. I really struggled with my "Sparkle Diamonds Shrug". When I was following the chart, I kept losing my place...even with marking tape beneath the line I was on!
After many false start and MUCH ripping out, I finally decided to write out the pattern in words. That was the trick! I successfully knit more on my shrug Christmas week than I had in the previous one and a half months! If only I'd thought to do this sooner, I might have finished the shrug in time for my Nerd Wars Dissertation! (Sorry about the quality of the photos...my cell phone photos aren't very good.)
Finally...I'm over the half way point! Hurray! I will have a shrug before Spring! Wahoo!!!! I've completed just over three and a half repeats of the six required for the main chart...that's in addition to the cuff. Only two and half repeats of the pattern, then the other cuff....a bit of seaming and I'm done! Well....it won't happen that fast...each repeat is 40 rows, so that's 100 rows PLUS the cuff.
I love how the shrug is turning out - it's an awesome color and a gorgeous pattern. (Check out the closeup for a more accurate view of the colors).
What a fabulous Christmas holiday we had! DH and I flew to Houston to spend the holidays with my daughter and son-in-law. They treated us like royalty! Nicki is a fabulous cook and both Troy and her made us feel very welcome and very much at home. In all honesty, I think they did too much - we were absolutely spoiled!!!
Their house is lovely - I now have severe "house envy". I think my favorite part is the spiral staircase. I LOVE spiral staircases! Everything was decorated beautifully for the holidays.
There were stockings for everyone - complete with embroidered names on each one! Wow! How cool is that???
Christmas morning, we awoke to find that Santa had filled all our stockings. Nicki's stocking was so full that it could no longer "hang" from the mantle!!!
Taube had to get into the pictures too...after all, there was a stocking for him as well!
The table was beautiful. I love the silvery table cloth - what a fabulous contrast to the red napkins and the bowl of floating cranberries. Nicki has a real talent for making an elegant table.
There was a special "signed" bottle of wine to go along with our delicious dinner. The main course was crown roast, asparagus, and garlic potatoes...followed by some yummy cheesecake for dessert. Dinner was absolutely fabulous!
I received several fabulous gifts - a knitting tote bag, some knitting buttons, a lovely pair of knitting earrings, a trip to a local yarn shop with part of my "shopping spree" paid for, and a wonderful Tapas cookbook. Needless to say, I felt very special and spoiled!
The funniest gift was one that DH received - "Handerpants". Too funny! These "tidy whities" were a bit too tight for a manly hand. One size fits all isn't necessarily true... so we've renamed them as "tightie whities" - LOL!
Troy really went to town with Nicki's juggling kit and has definitely mastered the "art of juggling". We kept asking him if he's having second thoughts about being a chemist....and perhaps he has ideas about running away to join the circus. (I think he'll stay where he is...the circus doesn't pay nearly as well as his current job!)
On Boxing Day, we headed to downtown Houston. We stopped at a local pub - Flying Saucer Draught Emporium - to grab a bite to eat and so DH could try out some of the local craft beers. It was a nice place with interesting food. I was good and stuck with a salad...especially after all the food I ate on Christmas!!!
Today's destination was the Saint Arnold Brewery where we took the brewery tour and met the founder of the brewery - Brock Wagner. The brewery is the oldest craft brewery in Texas.
Saint Arnold is the patron saint of brewers...so what more appropriate name could someone give a brewery????
Nicki and Troy have been here before, but they graciously came again so DH could check out the brewery and get a taste of Texas craft brews.
I tried both the Santo (black Kölsch) and the Christmas Ale. I tried a sip or two of the Brown Ale as well as the Elissa IPA. My favorite of the two was the Santo - thought the Christmas was definitely a close second. I enjoyed both...even though I prefer wine over beer.
This is the tap room. There were long benches and everyone sits together. Many families were there...bringing puzzles and games to make an afternoon of it. It was definitiely a fun and relaxing atmosphere....and appears to be a common destination for the locals.
Closing time...at 5 PM, we all had to leave...the tour and tasting were over.
We laid low and lazed around the house on Tuesday. DH and Taube were kicking back on the couch. Taube definitely makes himself at home - draping his legs across whatever or whomever is in his way! It felt good to just "sit back and relax".
Then on Wednesday, we headed off to NASA to tour the Houston facility. I've always been fascinated by space flight...as has DH. When I was younger, I used to dream about being the first woman astronaut. After many years of "planning", I finally had to face reality - how could someone that gets motion sick riding in a car ever THINK that they could somehow survive a flight to outer space? (Oh, my....just the thought of what would happen to the inside of my space suit....)
Anyhow, it's always fascinating to see the space ships and/or their replicas in real life and imagine what it must be like.
The control center looked so "old" and antiquated by today's standards. I remember how awesome it seemed when I was younger. It was state of the art...and seemed to be science fiction come to life! Traveling into space...wow! It was to this Mission Operations Control Room that the Apollo 13 astronauts informed Houston of their dilemma many miles above the earth.
Sadly, some missions didn't end safely...and to honor the memory of the astronauts that lost their lives, NASA Houston has set up a living memorial in their honor. A grove of trees...and benches...provide quiet solitude and a place to reflect.
