Back from Amana

Well, I am back from Amana. Rested and relaxed, but anxious to get on with regular stuff in my life. For those of you looking for fiber content – knitting or spinning, just wait for another day because this post doesn’t have it.

Okay, so I have a few things to say about Iowa. Both "Good" & "bad". They are mixed together because I am that kind of person. Good: Not many billboards. Bad: Not very good signage for much of anything, or last-minute notices, which make turning or signing a turn kind of a drag. Bad: What’s up with the lack of rest stops in Iowa, doesn’t anybody need to pee? Bad: Hwy 218 is all over the place, makes for a confusing time, especially on the way home…. had 218 stuck in my mind so I made some weird/bad choices. And what is up with the very sharp angle turns of the highway and abrupt beginnings and endings? They didn’t seem to be because of natural features (trees or lakes or such). Good: We only saw 2 people on cellphones the entire time. Bad: I think that was because people in Iowa don’t have friends. Sorry for anybody that feels otherwise, the Iowans (or Iowegians, as I call them) that we were around were kind of a surly lot. There were countless times that I held open the door for people, stood up to let people pass through, etc. and there was no, "thanks!". Most people didn’t even look us in the eye, smile or have any kind of acknowledgement. Weird.

Chaachi and I did have an excellent time though. We started off on time. I got sleepy somewhere along the trip, so we turned off for me to take a little nap. It turns out the place we stopped was the home of the largest frying pan.

It looks flat because it is so black, but it had a rim big enough to sit in.

We arrived at our home away from home at the Die Heimat Country Inn. A very nice bed & breakfast; we had a very nice room there. Here is a pic of the front:


Chaachi and I had an hour or so before most of the shops closed (at 5 and 6:00!) . Here are some pics:






Then we decided to get some dinner. Dinner at the Amana restaurants is a huge deal. A lot of food. A ton of food. Eating too much happens. We went to the Ox Yoke Inn. You order your entree, mine was Chicken Schnitzel and then they bring out bowls of stuff to share. Cottage cheese, a basket of white and rye bread, and broccoli salad. Then your entrees come. They aren’t huge, but then all this other stuff comes with it in bowls to share: fried potatoes, brown gravy, sauerkraut, corn. Add something to drink and you are seriously full. Dessert? Who ever has room for dessert? I did buy a bottle of rhubarb wine there, and then we picked up ice and Sprite at the Handimart.

It is nice to do this kind of eating once in a while, but for the rest of our meals we ate elsewhere.

Back to our room, to just grown and veg, drink some wine spritzers and watch seriously bad regular (non cable) television. I knitted. We went to bed early.

Saturday we had breakfast at our B&B/Inn then headed out only to find that a lot of the places didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. I walked along and took photos – Chaachi waited for a leather shop to open. So we spent a few hours shopping and then headed over to the Taste Louisiana Cajun & Zydeco Festival. Our plan was to just sit back and listen to some good music, shop around and eat.

That is exactly what we did. I got a little sunburned and we had a good relaxing time mostly people watching. Some seriously hard looking folk there. A lot of people wearing black. A good number of short, hard looking guys and young smokers.

We decided to hit the Handimart to pick up deli sandwiches and chips, then back to the room to chill out and drink some more wine spritzers.

Isn’t it cute?

We watched the best of Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live and then I went to bed.

Sunday we skipped breakfast and then drove around and waited for shops to open. Finished shopping and hit the road to go home.

No yarn was purchased. The most knitting I did was during the Cajun Fest, but no FOs to report. I bought a few things, but mostly we just relaxed.

Back to normal today.


Going on a Little Trip

My sister Chaachi and I are going on a little trip to Iowa to stay in the Amana Colonies. I have been there several times, but a long time ago.

Why go? It is just a nice place to kick back, shop, look at things, eat good food. It’s a relaxed energy that is for tourism but isn’t forced or false feeling.

The Amana Colonies was built by a religious group that believed in a communal living. They aren’t as strict as the Amish and I guess they get confused for them a lot. Here is a paragraph from the above link:

The Inspirationists place a great deal of emphasis on the development and nurture of the Inner Life via direct mystical contact with God. A strong commitment to church discipline and close community relationships also characterized the Inspirationists.

