Archive for the 'travel' Category


Life update

Watching: Bride and Prejudice. Aside from the woefully miscast (as in: he can’t act to save his life, at least not in this role) actor who played Darcy, this was a fun film. Austen meets Bollywood! (With a bit of postcolonial social commentary, even!) What’s not to like? And wow, Sayid can dance!

Reading:The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2006, and I was originally motivated to read it by the prospect to joining a local Meetup group that’s working its way through the Booker Prizer winners in reverse chronological order. (Scheduling issues will likely prevent me from participating in this group, but I may continue with the reading list on my own.) This is clearly a great book, in its scope, language, themes. It’s very well written, and it had no trouble keeping my interest–I wanted to know what would happen next. But I’m not sure if I like this book. I had a hard time relating to any of the main characters–not because of differences in our life experiences but because I didn’t find any of them likeable.

Traveling: To New York last weekend, to see my brother (who lives in the West Village). We spent most of the day at the very awesome American Museum of Natural History, and I have to admit that some of my favorite parts were the old-school exhibits (even though the scholar and anthropologist in me cringes a bit to see them). Truly, no other museum’s dinosaurs can hold a candle to those at the AMNH (no, not even yours, Smithsonian).

Eating: Cream puffs at Beard Papa’s. (Yes, they are worth the hype.)

Knitting: A shawl. Yes, me–the person who is allergic to lace knitting. I am knitting this one with sportweight yarn, though, and the pattern is simple enough that I haven’t yet cried or tried to claw out my eyes in frustration. So that’s all good.

Laughing my head off: At this blog. Cute Overload has some good moments, but this blog is pure gold nearly every time.


Busy times

Last Sunday (just over a week ago), the three of us did a day trip up to New York (about a two or two-and-a-half-hour drive for us) to attend a one-year-old’s birthday party at Shea Stadium. We left our house at 7:30 in the morning and had parked at the stadium lot by 9:30.*

I love New York City. I don’t think I would ever want to live there (unless I were filthy stinking rich enough to afford a home larger than a closet), but it’s a magical place to visit. Coming into the city early on a weekend morning is my favorite: everything is so quiet, there’s no traffic, and the city has a lovely otherworldly quality.

We hopped on the subway and took it one stop to the end of the line, right in the middle of Chinatown in Flushing. My brother (who lives in Greenwich Village) met us there, and we had dim sum brunch together at a terrific vegetarian Chinese restaurant. We took the subway back to the stadium and got to the party location (a box for thirty people) about half an hour before the game started at 1:10.

Neither Jan nor I are sports fans, but we were able to explain the basics of baseball to Sylvia. Well, not all of them: we didn’t get past the part about the guy trying to hit a ball with a special stick. That’s all she wanted to know. She enjoyed watching the first inning and a half of the game, then mostly lost interest unless the organist was playing a song.

Mr. Met stopped by the box to say hello to the birthday boy and pose for pictures. Personally, I don’t know why all the little kids who were at the party didn’t freak out at the sight of him. Think about it: it’s a guy with a giant baseball for a head. If that isn’t horrifying, what is?

The Mets trounced the Cardinals in just two-and-a-half hours, so we were back on the road again by 4:30. Even though Sylvia napped in the car, by the time we got home around 7:30 we were all exhausted. We all fell out.

There’s a knitting connection to this post, though. The gray toddler socks I knit last month were a gift for the birthday boy (whose birthday isn’t really for another week). His mom’s birthday was on Sunday (though totally downplayed because it was her son’s party), and I gave her a pair of socks I’d completed the night before (racing against deadline!). I neglected to take a photo of them, so I’ll have to see if I can get one from her.


*Of course it figures that when I finally make it to Queens (I’ve now visited all five boroughs—woot!), the one person I know there, Deborah (my awesome downstream pal in SP11), was busy running the NYC Half Marathon through Central Park and Times Square. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to meet her some day, though!


Dancing in 42 countries

This guy quit his job several years ago and set off traveling around the world. And then:

A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt an idea. They were standing around taking pictures in Hanoi, and his friend said “Hey, why don’t you stand over there and do that dance. I’ll record it.” He was referring to a particular dance Matt does. It’s actually the only dance Matt does. He does it badly. Anyway, this turned out to be a very good idea.

Here he is, dancing in forty-two different countries. I couldn’t stop smiling while watching this. Do watch the whole thing—it’s well worth it.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.
(Via Boing Boing.)


Memories of my childhood

Not long after my daughter was born, my parents started opening up boxes in their basement. Their contents: toys that had belonged to my brother and me.

The first one, a three-foot-tall stuffed dog, arrived with my parents, when they drove out from Illinois to meet their one-week-old granddaughter. At the same time, they also brought my white wooden rocking chair.

