Friday, July 26, 2013

Wrap Up-date Type Thing

Here it is Thursday already and the weekly wrap-up idea kind of went to pot this past week, BUT... I have an excellent excuse as to why!
You see, I was having a baby-moon with my most amazing spouse. In a most amazing place. And I met some amazing people. And I was not cranky, or forgetful, or upset or anything but laughy and giggly the entire time.
Let me show you the place! Behold, this is Shirakaba:

Originally we were thinking of going to Savannah, GA as we'd both wanted to see the city when I suddenly realized I was going to be 6 months pregnant and willfully inserting myself in a VERY hot and VERY humid environment.
That was not a very good idea. So I changed it.
Instead, I Googled "ryokan", figuring someone had been clever enough to recreate one here in the US. Lo and behold, the only one within driving distance was Shirakaba!
Now, I could (and probably should) dedicate an entire post just to it and its awesomeness, and I probably will later. The people that ran the place were so damn awesome that I would love to get them some good press. But there's this entire trip I wouldn't be discussing. And the knitting I worked on. Or the photo I took. And it was all just amazing! So let's focus on that.
Shirakaba is in the Berkshires on the Massachusetts side, and is apparently rather popular in the winter months, but not so very much in the summer. Yay for us, at least partially, had there not been a heatwave that week.
We had the great luck of getting the entire place to ourselves for 5 days, meaning we could come and go with little chance of disturbing anybody. On top of that, one of the owners was super-psyched that I was there and pregnant. She even embroidered several gifts for the baby. Behold! The awesome hoody-towel!
She was sweet enough to go look for a cherry blossom embroidery pattern specifically when I mentioned it would be lovely. This is currently folded up in the nursery awaiting Ms. Eve's birth.
Because it was more on the way there than anywhere else we would normally travel, I talked Bob in to doing a quick dogleg in the trip before we got to the guest house that let us stop at WEBS. This is awesome because WEBS sells yarn. Lotsa yarn. And lotsa things to make yarn and lotsa things to do with the yarn. Everything from spinning wheels and spindles to looms, knitting needles, crochet hooks and lucets. Just about anything you can think about doing with fibers, they have there.
And yes, I fully realize I'm treading on old-lady territory getting excited about yarns and things, but screw that. Because I can make super awesome sweaters and scarves and BABY SWEATERS from that shizz and I can have super unique mittens and hats while the rest of y'all stumble to Target come November. Nyah. :P
Anyway, this is the front of the store:
Very unassuming, as well as its location. They've basically converted a giant warehouse in to a warehouse/retail store for people to come in. I should've taken some pictures inside, except honestly it just looks like another yarn store.
I DID, however, take a picture of the warehouse. There was a lot of reorganizing going on so a ton of people were working and I felt weird and espionage-y snapping photos, BUT... this is what the bulky yarn aisle of the warehouse looks like. There are 15 other rows:
Impressive, non? I sorta kinda maybe went on a yarn-petting spree while I was there.
Also, BE PROUD OF ME. I went in to get just ONE type of yarn, and I left JUST WITH THAT ONE TYPE OF YARN. I wanted to get sooo many other things, but I managed to stop myself!
So we moseyed on from there to Shirakaba, where they prepared specialty ice cream for us, as well as cookies, and we had us a delicious 6-course Japanese meal. We got to nosh on it while in a traditional Japanese tatami-mat room, wearing gorgeous and comfy yukata.
I have a few dozen pictures from the meal, but I'll spare you guys that and just show the sukiyaki. The rest of the food shall be saved for another post!
Does that not look amazing? It tasted fabulous, and we were so full from the previous 4 courses that we ended up saving the leftovers for another night!
We decided to spend a warm evening outside in the hot tub just talking about all we wanted to do, and I just let the water roll over me and loosen up my seriously tight shoulders and back, which have been bothering me for quite a while now. Had we been able to, I think we would've had glasses of wine and made a VERY late evening of things.
For our Thursday it was VERY hot, as in 94 degrees in the shade. I was hesitant to go outside because any heat makes me instantly nauseous these days, but I also didn't want to waste an entire day hiding in our room with the air conditioning.
So Bob said look, let's go to one of the small towns and see X, and if it gets too hot we'll come home.
And I couldn't argue with that because it meant all I had to do was feel a little sick, and we were out of there. Sold.