What is kind of funny is that one of the reasons we are going to Amana this particular weekend is because the Taste Louisiana Cajun & Zydeco Festival will be there too!

So I guess what I am trying to say is that I will be trying to connect with God in a mystical connection through a strange mix cultures and food.

I remember too wonderful baskets, terrific wine and honey. There is the Amana Woolen Mills, but from what I gather the wool they use to weave the blankets and such is a bit harsh. I don’t see any other places for yarn on their list of shops but one can always hope. Ditto on the fiber for spinning. I guess everything doesn’t have to be about knitting and spinning – blasphemy! But you can bet that my knitting is coming with me, so I guess it does! Whew! That was close!

I will be back Sunday night. WT is staying home with the furkids.

A Wonderful Weekend

WT and I don’t go out much. It was high time we did because I couldn’t remember when was the last time. I thought we hadn’t really gone out on a "date" at all this year (!) but he seems to remember a night out with friends. Anyway, my brother Mark mentioned one of his favorite groups/bands playing at Minnesota Music Cafe and he was talking about the horn section. Sold! I love groups that have horns – love that sound. Think group Chicago, Tower of Power, the sax of DMB.

So Friday night we went out for a great dinner and then off to see this group, The High & Mighty. Great stuff, 12 people in this group! The singers were excellent, the bass player awesome.

We went a bit early, and knowing that I brought my knitting. Knitting in a dark area isn’t the best – but it sure hones my skill of knitting without looking. I thought it might have looked a bit weird (me knitting) but I gave that thought up when I saw the scary white people dancing. I think you know what I mean. At least the crowd was our age (and older, frankly). Some guy in his 80s was there – dancing up a storm with the ladies. I asked Mark about him and he said, "Yah, he likes to grab them." I guess at his age he figures "what the heck".

Saturday was another fun time. Met with my Amples Knitters friends for our monthly meeting. We met at Yarn Cafe, which I can’t say enough nice things about. Here are some photos. I warn you, if you are not in Minnesota, you might break out in tears and longing.

ample knitters meeting
As you come in, past the needles area and to the left.

ample knitters meeting
Ruth, Kerry, Renee, Velia

ample knitters meeting
Yarn! and the hint of the other room of Yarn!

ample knitters meeting
Chaachi, and Yarn! — the backside of the wall of needles

ample knitters meeting
Looking toward the coffee & food area. Notice the comfy couch.

Yarn Cafe is seriously luxurious. Big comfy seating, a fireplace, great (not stark) lighting. I wish they would let me live there.

I took other pics, but I am finding that I am a major camera jiggler. I guess my previous camera took care of some of that, this one obviously doesn’t – it warns me I am jiggling but doesn’t do anything about it. A tripod would help but dang! that doesn’t make for any casual shots, does it?

One last photo, a jiggled one of my beautiful sister Chaachi. I did some arty stuff on it to convert it to a colored pencil effect so that you wouldn’t notice how blurry it was.

my sister Chaachi

I hope you all had a terrific weekend too!


Secret Pal 5 Questionnaire

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you? –It depends. I don’t mind knitting with acrylic sometimes – especially if it is for a child’s gift going to someone with dubious washing know-how. But I don’t search out acrylic for myself.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?— I am a new spinner with 3 wheels and I crochet.

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)–I am sensitive to smoke and strong perfume.

4. How long have you been knitting?–Since grade school but not constantly. I consider myself to be an advanced knitter because I can figure just about anything out. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like simple knits.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?–Yes! just click on this link.

6. What’s your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)–Vanilla, warm smells, citrus, mint. No flowery stuff and I usually cannot tolerate anything too sweet, including some fruity smells – unless it is citrus.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?— I like chocolate, but can totally go without it for long periods. I prefer dark chocolate. I love coffee flavored things and sour candy.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?–I do beadwork (check out my monster-sized beadwork website), bead knitting and I also would like to get back into quilting.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)–I don’t own an MP3 player, but my computer can play MP3s. I have about 500 CDs of just about anything. I love Dave Matthews Band. I like ambient and new age music (relaxation type) and world/ethnic. I love sitar or eastern music, chants, celtic…. I could go on and on.

