Thursday, March 27, 2008

BIG Decision Time

Claire has heard from all the colleges where she applied. The last week has been one of agonizing decisions and sleepless nights.

Tonight, we have a winner: Hiram College, in Hiram, Ohio.

Above is the new Library, where she'll spend a lot of her time.

The scholarship award was a major factor, and it's a small, personal kind of a place, located in the beautiful wooded and rolling countryside of the Western Reserve in eastern Ohio. It boasts a unique academic calendar, small seminar style classes, and some fantastic study abroad programs.

Here are some pictures of the campus we took on our Grand Tour last summer. The barn above is a ceramics studio, located about a mile from the main campus at a field station. Claire really loved that, as she intends to develop her potters skills as a part of her art educator program.

One of nine residence halls, below

Monday, March 24, 2008

I LOVE last minute travel!

So this morning I was reading through my email as usual with a cuppa joe when I spied the ever-dangerous one from my travel agent. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw an eastbound transatlantic sailing in less than three weeks on one my favorite ships going for peanuts. A chill ran through me when I saw the arrival port: Harwich, England. Shoot, I already have a return air ticket from London that I haven't used and will expire if I don't.

What to do?

Call the woman, of course, and book it FAST!

So I did. And I'm on it! It was meant to be.
Here's the skinny:

Day Location Arrival Departure
Friday, April 11, 2008 Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- 04:30 PM
Saturday, April 12, 2008 At Sea -- --
Sunday, April 13, 2008 Kings Wharf, Bermuda 04:00 PM --
Monday, April 14, 2008 Kings Wharf, Bermuda -- 03:30 PM
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 At Sea -- --
Wednesday, April 16, 2008 At Sea -- --
Thursday, April 17, 2008 At Sea -- --
Friday, April 18, 2008 At Sea -- --
Saturday, April 19, 2008 At Sea -- --
Sunday, April 20, 2008 Cork, Ireland 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
Monday, April 21, 2008 At Sea
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 Paris (Le Havre), France 08:00 AM 11:00 PM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 Cherbourg, France 07:00 AM 03:45 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2008 Harwich, England 04:30 AM --

I'll post pictures when I return.

<--- Our fantastic aft cabin on the same ship during last September's westbound transatlantic. The glass screen divides our main bedroom from a 2nd sitting room/bedroom (Claire's), which leads to a huge balcony out back.

Our aft balcony. Fabulous! Docked at the time in St. John, Newfoundland. --------->

On the knitting front: I am almost finished knitting the body of my Mr. Greenjeans cardie. I think two more complete cables will do it. Then it's onto the sleeves and the button band and it's finished.

My SOTSii got far behind the weekly schedule, and I am currently working my way through Hint 8 --- only about 80 or so rows to go to total completion! Whew! There will be another SOTS in August, and I think I'll do that one, too.

March 26 is the start of the MysticLight shawl KAL, and I signed up for that. I have a cone of Jaggerspun Maine Line fingering weight for this.

The Malabrigo Junkies board on Ravelry is winding up Malabrigo March Madness. I started the Mr. Greenjeans cardie in Silky Merino. And I've finished the Herringbone Mittens in Vaa and Frank Ochre Merino Worsted, a Tudora neck ruff and a Capitan hat in Amoroso, and will cast on a few more small projects before March is over.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Maine state of mind

Claire and I just returned from a few days in Maine. Yes, it's March, I know. She had an interview at a college in Bar Harbor, with the rest of our time spent enjoying the quiet winter beauty of the Maine coast. Oh, and a few yarn stores, too.
Of course.

Here are a few pictures of the campus. It's right on Frenchman's Bay, on Mt. Desert Island, just a stone's throw from Acadia National Park. I can't think of a more gorgeous setting for ANYTHING.

And yes, this all of these pictures are ON CAMPUS. Amazing.

College of the Atlantic offers only one major to its 400 students: Human Ecology. What the heck does that mean? Anything you want to self-design into a personal program.

