Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hangin' With the Amish

My most recent job brought me to a part of the country I had never seen. I'm working in York, PA, which is 45 minutes from the heart of Lancaster County/Intercourse/Amish country. The original job looked like it would take less than a week, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it looks like I will be stationed here much longer. It isn't too hot and the countryside is beautiful, as you can see from my Amish laundry picture (taken as I was driving) so I'm okay with that.

In a way I was glad to extend my visit as it allowed me to visit Lancaster County yesterday. Had a wonderful, surreal time wandering around Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse, where I found several great yarn shops and a lovely quilt museum. There are Amish buggies zooming all over the place and it all seems very authentic, not commercialized as much as you would think.

I was on a quest for local handspun yarn and I found some. I posted a photo of the 3 skeins I bought. The two on the left are natural-colored (one very grey and the other medium brown, which didn't photograph well) and spun from Corriedale sheep on a nearby farm. I bought them in Labadie Looms enroute to Intercourse from a fascinating shop owner that told me her family had been weaving/spinning for 300 years.

I love the golden yarn on the right. I bought it at Lancaster Yarn Shop (see two violinists playing on their back steps in the photo). It was also spun locally from Corriedale sheep and said on the tag it was "aster dyed". It looks like over 200 yards of worsted weight (already balled!) and only set me back $8.95. I can see it knitted up into a complicated, lush winter scarf. That color would look great with any color of outerwear.

York is an interesting area. I hate driving here as they are even more aggressive than Dallas drivers, but my hotel situation is great. The teenagers and 20-somethings here are some of the most polite I've encountered anywhere in my US travels. I'm planning to see Hershey and re-visit Amish country before I leave. I'm also about an hour north of Baltimore and two hours from Delaware. If I make it to those two states I can mark them off my states-I-need-to-visit list.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So This is What a Staycation Looks Like

I'm kind of shocked to realize how long it has been since I posted on here. I'm pleading busy on this one. Summer is always kinda crazy, and this one has been extra nuts for me with lots of travel and family activities.

I started off the summer leaving my great job assignment in Turlock, CA and moving directly to a job in Oregon. The job lasted two months in Lebanon, a small farming community near Corvallis and Albany (just south of Salem). I was covering for an advisor out on medical leave.

As it turned out, I was able to stay in my new place in Orenco (Hillsboro, OR) on the weekends and took my two week vacation over July 4th. Sayde came up to visit from Texas and stayed 6 weeks visiting me, her two older sisters and nephew. The weather was perfect and we had a blast. It was a true "staycation" as we played tourist in the Portland area, visiting places we saw years ago and places we had always wanted to go.

The highlights of our staycation included lots of swimming in the apartment pool, picnics in the park, every farmer's market in the area, the Oregon Zoo, OMSI (Or Museum of Science), 4th of July parade, trip to Voodoo Donuts in downtown Portland and much more. Fortunately Sayde took lots of photos so I can put my favorites on here.

Unfortunately the vacation ended, Sayde returned to Texas and we all returned to reality. I finished my last two weeks in Lebanon, spent a week in Orenco on "retreat" and was sent to Henderson, NV last Friday to another office. Henderson is a suburb of Las Vegas so that has been fun. I'm in a brand new hotel right up the street from the Green Valley Ranch Casino. Had to do the all-you-can-eat crab leg buffet yesterday and play a few slots. Today was 111 degrees - whoa , that is like a blast furnace on my pale, weak Oregonian skin.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More California Fun

I'm still in Turlock, California after 10 weeks so far. I like the area and am the longest-running tenant/guest in my Fairfield Inn. I joke with the hotel staff that they need to make a name plate for my room (top floor, far left) since I am about the only person that has resided here since the place opened. My room is very comfortable and I sleep better here than anywhere I've stayed so far. Even the hourly train that runs right by the hotel is restful.

I also enjoy the Prius rentals I have managed to score the last month or so in Sacramento when I fly in. The mileage really is unbelievable (about 50 mpg) and I can see owning one myself someday. I am trying to limit my In 'N Out Burger runs to one a week, but their excellent brewed ice tea brings me back.

