Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hacked Off

I'm in Paypal / iTunes hell.

On my birthday someone made over $160 of unauthorized charges by purchasing music on itunes. It was paid using my paypal account, which I use as the default payment for iTunes.

Apparently there's a well known glitch in iTunes security that allows hackers to use someone's birth day to hack their password. It's happened to more than just me.

Paypal denies that these 4 charges ($40, 40, 40 and $20) were unauthorized. iTunes refuses to talk to anyone but Paypal about it, and paypal refuses to talk to anyone because the cases are closed. They closed them the same day they opened them, by the way. Way to do some intensive forensic research, Paypal...

It seems that once a hacker knows a victim's birthday, they can hack in and change the security questions in an iTunes/Apple account, and then all hell breaks loose. It's been documented online by folks whose accounts were hacked AND security questions were changed, but from what I can see, Apple is still denying it's a problem.

I love Apple. Love my mac, love my ipod touch, love how they enhance my life. I do NOT love the runaround I'm getting on this. This was DEFINITELY not a case of my paypal account being hacked, or someone hacking into my computer - it's an iTunes problem.

Paypal is - as usual - not a lot of fun to deal with, but the problem is definitely on Apple's end. I did, hope, however for more protection from paypal.

Anyone else have a similar iTunes story, I'd love to collect them and publicize them as much as possible.

The only phone number I was given by Apple (ostensibly for their fraud department) was a message-only line giving a fax number for Law Enforcement, not for "ordinary" customers.

Is filing a police report my next step? Does anyone know if there's a class action on this? I'm thinking there must be a LOT of folks affected by Apple's lack of security.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Love, Love, Love

There's been a lot of love in the air recently.

Mostly it's been baby love. Three good friends all had babies in the past few months (two of them first time mommies to Lil' and Eli') and a few adoptions by distant friends have moved into finalized stages. Is there any love like baby love?

Then there's family love. Coming home from a month away makes me realize - as always - how damned lucky I am to have this amazing family (dog and cat included) Most days I think the feeling is mutual...

And there's been good ol' fashioned falling-in-love LOVE, which is always wonderful to see!

When Gerry and I were first married and would stroll down the street hand-in-hand, it dawned on me how lucky we were. Many couples don't have that freedom, or right to have their union sanctioned by their government. It's just wrong.

We had originally scheduled our wedding on Saturday, but we were reminded that Jewish weddings don't happen on that day because there's a proscription against signing a contract on Shabbat in Jewish law.

Until that point I hadn't thought of marriage in those terms - strictly contractural - but this reoriented my thinking.

Marriage is, first and foremost, a contract. Taking the cultural taboos out of it, which some folks find hard to do, marriage is an agreement between two people to treat each other with respect, honor, cherish - and whatever else is tossed in (Love? Mais oui!)

One hint that marriage is a contract: Consider how the dissolution of a marriage is handled. In a church? No. In a court.

My own personal thinking is that all marriages should be simple civil contracts, with the additional religious or spiritual ceremony to be performed at the discretion of the participants.

If you believe that marriage is a sacrament which includes god, fabulous - have at it! Just don't insist that your definition of marriage is the ONLY definition permissible under our law.

There's no reason that one person's impression of what their god desires should keep another person from entering into a civil contract. But that's just my own point of view - held by many, rejected by some...

I also think that marriage shouldn't be terribly expensive. The cost to file the papers and enter into the contract should be minimal, which it is in many states. Our own wedding cost us a mere $1,000 (dress and cake included, because we did it pretty much on our own.)

The cost to file the paperwork was around $50, and that was very kindly handled as a gift by Gerry's family.

I have an internet friend, Brooklynn, a knitter who I met on Twitter. Originally from the US, B met the love of her life online in a trans group, and moved halfway around the world, where marriage between two folks of the same sex is A-Ok.

She's getting married in a few weeks, and it's a pretty interesting situation (which will make some folks teary and others tear their hair out. It's just how folks are.)

The interesting twist, though - as if there weren't twists enough - is that Brooklynne is using the $120 filing fee (!) for their marriage as an opportunity to raise awareness of Marriage Equality.

One shouldn't have to move half way across the world to get married.

She's raising funds to cover the filing, with all extra funds above and beyond the $120 fee going as a donation to Marriage Equality USA.

I salute her in this - it's a clever way to cover one of the gazillion costs associated with getting hitched, and a way to put a personal face on the Marriage Equality issue. If you feel so inclined and would like to slip her a $5, think of it as a wedding gift!

Mazel Tov, Brooklynne & Ryan!
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Saturday, September 26, 2009


Fall is just starting to set in here in Minnesota. The leaves are edging themselves with gold and red, and the air is crips and clear.

This means winter is coming, which is beautiful here but lasts about a month too long.

