Have Ewe Any Wool?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hardanger Fiddler and More Projects....

I almost forgot - last Friday at the Sons of Norway lodge meeting, we had a well known Hardanger fiddler perform after our Smorgasbord dinner - Loretta Kelley. The music was fabulous. I just love the Hardanger costume - it's also the Norwegian national costume. The Hardanger fiddle (Hardingfele) is a fascinating fiddle - it has 8 strings. Four of the strings are played, and the remaining four sympathetic strings resonate underneath bringing a very unique sound to the music produced.

Loretta's presentation focused on "Troll Music" and some of the myths and lore surrounding the Norwegian Trolls. Her presentation was fascinating! We're very fortunate - Loretta is one of our lodge members, so we probably have easier access to this very talented person than most do!

Now on to the knitting projects...

I honestly meant to finish my Brandywine Shawl by now, but for some reason, I just can't get past those last 16 rows. I guess I've got a bad case of "finishitis". Actually, I think what's holding me up is the I-cord cast-off...I've never done that before and I really need to try the technique before trying it on the shawl.

So...instead of finishing the shawl, I started two new projects: the Verdandi Shawl (part of the Norns series) as well as a ribbed vest. The moment I finished the "Stroller Blanket", I cast it on - using Zaueberball Crazy in a blue color way. All was going well until I looked down and saw that not only did I have the tail of the yarn, but there were two MORE ends sticking out of the yarn ball! What a mess! There were several yards of the yarn that was separate from the ball! I've wound those "errant yards" onto a bobbin for now (in the forefront of the photo)...I'm hoping I won't have to use it! Ugh! And this occurred AFTER I'd been knitting along and ran across a knot within the first yard and a half of the yarn! Ugh!

The vest is a quick knit in rather thick, ultra soft yarn - "Baby Alpaca Grande" from Plymouth. It feels absolutely divine! I selected a red colorway - it's a nice blue-red. I just started this last Saturday, and I'm now about 2/3 done! I might actually get it completed before Saturday! How cool is that? It's a very easy pattern...great for "mindless knitting"!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bluemont Festival

The annual Bluemont Festival was September 18 and 19th. I volunteered for the whole day again this year at the Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers booth. It was a lot of fun!

Although the festival is primarily a country fair, there were some fiber animals as well as lots of hand crafted goodies (spinning, weaving, and felting) for sale from our group. On the right, you can see the lovely afghan that was hand knit by our guild members and auctioned off during the festival. All the proceeds went to the Loudoun Abused Women's Shelter.

All the hand crafted goodies were so gorgeous! The weaving was absolutely beautiful - I love the color combos and textures. The knitted items were colorful and very snuggly. And oh, the felted scarves were absolutely stunning! I wish I had the money to buy them all!

I just love the Alpacas...and there were several at the fair. My favorite, though, was this little guy. He and Deb were having a "head-to-head" - LOL!

Being an outdoor festival, we were blessed with nature's beauty as well. The weather was absolutely glorious! The leaves are just starting to lighten...and sometimes gently fall to the ground and the dew was pretty heavy. This poor Swallowtail "limped along" unable to fly as the right wing was "sticking" a bit. As the day wore on, the wings dried and the pretty little swallowtail flew away.

Early in the morning, a stick bug thought our tent looked like a great place to "hang out". I haven't seen a stick bug for eons! Be sure to double click on the photo for a closer view of this fascinating insect!

One of primary goals during the festival was to demo spinning and weaving and to educate the public. Everyone...young and old...was encouraged to try their hand a both spinning and weaving. They could try spindle spinning, wheel spinning, and weaving on a loom. Melissa, Deb D., Deb F., and Ibby took the lead for the demos and "lessons". The kids liked trying out both the spinning wheel and the loom...and would typically walk away with either a bit of fluff or a bit of spun yarn.

Early on, there weren't many spectators - Sundays start out a bit slow. Melissa was able to kick back and relax - enjoying the process of spinning in the perfect weather! As the morning wore on, lots of folks stopped by. The group on the right was absolutely fascinated as Deb D. instructed them on the finer points of drop spindle spinning.

Deb F. was teaching the finer points of wheel spinning to this group of girls. Once instruction was complete, the girls "assisted" with the spinning and Deb tied the "yarn bracelet" made from the spun yarn onto their wrists.

The weaving instruction was VERY popular - everyone wanted to try their hand at that. This little girl was really going to town - weaving away like a pro under Ibby's instruction! (Note to self - if this little girl has mastered weaving in just a few short minutes, why don't I have my first project completed and off of the loom?!?!)

I was helping out as a cashier along with our fearless leader, Beth. When I wasn't busy "cashiering", I was busy spinning some very pretty Shetland from the Bransonas in the "Star" color way with my Shacht drop spindle. I had purchased the roving at the Shenandoah Fall Fiber Festival last year and the spindle at the Mid-Atlantic Angora Goat show earlier this year.

Hmmm....I don't seem to have a photo of my progress so far...so you'll just have to "imagine it". Trust that I've nearly finished spinning the first ounce, so the spindle is getting pretty full. I have a total of 4 ounces of this roving and plan to continue spinning it using one of my drop spindles.