My sister, Judy flew out several weeks ago and we had a great weekend visiting Napa/Sonoma (less than 2 hours from here). We had a brand new Holiday Inn Express hotel in American Canyon at the base of the Napa Valley loop. Spent the very rainy weekend enjoying Boon Fly Cafe (at the Carneros Inn), Sterling Vineyards (my absolute fave), Beringer, Frank Family Winery and others. The whole valley is magical and even in the rain it was so much fun. Judy and I had lots of fun drinking wine and hit a yarn store or two. She liked Turlock and we visited the Hilmar Cheese Factory before she left.

I spent Mother's Day in Portland totally alone as it turned out. Long story, but I'm looking forward to being there with Sayde and the girls (and Hudsy) in late June/early July for two weeks of vacation. I did get to Powell's City of Books and finally got a HUGE U.S. map to mark all the jobs I'm doing.

J-Knits asked me to test knit a lacy sock pattern for them. It is in a soft hand-dyed green sock yarn and has taken quite awhile (it is on size 0's). I'm also finishing up the Lace Ribbon scarf I've been laboring over for a year, a blue garter stitch pullover for Hudsy and more crocheted cotton market bags so I can be p.c. in Portland...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finally on the Left Side

Yeah, I finally got sent on an assignment on the West Coast! I'm working in an office in Turlock, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. It is an interesting, agricultural area and a very conservative/religious island in the middle of very liberal California. The weather has been wonderful and the people are particularly friendly and welcoming. I feel right at home.

I'm definitely enjoying my stay here so far (3 weeks and counting) with a brand new hotel to stay in and plenty of great restaurants and shopping nearby. I'm trying to limit myself to one In-N-Out Burger per week, which is difficult. Anytime I have a drive-thru Starbucks right across the street from my hotel, I'm in heaven...

Since I am so near Oregon in this gig, I've flown up to Portland twice now. I hadn't been back in the state in two years and it was pretty emotional for me. Of course it was typical March rainy weather and I picked up a cold on the first trip, but I embraced it all. I'm determined to get around there now using only the public transit system. So far that has worked out well, although last weekend Jade hauled me around a bit for expediency sake.

Speaking of Jade (my 22 year old middle daughter), it was great to spend time with her. We did some heavy-duty shopping and restauranting packed into two short days last weekend. From the free breakfast at Ikea to Hotpot & Sushi (where the sushi comes by your table on a conveyer belt) we hit as many places as we could.

My knitting has suffered a bit with all the Portland weekend travel. I have 5 projects with me currently and haven't finished a thing. I'm plugging away on two pairs of socks - one with alternating scrap stripes with 6 different leftovers and one pair I'm designing in graphic black and white checks, stripes, circles. I'm plugging away on a cabled baby hoodie in melon, cream bamboo/wool baby mary jane booties and a stuffed teddy bear out of self-striping wool for the Hudsie. I'm hoping to finish up the booties today with a hole-up Sunday in my hotel room.

I did a quick yarn store search up in Modesto yesterday (10 miles north) and found all their former shops had closed. I was left with Michaels, Joanns and Beverlys which had a sad selection. I did score 3 pairs of smaller-sized Clover bamboo SPs at 30% off and 3 skeins of marked down brown wool/silk which will be perfect for a stuffed bunny (maybe the one in the Spring Debbie Bliss magazine).

The EDJ office I'm in here is the first I've worked as a Transition Rep that belongs to a friend. The FA is out on medical leave with debilitating migraines and he and I were in the same training class back in 1995 when we first started with Jones. It is gratifying to be able to help out someone I know but I'm am saddened by his health issues. I could be here awhile.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Texan Fun

I returned February 27th from a 2 week work gig in Fort Worth, TX. I was able to drive my own car & had an awesome hotel downtown so it was good. My birthday was on February 21st (a week ago Saturday). Mike and Sayde drove over from Lindale to hang out so I didn't spend it alone. We went down to "Cowtown" in the oldest part of Fort Worth, wandered around the old west shops and museums and saw the daily longhorn herding (see pics).

