Sunday, January 27, 2008

Squirrel Update

I forgot to post an update earlier in the week on the squirrel situation here at Chez Tiny-'n-Cluttered.

After the critter control guy left last Friday, and as I was packing and getting ready to leave for my long weekend, I continued to hear scurrying and scrambling in the general vicinity of the fireplace. Just before I drove off, I walked around to the backside of the chimney and took one last peek into the trap. Bingo! A furry varmint captured and ready for liberation! I called the critter control folks and they agreed to return the following day to release the squirrel and cap my chimney. I also had them re-screen my bathroom exhaust fan vent (where the starlings like to congregate in the spring), and my gable vents (where bats supposedly like to roost).

The hatches are now sufficiently battened down against another season of wild animal infestation.

I love a happy ending.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Eastern North Carolina Adventures

I last left you with a description of Sunday, the last official day of our 2008 Knitting on the Lake retreat.

Monday morning dawned clear and very cold on the shores of Kerr Lake Reservoir in Clarksville, VA:

as Rita, Phyllis, Dave and I packed up, checked out of the Best Western, and headed 2 hours southeast to Murfreesboro, NC to visit The Woolery:

As soon as we walked inside, we were met with this beautiful sight:

baskets and baskets of drop spindles
(insert happy sigh here)

I'd seen their drop spindle offerings online, and in fact, I'd already purchased two via mail order. But to get to see and touch that huge selection in person, well, it was nothing short of delightful. Dave teasingly gave me his "permission" to buy six. I managed to get out of the shop with just three -- a Kundert, a Greensleeves, and a Tahkli support spindle & bowl. I also came home with some Louet combed sliver in a their "Cotton Candy" colorway, and some Optim stretched merino roving in their "Peace Sign" colorway. And maybe a few other little goodies.

Surprisingly, I barely looked at the spinning wheels, the very items I came all the way to Murfreesboro to see. They were just not calling to me. I did take a brief, closer look at a Hitchhiker, which, until Monday I'd dismissed outright because of its diminutive size. I had felt sure it would be a back-breaker, and that may still be the case - I did not test drive Woolery's floor model, so that will have to wait until my next opportunity. A tiny wheel has obvious advantages, though, especially in my 900 sq.ft. house, so I'm now reconsidering my earlier dismissal of the cute little wheel with its barefoot-shaped treadle.

But I still feel no urgency to get a wheel. I'm just having too much fun with spindles and spindling. And I'm not the only one!

I was not the only one who left with a spindle in my shopping bag. Phyllis bought a beautiful Kundert, and Rita bought the last remaining sculpted pansy spindle, white with a purple blotch - so pretty! I have one in yellow, myself, or I might have wrestled Rita for that white one.

After we left The Woolery, we stopped for lunch at a local diner, and somewhere along Main Street, between the diner, the fiber shop and the gas station my plans changed. Rita invited me to visit her new home on the shores of the Currituck Sound. Easily swayed by the lure of the coast and my relatively light work schedule as of late, I happily agreed. So, instead of pointing my car northward towards home, I maintained my due-east heading and followed Rita's SUV and Phyllis & Dave's rented PT Cruiser for another 90 minutes, until we eventually arrived in Grandy, NC, and pulled up to Rita & John's lovely abode at a new active adult community in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Rita's & John's new home
(photo sent by Rita last fall)

After Rita introduced me to her husband John and bulldog Rosebud, she gave a grand tour of her sunny, open and airy home, and then we headed off to dinner at the Coinjock Marina Restaurant. I had the quail (possibly my first ever), but the real hit of the meal, in addition to their delicious fresh homemade potato chips coated with Old Bay seasoning, was their yummy Key Lime Pie martinis, complete with graham cracker crumb-coated rims. I had just one, but could easily have downed a second. Possibly a third....

After dinner, we returned to Rita & John's house, and it was time to get serious with spindles and fiber. A day earlier I had given Phyllis a drop spindle lesson, so Monday evening she received a brief refresher and was then well on her way. Phyllis knows how to wheel-spin, so already understands the concept of drafting, which made her a very good student.