I can't wait for the Shenandoah Fall Fiber Festival! It's a lovely small festival that's gradually grown over the years. Thankfully, I only have to wait for the weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Knitting Progress

Finally! I have completed objects!

First off, the small blanket (possibly a stroller blanket) is complete. I LOVE the feather and fan pattern and the natural color of the Shropshire Two-Ply Baby Yarn from Solitude Wool. I started this in May...just after the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and FINALLY got it off the needles last night!

I've also finished the first sock of my latest sock project. It was nearly done just before I went to New York and I attempted to finish is in the car. However, I found that once I completed the toe decreases, the sock was just a tad too short. So, to the "frog pond" I went...and ripped it back so I could add about 5 more rows before starting the toe decrease once again. Somehow, I miscalculated...and the sock was STILL too short. So I returned to the "frog pond" once more. This time, I got it right...and finished the sock just as we crossed the border from Pennsylvania into NY.

Now, I just need to finish the second sock and I'll have yet another pair for this winter! At last count, I had 15 pairs of socks that I've made and another 3 pairs that dear friends have made for me! I should be set for the season, eh?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New York!

DH and I had a fabulous mini-vacation last week when we headed north to New York for my high school reunion. It was 5 days of fun and relaxation - something I DEFINITELY needed! The drive through Pennsylvania was beautiful...we even caught a bit of the sunrise.

Our first destinations was a GORGEOUS B&B in Cooperstown. The "Diastole Bed and Breakfast" is nestled on a hill just outside downtown on 27 secluded acres overlooking Otsego Lake. The room we rented was fabulous - absolutely gorgeous! The photos just don't do it justice.

The first day, we sat out on the huge private deck and breathed in the crisp early fall air. Of course, I setup my spinning wheel and spent a couple of hours spinning and enjoying the view. (It's really making me long for retirement...if I could just find a location as beautiful as this!)

Most of the time we were there, it was rainy. The lake would sometimes "fog in" as the weather changed, but the weather did nothing to dampen our spirits! The view more than made up for the less than optimal weather! The B&B had a soaking tub where we lounged during part of the rainy afternoon. We reveled in all the beauty that surrounded us - the trees, the lake, the quiet. It was an absolutely blissful afternoon!

Of course, being an avid baseball fan, I had to visit the "Baseball Hall of Fame"while we were in Cooperstown. It was great! DH even "pretended" to enjoy it. He said he enjoyed how excited and animated I became as I toured the halls of so many of baseball's legends!

We got quite a laugh out of this guy. Who would have expected there would be a "Baseball Cow"? Strange...perhaps his pasture had been overtaken by "The Field of Dreams"?

One of my "Cubbies" was inducted this year - Andre Dawson. It was great seeing all the memorabilia associated with him.

I loved checking out the exhibits and the info about some of my other favorites, like Lou Brock. I still haven't forgiven the Cubs for trading him to the Cardinals way back when. I used to LOVE watching him steal bases. Sigh....

And of course, Ryne Sandberg was there as well. I loved checking out all the "Cubbie" uniforms and history. Now, if they could just shake the "Curse of the Goat"!

Go Cubs!!!

While in Cooperstown, we ate at one of my favorite haunts, "The Doubleday Cafe". Their food is delicious! They have several soups and specials that change daily. I had soup both days - it was the perfect appetizer in the chilly and drizzly weather. I highly recommend their French Onion Soup - C'est tres bien! CAUTION: It can be VERY crowded here during the summer....I highly recommend visiting during the "off-season"!
Align Center

We also tried a very good Italian restaurant, Nicoletta's Italian Cafe. The food was tasty and plentiful....and I discovered an after dinner wine that I LOVE! It's called "Deco" - and the label describes it as, "A Rich, Red, After-Dinner Wine with essence of Natural Chocolate". It's DELICIOUS!

We made a short drive to Oneonta went to the Bear Pond Winery for a wine tasting. We decided to have lunch at the snack bar while we were there. We weren't expecting much...it was a very small building and appeared to be more of a snack bar than a cafe. What a fabulous surprise! There were lots of very interesting sandwiches on the menu - it was hard to decide what to get. When our meal arrived, the portions were huge and the food was fabulous!

The winery also had a fabulous bathroom - it was all done up like a forest! Even the ceiling was "forested"! It was amazing. These pictures don't quite capture the full ambiance, but at least you get a hint of what it was like.

Note that the pedestal of the sink is painted as a tree...and the mirror is surrounded by twigs in a wreath of sorts. Amazing...and very cute!

As we were leaving, I realized that I'd "somehow" managed to come away with a full case of wine - imagine that! I'm not sure how I let that happen (LOL), but I'll definitely be enjoying their wine for quite some time!

Next, we stopped at the Ommegang Brewery just outside Cooperstown. The drive there was lovely - lots of pastoral scenes. It was very soothing to the soul.

Ommegang brews a Belgian style beer that's quite tasty. DH is very fond of their brews. Even though I'm primarily a wine drinker, I have to agree that the beers are quite tasty.

