Oh United

We will never travel with you again.
Let me count the ways …

  1. Cancelling our flight and putting us on another one with absolutely no notification (not to mention getting home even later after 30 hours of straight travelling).
  2. Seating us separately on the plane.  I really needed to lean on Mr. P’s shoulder and doze for that last flight.  However, I am a grown-up and can handle this.  I counted *at least* four kids between the ages of 5 and 12 who were split up from their family members traveling with them and seated separately.  That’s right, United thought fit to seat a 5 year old with complete strangers on a late evening flight.  One little boy was nearly in tears as his mother explained that she would be sitting about 10 rows further back and that he’d have to sit in between two strangers.  And don’t even get me started on the heartlessness of the passengers who allowed this to happen and didn’t volunteer to switch with her …
  3. Flight attendants who could care less.  On four United flights in 2 weeks, only one had crew who even vaguely cared about what they were doing.  On the last leg home, the man in the window seat of my row was viciously snapped at by the flight attendant when he had the temerity to ask for an actual tea bag with which to make the hot tea he’d requested from the refreshment trolley.
  4. No snacks on said refreshment trolley.  Really?  Too bad if you’d had a quick turnaround in Chicago and didn’t have enough time to eat or buy your own food (like the same man in the window seat).  Lucky I had a big bag of pretzels to share around.  The 12 year old next to me (also separated from his family) was starving and appreciative.
  5. Boarding idiocy.  Why don’t they board from the back to the front in economy like other sensible airlines do?  It really makes the whole process smoother.  Also, all the assholes in the front rows of economy can’t then take all the overhead lockers with their giant bags, leaving no room at all for later boarding passengers (see next point).
  6. The carry-on bag nightmare!  Personally, I prefer to travel without a large carry-on, but sometimes it’s necessary (at the end of a long, international trip, for instance).  Why should I be penalized, or even threatened with holding up the flight (I’m talking to you, idiot gate agent in Chicago), just because I’m further down the aircraft.  I shouldn’t have to go out of my way to organize gate-checking my (legal) carry-on bag just because your gate agents couldn’t organize their way out of a wet paper bag. Also, if you’re going to insist that passengers towards the rear of the aircraft must gate-check bags, you might want to limit the number of bags carried on by passengers in the front.  I counted one guy with *four* bags.
  7. Grooming.  Standards.  Think about it!  That creature that scared the crap out of me when she turned around from the drinks trolley might not be the image you want to present to the public.  Her home-Botoxed face, haggard expression, overly baked complexion and shonky hair extensions probably caused nightmares for those poor children already traumatized by sitting with strangers.

All these things were probably aggravated by jetlag and by the unenviable comparison to the truly delightful experience we had on Qantas both to and from Australia.  A grateful shout out to the lovely Sebastian on QF93 MEL-LAX coming home for impeccable service, great conversation and generosity.  The (first-class) pjs are great.  :)

carolinas part 2

What would a vacation be without some knitting?  Yes, I’ll admit it, I packed my knitting before anything else.  Knowing that I’d have six or seven days in the car was a good motivation!

Project 1: finish Zach’s basic ribbed socks.  This pattern from Drops has been translated really badly, so I just used my basic cuff-down sock pattern-fu and figured it out for myself.  The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll (mine is old enough to still be called Essential) in Carbon Twist.  Nice to knit with, soft in the hand, but it splits very easily.  Also, the skeins must be really out of whack as I knit one whole sock (with a bit left over) from one skein, but only got to the beginning of the toe on the second sock.  Grrr.  I hate being unable to finish something as planned!  Luckily, I have heaps of this yarn as I bought it to do the edging on both the kids’ sock-yarn blankets. Now, all I have to do is find it in the house somewhere.  ;)

zach's easy ribbed socks

Project 2: TATU (Try-a-toe-up) socks.  I’ve done toe-up socks before, but I was looking for a good, easy, fairly vanilla pattern for toe-ups and this one certainly fits the bill.  It’s also written for sport-weight yarn on US 3s so they really moved along.  They just need the ends woven in and a quick wash and they’re done (for me)!

