25 May 2009

Chicago Trip - The Other Links

We stayed at the Hilton Homewood Suites in downtown Chicago (in the loop). I wanted to bring the sheets home with me because they were so soft. The rooms were spacious. It was like having an apartment. We had a king-size bed in a large room with a television and a small dresser. The bathroom was very large and had all of the amenities, including extra towels.

The sitting area for the "living room" was kind of small, but it was no matter. We had a large flat-screen television there. The eating area off the kitchenette was tiny and would have been cramped for more than 1 person, but we didn't use it for eating. My DH set up his computer there.

The staff were marvelous!

We traveled between the hotel and the airport via Airport Express. We had in the past thought it would be fun to just drive to Chicago. After this trip we are convinced it would not be a good idea. Parking was hideously expensive, presuming you could find it, and traffic was thick. When we arrived on Friday afternoon it was during one of the heaviest traffic times and at the start of a holiday weekend. It took 2 hours to get from the airport to the hotel, and that was with an experienced driver who knew how to take side streets which would avoid the express ways which had turned into rolling parking lots. It was a sort of impromptu tour of the parts of Chicago that aren't always on a tour!

As we were in the city -- either on foot or riding in a cab -- we found the city to be comfortable and clean. It has a lot of green spaces and trails for pedestrians as well as joggers, walkers, and sight-seers. There are spacious pedestrian walkways under the major streets.

I'm tired now. I need something to eat before I head off for my workout. But I wanted to post about the trip a little bit. We had fun. I'm glad we went.

Chicago Trip - Navy Pier

You have to click on the photos to make them larger. Otherwise it would take forever for any of this to load. Above is a composite image of the Chicago skyline from the end of Navy Pier. This place is just beautiful. It's clean, it's people-friendly, it has lots of green spaces — Chicago is one of the candidate cities for the 2016 Olympic games and it has my vote as the perfect venue!
We originally hoped to head out to Navy Pier on Saturday night, but my DH's ankle was swollen and killing him with pain so we sat in the hotel room, put ice on his elevated ankle, and pretty much relaxed. It's a vacation, right? We should be relaxing!
Sunday morning, though, after we checked out of the hotel, we had several hours before catching the shuttle to the airport, we went to Navy Pier because I really wanted to ride the ferris wheel there.
Posing for a photo is a prerequisite to boarding the ferris wheel.
Purchasing the photo is not required, but my DH looked so nice in it that I got it.

Yep, that's the ferris wheel. It takes about 7 minutes to go completely around. The only one larger than this is the British Airways London Eye (in London, England, of course).

Did I mention that this thing is really big?

A view from near the top and looking down on the carousel ride as well as the various tour boats along the dock. (The tours weren't leaving until around 11:30 a.m., which was when we needed to go back to the hotel. We hear the architectural tour is wonderful.)

These are a few of the flowers that were inside one of the buildings along the pier. It was a waiting area for a restaurant. What a beautiful place!

Chicago Trip - Food

On Friday night we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary with dinner at Shaw's. My DH had softshell crab and oysters; I had scallops.
After visiting Loopy Yarns on Saturday we went across the street to Hackney's pub for lunch. My DH had a hamburger on a dark rye bun; I had a half sandwich and a cup of Guiness & potato soup. Marvelous!

Chicago Trip - Loopy Yarns

God bless those wonderful people at Loopy Yarns!
We started walking from the Chicago Art Institute and what seemed miles later we felt lost and discouraged. I pulled out my cell phone and called the shop. "Is it time to call a cab?" I asked.
No! We were only 3 blocks away! We hiked along to the historic Dearborne Station, a renovated building, and found ourselves a comfortable resting place as well as lots of wonderful yarn!
While my DH rested in a chair, Steven (Stefan? Stephan?) helped me to find some lovely yarns for knitting socks. He tempted me miserably with the sale items on the lower floor. And then, when it came time to pay up, he let me toss a ball of yarn at a screen with holes in it. I had three tosses. If one went through a hole, that was the discount I'd get. Needless to say, I failed to get it through any of the holes, but I was given a 10% discount nonetheless, PLUS the lovely bag and the little sheep. I was in heaven. I wound the Handmaiden Casbah while waiting at O'Hare airport yesterday. I can't wait to get started.
Oh, and the HPKY (Hand Painted Knitting Yarn) is exclusive to their shop. I love finding something fun and new!

Chicago Trip - Art Institute

One of the two lions standing guard over the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago.

I admit that I was exhausted by the time we arrive here so I wasn't in much of a mood to take photographs inside (non-flash only), but we visited a number of exhibits.

My favorites were the Thorne miniatures, the Frank Lloyd Wright designs, and the Adler & Sullivan architectural fragments (elevator grills). My DH liked the art from the early (pre-Columbian) Americas.

Here's one of the Thorne miniatures (click on it to enlarge it). The scale is 1" = 1'. The rugs were done in 30 ct petit point. The chairs are carved from the wood that would have been used for such chairs — all of the details are meticulous and real. When you look through a doorway you can see to another miniature room that has been furnished as beautifully; the outdoors (see through windows) are finished as well, complete with backdrops that are painted to show what the rest of the neighborhood or city might have looked like. It was magical.