We ended up heading in to Wiliamstown, about 10 minutes down the road, and stopping in one of those super-awesome toy shops that sell lots of things like science kits and ant farms and art projects and puzzle books... we ended up with 2 books and a wooden rattle for little Evie, some puzzle books for Bob, and a copy of the Tao of Pooh. I'd read it once when I was 13, and I have since decided that I just wasn't old enough to fully grasp what they were shooting at even as much as I like the idea of Taoism. So I thought I'd try to re-read it over the summer.
Needless to say, we had a good time, and I got excited to see that they still sell chemistry sets, butterfly domes, and snap-circuits to teach kids how to put together things for electronics. If Eve even shows the faintest interest in ANY of those things, she will get them.
I don't honestly know what we'll do if we don't get a seriously nerdy, science-y kid, y'all. We're kind of banking on it.
After that we wandered around town a bit, I got incredibly hot very quickly, and we ended up seeking shelter for a late lunch in a place called the Purple Pub, down a back alley. It was just a little place with a bar and several TVs tuned in to sports channels, but they were serving lobster rolls and that was suddenly very attractive. We hunkered down and cooled off there, then made a dash for the car and came back to the guest house. Once there we did some serious napping, some cleaning up, and some dressing up. Then we were out the door and down the road to the '6 House Pub (yup, more pubs) for dinner. Which was pretty good, despite taking forever.
Back to the guest house and we decided to try out the pool, since I was hoping to relax my back and shoulders even MORE so... when one of the owners advised that they could turn the lights out, turn on the color-changing LCD in the pool, and we could PUT ON GLOW BRACELETS AND GO SWIMMING. They had already put glow bracelets in the room for this very eventuality:
This was a super-popular idea with me, and I made sure both Bob and I were properly glow-ified before we hopped in the water. We spent about an hour playing around and talking again before once more crashing.
Friday rolled in and since it was going to be the hottest day, we decided that would be the day to hit up MASS MoCA (aka the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.) since they would probably have the AC running. This was one of only two things I had absolutely decided we had to do when we got to the Berkshires, so I was especially excited. I was even more so when I read about one of the exhibits, Xu Bing's Phoenix. It was fascinating to me to see two ENORMOUS sculptures comprised entirely of discarded construction equipment.
Accordingly, I took a few billion photos and I could link all of them here but... I think I'll just include my two favorites for now and set up a small album for later for people to live vicariously through.
A double high five next to the second Phoenix... FTW!
Well how about that? Have Goals! How'd that get there? >.>
At one point I got a chance to really test my mettle and decided to walk UNDER both phoenixes to see the full details of the construction. I noticed people were walking all the way around them, or up to the side and dipping down to look underneath... and I decided I was just going to walk between the legs, under the belly, and see what was up. I'm glad I did, because the colors underneath were insanely bright, and it brought a whole new perspective to the sculpture that you wouldn't have seen gazing in from the side. I was rather proud of myself.
There was some other stuff going on, like a guy randomly wandering around playing a ukulele out in the blazing hot parking lot with a straw fedora on (heavy hipster presence here, go figure) and two kids walking around with Minecraft swords and picks who didn't hit each other or anything else. Well done, parents!
I did love it there, but we didn't take a few things in to account; first, that the museum was inside refurbished industrial buildings and therefore there was no modern AC and two, that it would be as busy as it was, so I was waddling along with the semi-sweats among giant towering walls set up in just such a way as to block absolutely all airflow within the gallery while surrounded by mostly very slow-moving elderly people. It became a necessary mini-game to gauge when to juke around them to get through a doorway so I could get a cool blast of air movement before being stuck behind them and throwing up on the gallery floor.
Either way, I really enjoyed seeing everything, including some of the really obviously trying-too-hard modern stuff they had in some of the side galleries. I would totally go back again once they turn over exhibits and it was a bit cooler, because we didn't get to a lot of the outlying buildings courtesy of the heat.
Meanwhile I had been working with the yarn I bought at Webs to start creating a "kangaroo" style sweater, and I just wanted to include that because I'm fairly proud to have just decided to just go with it once I'd picked out the pattern and carpe that diem. It's MUCH further along now, up to the neck, but this was the start of it:
Those are size 19 needles, y'all. There's no way to appreciate the chunkiness.