The "cow spotted" tank contains some of the "after products" - I believe it's the wort - which is saved and fed to local cows. It's the ultimate in recycling and I'll bet there are some happy cows that live nearby!

Just like at the Dogfish Head Brewery, there are numerous vats and processes that go into the making of the beer.

Some of the beers are made in open vats. Of course, we didn't get to view that area due to the high risk of introducing contaminants. We had to settle for a pictoral view. This reminds me of the old "Laverne and Shirley" show with the open vats at the brewing company where they worked.

The final stop on the tour was the bottling area. It was fascinating to watch. These bottles are topped with corks secured by wire cages as there is active yeast in the bottles. The beer is "bottle conditioned". You can see the foam in the tops of the bottles in the closeup. Obviously, they want to make sure the beer does not "pop its cork" prematurely!

I even managed to capture a video of the bottling "assembly line" in progress... (I actually have a second one with a closer up view of the bottles on the other side of the line...but it still needs some editing.)

Once the tour ended, it was time to try out the various brews...as well as to shop for souvenirs and other goodies in the brewery "gift" shop. In addition to the usual souvenirs (T-shirts, sweat shirts, post cards, and beer), they also have some local cheese and cheese spreads as well as mustards. Some of these "goodies" are even infused with the various beers.

Over the "bar" of the tasting room was the famous Frank Zappa quote about beer....

Friday, we left Cooperstown and started the trek toward Saugerties. The view was gorgeous as we headed out of town on our way to Stamford.

Coming down out of the mountains, I stopped at another favorite haunt, "The Coffee Pot" in Hobart. They had a major fire in March and it basically had burned to the ground. However, they have since rebuilt and just happened to have their "soft opening" the week we were there! The owners are extremely nice...and it's obvious that the town really missed them when they were closed! (Be sure to click on the picture on the right so you can read all the "snarky" signs - I LOVE it!)

It's a cute little cafe with good coffee, great home made pastries, and delicious sandwiches. Our lunch was fabulous and the apple/peach pie was divine! I love the decor, the food, and the very homey feeling.

The "homey feel" extends well past the walls and the hallway (full of Coke memorabilia) to the nicely appointed bathroom.

Complete with all the comforts of home!

Then we were off again...heading down the mountains. We passed back through Stamford to Grand Gorge....Catskill and finally to Saugerties. Once again, the views were fabulous!

First stop in Saugerties - Krause's Candy Shop - another favorite haunt. I just LOVE their chocolates!

We headed over to Rhinebeck for pizza on Saturday with my friend Cathy and her boyfriend. Everywhere I looked, it was beautiful. Cathy's apartment building looks so picturesque...all covered in ivy. She also has a fabulous view from her front yard - I can see why she loves it here!

Even the views from the bridge as you cross over the Hudson were gorgeous. I absolutely love this view from the Rhinecliff Bridge - with the flag in the foreground and the mountains in the background. I'm hearing the tune to "America the Beautiful" in my head as I gaze at this photo. Sigh.

The reunion was fabulous - and it was great to see old friends! I don't think I've seen my friend Barb since the last reunion! We had a happy hour on Friday and a dinner dance on Saturday. I even won two prizes in the raffle - a bottle of White Zinfandel and a yummy natural candle in the "Hot Apple Pie" scent. The reunion weekend came and went too fast, but we'll have another one in only 5 years! I can't wait!

Oh, speaking of views...and I never really noticed this while I was in school, but this past weekend, when I took a tour of my High School, I noticed that we had an incredible view of the mountains...right from the school grounds! It was and is absolutely awesome! (Click on the photo for a better view.)

Once all the reunion celebration was over, we spent Sunday morning at an orchard in Stone Ridge where I used to pick apples as a kid. I had even brought Nicki there in 1985 for apple picking. This orchard is a "low spray" orchard and is an "Eco Orchard". There are only two certified orchards of this type in NY.

As you can see, there were lots of apple trees! Of course, we brought back lots of Macintosh and Cortland apples - mmmm!!!! (The best part of apple picking is eating a couple as you're wandering through the orchard!)

I LOVE picking apples - they're so nice and fresh - and they look gorgeous! Absolute heaven...a fresh crisp apple on an autumn morning!

For lunch, we stopped at Picnic Pizza in Kingston. You can choose pizza by the slice and they'll crisp it up in their wood fired over. Mmmmmm! There's nothing better that a slice of NY pizza! They apologized for the "lack of variety" - they "only" had about 14 combos to choose from - they have MANY more selections during the work week!

Sunday evening, we had a fabulous meal at "Catskill Rose" in Mt. Tremper...when my HS friend Pete and his wife Rose have a fabulous B&B and restaurant. Dinner was fabulous...as usual. I had the smoked duck spinach salad (a personal favorite!), DH and I shared the lamb meatball appetizer, and the scallops and shrimp with a bit of pancetta for my entree. DH and I shared a wonderful flourless chocolate cake that bordered between mousse and fudge - definitely heaven on earth!

Sadly...like all good things...the weekend had to end and we headed back to the rat race bright and early Monday morning.