Rita, who has never touched wheel, spindle or unspun fiber in her life, is nothing short of a genius! After no more than a 20-minute lesson, she was flying solo with the park-and-draft method, and I just sat on the couch and beamed with pride at my bright-shining students:

There were no lumpy-bumpy, thick-and-thin beginners yarns for these gals. Right away they were making smooth, fingering-to-sport weight singles, and looking like professionals. I firmly believe that the right tools (good spindles, easy-to-draft pencil roving) make learning this skill a breeze. We all stayed up past midnight playing with our spindles before wandering off to bed.

Tuesday morning we ate scrambled eggs for breakfast that had Phyllis' generously-donated leftover seafood incorporated in them -- yum! I then had an unshirkable conference call at 11, but shortly after that we were on our way to points south.

Our first stop was Knitting Addiction in Southern Shores, where we drooled and fondled and lusted after their huge assortment of Ellyn Cooper's Yarn Sonnets in every gorgeous color and fiber combination imaginable. I think I could have dropped a cool grand on that yarn without blinking, and still have left wanting more. But I resisted their siren song and left empty-handed, which, if you'd seen her new Tinkerbell sock yarn in the Aquatide colorway, you'd have given me a medal. I did get a chance to thank shop owner Jeanne in person for donating some door prizes to our knitting retreat. As luck would have it, I was the happy recipient of one of those door prizes, which was, as you might have guessed, a hank of Ellyn Cooper's yarn. Life is very good. :-)

Fortunately for my crumbling resistance, we had a lunch appointment and left the yarn shop before I lost all self control and started rolling around in the silk & merino blends.

The five of us were joined for lunch at the Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk by my sister Terry and her two daughters, all of whom live in Colington. Dare County schools have a five-day weekend every year around the MLK holiday, so it was a nice treat to get to see all of them. At Terry's recommendation, I ordered the chicken salad on pita sandwich, which was delicious and filling.

After lunch, I said goodbye to my sister and nieces, and Rita, Dave, Phyllis & I headed further south, to hit the outlet mall, where I picked up some rabbit-lined leather gloves at Wilson's leather for half price. Gotta love outlet stores. We then drove to Manteo where, alas, the other Outer Banks yarn shop, Fine Yarns at Kimbeeba, was closed. But all was not lost, for just around the corner is a delightful weaving shop, Endless Possibilities. Since both Phyllis & Dave are weavers, that shop was a big hit, and I do believe they left the place quite inspired.

Before we left Manteo, we had to get the obligatory photo of grown adults sitting in the Great Big Chair:

Rita, Phyllis & Dave

Aren't they cute?

By the time we arrived back at Rita's house in Grandy, it was dinnertime, and we had some yummy Chinese takeout. And after dinner Dave, Phyllis & I decided we were too tired and it was too dark to drive to our ultimate destinations, so were treated to another night at Rita & John's beautiful home. (Okay, twist my arm!)

Wednesday morning we were showered, breakfasted, packed and out of the house by 10, but before we were on our way, John was kind enough to give us all a tour of the grounds of their new community, complete with a drive by the lapping shoreline of the Currituck Sound just a few hundred yards from their back door. A little slice of heaven on earth.

I must say that I never expected our knitting retreat weekend to turn into such a fantastic extended holiday, and I am truly richer for such a fun experience with these friends whom I've gotten to know better. Accepting Rita's invitation was one of those carpe diem moments that I highly recommend. Sieze the day, I say, whenever feasibly possible.

Thank you, Rita & John, for inviting me into your home and your lives for two lovely and joyful days and nights. And thank you, Phyllis & Dave, for making the experience even more fun. I feel blessed that I can count all of you as friends. :-)

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to Robin H. for organizing another fun-derful knitting weekend on the lake.

Oh, and I've uploaded some more photos from the weekend out to Flickr, here, for anyone who hasn't had enough already!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Knitting on the Lake 2008 - Sunday

Sunday, here in Clarksville on Kerr Lake (aka Buggs Island Lake) was another fun day. Our large group gathered once again in the hotel's conference room to knit and chat and visit and spin and spend. Folks packed up and left in dribs and drabs by early afternoon, but a small group of us remained, to stay another night so that we might partake in another adventure today, Monday.