tatu easy toe-up socks

Project 3: Riley.  My god-daughter will be visiting the US from Australia in April/May with her husband and daughter (my great-god-daughter ;)) and we’ll be catching up with them in either Boston or NYC, work schedules permitting.  I’d like to have something summery but not too light-weight for the baby (Tabitha) to wear as necessary while here, but to grow into for the Australian spring and summer.  I recently made a baby kimono and hat from this cotton/microfiber blend and I loved the finished garment in terms of drape, texture and usability.  I’m knitting a pattern from Nashua Handknits and am going out on a limb a little bit in terms of size.  If I’ve done the knitting maths correctly (and there could always be a first time ;)), knitting the 12-month size with this yarn and US size 5 needles should result in an 18-month-ish size.  Fingers crossed!

Riley baby cardigan in progress

Riley baby cardigan in progress

Project 4: Custom Zooming. Several months ago, I experimented with a pattern (Zoom) to make a cotton cover for the Swiffer sweeper.  I’m pretty sick of throwing away endless pieces of paper (Swiffer cloths – both wet and dry) so I’d like to find a more sustainable solution.  I played around with the pattern and customized it to fit our particular Swiffer.  It works pretty well on dry floors and really well wet (although I’m yet to find an easy and mess-free way to get it wet enough but “wrung-out” enough for mopping floors).

zoom swiffer cover

Luna with Zoom

Project 5: Dishcloth.  Have I, perhaps, been on another planet?  Growing up, I was oblivious of the whole knitted dishcloth phenomenon.  Maybe we didn’t have it in Australia? (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong?)  Anyway, I’ll admit to being a Sugar’n Cream snob for many years …  now you can call me a convert!  Between the Swiffer Zooms and my newly discovered obsession for knitting dishcloths in the car … beware A.C. Moore!  I tried out my first ever dishcloth today, and I’m in love.   I can totally see putting out a new one of these every day and washing them in the weekly old towels/rags/zoom/dishcloth hot+bleach wash (we have one of the old Maytag Neptune front loaders with the inherent mold problems, and I’m always looking for an excuse to run a hot wash with bleach!).

dishcloth

First ever dishcloth

dishcloths

I'm hooked!

The vacation was a complete knitting success, especially as we finished our trip staying in a B&B where the host(ess) was a knitter and we compared knitting war stories over breakfast.

carolinas part 1

So, to put it rather crassly, we went retirement town shopping in the Carolinas (and Tennessee).  We’re nowhere near ready to retire yet – at least, I’m not – but it’s looking like the right time to buy something.  The plan is to buy a small house in or near a nice town/small city and install my parents as caretaker-tenants.  We wanted to look at several towns, cities, and areas I’d determined in advance.  We were concentrating on the north central and northwest of North Carolina, the far eastern corner of Tennessee, then the western part of South Carolina.  Criteria included such things as proximity to arts, culture, medical care, shopping, restaurants, a major airport, weather (summer and winter) etc.  Oh, yeah, and “Where’s the local public library?”  ;)

Of course, I spent a massive amount of time researching this.  I found a wiki with icons you can use in Google Maps’ “My Maps” feature.  I had entirely too much fun plotting destinations and adding points of interest in my map of the Carolinas.

We covered about 2,400 miles in 6 days.  About 1,600 of that was driving to and from our starting and ending points, so we did about 800 miles over the other 4 days.  Destination/accommodation/food impressions:

  1. Roanoke, VA: wasn’t initially on the list as we just stayed here overnight to break our trip down, but it looks like a small city having a cool revitalization going on.  We had a fantastic dinner at the Horizon Bar & Grill. We weren’t so thrilled with our accommodation.  From the road, using Expedia, I booked us into the Hotel Roanoke, a Hilton Doubletree property.  We need to make four stays a year at a Hilton hotel (some convoluted membership requirement with Hilton Honors), so we thought “what the heck – let’s stay at a nice hotel …”  Nice looking hotel, but but it was noisy, the TV remote didn’t work, the phone only worked intermittently (and not in the middle of the night with a drunken idiot shouting outside our door, grrr) and the shower was like trying to get clean under a dribbling faucet.  George thought I was having some kind of mental breakdown in there and came to investigate my hysterical laughter.  The air-conditioning sounded like a 747 taking off, so woke us up every time it came on, and then there was the water dripping out of the vent …  NOT recommended!
  2. Statesville, NC: nice little town, but a little too quiet and too small for our tastes.  We stayed in a lovely B&B, The Kerr House, with great and informative hosts Pam & John Algiere.  We actually ended up having (an unplanned but nice) dinner with them as we were all at the same restaurant, Pellegrino’s Trattoria and they invited us to sit with them.  We would definitely stay at this B&B again if we were in the area.  It was clean, comfortable and breakfast was great!
  3. Davidson, NC: Lovely little college town, but a little too small for us.  Very green (in all senses of the word) and very tidy (possibly *too* tidy … vague Stepford Wives overtones to me).
  4. Assorted towns and small cities in Tennessee (including Kingsport, Bristol, and Johnson Ciy): very pretty, but a little one-dimensional for our tastes.  Getting to this area included the most hair-raising drive we’ve ever done: 24+ miles of mountain switchbacks with a grand total of about 24 feet of guardrail protecting the unwary from plummeting to their deaths.  Mountain City, TN to Bristol, TN through the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachians on Route 34/421.  Not for the faint-hearted (or those with motion sickness).  We stayed in Rogersville at the Hale Springs Inn.  It should have been one of the highlights of our trip (it was the most expensive place we stayed).  While absolutely beautiful, the unsettling experience of staying in an unstaffed inn overnight without having been given an after-hours number (The Shining, anyone?), having to track down the source of a loud alarm in the middle of the night (an alarm clock in a room on another floor, as we discovered eventually), and no-one showing up in the morning to do breakfast (we left without breakfast after waiting around 45 minutes waiting to see if someone would show up) spoiled the stay entirely.  NOT recommended.  Management’s offer of a free couples massage in the in-house spa on our next visit to make up for service failure is not adequate and I will be making sure to (fairly but honestly) review our stay everywhere I can.
  5. Asheville, NC: I think I’m in love.  I’d live here in a heartbeat.  Asheville has everything we’re looking for and more.  This was our favourite place from the whole trip.
  6. Hendersonville, NC: a definite second-place contender.  George describes this lovely little town just south of Asheville as “Asheville for old people.”  I loved this place and it definitely warrants another look.
  7. Greenville, SC: we liked this a lot, but not as much as Hendersonville and Asheville.  Stayed in a nice B&B, Pettigru Place.  George thought downtown was a little too tidy – “a little Disney Worldish.”  I am discovering that we like a little vibrancy and maybe even a little grit in our “dream” retirement destination.
  8. Anderson, SC: Lovely town which probably has everything we could want but we think it would be way too hot for way too long in the summer.  Unfortunate – I had high hopes for this one.
  9. Columbia, SC: never really on the list as it was just a convenient place to stay.  It’s also not going to be on the list as it’s reputed to be the hottest place in South Carolina.  A pity really, as we really liked it!  We stayed at a fantastic boutique hotel/inn: The Inn at Claussen’s.  It’s in a renovated bakery and was the perfect combination of relatively cheap and very comfortable.  We had a really fantastic meal right next door at Mr. Friendly’s.
  10. Rock Hill, SC: we stopped here for a great lunch (at Citizen Corners).  Proximity to Charlotte (see point #11) make this worth a second look.
  11. Matthews/Charlotte, NC: This was really only going to be a convenient last port of call before tackling the drive home, but we ended up really liking it and are giving the Charlotte area some serious consideration.  Our stay at 803 Elizabeth Lane B&B was one of the cheapest, most low-key, and most pleasant of the whole trip.  We’ll definitely stay there again.  The hosts, Martha and Will, were perfect and George was completely reinvigorated by roaming around their fabulous 5-acre gardens and yard and talking gardening and climate with Will.  Martha volunteers at the local public library and knits!  :)  We had possibly the best meal of the trip at Sante, tucked away in the main street of historic downtown Matthews.

