Saturday, August 25, 2007

Party, Eat, Eat

My friend Abby is getting married and, as tradition would dictate, Abby had a party to celebrate. I went to the beach to celebrate with her. She, Jill and I all used to work together so we got used to seeing each other every day. Since we have all gone our own ways, we only get to see each other once and a while. It was a good day to sit on the beach getting sand blasted and catching up with the girls.

Jill, Abby and me

The next evening our veggie dinner club reassembled for the first veggie dinner of the summer. We feasted on vegan goodness prepared by Miriam and Sylvie and played Apples to Apples.

Stop making that face, Paul!!

There was some wine, too. Some of us really like wine with our veggie dinners.

This morning Paul and I finally got around to eating at a local breakfast place we have been eyeing for months. It is the sort of place that tends to have a line of people waiting outside of it so we expected it to be good eats. This place is aptly named The Neighborhood Restaurant.

They have indoor and outdoor seating but it seemed like on nice days they only serve the outdoor tables. The tables all have umbrellas and are set up under a canopy of grapevines.

The meals are really well priced when you take into account that each breakfast comes with unlimited coffee or tea, a small fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit, homefries and whatever else you ordered. In our case, french toast and eggs for me and steak and eggs for Paul.

We did find it humorous that the "fresh fruit" of the day was a baked apple. Humorous but tasty. I also got to watch little kids at a nearby table try to figure out how to eat one. They wanted to pick it up but that didn't work. They tried a fork. Nope. That didn't work either. Then they tried a spoon. Nope. Not working. Finally, their dad saved the day by cutting it into more manageable chunks.

So, come and visit us and we'll go to our Neighborhood Restaurant. You have to check out their bathroom. I have never experienced a bathroom like theirs.

I've been knitting, too.

I have also gotten behind on posting some finished projects. Here they are in no particular order.

There are going to be some babies born soon to friends and family so I am working on baby gifts.

Yarn: Berroco Suede
Colors: Hopalong Cassidy and Wrangler

These bootees are tiny.

Pattern: Bib O' Love from Mason-Dixon Knitting
Yarn: Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton
Color: Poppy Red

My knitting project in New Mexico was a pair of socks. I chose these socks because the pattern used a few techniques that I haven't learned. Namely, short row heels and toes and a zigzag bind-off. My verdict: loved the short row heels and toes but hated the zigzag bind-off.

Here is what the toe looks like before the bind-off. The short row toe is worked exactly as the short row heel is worked which results in a little toe pocket.

I worked the first sock using the zigzag bind off and found that it resulted in a huge ridge across the top of the toe. I didn't like the way it looked or felt so I worked the next sock by kitchener stitching the toe seam. I likes that way better.

Here is a comparison of the two methods. Why the pattern was written with that bind off I do not understand.

Here you can see the details of the short row heel. I think it works really well with the color pattern of the yarn.

Pattern: Priscilla's Dream Socks
Yarn: Cascade - Fixation
Color: 9780
Variations: I used the table in the pattern to recalculate it for a different gauge and chose to kitchener stitch the toe seam.

My Sockapalooza 4 Package

My Sockapalooza package arrived while I was in New Mexico. I knew it had arrived so I was excited to get home and open it. My pal Sherry definitely did not disappoint me. In fact, she spoiled me with expertly knit socks and lots of knitterly goods. My package included a whole skein of yarn that she had been thinking about using for my socks but didn't use. It also included two chocolates in Michigan related shapes: car and football, Kookaburra wool wash (which I have been meaning to try), a sock key chain/mini sock blocker kit, a card and the leftovers from the sock yarn she used for my socks.

Tchazo thought they smelled really good. It makes me wonder if Sherry has a pet. He seemed awfully interested. They fit me perfectly.

The socks are knit with Regia Stretch and are in the Mock Wave Cable Socks pattern from the Favorite Socks book.

In case you are wondering, I knit my Sockapalooza socks for Christian.

I have really enjoyed being a part of this exchange and will keep my eye out for the next round of Sockapalooza.

Departure Time

The group worked together to create a lap blanket to leave at the fort. The blanket consisted of a square from each of us and finishing/seaming done by Cindy and Elaine. We have dreams of adding a new chunk to the blanket if we have another knitting retreat next year.

Some of us suspect that it may become Princess Gita's blanket and we are OK with that.

We also stopped for one last group photo before piling in the cars and heading for the El Paso airport. It is hard to get all of us in the same place, standing still and smiling. This photo is missing Barrett and Nancy (and Nancy's John). Thanks for this photo Constance!

Thank you ladies for an amazing trip and thank you to Barrett for her endless patience and generosity while hosting us. We are a handful!

Royal Fiber Spinnery

Part of the reason I went along to the Inn of the Mountain Gods was that I didn't want to miss what came after: The Royal Fiber Spinnery. It was the only thing yarn related that could be found in that region of New Mexico so we had to go.

The owner gave us a tour and explained how his business came to be and how alpaca is processed and spun.

He only processes alpaca and spins it into unblended alpaca yarn.

Alpaca fiber
I have been on spinnery tours before but I have never seen anyone using this clever method to get some of the dirt out of the fiber before washing it. The owner said that he saves a lot of money by spinning some of the dirt out and it helps to keep his machines in better shape. Very smart.