Most of my old toys joined our household bit by bit, either on the times when my parents drove here, when they shipped a box of stuff, or when we visited them in Illinois and carried some small things home in our suitcases.

pa087816tos.jpgDuring my visit to Illinois earlier this month, my parents really outdid themselves: as we walked through the door, we saw arrayed across the family room floor a whole collection of Fisher Price Little People toys. Now, these aren’t the Little People of today–all round and cherubic. These have far more simplistic forms and are made of hard plastic, not rubber. (You can read about the history of Little People–and see photos, at the top, of the old-school figures I’m talking about–here.)

My parents saved the schoolhouse, the town, the airport (the airplane has been at my home already for several months), and the way-cool camper. I loved seeing those toys again. I remembered every single piece and how my brother and I used to play with them together. Jan was astonished at the very fine condition all of these thirty-year-old pieces were in. And Sylvia–she just went nuts playing with them.

(The toys stayed at my parents’ house after we left–something for Sylvia to play with whenever she’s there.)


Travel knitting

Here’s the knitting I accomplished during my three-day trip to Illinois earlier this month.

pa137910travelknit.jpgExcept for weaving in the ends, the baby hat was started and completing during the pre-flight wait at the airport and during the flight itself. I used one skein of an Australian worsted wool (I forgot the name and can’t find the ball band) that my very first upstream secret pal (way back in SP8) sent to me.

I cast on for a pair of socks for Jan in Wildfoote (my first time using this yarn–I love it!). I hadn’t packed my 12″ Addi Turbos with me, though, so after I finished all the increases and did several plain rounds on DPNs, I set this sock aside until I got home. (And when I got home I immediately put this sock on the 12″ Addis, and wow, let me tell you, it is a world of difference! I’ve knit socks only on DPNs before this, and after seeing some friends use 12″ Addis for socks, I just had to give it a try. No ladders! No poking myself with the needle points that stick out everywhere! No stitches falling off needles! I’m never looking back…)

So I started on a ball-band washcloth from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Most of this knitting was done on the airplane during our return trip. I am, shall we say, a less-than-confident flyer. And when I’m nervous I tend to knit faster than usual.

So when we’re cruising down the runway at St. Louis, going faster and faster and just about at the point where the plane lifts off from the ground, leaving your stomach behind…and the pilots slams on the brakes and I’m trying very hard not to listen to that “we’re all gonna die” voice in my head…yeah, my knitting needles probably broke the sound barrier right about then.

And when, during the approach to Philadelphia, we hit the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced in my life (and keep in mind that I’ve flown in tiny, propeller-driven puddle-jumpers, over Oregon’s Coast Range and over the Pacific Ocean, when winter storms and winds were creating fifty-foot swells right off the shorteand the plane was bouncing merrifly along)…yeah, my needles were just a hummingbird’s blur.

But we landed (and I resisted the urge to do the pope thing and kiss the ground), and I immediately thought, “Wow, with all the plane time and travel delays we’ve had on this trip, I should have brought a sweater to work on. I probably would’ve finished it!”


Staying put

My mother-in-law lives three hours (mostly) north of me, and about one hour from the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, where the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival is taking place this weekend. You know, Rhinebeck–the fiberfest whose name is spoken in hushed, reverential tones.

I first heard about Rhinebeck last fall–when knitting blogs were teeming with post-Rhinebeck reports, “you’ll never guess what famous person I saw there” sightings, and “look at my yarn haul” photos. I felt like I’d missed the boat on something all the popular kids already knew about. And now that I knew about it (but still wasn’t one of the popular kids), I resolved to attend the next Rhinebeck.

So I hatched a plan: Jan, Sylvia, and I would drive up to his mom’s place on Friday, spend the night there, and get to the festival bright and early the next morning. We’d all get a kick out of seeing the animals and participating in the hustle-bustle of a big festival, and I could pet and maybe even purchase some can’t-get-this-stuff-anywhere-else yarn. The plan expanded to include our friend Gina, who decided to come with us, leaving her uninterested-in-yarn husband, Todd, home to look after their six (yes, six cats). (And yes, they are nuts. “They” being both the humans and the cats.)

But a few weeks ago, I looked at my stash (not huge by any means, but there’s enough in it to keep me busy for a while) and my bank account (not huge by any means, but there’s enough to pay the bills–but not enough to take a big hit from festival-euphoria-induced yarn purchases) and decided to stay home. If Rhinebeck were an hour away from me, yeah, I’d probably go. But four hours there plus an overnight plus four hours back add up to far too much time and effort to make a trip just to look at yarn (but not purchase) and other nice stuff worthwhile.

(There are several wool/knitting festivals in my part of the country, but I’ve yet to attend one. This reminds me of my experience with academic conferences: many of my fellow graduate students were barely scraping together funds or sometimes even going into debt in order to go to academic conferences, but I didn’t attend one until late in my grad school career, when there was one close to my university and I could actually afford to go to it.)