Sunday afternoon I was given a special treat. Robin H., who lives in nearby Buffalo Junction, gave me the grand tour of her wonderful old home, built in 1790, and equally wonderful studio (bigger than my house!), and also introduced me to three of her furry children:

Earl Gray, George & Gracie
(George is licking his chops in anticipation of treats in Robin's hand)

Her kitties are so cute, and anyone who regularly reads Robin's blog has seen George & Gracie grow from tee-tiny kittens to the adolescent cats that they are today, full of energy, mischief and spunk, while the older Earl Gray tolerates them patiently.

George especially likes to play with Robin's feather-duster:

and is particularly cute after he's captured his "prey". He will carry it around the room proudly as if he stalked & killed it himself:

before mama Robin must rescue the feather duster from a messy demise.

I also got to meet Robin's husband Andy, and was able to talk them both into joining Rita, Phyllis, Dave & myself for dinner at the Lake House restaurant again.

After dinner we said our goodbyes and thank-yous to Robin & Andy, and headed on back to the hotel.

Since my bedroom had a king bed (rather than two queens like most of the rooms), I had a little sitting area where I entertained "houseguests":

Rita, Phyllis & Dave

as we knit, crocheted, spun and chatted late into the evening.

Rita & Phyllis are members of our Richmond knitting group who have both since moved to other parts of the country, so it was a special treat to have them attend this fibery weekend.

Phyllis' husband Dave is a masterful crocheter, and worked all weekend on this beautiful baby blanket:

Today, the four of us are checking out of our hotel and heading to our various final destinations by way of a mutual side trip to Murfreesboro, NC, to visit The Woolery, home of all things fibery and good. Phyllis & Dave are also weavers and spinners, and so will have lots at that shop to capture their fancy, no doubt. I, myself may test-drive a few spinning wheels, although I'm not sure if I'm ready yet to buy. But I wouldn't be surprised if a spindle or two came home with me.... And maybe some fiber....

Anyway, I'd better end this so I can start my day! Later!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Knitting on the Lake 2008 - Saturday

Saturday was a long, full and fun day, here on the shores of Buggs Island Lake. Lots happened, thanks to the organizational genius that is Robin Hasty. We had vendors (yarn! jewelry! stitch markers! row counters! baskets! soaps, creams & oils! oh, my!), we had door prizes, we had swaps. We shopped, we ate, we knit, we spun (spinned?). And a lot of it was documented photographically by myself and/or Robin H. on her blog.

I'll upload the rest of my photos to Flickr and link to them in a day or so, but today have included a few highlights for you here.

Saturday's high points included seeing some pretty snow falling on the lake:

(click ^ for big)
(can you see the flakes?)

And an even more momentous event -- Tami finished her premie cap!

Tami will be the first to admit that it took a village for her to finish this project. (Just ask Renny, who helped untangle Tami's yarn for what seemed like hours!)

Here's Tami placing her premie cap with the others:

And here it is, resting in its place honor:

Congratulations, Tami! :-)

Now, I must be off to the shower and getting on with Sunday fun!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Knitting on the Lake 2008 - Friday

We're here!

Robin H.'s mother continues to outdo herself:

Sunset view from my bedroom's patio:

(I think I have the same room as last year!)

Dinnertime antics at The Lake House restaurant:

Premie caps -- this year's charity project:

Check out Robin H.'s way-cool cone-holder thingy:

(knitting & wine go so well together)

Pam & Emmy continue to be adorable, this time in sock monkey PJs:

and sock monkey slippers!

We have a much larger crowd this year:

but Robin H. continues to work her magic to make this a fun event for everyone, and the room doesn't feel crowded at all.

Speaking of which, time to shower so I can go out and play! :-)

See you tomorrow!

Friday, January 18, 2008

It figures...

...that just as I'm trying to leave town, a !#$%^&*! squirrel has fallen down my chimney. This is the second time in five years this has happened. Why, oh why, didn't I pay to have the guy cap my chimney back then? I called the same critter control folks I called last time. Same guy showed up. This time he set a trap. He'll be coming back tomorrow to check it. I'm sure hoping for a successful outcome this time. It was not so successful 4½ years ago; (read: subsequent terrible odor and flies...).

But, mercifully, I won't have to listen to its heart-wrenching efforts to escape, at least for the next couple of days. My cats, on the other hand, will have hours of entertainment....

Hope to blog later today or tomorrow from our lake retreat venue.