And then there's the end of Winter, not quite Spring period which is most clearly defined by the potholes that pop up on the streets and roads. Or should I say pop-down?

The potholes are caused by water which seeps into cracks in the road, freezes into the ground, does the work of a mini-glacier and then melts away leaving a trap for car and bike (and sometimes pedestrian.)

The road crews descend, tar and macadam are poured into the holes and when a road gets really bad the entire thing is ripped up, re-graded and repoured. They did that to our street two years ago, which was a mess, but the result was worth it.

Why this lesson in highway maintenance? I'm dealing with my own non-seasonal depressions.

Metaphorical Potholes
I woke up this morning with several things on my mind that I had to do, one right after the other. Here's a brief list of my immediate goals:
  • Work on Boleyn Top for History on Two Needles (HoTN)
  • Write my September Newsletter
  • Create new class sample swatches for upcoming trip
  • Rework teaching handouts for same trip.
  • Confirm travel & class details for same trip
  • Write up King James skirt for HoTN
  • Ditto Black Prince Dress & several other patterns
  • Write pattern for Virginia Cloche
  • Work on essay proposal for IK
and always, less immediate but just as important
  • Hunt up more teaching engagements for 2010
  • Research printers for HoTN
  • Research photographers / models for HoTN
But unfortuately, all I want to do is play Tetris. But I won't, I'll work, but you know what I really want to do...

As I pondered this list tiny reasons why I couldn't get X or Y done, or why Z was overwhelming began popping up. For instance: I-can't-firm-up-travel-until-I-hear-back-from-every-shop-on-the-trip-but-some-classes-are-still-not-full-therefore-that-shop-may-not-have-me-therefore-I-can't-firm-up-travel.

And I realized, as I dressed in the dark because it was early and Gerry was still asleep, that I could go on like that for days.

I asked myself. "Why am I piling up these stumbling blocks in front of me? Why do I feel like I'm spinning my wheels?"

It's not really like me, but nothing's been really like me for about 2 years now. Maybe that's one of the secrets of life: We change - no behavior pattern can define us forever.

I try not to use Gerry's illness as an excuse, although it is convenient at times. But to deny that it IS there, hovering over us, would be pointless.

He's doing great, he's more active than any of us thought he'd be at this point. But his pain is tremendous and he needs several oxycodone and a few hydrocodone to get through a good day.* On a bad day he stays in bed. He has more bad days in the Winter.

But Gerry aside - and that's a hard place to put my mind - I think I'm not dealing with stumbling blocks as much as with potholes.

I fall into them on a daily basis, and sometimes I find it very hard to crawl out.

These potholes weren't created by a Minnesota Winter, but by several years of living on the harsh emotional edge of loss, with a 50% chance of greater loss (in the metro area...)

It's as if my soul's been through a bad Winter. My creative self went into hibernation, half waking on warm days, but mostly just rolling over and going back to sleep. It's amazing how well one can run on empty.

During the dark days my emotional climate was busy creating potholes, large and small, over any surface that I'd spent the past few years paving with my professional aspirations. And now that I'm waking up and heading back into my creative world, I have to deal with these new traps.

Going Forward
I'm trying to train myself to NOT fall into the pothole, but to walk around them.

I think one of the ways I've unconsciously done this was to cut drastically down on my teaching - there are SO MANY potholes there just waiting to trip me up - and only do 2 or 3 very long trips instead of 10 shorter trips in a year.

When I do find myself flat on my face from a stumble, I think a good course of action might be to get up, assess any damage, then take some time to fill in the pothole that tripped me up.

How successful I'll be in this depends on the type of material I use in the pothole, and how much effort I put into it. We've all experience the badly mended holes that just open up again a week after the crew's gone away...

And as I fill in my potholes, I'll try to keep up with my daily work. If I don't, please forgive me. I feel as though I'm leaving a long Winter, entering a Spring, but there may be some re-freezing in the future.

So as Fall arrives, it seems I'm ready for Spring Training.

And I'll try to keep my Phil Rizutto key chain out of any potholes I fill.

*I know it sounds like a lot of medication - I have to almost force him to take it His several collapsed vertebrae are the source of the pain, but the back doctor we consulted about surgery last year essentially said surgery isn't generally done on Multiple Myeloma patients because they don't want their last year(s) on earth filled with back surgery recovery pain.

We press on.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Bag

September and October are golden.

My favorite months, my favorite time of year! May is a close second, and I consider it very fortuitous that my mom, my daughter and myself were born in May, Oct and Sept respectively.

I've been doing some bits and pieces for the past few weeks - nothing too big - finishing up things for History on Two Needles and doing some small stuff (like my Chicken Hat? It's worked up in - no kidding - Rooster yarn!)

But today I started a whole new project for the book and I'm VERY excited. It's a pullover based on an anonymous portrait of Anne Boleyn, and so far, so good!