Gina took the news well, thankfully, and I’ve decided to start saving my pennies now for next fall’s Rhinebeck. Or maybe I’ll try Maryland Sheep and Wool* in May (which I’ve not attended because my daughter’s birthday has fallen on the same weekend) or Knitters Day Out in September (which I’ve not attended because my anniversary has fallen on the same weekend). Next year, all those weekends are free of other events (thank you, Leap Year!), and I’ll be ready for them!

(* Take a look at the URLs for the NYS Sheep and Wool and Maryland Sheep and Wool websites. Think there were any fisticuffs over who got which one?)


My brain hurts

We just got home after a long weekend (we left Friday afternoon) visiting my parents in Illinois.

I checked e-mail twice while I was there–just popping in quickly to see if there were any fires to put out. (There weren’t. Whew!) So now I am tending to the unread and the deal-with-it-later e-mails I have.

I haven’t checked my Google Reader since last Thursday evening, though. I just opened it up on a separate tab (three cheers for tabbed browsing!) and as soon as I saw “All items (501)” my eyes sort of glazed over. Yes, that’s five hundred and one new posts. I’m a little scared to return to that tab to start the process of getting caught up on things.

How will I tackle this? To paraphrase Anne Lamott, I’ll just take it blog by blog.

Early in the summer, I signed up for the Knitter’s Virtual Vacation Swap. Over the summer, participants chatted with their matches, then sent a “virtual vacation” package from where they live to their downstream partner.

p9066706vacation.jpgI’ve had some lovely e-mail chats with my upstream partner but had no idea who she was until yesterday, when her package arrived: Chelle, at Rainforest Knits, in Burnaby, Canada. Burnaby is in the suburbs of Vancouver, where Chelle grew up, and she sent me a fabulous collection of items from Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada.


  • Tea. Thunderbolt Darjeeling (which I’ve not tried before, though Darjeeling is my favorite variety of tea) and blueberry tea (which I am looking forward to trying!).
  • Magnets. I collect fridge magnets, and Chelle sent three of them (including one with an otter, Gina!).
  • Maple syrup. In a maple leaf–shaped bottle!
  • A tiny stuffed beaver wearing a red sweater with “Canada” on it.
  • City of Glass, Douglas Coupland’s ode to Vancouver.
  • A rock and seashell (collected and cleaned by Chelle’s daughter) from a rocky beach on Galiano Island.
  • A plastic cup (with a built-in straw) from the Vancouver Aquarium. (Not pictured because Sylvia immediately claimed it as her own and refused to relinquish it long enough for me to take a photo.)
  • A skein of green hand-dyed, fingering-weight wool from Shelridge Farm in Durham, Ontario. (There are 350 yards/100 g of it. Any suggestions on what I should use it for?)
  • A skein of in Fleece Artist merino-seacell sock yarn in “Mermaid” (blue-purple-green), from Nova Scotia. (These are definitely getting turned into luscious socks!)

Everything in this package is so lovely. I feel like I’ve taken a trip to Vancouver. Actually, I have been to Vancouver—during one spring break while I was in grad school—and I loved it. I’m not a big-city person, but Vancouver struck me as a place I’d like to live. For now, I’ll have to content myself with traveling there virtually, thanks to Chelle—and maybe starting to hatch plans to travel there for real some time in the not-too-distant future.

The syrup and sock yarn were interesting to see, because my husband and I use similarly shaped bottles of maple syrup (my hunch is there’s one company in the world that makes those things and sells them to all the sugar houses) as wedding favors when we got married in Vermont. And the yarn has a wedding connection, too: it’s from Nova Scotia, one of the places we visited on our honeymoon.

Thanks so much, Chelle!


Virtual Vacation swap questionnaire

1. If you could visit any state in the United States, which would it be and why? Believe it or not, I have actually visited all fifty U.S. states. Some of them aren’t on my “must revisit soon” list, and some of them are. If I had to choose just one, though, I’d say Oregon. Hands-down, it’s my favorite state: the Coast Range and ocean on the west, the Cascades a bit inland, the high desert of the east (I have very fond memories of a solo camping trip to Gearhart Mountain Wilderness), Crater Lake, the Columbia River Gorge, progressive politics–what’s not to like?

2. If you could visit any country in the world (other than your own), which would it be and why? I’ve done some international traveling, but most of it’s been in Europe. One place I’d love to visit is Australia, where one of my best friends lives. We’ve been pen pals (mostly of the pen-and-paper type, though there have been a few periods during which we communicated predominantly by e-mail) for fourteen and a half years–and we’ve never met. We’ve talked on the phone only once, and that was maybe twelve years ago, when she was preparing to leave her native Quebec to move to Australia. It would be a delight to meet her in person and see some of the wondrous sites in Australia. And while I’m in the neighborhood of course I’d have to visit New Zealand, ’cause of all the Lord of the Rings stuff–and the wool. But I’d stay far, far away from these sheep.