Chicago Trip - Museum of Science & Industry

We arrived far too early so we took a walk along the shore line, greeting very happy joggers, walkers, and wanderers like ourselves. There was a pier we walked out. Looking back toward shore, we found the skyline was magnificent. The city is clean and beautiful!
(click photos to enlarge)

Did we go to the Museum of Science & Industry for the cool model train that travels through a magnificent model of downtown Chicago as well as mountains and prairie? No. (But here's a photo you can enjoy.) Did we go for the cool display on genetics and to see baby chicks in the hatchery? No, but we stopped in nonetheless. Did we go for the U-505 submarine, the 747 jet, the locomotives, the mining town, the soda shop, the toy-maker??????

No, we came for the Harry Potter exhibit. This is the first US city in which it has been displayed. There were props, sets, costumes — all kinds of great things! But no photos inside the exhibit (the white tunnel in the photo led to an outdoor tent of sorts that houses the exhibit).

But this lovely Ford Anglia (used in the 2nd film) was on display where we waited in line for the museum to open. It's in the ticketing area (but purchase your tickets ahead of time because they allow only a set number of people into the exhibit at a time.)
One of the lovely parts was that I was invited to sit on the wooden stool for sorting at the beginning of the exhibit. My DH had pointed me out when the lady working this part asked if there were any adults who wanted to be sorted. I hadn't raised my hand and I had no idea what my DH was going. So, it was a bit magical for me -- the sorting had was placed over my head and the little voice declared I was loyal, etc., then concluded I should be in Hufflepuff.

I love purchasing the sets of post cards because they are better photos than I'll ever be able to take myself. And, yes, I bought a coffee mug (from which I am enjoying a cup of coffee while I post this.)

23 May 2009

Chicago Blues

We are in Chicago! I was able to get my knitting on the jet (in carry-on, no less) and started in on the second sleeve to the new pattern, Sweet Honey, which will be available soon on Ravelry and at String of Purls. Sadly, I learned a nasty lesson: Knit cast-on looks really raggy on a sleeve edge in cotton yarn. I cast on the first sleeve using the knit cast-on method and just knit away. Every time I looked at that ragged edge I thought, "It'll look better after blocking." Here I am, weeks later, and looking at the second sleeve which I had cast on with the long-tail cast on method. It looks so much nicer! It has a lovely little twisted rope kind of edge. I'd cast it on with a circular needle that was two sizes larger (for stretchiness). Now I can see that I must do the first sleeve over.

Fortunately, these are only short sleeves.

Fortunately, this is the smallest size.

Fortunately, I have enough yarn to do it over.

But, day-um!

Well, as consolation (I should get consolation for my own short-sightedness?) we are going to visit at least one yarn shop today (two if I can convince my DH that it's not that far away).

We'll see!

14 May 2009

Another Satisfied Customer

Dear Mandella,
I'd like you to meet Tina who sent me this beautiful photo of herself in her Summer Sunner top. She knit it from King Tut cotton and it's perfect on her!
Of course, I'm magnficently gratified as a designer that someone would show me the finished product along with her happy, smiling face. I have some yarn around here to knit one for myself.
(Stop laughing! You know I'll get to it. Sometime soon, I'm sure. Really. Right after the gym shrug, the little cardigan for my grand niece, the second waffle sock, the short jacket for my sister, and, um, oh yes, after I knit the second sleeve for the latest top I've been designing.)
Thank you, Tina, for a lovely photo! Hugs and good knitting to you,

12 May 2009

Rode Hard and Put Away Wet

Dear Mandella,

Oh, I'm wondering whether I should spoil all and reveal to you how this season/series of House has turned out.

While I ponder that, you have to sneak over to Franklin Habit's blog and read his perspective on the newest Star Trek film. I absolutely loved this film and I'm sure it will reinvigorate the franchise, but you have to admit that Franklin has found an entirely new direction for this to go without the necessity of time travel.

I'm still reeling from the roller coaster ride that started last Thursday and continued through today. If it isn't the customers at the part-time job (honestly, you'd think that parents wouldn't wait until the last minute for party invitations when they knew for the last 8 months that their child would be graduating in May), or the four knitters-of-the-apocalypse at Knit Night, or the grand pubahs of the corporate office handing down another make-work edict, it's the dryer that won't work, the cat litter that still isn't changed, and rooms in the house that still need to be sorted out despite the fact that I'm aching from Monday's tour-de-cleanse.

My DH is complaining about a spasm in his back from the yard work he did on Monday, but, no, he won't put ice on it. Yes, he bought cat litter from the store last week; no, he didn't change it yet; and now he can't because his back hurts. I ache all over, but I'm not having back spasms so it must be OK for me to do this.

How well do you think any of this bodes for actually knitting?