So when you look in my knitting bag today, you'll see the yarn for the Bolyen Bodice (Tilli Tomas Milan and Beaded Milan) and yarn for a scarf (blueface leister superwash by HW Hammand)

You'll also see my wallet (with a tiny sock knitted for me by Miriam Tegels), my bag of knit tools, a tissue and a bottle of Superfood Smoothie.

Today I biked. Hannah forgot her English assignment (The Most Powerful Person I Know) so I rode it over to her school.

I had to print it off of the computer, so of course I read it, and for a brief moment I was afraid she'd say I was the most powerful person she knew, and not in a good way (we had a not-terrific hair cutting incident, but her friends at school like her new "too short" cut so all is forgiven...)

The most powerful person she knows? Little Oliver. My friend's baby is Hannah's Most Powerful Person.

It was such a clever essay relating how the world jumps through hoops for him, that I had to smile.

And, of course, the power isn't in the baby, but in the LOVE we have for the baby (who is a doll!)

And now I must return to the knitting, to the hat book, and the the pattern writing that always seems to be lurking in some dark corridor of my brain.

My life is a bizarre all-knit version of "Wait Until Dark"


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Continuing the UK Extravaganza

When last I blogged about my wanderings through the UK I was at The Chapel being hosted by Jeni Brown of Fyberspates and Andy of Laughing Hens, and I fell in love with the place.

The chapel is just that - a chapel - which has been beautifully modernized on the inside, still retaining the original feeling, but up to date in every sense of the word.

However - and I noticed this in France, too - what is it about Europe that makes window screens such a non-necessity? I guess they don't have the same bugs we have over in the States, but without screens life in MN would be unlivable. (Well, for me at least, but I must be especially sweet and easy to bite.)

But I digress... The last day at Fyberspates I took a side trip down a lane to photograph some chickens I'd met earlier. I couldn't tell if they were laughing, but they seemed a bit threatening to this city girl.

They're lovely, but the massed together very quickly and created a formidable grouping. They did, however, inspire a hen-hat that I will unveil as soon as I get the pattern written up. It's very nice.

After my classes at Fyberspates I drove down to Bristol through some of the most beautiful countryside I've seen. I went a bit out of my way to pass through Stratford upon Avon, but it was very busy so I didn't even stop, just drove around a bit.

I saw SO many sheep dotted all over the landscape! Big sheep, little sheep, white with black faces, black with black faces, and some lovely reddish-brown ones in Cumbria on the way to Shropshire. I sound like I really know what I'm talking about, geographically, huh?

Perhaps it was because I did most of my driving in Bristol during the evening and morning rush hours, but it just felt like more of a working town than anyplace else I'd been in the UK.

The hotel I found didn't have a parking lot, so I was directed to park in the lot at the Bristol train station, and that also put me in touch with the masses on their way to their daily grinds.

The classes at Get Knitted were so great, such a wonderful group of students (and plentiful coffee and treats!)

When I finished at the end of the day I headed right off with no firm destination in mind. I hadn't really had a chance to do the online hotel search I usually do at the end of a teaching day, and I discovered that unless one "books", one is not likely to find a hotel room.

I drove quite a bit, but finally found a Premier Inn (sort of like a Motel 6) and settled in for a nice rest.

The next day I made it to Canterbury, and was blown away by the beauty of the cathedral and the charm of the surrounding town. I think I was afraid it would be more touristy than it was, because although it was busy, it was lovely.

The architecture, the balance of light and textures, the history of the cathedral were breathtaking to me.

There were lots of little spaces to sit and rest, to think, to knit. I took a long time wandering around, I sat and knitted a lot, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly!

And - most meaningful to me at this time in my life - I got to spend a good amount of time with my old friend, The Black Prince. His funeral effigy is at Canterbury, it was the basis for my Black Prince Hood and Mini Dress, and it was wonderful to see him "in person!"

I took many photos, spent a lot of time with the Edward the BP (and practically had to arm-wrestle a German guy who was also communing with Mr. PB.) and

After Canterbury I drove on to Dover for a nice overnight and an excellent Fish & Chips dinner.

Up early the next day I hadn't intended to visit Dover Castle, but I took a wrong turn and suddenly found myself in the parking lot. It was a lovely mistake - I would rank my visit up there with Falkland Palace, and found the WWII history incredibly moving.

My dad was a photographer in the 2nd Combat Camera Unit of the US Army Air Corp, stationed a good deal of the war in Southern England. I found myself wondering if he'd had a chance to visit Dover castle.

Then finally to London, my last teaching stop on my trip!

The iKnit weekender was absolutely wonderful! The folks at iKnit OUTDID themselves with the organization of such a busy and lively event, I've seldom seen so many happy, happy knitters all in one place! The venue was great - a bit warm in the sunny areas, but what would one expect from a horticultural hall?