10. What’s your favorite color? Or do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can’t stand?— I wear a lot of blues and purples. I look really good in pinks, rose, raspberry and browns. I can’t do black or white or stark colors – they need to be greyed or muted usually. I am a combo of summer and winter coloring.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?— I am married and I have 3 furkids (one dog and 2 cats).

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)–I am doing what I want to do, so no big changes are in store. I would like to become more healthy, lose weight. I want to be a better person. I would love to be a published writer.

13. What is/are your favorite yarns to knit with?— I love fingering weight and lace weights, sock weight yarns. I don’t knit much with bulky stuff unless I am doing hats for kids. I don’t use many novelty yarns either, but I don’t say no to any yarn-type gifts.

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?— Anything scratchy or anything that smells weird or feels greasy.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?–Shawls of any kind, felted things, socks.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?–Shawls, felted things, socks.

17. What are you knitting right now?–Another Clapotis. Hats for a party.

18. What do you think about ponchos?–They are okay. I think they look good on many people so I don’t know why there is so much fuss about them being "out".

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?–Circular but I have straights and use them.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?–I will use whatever I have. I love my Denise needles and my Swallowhill Casein needles. I just picked up 5 sizes of 14" Balene IIs straights and I am enjoying them too. I also love my tiny steel needles (size 0000 and 00000)

21. Are you a sock knitter? –Yes!

22. How did you learn to knit?–I taught myself and then got help from a friend’s mother.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?–1 year old

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?— I love Hoops and Yoyo (Hallmark), cats and dogs I have a small collection of frogs (but I am very picky about my frogs).

25. What is your favorite holiday?— Don’t have a favorite, but I love the Fall and my birthday is in the Fall.

26. Is there anything that you collect?–Yarn and fiber (for spinning), books and CDs.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?–Knitters & Interweave Knits. I will pick up the others if there is something in there that looks interesting.

28. Any books out there you are dying to get your hands on?— I would love to have all the Barbara Walker’s stitch pattern books – other than that, check my list.

Something to Cheer Me Up

Sometimes when I have big events and they go well, the day directly after kind of sucks. Not a big suck, but kind of tired and grey.

That is what happened today. This weekend was pretty great. Taught a class, made a good chunk of money (yeah!) had fun and laughed with good people. Today was sucky.

Good thing my Ample Knitters Secret Pal swooped in to rescue me! I picked up the mail and there wasn’t anything spectacular in it – dang, but then about 10 minutes later I noticed the postal person drove up right outside the house and I knew it meant there was something good. I kind of expected it to be the computer I helped my sister buy through Ebay, but it turned out to be a package for me!

Here is what I got from Shell in Australia:

ample knitters secret pal

A really nice knitting bag, a butterfly pin/brooch, a photo bookmark, and goodies! Not just any kind of goodies but things that I have never seen before: KitKat Cappuccino, Kraft Snack Abouts in Vegemite, some TimTams too! I devoured the KitKats immediately – yum! Now I am wondering if they sell that flavor in US?

Anyway…. as long as I am sharing, here are those pics that I promised from the Shepherd’s Harvest Wool and Sheep Festival:

shepherd's harvest wool and sheep festival

The dark brown roving with the color flecks is wool and silk. I think all of the colored bits are silk. The easter egg colored is Coopsworth, the smaller bits are wool and tencel and the autumn colored is probably just plain wool (no tag). Nothing really shocking, but interesting looking. The gadget is a fishing thing that will help me measure my yardage. I probably could have bought it cheaper at a sporting goods store, but I just had to have it right away.

I also bought 2 books. Color in Spinning – which is marvelous. I was searching for a gift for my sister Chaachi and found a book that really impressed me, First Knits by Luise Roberts & Kate Haxell. It is for beginning knitters (of course) but it has some really nice designs, good instructions with a lot of photos. There is a nice ample-sized kimono done in bulky weight yarn that I may try out. Here is a link to a photo of it. KnitPicks has two new bulky weight yarns that would make this kimono an inexpensive project. I may need to borrow the book back from my sister!