I do have a clever new pattern for a shrug called a gym wrap by local designer Phyllis Campbell. I also have some Jo Sharp yarn in bulky weight that I think will be perfect for knitting it. And I'll get to that as soon as I finish . . . . . OK, I absolutely have to finish the Sweet Honey pullover (one I'm designing -- I have just one more sleeve to go), and then I need to at least cast on the second sock from a pair I've been knitting in my favorite waffle pattern. And I suppose I should make more headway on the cotton intarsia cardigan for my grand niece Katie. It would help if I worked on the short jacket that's in the works for my sister Mary. And none of this counts the Ab-Fab throw that I keep coming across as I trawl through the yarn stash.

I need to be three people again. Or four. I'd page Dr. House, but I'm afraid he's unavailable at the moment. But I won't tell you why. Unless you *really* want me to tell you. And even then, well, I don't know if I should really spoil it for you. ;D

Happy knitting!


05 May 2009

Mounting Suspense

Dear Mandella,

Have you been keeping up with House season/series 5 on hulu.com?  Last night’s episode was muy caliente!  Next Monday is the season/series finale, and God only knows (well, the actors know already since they’ve finished filming for this season) how they’re going to top it!  And, to bring back the refrain, Hugh Laurie is a God!  What an actor!  What a character!  *sigh*

OK, enough of that.

Suspense has also been mounting as I’ve been sorting out the sleeves for this latest pullover I’ve been designing.  Not only did I work out the basic directions, but I figured out how I want to work the increases in the sleeves while emphasizing the pattern.   In fact, I probably should have done this in the body of the pullover, but I’m not going to re-think that part.  Not now.  Not after all of that work.  Alas, one learns a lot through the actual knitting.  And then sometimes it takes until the end that a more brilliant insight comes.

At any rate, I’m nearly to the halfway point of the first short sleeve.  The second one should be even faster since I won’t have to be stopping to work out the pattern details as I knit.  I’m looking forward to having this one done.  It has been a long slog.  And I really can’t post photos until it’s done.

We’re having beautiful weather here.  I hope you’re enjoying the springtime, too.



04 May 2009

This Mess is a House

See? It's true! (No, I won't publish the photos any larger.)

03 May 2009

Family Aphorisms

Dear Mandella,

I don't know whether you have this saying on your side of the pond, but over here it's kind of popular: "Put on your Big Girl Panties [knickers] and deal with it." It means quit whining and act like an adult. I've had to do this very thing over the past couple of days.

My house is looks like it has been inhabited by roving bands of slovenly teenagers who help themselves to food but never clean up afterward and leave their plates wherever they finished with eating. Everything has been in disarray. The clothing that is clean has been piled haphazardly in baskets in the living room -- if I need something without wrinkles in it I have to toss it back into the dryer for about 10 minutes. I won't even attempt to describe the bathrooms. I considered putting out a distress call to all friends and family, then decided that it was time to put on the Big Girl Panties and deal with it.

But first I was going over to my mom's the sew.

I was telling my mom the "Big Girl Panties" philosophy. Now, my dear mother has always worn heavy support hosiery. Lately, however, when her gastro-intestinal system has been feeling poorly, she hasn't pulled up the panty part of the hosiery all of the way (don't worry -- you'd never know it unless she told you this was the case). She refers to them as being "at half mast."

I hope you're laughing as hard as I was at that point. :)

But, you know, I was thinking that it's a good analogy in a way. Some days I'm trying really hard to be an adult and to cope with all of the stuff going on around me, but I don't quite make it, so it's like my Big Girl Panties are at half mast.

This would be adequately describe today's sewing session. I worked only 4 of the log cabin squares because I kept making mistakes. OK, it didn't help that I was laughing pretty hard with my mom (does one salute the panties at half mast?), but I was actually tired and screwing up things -- using a light piece when I should have used a dark one, using the wrong size, sewing to the wrong part.

My husband's family has a saying: "Three moves equals a fire." It meant that things get lost every time you move from one house to another, and after three times it was like you'd had a house fire because so much of the original stuff you remember has gone missing. Well, for my sewing today the saying could have been "Four errors equals Quitting Time." I carefully undid my last error (you have to be very careful to not tear the tissue paper foundation), finished the remaining pieces correctly, then put it all away for another day. No whining; just admitting that it wasn't my day to get it all done.

When I drove home I wasn't certain what I'd find but I expected that the house would still be a pig sty and my DH would still be in bed and dealing with end-of-term exhaustion/depression. But, I was going to cope with it as an adult, which meant I was ready to do what I had to get done in order to stay a little sane.

Good news: As I drove up to the house, he was working outdoors. He had mowed all of the lawn, trimmed out all of the weeds, done all of the edging work, and was in the process of trimming several bushes that were getting out of hand. Before I could say a word, he apologized that he hadn't tackled his indoor chores yet, but he'd wanted to get the outdoors done before it rained.

It's going to be OK. I changed lightbulbs, tidied up the bedroom (including the closet), and now I'm going to deal with the laundry.

Oh, I have been knitting. I've got a waffle sock at the gusset (this is the first of a pair), a stocking cap nearing the crown, and I've finally gotten a sleeve started for the latest pullover. But there are days when you have to just put down the knitting in order to get other things done.

Hugs and happy days to you!