I'm sure the orchids absolutely love it during their shows, but I spent most of my time in my beautiful (and air conditioned) classroom.

The view from my classroom was lovely - so beautiful - it was hard to tear myself away long enough to teach the workshops!

But I did, and they were WONDERFUL! Miriam Tegels, who was teaching speed knitting in the next classroom, came by to help (and show her amazing technique) and was a most welcome addition to the group!

I could not believe how exhausted I was, though, by the end of the days!

I meant to do some socializing, some drinking and dining with friends - but it was all I could do to drag my sorry butt back to my hotel and crash before falling asleep on my feet!

I did something I hardly do for myself - I took 2 full days after my last class to sightsee, to visit places in London, and just to be on my own. I'd intended to visit yarn shops - but I didn't even make it to iKnit.

How's THAT for being self-centered! I spent so much time photographing architectural detail - I feel a new set of designs coming on!

My wifi wasn't working on my computer (heaven knows why... it began working the minute I turned it on at home! And, oddly enough, no one ELSE'S computer here chez Landy is able to get wifi since I've returned home...) so a huge coup for me was visiting the Apple store to check my mail, talk to Gerry on skype very briefly, and commune with all things British mac.

I don't know what the Apple store was originally designed to be, but the mosaics on the faćade were smashing!

I got a good look at them when I visited the Cibo cafe in Mamas & Papas (a maternity/baby store) right across the street.

There I had a good rest, a nice sit-down and bathroom break, more free wifi and one of the best chocolate muffins and tea I've ever had in my life!

I also managed to sqeeze a full DAY at the Tower of London - what a thrill that was in light of all the history reading I've been doing in the past few years.

I took the full audio tour, took the warden's tours, read every plaque and chatted up the costumed folks.

And I had one of the best meals I've had in England - beef & ale pie, barley soup, jam tart and tea - why, oh why did I not have a beer?

I spent another full day walking - and walking - and walking some more! I visited the National Gallery and visited many of the paintings I'm using as research in History on Two Needles and my large circle took me to many places I hadn't visited in almost 30 years.

I visited the McDonalds in Trafalgar square where I worked in 1980 (seriously - I was the MacFry girl) and visited the 4th Plinth project (ping pong whilst I was there!)

...and more walking, and more walking, and more architectural photos!

As the day drew to an end I found myself in Green park walking toward Buckingham Palace.

I sat for a long time (my feet and legs demanded it!) and then headed to Green Park just in time to catch the final rays of the sun and the beautiful black swans.

It was the perfect time, with the perfect sky, a perfect ending to my 2 selfish days in London!

These are just a small bit of the photos I took on my trip. If you'd like to see more of them, please visit my flickr page

But I feel I've forgotten something... Ah, yes, the FOOD!

Driving in the car and listening to BBC Radio 4 was a delight - a less stuffy NPR - and one radio show mentioned that British food had improved quite dramatically in the past 10 years.

I can't speak to that specific point, but I can say that I had many amazing meals in the past month. I will catalog several here...

Mussels in Eyemouth
Which my brain continues to insist on calling "Earmouth"
We bought them at a truck by the docks, and they were DELICIOUS!

And I found a teensy, tiny, little pearl in one of mine!

I told everyone about the pearl, they were duly impressed. Then it dawned on me that maybe the grizzled guy cooking up the fish had tossed a handful of tiny seed pearls into the pot?

I hope not - and I will always believe it was from one of the mussels in my styrofoam cup.

It was absolutely magical to dig that pearl out of my mouth and realize it was NOT a piece of tooth (not something you would want to happen in the first week of a 3 week foreign trip...)

Sandwiches at Pillars of Hercules
Somewhere at the end of a road in Fife, Scotland
Di Gilpin took Gerry and I to a wonderful health food shop / restaurant where we bought MANY wonderful foods.

This place is really a sanctuary, a delight, and a source of rather expensive but VERY nice Butternut Squash.

We ATE many wonderful foods, these sandwiches among them, and each bite was beloved by us all.

Tea at Lanercost
Near Hadrian's Wall
I stopped here as a lark, and had one of the nicest scones I've ever had. The setting was so calm, the tea was delicious, but the star of the show was the fruit scone. Life never felt so good.

I was so impressed that I'm half thinking of perhaps renting this space for a bit when I return next year for Knit Camp in Stirling. I definitely want to bring the family over, and I'm looking for a place where we can stay and where I can also teach a few classes.

Brampton is located near many of the sites Gerry and the kids would like to visit, it's not too far from Stirling (2+ hours) so it's on my early list. Any thoughts?

Jeni's Carmelized Onion Tart
I don't really know if it was "hers", but it came out of her oven and she set it in front of me, that's good enough!
This was one of those meals that hit spots I didn't even know needed hitting!