It was really cold and windy so eventually we took refuge in the giant Barnes and Noble in the heart of downtown Ft Worth. I found some great knitting books I had to have (hey, it was my birthday). I insisted we go to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame museum which was so kitschy it was cool. The highlight was Sayde riding a mechanical bucking bronco (see pics) which was videotaped and hilarious. I'll get around to posting the short video eventually.

Last but not least, we "toured" Central Market, a Whole Foods wannabe I drove by between my hotel and the office. It was huge and was like a food/wine museum itself. I did get some good brown rice sushi and white cupcakes (yummmm) so my bd was complete.

Now I'm back in Lindale waiting for my next job and knitting obsessively on the Diminishing Rib cardigan (from Interweave Knits Spring '09). I started it several weeks ago and am using "Mohana" yarn which is very hairy and sheds. I'm finishing the tubular bind off on the body today and will pick up and knit the sleeves next. Several other people knitting this sweater have called it a "quick knit". I must be slow because I haven't found it quick at all. Of course, I am simultaneously working on Aran cable slippers, patchwork blocks afghan, a top-down toddler cardigan and many other projects so my knitting time is always diluted by project-jumping. I accept my knitting ADHD as my personal style these days. Hey, whatever works...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What the Heck's An Ebelskiver?

Finished my Eagle, CO job last Friday. I was only home 1 1/2 days before heading out to my next job in Conroe, TX (just north of Houston). Barely got my clothes washed and repacked (summery stuff this time anticipating the 75 degree weather there) before renting a car in Tyler and driving down Sunday afternoon.

I was determined to find an Ebelskiver pan in between doing laundry and repacking. The local Southern Gourmet store had just what I wanted - a non-stick Nordic Ware 7-hole version. What's an Ebelskiver? I didn't know myself until watching a Food Network show where a chef said banana Ebelskivers were the best food he ever ate. Basically, they're a Danish filled pancake but unlike anything I've ever had before - a cross between a jelly donut, pancake and a crepe. I just used a basic buttermilk pancake mix and had to play around with the cooking technique before succeeding. We had Ebelskivers filled with blackberry jam, some with banana and drizzled with strawberry syrup and a batch filled with Nutella (unbelievably rich). I just dusted them with a little powdered sugar and they were really delish.

I also finished 11 more swatches for J-Knits that took me 2 weeks to knit. I was still blocking them right up until leaving the house for Conroe. I was using size 1 needles to get the gauge with this fine sock yarn and spent every evening in Eagle knitting on them. It took me 3 times longer to knit & block each of them compared to the chunky yarn swatches I did previously. I was really glad to get finished and put them in the mail. I posted a picture of the finished product.

Conroe was a very gratifying job as it turned out perfectly. I was really able to help both the branch assistant, clients and new financial advisor coming in. I spent most of the 2 1/2 days I was in the office with a phone to my ear calling all the clients. I would've liked to have stayed longer as my hotel was right next door to Michael's, Hobby Lobby and Black-Eyed Pea. I also had an awesome little black 2009 Nissan Sentra to drive and it got fantastic gas mileage. It was a 3 hour drive each way to Conroe from Tyler, so I got to enjoy it a bit.

Now I'm home for a little while and catching up on computer stuff, doing taxes and finishing up more large knitting projects (a very involved scarf & a large afghan). I am enjoying the nice weather right now - other parts of the country aren't quite as pleasant.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

On the Road Again

I finally got "deployed" early last week to a new Financial Advisor job. I flew into Eagle/Vail, CO airport and am working about 11 days in the Edward Jones office in Eagle (pop. 3500). This is where Kobe Bryant was tried after he got himself in trouble with that girl in 2003.

