Monday, April 23, 2012

Heading Home

The Road Scholar program was over around lunch time today. DH and I got in our cars and began to head north. Not too far from Sarasota we stopped at the Ellenton Outlets. Ellenton is a really big center with lots of good stores. I did a lot of browsing but just a little buying. I was delighted to get a new battery for my watch. The battery died on Saturday and we were just too booked up with the film festival to get to a jeweler. I had no idea how many times per day I look at my watch until it stopped working. Of course, I can check my iPhone but it's so much more obvious than glancing at one's wrist. What a pleasure to have a working watch again.

We're currently in Silver Springs, FL. We had intended to get into Georgia today but time just got away from us. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to drive the entire day. I am hoping we will be home by Wednesday evening or Thursday at the latest.

I'm listening to Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It's a wonderful book and really helps to pass the time on these long drives.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sarasota Film Festival, Part I

Wow! It's been over a month since I last posted. We've left Crystal River and are at the Sarasota Film Festival. We're doing the Road Scholar part of the festival, but this year we decided to come early to catch some extra films and enjoy Sarasota. It's so different from Crystal River and so much fun to be here.

I've seen six films so far. Opening night we saw Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon and a robot. It's a comedy about a second story man in the early stages of dementia. We really enjoyed it. Watch for it soon in theaters near you.

On Saturday we saw Polisse, a French film about the child protective unit of the Paris Police. It was fast moving, poignant and funny. I love films with subtitles. I don't miss any of the dialogue. DH was pleased about how much of the French he understood. This one may not make it to the burbs of NJ but I'm sure it will be available at some point in Manhattan.

Sunday DH and I chose separate films. I went to 17 Girls, another French language film about a rash of pregnancies among high school students in a small town. Purportedly the plot was based on an incident that took place in the US. I think it lost something in the translation. It wasn't fully believable. I wasn't happy with the director's filming style, too many long pauses. DH saw Teddy Bear which he thoroughly enjoyed.

DH joined me and we went to The Intouchables, another French language film (are you sensing a pattern here?). After a sky diving accident renders him a quadriplegic, a wealthy widower hires an assistant from an impoverished, dysfunctional family. The relationship that develops between the two and the changes that friendship makes in both their lives is touching. DH and I loved this film.

Tuesday I went to a documentary, Book Club, about some women in the DC area who have been members of a book club since the 1940's. It was a great film with wonderful interviews with women who have lived through so many phases of the women's movement.  DH then joined me for mussels at brasserie belge before we saw our Second English language film, The Perfect Wedding, a film that manages to cover adoption, alcoholism, dementia and homosexuality all in one family. Oh, and there were two weddings. It was like able, but a bit too contrived for my taste.

We've changed hotels now and are ready to join the Road Scholar portion of the film festival. I'll report again when we've seen a few more films.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finished Projects

I've been working to finish projects using stash.  This sweater, Rambling Rows by Cottage Creations is one of my favorites.  I love mitered squares and combining color combinations.  This project incorporates four colors of Cascade 220 Superwash.  I'm really happy with the way it turned out. 

This baby sweater in Berocco Love It purchased two years ago at Yarnworks in Gainesville, FL, is another of my favorite patterns, # 982 Babies Neck Down Cardigan by Diane Soucy.  I enjoy making top down sweaters; there's very little sewing and I think they are more comfortable to wear when they don't have seams attaching the arms to the body.  This is lovely yarn, mostly cotton with some stretch.

Here's another Rambling Rows sweater, my fifth.  It's knit in Berocco Geode, Cascade 220 and Germantown Worsted.  I think it's perfect for my granddaughter, Linny, who loves purple.  I'm a tight knitter so I used the stitch counts for the 7 to 9 size which came out to the measurements of a slightly large 4 to 6 size.  It should be perfect for her to wear at the end of the summer.  Now I have to come up with complementary sweaters for her brothers.  Fortunately my stash continues to overflow and I just need to rummage around a bit to find something suitable.

I'm working on another baby sweater project right now but it's not something that will lend itself to a work in progress photo.  Once it's done, I'll post it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Great Balls of Yarn #1

It seemed like a great idea.  DH was longing to cruise; I was less enthusiastic.  He suggested I search out a knitting cruise.  I googled and stumbled upon Great Balls of Yarn, a week long cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale on the Westerdam.  We like Holland America Lines, in fact, sailed on the Westerdam once before.  The featured instructor was Barry Klein.  I wasn't familiar with him but what could go wrong?  It was knitting.  We booked.