They also had a shop that sold their yarn in various weights and colors. I ended up with a rich brown that is almost black. I am slowly building enough stash of alpaca yarn from smaller sources so that I can make something that uses all of them.

Inn of the Mountain Gods

For a knitting retreat, we did not do a lot of retreating. The day after Carlsbad we headed to Mescalero to go to the Inn of the Mountain Gods, a resort and casino on Native American land. The group went to a fancy champagne brunch but being a vegetarian, I decided to skip the brunch. Luckily, the Inn has made the property very hanging out friendly. After knitting for a while, I wandered around the lake and took some photos of the extravagance of the it all.

I could not figure out what dangerous wildlife could have been lurking in the 3 foot gap between the dirt path and the water's edge. Any ideas?

On our way out we saw this bear going for a ride. We saw the bear again later that day in a nearby town. Apparently he gets around.


While we were in Tularosa, we had a few minutes here and there to explore the town. The best time to explore was early in the morning before the sun got too hot. There were lots of plants and buildings that are unlike anything that is found in New England. Here are a few examples.

The former site of the Valley Lodge.

An agave plant with me for the sake of scale.

A Century Plant in bloom.

While in Tularos we stayed at an amazing, historical home. Here are a few scenes:

The back patio.

The home from the outside. It used to a fort that had a tunnel going to the church. I believe that they stored ammunition in the fort.

Carlsbad Caverns

The day after White Sands we loaded into the car to drive the 3-4 hours to Carlsbad to take a tour of the caverns. Since we had plenty of travel time those of us who weren't driving got to knit and take in the beautiful scenery.

Ellen and I cast on our second sock at the same time and were "competitive knitting" for the rest of the weekend.

We stopped at a scenic pull-off to take in the beauty of the landscape. You can see White Sands park in the distance on this photo.

Paul and I had done a cavern tour when we were in Costa Rica that totally blew our minds. We had gone into a smallish cavern with a private guide and got down and dirty swimming and army crawling through the cave with helmets and lights on our heads. I knew that Carlsbad was going to be a different experience with a much bigger cavern and lots of people. What I was unprepared for were elevators that take you 800 feet down, groups of 75 for tours and a food court/gift shop inside the cavern.

Cavern food court and gift shop

Despite the hustle and bustle of the cavern, it was still quite impressive. The caverns were unbelievably large and the stalagmite and stalactite formations were beautiful to look at. The caverns were lit with electric lights but it was hard to take photos. I gave up after taking a few pictures like this one:

After the cavern we headed back towards Tularosa with a stop for dinner at Rebecca's Restaurant housed in the Lodge at Cloudcroft. The lodge is rumored to be haunted by Rebecca's ghost. We didn't see anything freaky except for maybe me after a few glasses of wine! Luckily, Barrett was able to keep me company with the wine consumption so I wasn't the only one with flushed cheeks.

Dinner would not have been complete without a certain someone in our group, I'm not naming names, gathering everyone's leftovers. These were put to good use the next morning as a hearty breakfast and provided the group with a good laugh as everyone passed plates to the "recycler".

The restaurant had a good vantage point for the beautiful sunset.

I swear it was broken!

You know how when your car is making a crazy noise and you bring it to your mechanic only to have it not make that noise anymore? Yeah. That was what my laptop did. It was broken until I took it to get repaired and then all of the sudden it was working fine again. I think it is holding its breath until the warranty is over and then it will break again. My fingers are crossed that it was just a freak incidence and that it will keep working forever without problems. Why? Because then I won't have to wait soooo long to update this blog that it is takes hours to catch up. Oh well. I didn't want to leave you hanging about New Mexico, I owe my sockapalooza pals a post and I've got a lot of finished things to show you. So, today I blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Laptop Vacation

My laptop decided that it needed a vacation. I took it to its vacation destination (the repair shop) today in hopes that it will return to me in 5-7 business days ready to work again.
I'm going to wait until then to update this blog on the rest of the New Mexico trip and my Sockapalooza spoils because I think everything is better with a few photographs.
See you then.

Friday, August 10, 2007

You know you aren't in Boston when...

You can go to the Cowboy Church.

You can go in your backyard and pick fresh figs.

You have a pistachio farm in your neighborhood.

White Sands National Monument

Today we visited White Sands National Monument.

We had aimed to get there early in the morning but coordinating 11 women to be ready and leave and have a picnic packed and all of our knitting and making sure everyone has what they need...takes...a...long...time. We were planning to arrive at 10:00 but didn't get there until nearly 12. We stopped at the visitor's center first where the forecast was posted:

There is a loop drive that you can follow to go out 8 miles into the dunes. Part of the road is constantly experiencing encroaching sand dune drifts. The park maintains the road by plowing it! Us New Englanders were struck by how many similarities there are between the behavior of sand dunes and that of snow drifts.

Being in the desert at noon isn't the greatest idea. It was gorgeous enough that we all donned a hat and massive amounts of sunscreen to sit and knit amongst the beauty for a short while.

The group trekked out a ways until we found a suitably beautiful spot. The most remarkable thing to me, beyond the obvious other wordly experience of being surrounded by white sand dunes, was that the sand was cool. Literally, cool to the touch. The sun was at its midday 100 degrees scorching strongest and the sand was cool to walk on. I have yet to understand why.

White Sands is one of those places that photos cannot accurately capture. The expansiveness of the dunes, the texture of the sand and the details of the dune patterns were all truly amazing.

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