I must say, I totally love the area. Not only is it beautiful (see pictures I posted) but I'm remembering how much I always liked this state and the people in it. I haven't seen a single smoker yet and everyone is fit and outdoorsy. The only thing I wasn't prepared for was the 6600 ft altitude. I haven't been much above sea level for many years and the first several days I battled some altitude sickness. Took it easy and drank gallons of water, which helped.

Fortunately I felt well enough yesterday to check out Vail Village (where I almost moved to instead of Santa Fe 22 years ago), Avon and Beaver Creek which are nearby. I hung out awhile in Minturn, the oldest town in the Vail Valley where they had an awesome yarn shop (woohoo) called The Yarn Studio. I stayed over an hour chatting with the very knowledgeable and outgoing employee. Not only was the little house stuffed with high-end yarn and supplies, but the whole upstairs is a great selection of needlepoint. I bought a ball of the newest sock yarn the owner, Kathy, had just brought back from TNNA (see picture). It is a Skacel import, Schoppel Wolle "Zauberball" in wide gradations from white to greys to black. Gotta love that German yarn. I'll start looking for just the right sock pattern to take advantage of the color changes.

Wish I was more of a skiier or snowshoer so I could really take advantage of this gorgeous area, but I'm still enjoying the beauty of the area and the cool people. Hey, I have a Starbucks right by the office, sushi in the well-stocked market and a wonderful yarn shop - what more could I ask for?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Life List

The down time I have spent at home waiting to be sent out on a new job has been good in one respect. I have had time to do some things I've always wanted to but couldn't justify. Today I was reading an old copy of Body + Soul magazine (thanks Martha) and ran across an article about writing Life Lists. It motivated me to check out and take the personality test based on things you've already done. I was labelled "Organized Reinventing Money Manager" - gee, no surprises there. Just glad it wasn't "Disorganized Boring Slug."

I have started a Life List with anything I've yet to accomplish in life on the site - from small and insignificant to rather grandiose. Very entertaining and enlightening to see what surfaces after the first 20 most people list. I remember years ago writing such a list in relation to career goals with Edward Jones at a regional meeting in the beginning of my financial advisor job. The speaker told us just the act of writing down goals cements them in your subconscious and you will accomplish them. I remember listing pretty outrageous goals and feeling it was all bogus. I found the list six years later and had surprisingly accomplished every one of the 15 goals I had set for myself. Made me a believer in the process.

Watching the Inaugural events on tv today has been surprisingly absorbing. I've never been even slightly interested in years past, but this has been different. Have knit like crazy as usual while watching so I don't feel like such a bum. I finished blocking my newest cardigan design and am almost half finished with a deep red mohair belted wrap cardigan I had started for Jade for Christmas last year. I'm going to knit another version of my design with some tweaks, maybe using J-Knits yarn Dreamy Bulky yarn. I will post pictures of project progress later this week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Busy 24 Hours

One of my projects right now is knitting 6" square swatches for I hooked up with them through and got my first shipment of yarn to knit yesterday afternoon. It was 4 colors of their "Dreamy Bulky" hand-dyed yarn (mohair/wool). Absolutely gorgeous colors and texture. They name their colors after states and cities. I liked the green shade best of the pinks, burnt orange and soft gold colors they sent. Guess what the name of the green I liked best is? PORTLAND, of course, where it is green all the time.

I was so enamored with the yarn I set to work immediately knitting the 10 requested swatches (which I assume will be sent to yarn shops that buy this yarn from J-Knits). Sat by the fire and knitted last night. I finished them before noon today, worked in the ends and blocked. They sent a postage paid envelope to mail back and I just mailed it back to them. In exchange for my time, they give me a credit for each swatch to be applied to any of their hand-dyed yarn (everything from lace weight to this bulky).

Pretty much did nothing but knit for the last 24 hours (and slept a little) but really enjoyed it. Hope they send me more yarn to knit up. I've put pictures of the yarn and finished swatches on the right. Now I'm back to a chunky cardigan design I'm putting together. I'm keeping it simple, done in the round and QUICK. Will post pictures as it progresses. The slowest part for me isn't the knitting or calculating, but writing down the details to go into the pattern. I'm thinking the "Dreamy Bulky" yarn I just used would be nice in the final version. We'll see..