I mentioned the cruise at my Monday night knitting group.  A friend looked dubious.  She mentioned that Barry Klein was associated with Trendsetter Yarns and specialized in novelty yarns.  This caused me some concern but I thought being with a bunch of knitters sailing the Caribbean can't go wrong.

On January 13 the Costa Concordia tragedy hit the news.  A large cruise ship hit a reef off the coast of Italy.  The evacuation of the ship was poorly handled.  Many people were injured and around 30 were dead or missing.  There were numerous photos of the ship lying in its side in shallow water.  At first I wondered if we should cancel our trip.  DH convinced me that cruise ships are statistically much safer than automobiles and I travel in one of those just about every day. So, we went ahead as planned.

Shortly before the cruise was scheduled to begin I received an email from the cruise organizers detailing the schedule.  We were to have classes on the three sea days.  In addition, there would be two cocktail parties.  DH and I were assigned to a dinner table for eight members of the knitting group.  It sounded like great fun.  There was a note from Barry as well stating we should just bring our needles; he would bring the yarn.  Naively I thought, how nice, he's bringing yarn samples for us to play with.

2012 is my year of the yarn diet.  A casual inventory of my stash revealed that I have over$1,000 of yarn waiting to be used.  I have lots of plans for projects and plenty of stock on hand to complete them.  Therefore, I pledged to myself that I would "knit from stash." I brought four projects with me on the ship.  Three of them are works in progress: a rambling rows child's jacket i'm making for Linny, my Catkin shawl still in the very beginning stages, Pastafarian, aka Sandrilene, a sweater for me, and enough yarn to start and finish another child size sweater, this one for Orion.

The first full day of cruising was scheduled for Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island.  DH and I have been there more than once.  It's lovely if you are a beach person.  I'm not.  I planned to have a peaceful day on the ship while everyone else went ashore for the sun and sand.  As I took my early morning walk around the promenade deck I noticed it was extremely windy.  As we arrived at Half Moon Cay the captain announced that the wind was so strong it would not be safe to use the tenders.  We would be skipping our stop there.

Soon I received a phone call and an invitation to a special bonus knitting session scheduled for later in the day.  After lunch I headed to the meeting room.  We were introduced to Barry who had displayed many samples around the room.  Most of them were made with novelty yarns.  They were beautifully made, but for the most part, not garments I would wear.  Barry showed us a lovely vest made in a complex miter pattern using many different yarns.  It looked like something I would enjoy making and wearing.  Great Balls of Yarn had set up a market in the back of the room where many unusual and attractive yarns were on display.  There were also pre made kits for the vest project.  I handled one that was a mix of blue yarns and one that was pink.  Both were lovely.  I decided on the blue one and went to pay for it.  At that moment the class convened and I was encouraged to complete the sale during the first break.  As Barry explained the construction I realized it was the same technique I had learned from Barbara Kerr at Stitches East in Hartford.  I really wanted to make this vest.  I turned to the woman on my left and noticed her sales slip resting on top of her kit.  The total was $239.00.  It took my breath away.  There is no way that I would invest that much money in a project even if I weren't on a yarn diet.  When the break came, I put the kit back in the market.

Barry took some time to describe the other projects he planned for the cruise.  One was a scarf, attractive in its way, but not something I would wear.  The other was a handbag done with fabric and Tunisian crochet.  This one involved buying fabric, yarn and the special, handmade crochet hook.  I don't think so. After some additional discussion, we played a really fun game called R L C that involves dice and passing dollar bills (or chips) back and forth among the players.  I won!

Our dinner companions are delightful, two couples from Toms River. I prefer assigned seating when we cruise and really look forward to catching up with our dinner companions each evening.

Tuesday morning we had our first regularly scheduled class.  It became apparent the day would be devoted to making the vest.  Most, but not all, of the participants had purchased the kit.  Those of us who did not were given printed instructions for the basic miter design.  If I had been aware this was the plan, I would have brought a selection from stash since doing the design requires mixing up lots of yarn in small amounts.  Since Barry said he was bringing the yarn, I didn't do so.  I worked on the miter pattern using yarn from the rambling rows jacket.  It's an interesting construction involving not just mitered squares but part squares that link together in intriguing ways. Here's what I have so far. 