Let's start with the roast potatoes. Amazing, lovely, warm and smokey and toasty. And they were the side dish, the Eve Arden of the meal.

The tart itself was pure heaven. Onions and goat cheese and pastry crust - three of the main food groups of the perpetually satisfied. I may have just been drunk on all the fine yarn (Jeni gave me enough to knit Gerry a sweater - pattern to follow...)

Carrot Cake in Canterbury
A guilt purchase that was so good I had no guilt
Have you ever been lured into a cafe or deli and felt so interested that you wanted to stay, but didn't really want to eat anything? That was my introduction to the Canterbury Deli.

I walked in, looked at the cakes and smelled the amazing hams and succulents, but didn't really want anything. But I felt like I should order something.

So I ordered tea and carrot cake (there'd been a piece on Radio 4 about Sunday Teas in Scotland and carrot cake figured prominently in it, I'd been jonesing for some good CC) and slipped into a moment of pure bliss. I wonder if Chaucer had this cake?

Fish & Chips
(with a nice half pint - I was driving later...)
A tweeter or blogger had posted about the F&C at the Old Butter Market, so I dropped in for lunch and had one of the nicest meals I'd had all month!

The fish was crispy but not greasy or soggy, the peas were mushed up and the chips were crispy outside and almost creamy inside.

And the half pint was lovely, too!
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Radio Silence

I'm broadcasting from the room of speed knitter Miriam Tegels, she has very kindly allowed me to use her computer because mine, sadly, is still on strike and refusing to allow me to use my online connection. Darn!

The classes at iknit were WONDERFUL! The folks were delightful, students were brilliant, booths were full of amazing yarns and goods and the cafe was a delight. I moved my hotel room, now I'm a closer walk to most of the touristy things I want to see over the next 2 days, then I fly to St. Paul on Tuesday morning!

Thanks to EVERYONE in the UK who made this such an amazing adventure! I cannot wait to come back next Summer for the Ravelry weekend / Knit Camp up in Stirling!
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Finding my Way

I'm feeling a little adrift - wandering the streets, finding a pub, but still feeling unsettled.  I'm certain I'll feel this way until I find my classroom.  Wish me luck!

It's been mentioned to me by folks here that when they visit the states they feel smothered with 'assistance' - too much 'help' - too much of a good thing, I suppose!

I'm feeling a bit the opposite.  I love doing things on my own, I'm good at it, and it makes me feel free and powerful.  But nearing the end of a 3 week adventure I'm also feeling befuddled and a bit tired.

At Fyberspates (where, incidentally, Jen offered me some yummy grey Scrumptious for a sweater for Gerry - pattern forthcoming!  I swear knitting this is like knitting a teeny bit of heaven!) I felt so loved and tucked in.  

I was missing Gerry, that's for sure, but it was the first time in this adventure that I'd also felt so miserably unable to bridge the cultural shorthand that make up most communication between folks.

On woman in the class - a VERY nice woman - made a totally innocuous comment which entirely befuddled (obviously I like this new word...) and struck me hard.  She certainly didn't mean it that way, I took it that way.  And I had the class take a break while I held back tears, then proceeded to go to my room and weep like a 6 year old.  Not even.  Like a 4 year old.

Feelings were calmed, but my red, red face takes about 3 days to ever get pale again after an emotional upheaval (my entire 2007 was just one red faced blur) and the class ended with a group encounter session and lots of love.  And I discovered that a cup of tea does, indeed, make EVERYTHING in the world seem better.

I felt miserable and stupid to have been the cause of such a fuddle, but after it was done there was nothing to do but try to recover.  I think I did.

As I'm fond of saying, if you don't OWN a mistake, you can't GROW from a mistake.  I hope I grow from this one!  The hens agreed with me.  And further, they inspired me to knit up a hat using www.laughinghens.com Rooster - photos to follow if it works out!  

Andy, the fellow who runs this website, is just delightful and I'm hoping to run into him and Jen at their booth today.  I just printed off  a map, so I should be in good shape!

After my several days of meditation at the chapel (I could really grow to love that place!) I headed on down to Bristol to teach at Get Knitted and felt so alone - so on my own - so adrift.  

I missed Gerry more than I have in a long, long time, and it felt like years since we'd been together instead of days.  Who knew that having him here with me, in the car, laughing and having fun would make NOT having him in the car so hard?

The classes at Get Knitted went very well - I've already received so many lovely notes from folks, the students were exceptional and lovely and funny - as have all of my students here been - and we had a blast during our classes.  The liberal amounts of chocolate and caffeine didn't hurt, either!