The evening was spent eating our sukiyaki leftovers and heading out to the gazebo on Shirakaba's property that overlooks the valley below. We did just a touch of stargazing, and a lot of relaxed talking about what we'd seen, how much we'd like to come back, and things we wanted to do once we got home. When the lightning from an oncoming storm started to dance in the sky, we broke away and went back to our room to crash for the evening.
Saturday ended up equally awesome, though I was debating driving out to Vermont when it might be hot still... it was blessedly cool, and by blessedly cool I mean it dropped down to 86 and there was a breeze.
We had discovered there was an alpaca farm just over the border that advertised tours and a little shop to get stuff from. I had decided I wasn't going to make Bob go because alpaca and yarn is pretty thoroughly MY thing and I'd already made him sit through an hour of me browsing through WEBS. Bob declared he absolutely HAD to go see alpacas, though, and that he was excited to try it, so we hopped in to the car and drove to Shaftsbury Alpaca Farm in Vermont.
At first, things were okay... it was beautiful and scenic and we were laughing and joking and not really paying attention too much because we were under the impression it was a straight shot to this place. But then we tried to follow the tourist map and the roads listed on it were not the same as those we actually saw. So we got lost.
Then we came back and tried to input the address of the place, and our new GPS obliged us with a tour of Bennington, VT that included insisting we drive through a dead end with a stone wall to get to the cul-de-sac on the other side, and noting that all of the data input for the area included dirt roads and footpaths as surface streets for some reason.
We ended up driving down a very shallow set of stairs on a gravel footpath and across a footbridge over a creek just to get closer to somewhere that would stick us on a main road again. There was nothing to do but laugh because it was so ridiculous, and thanks to Bob having worked at Navteq he knew exactly what was wrong. There was no way to fix it. So we improvised.
25 minutes later we were back on a main highway, cruising down 67 with very little issue. We found the alpaca farm and there met a woman who has so much character, if you cut her in half she'd survive.
She was originally from the Bronx, fell in love with alpacas about a decade ago, and moved out to Vermont to raise them on her little farm. She also had a firm dislike for the Dutch and multiple stories about her ex-husband. But best of all, she talked non-stop about all of her alpacas as she let them move from pen to pen, and allowed us to pet them. Suuuuper soft bunny-horses for the win!
Lady alpaca makin' sexy-face at my man.