I was fascinated by the moon soil (left) as well as the moon rocks (right). They even had a small piece of a moon rock on display that you could touch. So cool!!! I touched a moon rock!!!
The Saturn V was HUGE!!!! I was absolutely amazed as I walked the entire length of the rocket...and checked out the size of the F-1 engines. The force needed to achieve lift-off is unbelievable!
There were also "NASA Cows". There was a field of Texas longhorns across the drive from the Saturn V building. The cows live here, but are tended to by kids that belong to the local Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. How cool would it be to go to NASA to work on your agriculture project? Wow!
The visit to NASA prompted Troy to go on a mission to find the movie, "Apollo 13"....and he did! The NASA visit culminated in a viewing of the movie.
Thursday, it was off to Galveston Island for lunch and a visit to the gulf. On the way to Galveston and the beach, Nicki and Troy took us by DOW so we could see where they work. Wow! I couldn't believe how large the DOW campus was! So many buildings and structures that sprawl across a huge area!
Now...on to the beach. I am definitely drawn to the water. There's just something very soothing about the water...especially large bodies of water.
Nicki and Troy seem to enjoy the beach and water as well.
I love the sea gulls - they're fascinating. I love how they all just "sit" on the wooden posts out in the water - not a care in the world. I managed to catch two of these gorgeous birds in flight. (Be sure to click on the photo on the right - I love how the bird in the lower left of the photo looks - it almost looks like "speed lines" have been drawn on the photo!)
There were several jelly fish that had washed up onto the shore and were just laying there...so we had to be careful. They were both gross and fascinating to look at. They appear to be made of clear gel....yuck!
I could have stayed on the beach all day...I just couldn't get enough of it. Neither could these two Labradors. They were busy "playing Frisbee" and running up and down the beach with their master. What a glorious afternoon!!!
Nicki made some fabulous Chicken Tortilla Soup for dinner. It was served with avocado and lime. Mmmm! Thankfully, she made a double batch so there was plenty left over for lunch on Friday! (I got her recipe....hopefully I'll be able to make some that tastes just as fabulous as hers!) These were served with Christmas Caipiirainhas.
Knitting in the Loop
Friday, Nicki took me to Knitting in the Loop - a lovely yarn shop in downtown Houston. It's in a converted house on a side street and has a very cozy atmosphere. There are several seating areas and several very helpful staff members. I loved all the little nooks...and the warm ambiance. There is an upstairs as well - dedicated to the many classes they offer.
I spent quite a while perusing all the yarns and gadgets. They have plenty!!! I loved looking at the store samples as well. They had a bit of everything - lace through chunky, budget yarns through designer yarns. They even had Qiviut!
I picked up some notions, some more sock needles - highly polished Clovers as well as some lovely needles from India, three pattern booklets, and some "local" yarn - "White Bear Fibers" - a hand dyed yarn from Austin, TX - in purple, of course! (I'm considering the yarn my "Texas Souvenir).
I found the shop to be very clean with warm atmosphere. The staff is happy and very helpful. My only criticism is while they had a number of books and magazines, they didn't seem to have very many individual patterns - there were several binders of patterns, but most yarn shops I've been in have at least 3 times as many patterns. However, their other assets....lots of notions and a great diversity of yarns and the fabulous staff...more than offsets the limited pattern selection. I definitely recommend this yarn shop as a "must" if you're ever in the Houston area.
For dinner, we went to the BRC GastroPub - yet another local pub offering interesting food and brews. They feature craft brews. We ordered some Poutine as an appetizer - French fries topped with pulled pork, chili con queso, and mushroom gravy. It was VERY filling. I found that I prefer my friend Danielle's version of Poutine - cheese and gravy only on top of the fries. We also ordered their cheddar biscuits that are served with a chile bacon jam - the jam was surprisingly delicious!!! For the main course, I had one of their Mac and Cheese cast iron skillets - the "Pizza Mac". It was very good, but I could only eat about 1/3 of it - I was too full from the appetizers!
After that, we went across the street to the "Branch Water Tavern" to try their version of the "Caipirinha" - Brazil's national cocktail. I preferred the "Christmas Caipirinhas" that Nicki made earlier this week over the ones made here. The chopped fresh ginger and muddle mint definitely made hers MUCH tastier than those at the Branch Water Tavern! Rod had a Sazerac - a very interesting cocktail made with absinthe. (This cocktail was referenced on the HBO show, "Treme".) It was a bit on the sweet side - he said the ones we have locally, at the Magnolia's, are a much more interesting drink. Now I have to find a reason to try one of those as well! Heading Home...
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Our final day in Houston, we ate at Joe's Barbecue. Mmmmm! What fabulous ribs and pulled pork. (It's a good thing we're leaving...it seems like all we've done is eat! We'd be as big as a house if we stayed here any longer!)
At the airport, I ended my trip with a half dozen sliders....mmmmm!!! They were sooooo good! Then it was off to the gate to patiently wait to board the plane. Of course I had my knitting and spinning with me to keep me entertained while waiting!