'll probably hit the road for one more trip before too long.

I have still seen a few movies, and since that doesn't require me to take pictures, edit them, post them to flickr and then to here, I'm going to start with reviews. After the hectic week back from vacation last week, I snuck out a little early on Friday for a matinee:

A romantic comedy in which Hugh Grant plays a guy who used to be half of a successful 80s duo whose partner went on to all sorts of acclaim while he kind of went no where - like Andrew Ridgely of Wham!, maybe. Drew Barrymore is filling in for his plant lady and turns out to have a flair for writing lyrics. Hugh's got to write a song for the hottest pop singer around (a blond teen of the Christina/Britney type) to try to revive his career. So, Hugh and Drew collaborate on writing the song and fall in love in the process. Hugh and Drew are not at the top of their games in the rom-com business anymore, but I still like them both. This film is completely what you think it's going to be and totally and utterly predictable, and just what I needed that Friday afternoon.

Last Sunday I had my movie club and we saw this Korean film:

For those of you, like me, who don't read Korean, it's call "The Host" in English. It's about the family in the poster and their battle against a sea monster. It's sort of like Godzilla meets Little Miss Sunshine. I loved it. The oldest son, the blond in the poster, is sort of a screw up, lazy bum type. But he's a great dad to his pre-teen daughter. One day this sea monster appears and attacks the city and eats the girl. Her dad and his brother and sister and father are devastated until the dad gets a cell phone call from his daughter - the monster didn't really eat her and she's still alive. Only no one believes them, because this guy's such a screw up. So they set off on their own to battle the monster and rescue the girl. It's scary and suspenseful, but also really funny and I was totally in love with this family. It's definitely a statement on American foreign policy, hysteria in times of emergency and the superiority of the family and people over the government. So, it works on several different levels. I'd highly recommend it.

On the trip to Utah, we were visiting some girls who are going to school there and took them out for an afternoon of fun. They went horseback riding, ate junk food and wanted to see a movie, so we saw this:

Not my cup of tea, although there were a few funny moments. As you probably already know, it's about four middle-aged men who ride motorcycles together once a week and have created a club called the Wild Hogs. They're all pretty disatisfied with how their lives have turned out, so they decide to get away from it all and hit the road on their bikes. They encounter a gay patrol officer who mistakes them for some sort of sex group, a hardcore outlaw bike gang and a charming town who has been terrorized by the outlaw bikers, during their road trip. It's all rather predictable and slapstick.

With all of this work (and the occasional film), I haven't seen or talked to most of my friends for a few weeks, so I was happy to get together for dinner and a movie with one of my law school chums last night. Even though we're two middle-aged women, we saw this film:

It stars Mark Wahlberg as an ex-military sharp shooter who becomes disillusioned after a mission in Ethiopia goes wrong. He leaves the military and becomes sort of a hermit in a cabin in the mountains where he surfs the web, shoots his guns and plays with his dog all day long. However, he is recruited by a mysterious high level military man (played by Danny Glover) to help avert an assassination attempt on the President. Wahlberg is one of only a handful of people who could successfully pull off a long-range shooting, so he's the perfect man to figure out how it's going to be done and stop it. Only that's not really what they're doing. They're really setting up Wahlberg as the patsy. Only of course at the last minute Wahlberg escapes and then sets out not to prove his innocense, but to get revenge. After that it's all shooting and explosions. If that's what you like, this fits the bill. There's lots and lots of people getting shot in the head and stuff getting blown up. And none of it makes a lick of sense. If you try to think about it for even a minute, it all falls apart. But Marky Mark sure looks great with his shirt off. There are plenty of opportunities for him to show those famous pecs and they're still gorgeous. And since this film is probably aimed more at the guys, the woman who helps Wahlberg get his revenge shows plenty of cleavage too.