They were just as soft as I had hoped, and while we were moving to another section to see the boy alpacas, another car load of people showed up and made us feel far less like we were imposing suddenly.
I snagged some black roving that actually came from her black alpacas, some natural white yarn spun from her personal alpacas, and a scarf made from baby alpaca to give to my Mom, because it had a beautiful woven pattern and I knew she would really dig it.
On the way back we found a local place to grab food courtesy of a tip from the alpaca farmer and I had one of the best cheeseburgers I'd had in memorable history.
Having made it home we crashed for just a bit, then got all dudded up and headed to the second highlight of the trip - Tanglewood!
I'd snagged tickets for us for a performance of Wagner, seeing as he's a very well known composer thanks to Bugs Bunny. I'd also heard Bob talk about Tanglewood, as he'd had a roommate in college who'd composed music that was performed here. I thought it would be neat to give him a chance to finally see the place. We also bought a picnic lunch with waaaay too much good food and got there early to picnic and listen.
I didn't realize that we were only listening to the Third act of Die Walkure, and that it was the complete opera and not just the orchestra playing the music, but everything turned out just fine anyway. We had a great time, and it was neat to see everybody bringing blankets and chairs and crashing out on the lawn outside the amphitheater with picnic dinners to listen to the music.
We even saw a guy in sweats and sneakers with a fully lit candelabra ready to go for the evening.
The cross-section of people was actually really cool. Lots of hipsters, lots of yuppies, but also a lot of people who came with children and older folks. Most of the older folks had purchased seats inside the "Shed", where the music was performed. The younger, more flexible ones were out on the lawn with their chairs. Also? More bottles of wine than I've seen in a loooong time. I even saw two people with 6 bottles of wine and a teensy weensy plate of strawberries and cheese. So yeah... my kind of crowd.
By the time we got home we were exhausted but blissfully happy and crashed accordingly.
On the way home we took an entirely different route and stopped by to say hi to my Mom and drop off her gift.
This is one of the best vacations I've ever taken. It was romantic, it was comfortable, there wasn't pressure to run around a lot, and there were lots of opportunity to laugh and joke around. The food was pretty much always awesome, and we got to explore lots of new stuff. We also firmly established that it was a place we wanted to go back to whenever we next got the chance.
I know it probably won't ever be as cool as the first time with all the discovery and excitement of just the two of us exploring, but I'm glad to know of such a cool place we could go back to if we needed in the future, after Ms. Evie is born.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

All The Things

It is rough when I want to post a lot of happy and find myself equal parts not happy and also forgetful.
The problem lies in the fact that my hormones are doing things to me that are highly illogical and also not deflect-able, reprogrammable or ignorable. So basically I spend a portion of my day crying over something I would've glided past previously, and gotten on with things.
I want to NOT focus on any of that.
So instead I'm going to do a roundup of all the things I am making/doing currently.

~We painted the nursery, it is now a color the manufacturer calls "Pistachio Green". It looks like celery to me, but I wasn't paid to name it so whatevs. The room went from being a grayish light-suck to a really warm area. I go in there now and just sit and think about what it'll look like with the crib and everything in it. And owls everywhere. There will be owls.
Meanwhile, behold it's greeny-ness (and pardon the obvious mid-work mess):

Because painting trim along the floor while 6 mos. pregnant is a glorious idea.
~I completed the knitting on my first ever baby sweater. It's made of gorgeous burgundy alpaca, and now I'm currently messing with my lucet/pitchfork of awesome to work up the ties for the sides.
Allow me to insert a picture of my handiwork because bragging:

It's "kimono style", which hopefully means it'll fit her a little longer than some of the sweater patterns I've seen.
I have leftovers, so I'm going to be making a matching kitty hat and leggings so she'll be super warm this winter. For some reason the thought I've done something directly like that instead of just buying her stuff makes me feel all squishy inside. Damn hormones.

~created a baby wishlist over at Target, which looks about as scattered as my brain right now. I know I've forgotten stuff, and I'm just accepting it. The really important things, the things that people will call child services about if we don't have, are on there. So we're cool.

~FINALLY finished the first half of a project I started many moons ago called the Tantric Puzzle Top. It's 2 strips of 42" long fabric sewn together strategically to form a wrap. I couldn't wear it right now if I wanted to, so the fact I"m only an inch and change in to the second strip is just fine. If I get it done in time to wrap around my post-partum immenseness that'll just make my day.
My claim to fame with this is that I'm knitting the entire thing out of single-ply recycled sari silk yarn. It was not a good idea, as it's a notoriously temperamental setup to work with. But Oh Em Gee am I loving the colors coming out of it. Not only that, it'll be seriously warm in the winter at 100% silk and I can wear it over a long sleeved shirt with a skirt and look fairly rockin'. It can wait. I just like making progress on old projects that got stuck in a rut. Sorry, no photo because mine's not constructed and it's an interior page to Ravelry. If you're curious, clicking this link right here will give you an eyeful.