What else to share? I am working on another Clapotis, because the other one was so much fun to make – easy and relaxing. Here is a pic of my 18 Goddess Guards© in action:


That’s all for now.


Finally, a connection

I love (not in any particular order folks) the Dave Matthews Band, knitting, spinning, my husband, family, furkids, etc. Up until now getting some of these loves connected has taken a lot of work and frankly, the puzzle pieces are just not fitting too well. It is just so great when two more pieces come together.

So okay – this is a stretch but I finally found a connection between DMB and spinning/knitting and here it is: If you click on this link, read the article (of course) and then go down to the video section you will see a link for the video, "American Baby" – please check it out. In the video you will see an older women carding fiber in the desert. Ahhhh! My life is now somewhat more complete (hee!)

I promise some pics of my new stash from the festival soon. I am still learning a lot about this camera. And finding out that I am a major camera jiggler.


Not Bitter But Not Going

I’m not bitter about not going to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival because I feel a little bit comforted by going to our (MN) own Sheep and Wool Festival called Shepherd’s Harvest Sheep & Wool Festival. No, it isn’t so large that you have to prepare a spreadsheet to help you decide which booths to visit, but I will be able to buy some fibery stuff and have a good time.

I will be there all day Saturday, just because I can. I will be bringing Louie, so that I can spin when I like. Probably some knitting too. My friends Robin and Joan should be able to find me.

So if you are sitting around, feeling sad because you can’t afford MDS&W and you are in or close-by MN (IA, WI, ND or SD) think about coming our way. If you need help planning where to stay and such send me an email and I will help as best I can.

Sunday brings my yearly tradition of Mother’s Day brunch with my mother. It used to just be the two of us, all through high school and for a long time after that, my sister Chaachi was always scheduled to work that weekend. But now it is the 3 of us. We took a few years detour from brunch into dinner or just a regular lunch, but it is back to brunch this year! We are finding it hard to find a new place to go each year, and some years bring not so good experiences, but it is always fun. This year my gift to mom will be a mother’s necklace. I had it planned since Christmas, but I haven’t gotten around to making it yet. That is for later today or tomorrow. Procrastination is my middle name (it used to be my first — I am making progress).

Now it is off for a very late shower, get ready and visit my friend Le Joy. Now Le Joy, if you ever read this blog I will apologize for not going to your baby shower on Saturday. I couldn’t tell you to your face that my plans are just a sheep and wool festival, because perhaps you wouldn’t understand. But I know that you will get this I NEEDED to go to this – and I have had it on my calendar since last year. Life has been very stressful lately. I hope the help with the shower gifties and the baby sweater made up for my not being there.


Completed Cat Bed

I finally finished the monster sized cat bed. I seriously thought about ripping it all out when I finished, because I knew there was no way in heaven or hell this thing would felt down to a size that would suit me.

But, I went ahead and felted it anyway. Oh, before we go there, here is a pic of the pre-felted bed with Guinevere already giving it her paw of approval:

cat bed

Before felting the dimensions were: top diameter 81", the mobius band was 4 1/2" inches high, and the whole depth of the bed, including the band was 23".

WT lended a hand with the felting because he was curious to see how it all works. We did 2 cycles before running out of hot water. We threw it in the dryer to see if that would help shrink it. Then we took it upstairs to shape and decided it just wasn’t small enough, and it looked like it could use some more felting too. After waiting for our water heater to do its job, it was another long cycle and then some time back in the dryer. Here it is:

cat bed

Finished dimensions: top diameter 54", the mobius band is 3" inches high, and the whole depth of the bed, including the band is 12 1/2", but the actual depth is more like 6". I decided to forget about any shaping because the decreases made it pooch out funny anyway. Heck, it is just a cat bed. It is plenty stiff so the sides don’t fall over, but it is kind of rippled looking. Guinevere likes it though, so all is well. All is not well with Arthur… check out this look he is giving me – pure mind control telling me I have to make him a bed now too!

cat bed

For his I will either use the pattern for the large bowl (from A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting) or Wendy’s Kitty Pi / Lucy’s Cat Bed.