I did feel oddly disconnected from GK, though.  Adrift, as I said, and I chalk that up to the cultural differences between US yarn (wool) shops (stockists) and those in the UK.  I recieved a lovely note from the folks at GK mentioning they felt they'd left me on my own quite a bit, which was nice because then I didn't feel like I was entirely in the twilight zone (Willoughby??) and I was very touched by the email.  Thanks, Gail!

Arriving in London yesterday I dropped my bags at the Novotel (another accord hotel, and it's hot as BLAZES! with a non-opening window...) and that's when I discovered that my computer seems to be getting connected, but refuses to ADMIT that.  Admission is the first step toward recovery.

If anyone has any familiarity with this issue, I'd LOVE to hear from you!  Email me using the link at www.anniemodesitt.com, or just leave a comment.  

I'm going to try to find an Apple place here in London to ask them for help - I desperately NEED to be able to use my own computer (and my own keyboard - but aren't I doing well with the UK keyboard when I'm sober...?)

Then I drove back to Heathrow, dropped off the rental car (£500 seems rather good for 3 weeks of an automatic shift, right?) and took the tube back to the hotel.  Okay, maybe I'm not THAT much adrift!

I'm heading over to - I think - the Horticultural Halls.  Lawrence Hall.  Does that sound right?  Lord help me.  I'm lugging a suitcase, and it's rather near to the SECOND hotel I booked.  

I may just check in while I'm there and have a pied a terre for PARTYING after my class tonight.  Sound like fun?  Come along!  The Modeknit Party Suite!

I'm SO looking forward to my classes AND to meeting the Get Knitted fellows.  And all my students!
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Computer [FAIL]

This will be quick for several reasons`;

1. `i can't get the hang of the u`k keyboard.  perhaps `ts eliot had one`/
2.  I just had a few beers.  `huge ones.  `pints.  `they certainly seemed big to me ~(and so tasty, too!)
3.  My own computer is not getting internet.  `or , rather, it `is getting internet `(thanks to the cute new 3 stick `i bought, but for some reason it's not `seeing that it has internet.  obviously there's a failure to communicate.  Do `i have the time, inclination or sobriety to address this`/  `No.
4. I'm tired.

According to the iknit website, upon which I've learned to base most of my life-changing decisions, `i'm not on until 1 tomorrow so `i can sleep in.  Lovely beers.  The becks glass had cross hatching in the bottom that allowed the bubbles to flow like champange!

And `i have ice cream melting in my bag, so `i do have to get upstairs. `and Pringles for `hannah `(prawn flavor) and Ainsley `harriot cookies for `gerry `9he used to work for him...

`so - when `i'm able to have internet again on my `own computer `9did `i mention `i have exactly 4 minutes left on this one...?) ~I'll post a nice, long [post about how `wonderful Fyberspates was, how dear the students at `get ``knitted were, and how overwhelmingly moving the Dover castle and canterbury were.  `And `i'll have pix.  If any of you are interested, `i uploaded a buttload of the pix at my flickr site last night.  I'm modeknit.

And now ~I go upstairs to my lovely room to watch `tv, drink tea and eat ice cream.  ~Someone can explain to me later exactly `what Weight `watchers is...
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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Ellie Greenwich would be Proud

On the way here there was a bit on BBC 4 about Ellie Greenwich, and I found myself singing along to Chapel of Love before I quite realized that I WAS indeed going to the chapel! Love those kind of co-in-ki-dinks.

Jen, the brains & talent behind Fyberspates, works out of a Chapel, and it's lovely! So is she. So is her yarn. So is her cooking (onion & goat cheese pastry with lovely roast potatoes - YUM!)

The building is amazing, and was renovated into a very comfortable, roomy home. The classes today were held in a lovely white space with so much good light I was in pure heaven. Good light is the unsung hero of teaching.

Before class I made some joke about praying, which was received NOT as a joke (because - for better or for worse - Americans tend to be perceived as rather religious due to the coverage of our political battles)

It took a little straightening out - and a bit of swearing - to convince the ladies that I am, indeed, no lady.

Back to Jen. I knit a sweater - which was unfortunately caught in the UK customs black hole for several months - and it's just arrived back home in St. Paul.

It's absolutely glorious to see miles and miles of her beautifully dyed wool laid out in rows and rows of color. I'm so surrounded with beauty here, I'm just beside myself.

On the way down from Edinburgh I took a side trip to a portion of Hadrian's Wall, and then had tea at Lanercost (I believe it's a former Priory, now a wonderful tea room / gift shop)

I think folks can rent out space and stay there, I'm thinking it may be a good place to hold some classes when I'm back next summer.

Note that I said WHEN.

The wall was ... wall-ish, wonderful, but wet (it was raining) and made me feel quite bad for the early Romans who were posted here from warm Italy.

Then the sun came out from behind a cloud, the sheep pepped up, and all bad feelings for the Romans were gone.