~I have acquired yarn to make baby blankets for the small one. The first I will be making is based on the Strawberry Tunisian Stitch tutorial over on the glorious Moogly Blog. I already ran a test-patch and it looks awesome:
This is just made from some Lion Brand acrylic Homespun that was gifted to me after my grandmother passed out of her stash (an interesting but unrelated side detail). It's hard to do on a straight Tunisian Needle, but I suspect when I move to a shorter needle-and-cable setup that it'll be easier on the hands. I have some gorgeous Cascade superwash wool planned for this in basically the same red, but a more lime green for the tops. It'll be too adorable for words.
In the meantime, I'll be coming back to this and finishing it with the plan to make it the cover for a throw-pillow to be donated to an auction they hold seasonally at my Mom and Step-Priest's church. I just couldn't let all of that hard work go to waste.
The second blanket is another inspired by a post to the Moogly Blog, this one the Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket. I have some awesome summer cotton ready to go for this thing. No picture because I haven't even attempted a test-crochet yet for the "bobbles". But it's going to be in nice, cool colors. And it'll give Eve something to grip and play with and flop on.

~I dyed my hair lavender. Because it had never been lavender before:

It has started to fade to strips of platinum blonde and lavender, but I still like it. It's unique. When this is done with its semi-permanence I'm going to dye it rose pink to get it back on the warm side of the color spectrum (plus I love having pink hair), let THAT fade, then put it back to its semi-normal reddish blondish brownishness.

~I joined the informal street team for Have Goals out of Milwaukee:

(This was thrown up at Molly Pitcher on the NJ Turnpike.)

~I decided that as much as I hate branding, I hate stereotyping more. And even more than all of that, I love creating things that use traditional techniques for unexpected results. And because of THAT, I decided that I was going to make a superheroine quilt for my daughter... but since she'll have to be bigger to enjoy it, I'll, um, break it in and stuff. Yeah. Because we also have a "no pink for as long as possible" rule, but all of the current superheroine fabrics are in pinks and purples and lavenders... strangely, with bright gold and yellow added in. (Also... only DC superheroines, no Marvel. What gives, Marvel??) I don't get the thought process on that. But whatever.
Anyway, I've been bashing through videos on YouTube like a fiend, and as soon as all of the fabric arrives, there will be a super awesome totally cool and one of a kind superheroine quilt starting on the Hello Kitty sewing machine in the dining room. A quick sample of one of the fabrics:

I have always adored Wonder Woman, so I'm especially psyched about this.

~About 2 years ago I managed to nalbind a red winter hat for my husband, which was quickly dubbed the "Zissou hat" because it was bright friggin' red and looked exactly like the ones out of The Life Aquatic.
I stumbled across the leftover yarn from it yesterday and have since started working to recreate a tinier version of it for Eve so she and Daddy can have matching hats. Daddy thinks this is the best idea ever.
I have no good photos of the project currently because the lights are so poor in the office where it currently resides. I'll post it later.

~I helped my buddy Heather (aka digitalnabi) with a lot of really time-consuming spreadsheet work, and moseyed up to her house to hang out and work on inputting some new info on her StitchSprouts website. This meant I got to learn a little bit about the inner workings of Wordpress, something I'd never encountered before. I also got to work on a Mac, which tickled my inner geek girl. And, of course, there was tiara-wearing to signal to my brain we needed to Get This Shizz Done which is always win.

What's awesome is that in the course of doing all of this I'm realizing a lot of things that I was fixated on, like that I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything, that I don't get out a lot, that I'm not learning anything new and I'm wasting my time now that I'm not at work... are pretty much contradicted by every photo and link posted here. So maybe this should be a weekly thing, to keep my head on straight about exactly what I'm accomplishing.

Also, in regards to previous posts, I had one of those moments where I enjoyed being wrong regarding what was going on with my friend. Everything's fine and I let my own mental crap get in the way. Both embarassing and amusing.

Let's do this again soon. And you guys can feel free to tell me about what you've got in the works, too, because I LOVE seeing what creative people can do.