Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Have a Pen Pal!

Or rather, an e-mail pal. Her name is Jane, and she lives in England. She found me through the Mosaic blog, and we've been corresponding.

How fun! I had a pen pal once when I was a kid, but she only wrote to me twice. I kept writing (I'm thick like that) and after about 20 unanswered missives, I gave up.

Jane just started her own blog, so go visit her!

On My Way...

To the North Woods of Wisconsin, that is. I'm packin' up the knitting, the iPod, the camera, the corkscrew, the fishing pole and the industrial strength mosquito repellent.

It should be a good time.

It will be about a 2 day trip to get there. The Son and I are leaving early early in the a.m., for Ludington Michigan, taking the 4-hour ferry ride across Lake Michigan to get to Wisconsin. We've taken SS Badger a couple of times before across the lake, but the kids were quite small then. The Daughter is in Florida at a sorority gathering, and she'll fly to Wisconsin on Sunday. The Husband, unfortunately, is deeply embroiled in work, and has to take a pass on this year's gathering. We will miss being with him.

The place that we're gathering is Barker Lake, which doesn't appear on many maps, but is near the tiny town of Winter. There is a lot of outdoor activity up there, to go along with the mosquitoes. Lots of lakes, fishing, and so forth. The original resort and golf course were established in the 1920's by beer baron "Polack Joe" Soltis who designed it as a retreat for other Chicago area gangsters. Such history....

I come from a rather large family-- I have 4 brothers and 4 sisters, and amongst us we have 26 children ranging in age from 8 to 25. So we get together every summer for a week, and again over New Year's. When we are all able to be together with our parents, we number 45 so it's quite a gathering. We've gathered at a number of places over the years, and this will be our first at this location, although it is familiar to many of us.

When I was growing up, we would spend a week each summer at a girls' camp (Camp We-Ha-Kee; I knit you not), because it's pretty remote, and they needed to have a doctor and nurse there all the time. So my father, who is a doctor, volunteered at the camp. The girls in the family stayed in cabins with the campers, and the boys were in the doctor's cabin. As we got older, the siblings would visit Barker Lodge for a round of golf and a couple of beers. By this time I was away from home playing sailor lady, so I've never been there. My parents heard that the property had been sold, gone into disrepair, and then was purchased by someone who is reviving it. So we decided that it would be a good place to go. One of my sisters is there now, and she said it's rustic, and lots of fun, so I'm anxious to get on the road.

Some of the events we envision are a visit to the Leinenkugel Brewery, the ORIGINAL Famous Dave's, and some fishing, chatting, reading, relaxing, and a bit of work on the Mystery Shawl.

I'd better get packing!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

...And in Happier News

Decent progress on MS#3.

And-- my Harry Potter book just arrived.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mystery Shawl #3 and Non-Bulimic Purging

Making some progress after 2 total frogs from 20 rows or so. Pics tomorrow, maybe.

The better news is that I've been making some noticeable progress in de-cluttering. We have way too much stuff (my massive yarn stash and multiple sets of needles and accessories don't count!!!!!) (Except maybe my bazillion straight steel needles from my pre-Addi, pre-Crystal Palace past. I'll probably give them to friends as starter needles as I teach them to knit.)

I've filled 3 lawn & leaf bags with clothes I haven't worn forever, or just decided I don't care to wear anymore. I hope to fill 2 more. I filled a box with shoes that are in good repair, but don't fit perfectly. Life is too short for sore feet, regardless of how lovely the shoes may be. (Go Crocs!!!) My side of the closet is pretty amazing. I'm holding on to most of my tote bags, because one can't knit without them.

There are charity pick-ups at the house on Saturday and Monday, and my goal is to have a respectable pile for each pick-up. Y'know-- the second iron that works well, the huge amount of coordinated plastic storage containers that looked so great at the Tupperware party-- 15 years ago, the stack of jigsaw puzzles I picked up before a vacation just in case it rained all week, the pool toys that the kids have long outgrown, the matching Samsonite I received when I graduated from high school (still works great, but HEAVY!!!), fabrics for projects that just aren't going to happen, and at least some of the vases and flower-arrangement containers that have accumulated over the years.

I've donated most of the hotel toiletry items to a shelter. I kept the really nice ones, and am using them in my new bathroom. It makes me feel like I'm staying at a resort--- at least while I'm in the shower. We take our escapes as we can...

I'm in the process of giving my several year collection of needlework/crosstitch pattern magazines to a friend who loves and will use them. I will probably put together my flosses and give them to her as well. I haven't cross-stitched for probably 5 years. If I decide to do another project, I'll get more.

The hardest project for me is de-booking. I need to set a reasonable goal for donating books to the ongoing library book sale. I was endowed with such a love for books, that it's hard to part with them, but hey-- they're taking over the place!!!

I'm still so far from where I want to be, but you remember that trip of a thousand miles....

And then there's the office. Lord, give me strength!!!

I'd much rather knit.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Fine Friday

It was lovely. I got to sleep to a reasonable time, then went to work for a meeting and a tad of paperwork. I actually made it out in 2-1/2 hours!

Then to Trader Joe's to pick up some provisions for Knit'n'Nosh at Knit Happens. It's been ages since I've been able to stop in. And it was so great to see the friends I've been missing for so long, and some new friends as well.

These women are really important in my life, and I miss them when I'm not able to "hang out" for awhile.