Tomorrow I have two more classes with many of the same excellent knitters who were in class today. I'm very excited - we had a swell time - and I cannot wait to walk them through the maze of double knitting!
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Thursday, September 03, 2009

48 Minutes

...Until I'm fully 48.

I should be asleep - I have to drive Gerry to the airport tomorrow and we have to work out a checking in problem with BMI once I get there. But instead I'm up going over the classes of the past two days (the folks drinking outside the bar downstairs are also keeping us a bit wakeful...)

There were so many cupcakes passed around today that I lost count! A lovely little cake with a tartan ribbon was gifted to me by one student, and every time I turned around someone else was giving me a lovely card. Two other women in my class today were celebrating their birthdays, so Virgo must be a huge knitting astrology sign!

It was, without a doubt, one of the sweetest birthdays I'd had. And after class Gerry had champagne waiting for us in the room!

Today classes were good - very hard, rather intense, quite concentrated - but good. The caliber of knitting student in Edinburgh is as high as I'd expected (and THEN some!)

I was unprepared for how tired I'd be at the end of the class, it always takes me by surprise. We thought we'd go out to dinner, but all we could manage was dinner in the room and some TV. Oddly, we turned on a TV show about bridges which featured a bit about the I-35 Bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007. We felt it was so ironic - here we are in Scotland watching a documentary about - in part - Minnesota!

I realized right at the end of the 2nd class today that I was essentially speaking to a group in what was - at times - a different language for me. It can be so much harder than just blathering on in my native tongue - surprise!

When I teach, I like to have small side-conversations with one student or another, but I try to stay aware that everyone in the class is listening, and all are silent parties to our "private" chat. Lessons are learned when we least expect it.

It's important that I not move too quickly through a technique - even if speaking one-on-one - or some folks will have the feeling they've been left in the dust.

However, moving slowly can create a sense of impatience in my students, and I know they'd like me to go more quickly. Dilemma.

Finding that happy medium is difficult. Some days I'm better at expressing the concept that even thought it seems I'm blathering on a lot about nonsense, most of my student's questions WILL be answered by the end of class. Today I felt I wasn't as clear about that as I might have been.

It's a level of trust that's hard to create - getting my students to run along with me, keeping up, but not running too far ahead. I was able to do it here, but just, and it leaves me with food for thought on how best to instill that sense of trust in my future classes.

There are so many small cultural shorthands that we use to develop trust between ourselves, things that I probably wouldn't even notice if I weren't teaching. Studying these is a fascinating by-product of my teaching here, much of it is learning what not to say and when not to say it!

I often "post mortem" my classes to help me decide what worked, what didn't, and why things may have gone well (or not great.) These past two days the classes went well, but I would have liked to have figured how to feel more immediately comfortable myself.

If my comfort level is wavering, I know it's echoed by the students, so I take that part of it seriously.

I felt a commonality between the Edinburgh classes and ones I've taught in New York and Boston. I love teaching in all these places - the students are so quick, so good, and they want to learn SO much! It may be a city thing - who knows?

It's very interesting to see similarities where I hadn't thought I'd see them, and I'm curious to see how the classes in Shropshire go - what the general climate of the class will be - how it may differ from the classes I've taught so far.

But mostly this evening I'm sad because Gerry's leaving. It's been so wonderful to have so much time with him, to see him visit places that are so new to both of us. We do hope that we'll be able to swing a trip with the kids at some point in the future, they'd love it here!

Ysolde Teague and I were going to go to Holyrood Palace tomorrow, something we cooked up today and I was VERY excited about it. But there's been a problem with Gerry's reservation to London from Edinburgh and although I feel certain it will be easy to resolve, I think it's best if I park the car, go into the airport, get it squared away and then just head to Fyberspates to rest up for the classes this weekend.

This makes me sad, because spending time with Ysolde is GREAT fun! But having enough rest before a class is even more essential. Next year - I promise - next year...
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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Edinburgh on my Birthday!

Today is the 70th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany, the anniversary of Oliver Cromwell's death (and the horrible hurricane that marked it) and the anniversary of my birth.

Yesterday I taught two classes in Edinburgh, and loved them. I loved the classes, loved the students, loved the tea and cookies and I LOVED the stationery swag.

Post it notes for EVERYONE!

I didn't get a chance to get outside much, which is a shame because from all reports it was a glorious day, but I certainly had fun INSIDE in our nice conference room. Today will be much rainer, a better day for knitting classes all around!

The classes were good sized - roughly 7 each - and today will be more full. Techniques were learned, jokes were made, connections were sought and several metaphorical chickens were hatched (and saved)
God bless the free range clucker.

Gerry wandered about E'burgh, he had a long, long walk and - from his report - he is falling in love with this city. He stated that this would be, "A heck of a good city to live and walk around in..." and then commented after dinner that if "either of the kids went to school here, I wouldn't be upset!" So kids - you're on notice!