Can't seem to upload photo from iPad. Will do so when I can use laptop.

The pattern calls for about ten different yarns with different textures and colors.  I only had three with me.  Unfortunately both the basic miter instructions and the vest pattern itself are riddled with errors.  Once I ran out of appropriate yarn (about the same time I became annoyed at the inaccurate stitch counts in the pattern) I resumed working on the Rambling Rows jacket.  It's really coming along.

So, I'm feeling a bit misled, chagrined that I did not investigate the details thoroughly and at the same time, enjoying the companionship of the other women.  As I said in my intro, it's a knitting cruise.  It has to be fun and so far it is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mondays are for Biking

Most Mondays, weather permitting, Becky and I go biking on the Withlacoochee Trail.  Although the trail is over 40 miles long, we favor a section stretching from Inverness to Floral City.  It's nearly 14 miles round trip and the Shamrock Inn in Floral City offers a $.99 breakfast if you get there before 11 AM.  For this low, low price, you get an egg, any style, hash browns and toast.  Coffee is extra.  The inn is right on the trail and many bicyclists take advantage of the bargain meal.  So, on Mondays, we load the bikes on the car, drive to Inverness where there is convenient parking at Wallace Brooks Park.  It's a nearly seven mile ride to Floral City.  We eat our breakfast and ride back to Inverness. 

Today was beautiful weatherwise.  Sunny with temps in the mid 70's, perfect for biking.

 The sign in front of the Shamrock Inn

Becky on the Withlacoochee

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Transitions are Hard

The last time I posted here, back in November of 2011, I mentioned my ambivalence about being a snow bird.  I was looking forward to the warm, sunny weather that Florida offers, but I was not eager to leave all the things in NJ that I really enjoy.

We've been in Florida for six weeks now.  The weather has been quite mild, much warmer than the previous two winters.  We've had some chilly mornings, but by midday, it's sunny and pleasant.  It seems, though, that it's been pretty mild in NJ too.  There haven't been any major snow storms to date and temps appear to be moderate for this time of year.

In the past, I've enjoyed the Florida weather to do outdoor activities.  I do try to bicycle with a friend on the Withlacoochee Trail every Monday.  Most other days I go to the gym, a gym that is no where near as nice as NBD, the gym I belong to at home.  Going to the gym every day negates the allure of mild temperatures and outdoor activities.  I find myself pining for the NJ gym and my trainer, Toni.

The things I miss the most though are people; my yarny friends and my NJ grands.  As I follow their activity reports on ravelry, facebook, twitter and my daughter-in-law's blog, I struggle over and over with all the things I am missing.  Christmas, a wedding, a yarn store opening, just to name a few.  There are activities here including two knitting groups, the UU congregation, socializing at the club house, but they just don't seem to measure up this year.  And, there is so little access to culture here.  We see reviews of films that are not playing nearby.  We miss concerts, plays.  Hell, I even miss Starbucks!!

Early in December we looked into spending next winter in a more cosmopolitan area like Sarasota. It looks very appealing but prices are simply out of reach.  We're toying with the idea of spending next winter at home and using NYC as our playground.  Since the heat in our apartment is always on high (with no way to control it but opening the window), we won't be cold and we don't have to go out if the weather is bad.

In the meantime, there are some nice things to look forward to.  I've got a frequent flyer ticket and will be heading to Portland in early February.  Shortly after I return, the NJ grands and their parents will be visiting us.  And, in early March DH and I are taking a knitting cruise with Barry Klein.  Of course, in mid-April we'll be attending the Sarasota Film Festival again. 

I'm knitting, of course.  I've got three baby sweaters and an adult sweater "in process."  One baby sweater is a store sample for All About Ewe, the about to open yarn store mentioned above.  The adult sweater, for me, is Sandrilene, designed by Jesh, a NJ yarn friend.  And, I was recently approached by the owner of a children's store in Philadelphia about providing some baby sweaters for sale in her shop.  Negotiations are ongoing and it may not come to fruition, but we'll see.