So, much food for thought.  We are relieved to have found several areas that we really like and are looking forward to making another trip to see them in more detail.  On to further research!

all work and no play

makes the handknit librarian a very dull girl indeed.

I’m on day six of what is scheduled to be thirteen straight days of work and in combination with a lot to do for both classes it really isn’t very good for my mental health.  Oh, and factor in the architect ripping up half the kitchen floor with the consequent dirt and chaos and I’m really crazy in the head.  Stepping in wet concrete while wearing suede shoes yesterday was almost the final straw.

Sanity may be saved by sneaking a day off work next week and going into NYC with the architect.  While he goes to some boring IT thingy at the Hilton mid-town, I’ll be hanging out at the NYPL, getting fish & chips for lunch at A Salt & Battery, then walking down to Purl in SoHo to drool over yarn.  I have to buy some sock yarn for a swap for the blankie, but I know it’s going to be hard to restrain myself …

Progress is slow on In Vino Wisteria.  I’m finally down to the cabled section at the bottom of the body, but it’s just going to get slower and slower as I go along because there are more and more cables.  Still, it does look great, and hopefully the sleeves will move along more quickly when I get to them.

I did manage to finish’s Grant’s (giant) CMU toe-up socks and he likes them (shown here with a “normal” sized sock for comparison):

I also made a nice hat for Alexandra (A Slouch for All Seasons) in Moda Dea Bamboo Wool which was really nice to knit with:

What is most likely only the first Meret I’ll make is finished (and I don’t think Phoebe has taken it off yet):

I’ve managed to start a little bit more holiday knitting too.  A Calorimetry for the girl in some luscious Malabrigo Dos (it really feels like butter) supplemented with some Woolen Rabbit laceweight.  The colour combination looks great:

End of "summer" update

In Vino Wisteria is underway and I’m loving it! (well, apart from a few tense moments when I screwed up the count on the chart and had to tink back through some complicated cabling).  The Dream in Color Classy is a delight to knit with, although not quite as soft as I expected.  The swatch did seem smooshier after washing and blocking, so we’ll see.  I’d hate to end up with a t-neck that I can’t wear because it’s itchy.

wisteria2

I finished the hearts booties finally – all they needed was seaming, stuffing and tying.  I did have an epiphany while I was sewing the seam for these.  Finally a great use for all the ends that live in the mason jar on the crate that sits next to the couch where I knit … stuffing for booties!

heartsnrjarends

I started another pair of socks.  Need them to knit in the car on the way to and from NYC.  I’d rather be working right from a pattern than figuring it out as I go along (as is the case with the yet unfinished CMU toe-ups).  Just the toe of one done so far, but that’s plenty to get me off to a running start (anyone see that episode of Mythbusters?) in the car.

dbleyeletrib1

Oh yes.  The architect, in a move totally out of character, has determined that we’re going to a party next weekend.  A dress-up party.  Admittedly, the theme is not too scary to contemplate (Woodstock), but turning two middle-aged people with really short hair into hippies is a bit of a stretch.  So, in the meantime, I need to knit myself a belt and a headband for him.  I have two balls of Lion Brand Suede which should do the trick, one in purple and one in dark brown.  I scored a fairly cheap “tie-dye” skirt at TJMaxx a couple of weeks ago (that I actually like and can wear to work), and a too big white cotton “peasant” blouse which will look okay with a belt over it.  I also scored a truly hideous linen pullover shirt for the architect to wear loose over old jeans.  I need to borrow a pair of the girl’s crappy plastic flip-flops to complete the look.

Pictures may follow.