'Til then, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TNK Two-fer

Two. Two. Two TNK posts-in-one!

I failed to blog about last week's Tuesday Night Knitters gathering, so will combine it into one blog post along with a report on last night's TNK gathering.

Last week, we had a good-sized crowd:

look at all those busy knitters!

Our avid shawl-knitter Isobel recently finished a Midwinter's Eve mystery shawl, but didn't like the color, so she gave it to Patsy, in exchange for some of Patsy's handspun yarn in a lovely tonal orange. It's a singles yarn that appears to be maybe aran weight and reminds me of Manos, and Issy says she'll be making a vest with it. Wish I'd remembered to photograph the yarn.

Anyway, here's Patsy modeling her new Issy-knit shawl:

love it!

Also not recorded for posterity at last week's knit night was a really cool demonstration of the value of sweater shavers. Linda brought an old pair of handknit socks, one of which looked every bit its age -- i.e. covered in fuzzy pills. The other sock, however, looked brand-spanking, never-been-worn, just-knit, bright-and-shiny new. All thanks to a little de-pilling with the sweater shaver. I am sold! Linda says she may bring her little show-and-tell this weekend, and if so, I'll be sure to get photos then. (What's happening this weekend, you ask? I'll get to that in a moment...).

At last night's gathering, we had an equally large and boisterous crowd:

Hi everybody!

You may recall this photo from about a month ago, of Jon knitting a Hokie scarf for a friendly B&N employee who requested it:

Well, Jon finished it fairly quickly, and last night we were finally able to present Wayne with his new scarf. Doesn't he look handsome?

it says "TNK" on it!

it looks especially nice with his overcoat :-)

In return, Wayne has been sneaking little niceties for us here and there. One of our members spotted this last night on the best selling paperbacks shelf:

and last week, Wayne reserved our tables for us before we'd even arrived. I wish I'd taken a photo of the cute little sign he made. (I was just not on the photographic ball last week...).

Last night, a few of our knitters modeled various knitted items:

Jane and her lovely Arwen-in-progress

Linda models her Stripes & Bobbles scarf from Scarf Style
(knit for her by her friend Cindy)

Lou worked on her log cabin blanket-in-progress

Finally, when I got in my car to leave last night, I noticed that my odometer had turned over to this nice round number:

It's a Toyota, so I'm hoping I'll get another 50K out of it before I need to replace it. So far, so good. My next car will be a hybrid, or maybe hydrogen-powered, if it holds out long enough....

This weekend I'll be a few hundred miles closer to that encroaching 100K mark when I drive down to Clarksville for our knitting group's 2nd Annual Knitting at the Lake retreat. If interested, you can read about last year's event, starting here.

Can't wait!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hawaii flashback = cure for blogger's block

Happy 2008!

I will not be posting any lists in this, my first post of the New Year. For some reason, I'm in no mood for lists. There will be no look-at-what-I-knit/learned/spun-in-2007 list, nor any what-I-want-to-knit/learn/spin-in-2008 list.

Just life as usual. The status quo. Frankly, I'm still trying to catch up with things held over from last year. I don't really have that fresh-clean feeling of a new year, that I've had in years past.

I'm back in my boring, post-holiday, day-in, day-out routine, and am more than a little blocked for decent blog content, (perhaps I should reconsider the lists?), so tonight, when I started looking at some old photos from my last trip to Hawaii, I thought, "Eureka! Blog fodder!"

Regular readers may recall that I lived there (Kailua-Kona) for a couple of years, ('90-'92). I've been back several times since, and most recently, (in June/July '03) for my old roommate's wedding. Some friends came with me and, after the wedding, we played tourist around the Big Island. I never get tired of the place.

Here's a few reasons why:

beautiful Kona sunsets

beautiful Waimea, (aka Kohala),
reminds me of the Blue Ridge Mountains


lovely mural on the side of a gas station at Waiohinu

Waipio Valley

island artwork in Honoka'a

weird heart-shaped fruit
(being modeled by my friend Jill)

ferns in the Thurston Lava Tube at Volcanoes National Park

life clings tenaciously to the side of Kilauea caldera

south end of a northbound horse under a sideways tree at South Point

For my next post, if I'm still blocked, maybe I'll post pictures from my friend's wedding....