The college grows many of the veggies used for meals on their own organic farm. The balance of the school's food is purchased from other Maine organic farmers. We had lunch on campus one day, and the food was fantastic! The entree was a pork tenderloin with fennel roasted with a teriyaki glaze, mashed sweet potatoes, fresh sesame green beans, steamed broccoli that was as good as a three star restaurant offering(read crisp-tender and very fresh), homemade whole wheat bread, and dense, crunchy, uber-dark-chocolatey oat bars. Not a pizza or a burger in sight. Who'da thunk?

Bar Harbor is a wonderful place once the crowds and summer visitors are gone. We got to know one of the owners at Ben and Bill's Chocolates, Yvonne, VERY well. Originally from Ireland, her rich accent and amazing expertise at all things chocolate AND TEA were just the ticket for us. It's so hard to get a good cup of tea at a restaurant or shop: No one seems to know (or care) that the water must be freshly boiled to make a decent tea. You can't make good tea from a Bunn coffeemaker, or a decanter of hot water on a warming plate, thanks very much. But Yvonne knew exactly what I was looking for when I asked for a "proper cup". Living above the shop, she dashed upstairs to find tea from her own personal stash! We were rewarded with huge cups of Irish Breakfast tea, perfectly brewed and delicious. We went back twice a day, every day, for tea and a few of her decadent chocolate offerings: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Creams, Buttercreams, Turtles, Maple Walnut Creams, Wintergreen Patties, Deep Chocolate Truffles, Coffee Creams, Bark, Honeycomb, Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Penuche, and more. That was only the tip of the iceberg of her offerings. Every time we'd walk past the store, she was hard at work, dipping and crafting chocolates or making fudge. She always waved when she saw us, and I think she must have recognized my bright yellow parka; it's pretty unique and hard to miss. Her chocolates are fabulous, so if you visit, you must go and savor them. For all the chocolates that we bought, not too many made it back to Austin with us, though. We just couldn't resist.

My birthday fell right in the middle of our visit, so to celebrate we spent the day traipsing around a wide area visiting local yarn stores. At Bee's in Bar Harbor, we encountered the lethal combination of hand-dipped chocolates and yarn. The shop is tiny and cram-packed with yarn, cards, handknit sweaters and an old-fashioned candy counter. There's no place to sit and knit -- barely enough room to maneuver in -- but the owner is friendly and helpful, whatever your needs or desires.

THE LILAC LILY was the highlight of our day, though. Located in Southwest Harbor, it has a wonderful selection of Maine artisan yarns and a wide selection of labels that are well known nationally. It started to snow while we were there, and Leslie, the welcoming and gregarious shopkeeper, invited us to stay and knit with her. Another regular patron, Nancy, came in and joined us, and we knit, talked Ravelry, and watched the snow come down in big, lacy flakes.

Back in Bar Harbor that night, we had dinner at Geddy's, which is lit by the silhouette of a moose on the roof. We dined on the best clam chowder ever, giant lobsters, and slices of sinfully good wild Maine blueberry pie for dessert. Then we trekked over to see Yvonne for our nightly chocolates and tea. One of the best birthdays ever!

We explored a little of Acadia NP one day, though many of the park roads are closed for the winter. Echo Lake, with the famous carriage road circling its perimeter, was frozen solid and deserted, in stark contrast to the crowds, traffic, and congestion of summer.

On departure day, we checked out of hotel at 7 a.m. for the 4.5 hour drive back to the Manchester, NH airport. We built in an extra hour and a half for a stop at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, ME, which was not much of a detour for us. It's a huge old warehouse, stuffed floor to ceiling with 10' tall aisles of bins loaded with skeins, hanks, and cones. There's even an entire aisle of roving for spinners. That's just on the first floor. You're looking at an entire aisle of Jaggerspun on your right. ------------------------------------------------>
I won't torture you by telling you there are also aisles for Harrisville Designs, Casco Bay yarns, Brown Sheep yarns, Bartlett, sock yarn, and much more.

On the second level, there are looms, wheels, and every spinning thing made or known to mankind. Claire bought her first drop spindle here, and a cloud of roving. Now she just needs time to perfect her technique.

View of the sunrise from our hotel room