Tuesday, on the way into town we stopped for a meeting with Myeloma UK, a wonderful sit-down exchange between a Multiple Myeloma patient from the US and the Edinburgh based charity serving the UK Myeloma community.

We had such a great chat, it felt like sitting with old friends, and was very hard to pulled ourselves away to get to our hotel.

At the hotel we checked into our lovely room and had dinner at the Bisque bistro - the BEST salmon I've ever had in my entire life, bar none.

For the aforementioned dinner we went to Thai Lemongrass, which was absolutely wonderful! The food was excellent, and the decor / settings / waiter garb seemed harmoniously designed.

I'm not sure why that impressed me so much - perhaps because our own Lemongrass back in Brooklyn was a beautiful anarchistic symphony whenever we'd drop by - but it was absolutely delightful!

Then a stroll down to ScotMid (god bless the free range cluckers!) and a stroll back to our room, and we're all tuckered out by 7:30 and ready to sleep. Zzzzzz.

Last night we watched MSNBC's Countdown on the computer - Gerry downloaded it so we'd feel less out of the loop - and I had some good swatching to get done.

Today I teach all day again (the same class twice - Combination Knitting - my favorite) and then in the evening Gerry and I will probably celebrate my birthday by going somewhere.

Any suggestions? Anyone know if any museums are open late on Thursdays?

Tomorrow Gerry flies to London from E'burgh, then back to St. Paul. I don't need to be down at Fyberspates until later in the day, so I may just hang around in the morning and try to hit a few historic sites. I've read about this city so much it would be a shame to miss out on seeing ANYTHING of historic significance!

I will miss Gerry. One of my students who had a class with me this weekend mentioned that I seemed more subdued / automatic today (I think I was, actually) and we postulated that it might be because I'm anticipating the next two weeks alone (without Gerry) here in the UK.

Could be. I'm going to miss him a lot! I'm already pining for him.

Here are some images we shot while going around with Di to Faulkland Palace and areas north. What a lovely day she gave us!
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Delightful Di

St. Andrew's and Di Gilpin
Did you ever meet someone and immediately just LOVE them? It seems that your senses of humor and love of the ridiculous are in sync?

That was how I felt when Di stopped by our first morning at the VERY beautiful B&B where she'd put us up, with her hair wet and a smile on her face. My hair was wet, too, and we shared that we both had an abhorrence of hair dryers.

BTW, if you're ever in St. Andrews, the Kinburn Guest House is absolutely one of the finest I've EVER stayed in! Lovely rooms, lovely hosts, lovely everything!

As long as I'm tossing the word "lovely" around with such wild abandon, I need to mention the gloriousness that IS Di Gilpin's shop. It's not just a beautiful place to purchase yarn, it's a DESTINATION!

She won't have it open much longer in St. Andrews, but she IS putting her resources toward more designing (yay!) and writing and her lovely shop in Perth.

So now that Gerry and I have adopted Di and her husband and son (just a GREAT kid!) and their amazing doggie (a LION!) we have to return with our kids to make the circle complete.

Di & Colm invited us in her home as if we were family, and before we left yesterday I repaid in a very small part by making them an American classic, butternut squash. We added it to some polenta (Mush to the hillbillies among us) and a version of the wonderful dish Jess (of Ravelry) and I adored at Squam this summer. Huge win all around!

I was telling Di as we zoomed around the Scots countryside - she and Gerry and I took a wonderful ride around to Faukland Palace (where James V died and Mary of Scots was born!) and all over the lovely, lovely countryside. It puts me in mind of Southern Ohio into West Virginia (the highlands being the WV portion of our adventure)

What it is about us that compels us to compare what we see with what we know? I think it may be a way that we can find a comfort level right away. So when I compare the countryside to what I know, it's NO indication of how stunning it is here - it's different than anything. But it's also quite familiar. I wonder - we have no idea in my family - exactly WHAT part of Scotland my grandmother's father's family came from. Their name was Parson.

St. Andrews, Largo Ward, the whole area of Fife will be an amazing memory for us. I am more glad that I brought Gerry (who is universally loved) on this trip than I am about anything else. My only sadness is that he has to return on Friday, and that the kids aren't with us.

Our friend Jane, who is watching the kids, is going ABOVE and BEYOND the call of duty back in St. Paul. It seems things are going pretty well - the kids are getting along (for the most part) and the only disaster has been a recalcitrant toilet. But there are two others in the house so they can ignore it until Gerry gets home. Hmmm, maybe I'm NOT so sad that he's going home ahead of me...

A very dear friend, Rebecca, took Hannah to the State Fair and every time we've talked with Hannah she just goes on and on about what a great time she had. We are so lucky - so blessed - just so damned happy with the folks we've befriended in MN. Yes, I'm homesick, too...
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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho


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