3. Have you ever driven across several states/providence/countries? I have driven across the United States three times, twice by myself. I love it, especially the parts out west. It’s great to have a fun destination, but half the fun of going somewhere is the getting there. (By car, at least. By plane, with all of the airline security and getting to the airport a gazillion hours before a flight–well, that’s another story.)

4. Have you ever visited someplace you consider exotic? Where was it? Pretty much any place where I don’t speak the local language is “exotic” to me. So that means all the countries in Europe that don’t speak English or French, and definitely Taiwan. Places like Alaska also seem “exotic” because they are so far off the beaten path. Sure, they have mega grocery stores up there, too, but when you think about how far stuff had to travel to get there–and when you venture outside the big cities–you get a real sense of perspective.

5. What was your favorite “travel” vacation? Why? A few years ago, after a week in the Netherlands visiting relatives, my husband and I took a train to Paris and spent eight days there. I had been there before, but he hadn’t, and it was so delightful to introduce him to one of my favorite cities. Rather than stay in a hotel, we rented an efficiency apartment with a kitchen, so we shopped at the outdoor markets every day and prepared our own meals with the amazing produce, cheese, bread, and wine we found. Every day we stopped at a patisserie on the way home and bought two different pastries for dessert; some days we bought a few more, so by the end of our stay we had sampled twenty different ones. (Yum.) Because there was a metro strike most of the time we were there, we walked. A lot. Fortunately, our apartment was one block from Les Invalides, and the weather was delightful. We took our time, didn’t try to see all of the sights in one visit, and just enjoyed being in Paris in the spring.

6. Have you ever played tourist in your own home city/state (if international, country)? Explain. Absolutely! Where I live now (Philadelphia suburbs) is not at all where I grew up (southern Illinois); same deal for my husband. So any family (and many friends) who visit us–from Illinois, upstate New York, the Netherlands–are out-of-towners. We love to show them around our favorite places here!

7. Are you a museum visitor, beach comber, or amusement seeker? Definitely a museum visitor, with a dash of amusement seeker. I like the rocky beaches of the northwest coast, but sandy beaches don’t do much for me.

8. What’s your favorite type of yarn? Wool tops my list, with most other natural fibers in a tie for second. My favorite yarn that I’ve ever used is Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino–that stuff is heavenly.

9. What’s your least favorite type of yarn? Acrylic. And novelty yarn.

10. What items do you like to knit/crochet? I love to knit baby/toddler sweaters, but I’m hatching plans to knit something for myself (gasp!) in the not-too-distant future (see my list under the “Creativity” link at the top of the page).

11. What do you pack knit/crochet-wise when you go on vacation? I usually bring about three projects (one of which is generally a sock, now that I’ve finally learned how to knit them), with the yarn and needles required for each. It stinks to complete a project, still be in the mood to knit, and have nothing to work on. Then again, that does make a good reason to explore the local yarn store…

12. What other crafts do you do/would like to do other than knit/crochet? I love photography, and I’m learning how to sew (thanks to Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing and to my friend Gina, who gave me her old sewing machine).

13. Are you allergic to anything (yarnwise or treatwise)? No allergies, but I am vegetarian (of the “eggs and dairy are okay” type). So that rules out gummi-anything, Altoids, and any other candies that contain gelatin. Also on my no-no list is the new Tofutsies yarn, which I’d be delighted to try if it didn’t contain chitin (shrimp and crab shells).

14. What is your favorite color? Least favorite? My favorite colors are muted earth tones, particularly browns and greens, though a nice red isn’t bad, either. I am not keen on pastels, neons, or super-bright colors.

15. Sweet or savory (treat, not personality)? Sweet!

16. Anything else we are forgetting to ask that you think your partner desperately needs to know? Nothing comes to mind at the moment, but please feel free to ask me if you have any questions!



I came across this website a while back but completely forgot about it until reading Arianna’s post about it. There’s a list of countries in the world, and you tick the boxes next to the ones you’ve visited. My tally is fifteen countries–about six percent of the world. Note that there’s nothing in the Southern Hemisphere yet. I ought to do something about that one day.

It looks a little more impressive if I narrow it down to the European countries I’ve visited:

Hmmm. Ten states–only nineteen percent of Europe. To be fair, I should point out that among the many countries I haven’t visited are Turkey and Ukraine, which are both ginormous, as well as the Scandinavian countries, which aren’t exactly puny.

Now let’s take a look at my travels in the U.S.A.:

Whew! That feels better.

Until last fall, I thought I had visited all the states except South Carolina and was seriously thinking about taking a trip down there just to be able to check it off my list. And then my dad told me that I had actually been there as a toddler. I guess that was before the whole “remember stuff from here on out” part of my brain had been activated.

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