Speaking of pecs, when I was looking for a picture of the Wild Hogs movie poster, I came across this picture comparing John Travolta then and now:

See, the guys all go skinny dipping, so we get to see plenty of all of them shirtless, plus a lot of William H. Macy's ass. I don't even care that John Travolta is a flabby, pasty guy, I still think he's awesome and sexy. From what I hear, he truly enjoys life, including food, and that's great! Not everyone can be Mark Wahlberg.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Did you miss me?

I'm back from the sunny Caribbean! The two snow days turned out to be a blessing, because I just barely got my house cleaned and my bags packed, etc. before it was time to pick up my mom at the airport. In fact, I still had one more load of laundry to do, but I just waited and did that yesterday when I got back. It was so nice to come home to a clean house, too! And it's very sunny out and a lot of the snow has melted, so the transition from the sun and heat to Minne-snow-ta hasn't been too rough. It sure was fun to wear sandals and bare legs again, though.

I'm too lazy to look at my pictures and post about the trip yet. It was fun, though. I could get used to the life of leisure, that's for sure. I had a mani/pedi on board and the manicure lasted the whole trip. When all you do is sit around eating, drinking and reading, you really don't have to worry about chipped nail polish. Now I know how the ladies who lunch always have such perfectly manicured hands. I quite enjoyed the spa treatment, although she talked me into buying some rather expensive beauty products that I really don't need. Oh well, I was on vacation!

I didn't get very much knitting done. Since I wasn't carrying a handbag, it wasn't very convenient to carry knitting around for those moments where we were sitting the bar having a cocktail and listening to music or just sitting by the pool area. When I had a block of time to just sit in a lounge chair, I chose to pick up a book, instead. I did finish this mystery:

He's a local author writing about a Minneapolis police detective, so I thought I should check out the series. I've got sort of mixed feelings. I did enjoy the plot and the writing - I was very engaged in the story. I'm not sure about the main character though. He's your sort of "manly man" who has a million girlfriends and isn't afraid to step outside the lines to get his man. Not the type of character this lefty admires. I may read the next one just to see where the series is going.

Before I left, I also finished up this book:

I've been sort of obsessed with the "Up" documentary series, so I had to check out the companion book to 42 up. It includes a couple of short essays about the films (including one by the director, Michael Apted) and the rest is sort of excerpts from the films. The excerpts from the previous films are pretty short, but there are some excerpts from 42 Up that aren't even in the film. I really enjoyed reading the words, which gives me more time to think about them. If you haven't seen these films, I highly, highly recommend them. It's fascinating to follow the lives of these people and see what course they have taken. You can't help but think about your own life and your choices. The latest, 49 Up, is just brilliant. All of these people are now so thoughtful and wise, it's just amazing. I can't wait for 56 Up!

Speaking of film, I did see one before I left on my trip:

I really enjoyed it. It's the true story of the infamous Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco in the 70s. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a SF Chronicle cartoonist who sort of becomes obsessed with figuring out how the killer is. He ends up writing the book that the film is based on, giving a theory of who he thinks the killer is. The whole cast is just stellar and everyone does a great job. There's surprisingly little gore for a film about a serial killer directed by David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club). In the first part of the film, he does show the Zodiac killing a couple of times, which is pretty gruesome. But the rest of the film is really about trying to figure out the clues. It's very suspenseful. It's quite a long film, but I never felt bored or wished it would just hurry up.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Snow Day!

Yep, we have another storm of the century going on around here. The snow fell a little bit last night and then started up again this morning and it snowed pretty much all day. You can kind of see here that the snow is deeper than Fiona is tall:

I was supposed to drive to Wisconsin today for a meeting, but yesterday I arranged to just participate by phone. So, I loaded up some files and declared today a snow day. Since I'm self-employed, when I don't work I don't get paid, I'll take a hit to the pocketbook (I'm taking the next week off for vacation too, so this month is going to be short), but it was kind of fun to have most of the day off. I didn't get as much cleaning of the house to get ready for mom to stay with me as I wanted to, but I did finish this:

All sewn together. Now I just have to knit the border. I started the first side - that's a lot of stitches to pick up!