I haven't seen Stephanie for a couple of months. We've both been busy and away. She started a new project-- a baby blanket that's a beautiful pale blue. Katie is back in the States for awhile, and it was great to see her, and catch up a bit. She brought in a top she'd done in King Tut, in a dark red. She wasn't fond of the way it looked on her, but Aimee tried it on, and it was spectacular.

I hadn't seen Rosanna since MS&W. She's working on the Mystery Shawl 3, which I joined as well-- but haven't started yet. Maybe today. (Need to go pick up some beads!) (Sorry-- it's closed, so I didn't link it.) Elspeth was holding down the fort at the counter. She appeared to be working on a modular knit scarf, and making good progress, I might add. Nikki was there, and I met another Laura. (Never enough Laura's.)

My friend from work, M came, too-- for a very special reason. She wanted to learn to knit! My evangelism is working! And since it was her birthday, I decided she needed to start out right, so she magically received an Addi Turbo circular, a couple of balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in a wonderful turquoise/teal that she zeroed in on immediately, and a set of "toys" that came in a cute little pouch. The yarn looks amazing with her pale blue-gren eyes. She is a quick study, and learned to cast on, knit and purl in just over 2 hours, and is on her way to a very respectable scarf.

We were having such a good time that I lost track of time, and Holly finally had to point out that it was closing time. (You don't have to go home, but you can't. stay. here.) And home I went.

Here We Go Again
This morning it was back to Mosaic Tile to look at tile for the middle bathroom. I just love looking at tiles and considering combinations and possiblities. The consultants really know their stuff, and are able to recommend combinations, and to give rough, ballpark estimates of cost for the project. Following my own advice, I paid a bit more attention to price this time around, and found a couple of possibilities that are very reasonable. We will probably tile around the tub to the ceiling, with some accents at eye level, rather than doing the walls around the whole room. We'll retile the floor and get a new tub, toilet, and probably a pedestal sink, as well as new lighting and medicine cabinet/mirror. And of course, the plumbing.

So I'll call the contractor this week, and get going on the plans, estimates and schedules.

Good thing I like this stuff...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Hokie Healing Wrapup

Go see Mosaic and Gina (and probably their other links) for great pics, video, and a story that will touch your heart.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Back on Blossom Street

I can’t spend as much time reading as I would like. So most of my reading is non-fiction, work-related or spiritual. I listen to novels (as well as non-fiction and biography genres) on my iPod while commuting and traveling, and as a bedtime treat as I’m drifting off. (It reminds me of my Dad reading bedtime stories when I was little.)

I was given the opportunity to review Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. I was familiar with her name, and knew that she categorizes herself as a romance writer, but had never read or listened to her work. As I looked for information on the book, I discovered that it is the third in a series of “knitting novels” by the author who has written 120 books with several scheduled for release in the upcoming months.

I’m not a big “romance” reader. But I do enjoy reading and listening to stories about women and their friendships, relationships, interactions and lives. I’m a great fan of Anne Rivers Siddons, who I wouldn’t categorize as a “romance” writer. I’ve discovered that the genre has expanded and that current novels don’t follow the traditional patterns of romances. (There are no Fabios in these books!)

Not having read The Shop on Blossom Street and A Good Yarn, the previous two books in the series, I ordered them for my iPod, and listened to them abridged, which were the only versions available (not a great fan of "abridged" but you take what you can get...). I became familiar with the basic characters and back-stories. You don’t have to read these first, because Debbie (may I call you Debbie?) brings you up to speed in the current book; however I think the previous books enrichen the story, and they’re fun, quick "reads."

Back on Blossom Street is the tale of a group of women and their friends and families. Lydia owns the shop “A Good Yarn”; her sister Margaret helps run the store, Alix- introduced in the previous books, is a young woman with a troubled past who has found her way (and a good man); Susannah owns a flower shop, "Susannah’s Garden", and hires Collette, a rather mysterious newcomer to town who has experienced tragedy and disappointment and has challenges to face. The focus drawing the story and characters together is the local yarn shop, where they gather for class to knit “prayer shawls,” each with a specific reason for knitting hers. The story progresses with crises, conflicts and resolutions—and through it all, knitting and the friendship of the knitters maintains the thread. (Yes, you may laugh weakly.) Characters from the previous two books are reintroduced, giving promise of new books in the series to come.

There are a couple of bonuses in the book. Debbie includes actual prayer shawl knitting patterns for beginning and more advanced knitters. What an unexpected pleasure! I plan to knit Alix's prayer shawl which is a lacy, intermediate pattern. (Hmmm-- I seem to remember purchasing some forest green laceweight at MS&W... Hmmmm)

Reading this book, and listening to its predecessors brings to mind my own “LYSs” in my two homes—Alexandria and Blacksburg. The remarkable women I’ve met in these wonderful oases of caring and creativity, with their myriad life stories and experiences are in themselves rich novels-in-waiting. (Probably won’t happen—I don’t have Debbie’s gift. So just read my blog and follow the links to theirs.)

Is Back to Blossom Street “GREAT literature” in contention for the GREAT American novel?” You know the answer.

Is it GREAT fun, a GREAT story of women’s friendship and a GREAT beach or bathtub read? It surely is.

Will I continue to follow the women of “The Shop?” You Betcha.

Debbie just released another new book. The title? Susannah’s Garden. Sound familiar?


That’s the sound of me allowing myself to be sucked into another series.

And looking forward to it!