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Suspended Animation & Handmade Soap

I guess this is what suspended animation feels like. I'm still on retreat and feeling like I'm disconnected from everyone and everything. No word when I'm shipping out to my next job. Even my unquenchable knitting obsession is wearing thin. I am proud of the fact I've made a definite dent in my yarn stash and made everything in my studio/craft room more organized and accessible in the 3 1/2 weeks I've been home. But enough is enough.

So far today I managed to finish & pack up the huge red Bohemian afghan I knitted for Whitney (my niece) and her fiance, Brendan, who live in Cranbury, New Jersey. I'm hoping the very red afghan (ironically, the color is called "Cafe Cranberry") will look good in Brendan's apartment which is allegedly RED. I think he likes red because he is Canadian. All of my Kansas relatives seem to like blues and greens (and possibly golds and browns). So being a red-lover scored Brendan a big, cushy afghan. It is nice, if I can brag for a minute. I used 12 skeins of Paton's Bohemian & double stranded it on a size 19 circular. I couldn't bring myself to do it in seed/moss stitch, which would've looked awesome but might've doomed it to UFO (unfinished object) Land. I wussied out and did garter instead. Just hope all those yarn ends don't pop out at the same time later on..

I also made Whitney a rather wide and long scarf out of Moonlight Mohair in shades of brown & golds. No, I have not become a Lion Brand fan (although I will admit to a secret fondness for Wool Ease - chunky in particular). Again, done in a basic garter stitch. I have to admit the combination of fuzzy mohair & glint of metallic gold is pretty attractive in the scarf. I hope Whitney will enjoy wearing it with her camel coat and will throw out the grey alpaca scarf I made her a long time ago when she graduated from Yale.

Also included two scrunchy spa cloths in pale yellow and a wedge of handmade honey soap. Don't know if handmade soap is a big thing in NJ, but maybe they can start a trend. Or inspire them to start a handmade soap business if the economy takes their real jobs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Embrace Uncertainty

I'm still at home on Retreat. I was thinking that I do have another New Year's resolution. I was watching Ellen several days ago & saw Deepak Chopra mentioning his own resolutions. I like what he said about trying to "embrace uncertainty" in 2009. The more I think about it, the more I want to do this too. Talk about taking a lot of the stress out of everyday living...

I've accomplished a few things today. I finished knitting the stuffed caterpillar toy to tuck in the knitted stuff I'm mailing to Jade today (see photo on right). I included mostly things for Hudson (alias Sudsy), who is now 18 months old along with a hat & slippers for Jade. I sent him a brown cable knit pullover, matching slouchy hat, felted slippers, chunky blue helmet hat and the caterpillar. Maybe he will get some good out of the cold weather clothing before spring arrives in Portland.

Now I'm back to working on 2 afghans, scarf (gifts for nieces) and a top down "February Lady" sweater for me. I've managed to clean out some off my huge yarn stash in the last three weeks and organized the remainder in my wire cube wall. I'm really ready to head back out on the road again and do my job. I'm so trying to embrace this uncertainty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year's Resolution

I've wanted to set up a blog for several years now. I really admire friends that have put in the time and effort to maintain a blog so I can keep up with their lives. I guess setting this up is my New Year's resolution for 2009. Hopefully I will manage to keep this interesting and updated.

I am currently on "Retreat" from my job as a Transitional Representative (travelling financial advisor). I go from office to office across the US filling in for advisors that have left the company either temporarily (medical or military leave) or permanently for whatever reason. I arrived home (here in Lindale, TX) several days before Christmas when my last job in Valparaiso, IN ended. I've been here waiting to be sent to my next assignment for 3 weeks now. The downside is I've got a bit of cabin fever and the upside is all the knitting I've gotten done. Won't bore you with all the projects I've finished, but will add a few pix of my favorite things.