Food |Furry Friends |Knitting |On The Road by Judy @ 8:54 AM

Arlene and friends
Arlene and friends

I’m home again, and last night I slept in my own bed with my cats around me. I brought home wonderful memories, a bit of yarn and probably 10 lbs from Richard’s amazing meals.

The Island Retreat was held at the States Inn & Ranch, a wonderful B&B and working ranch in the heart of San Juan Island. The accommodations there are cozy and homey and Richard, Angel (who was, unfortunately, away from the ranch during my visit) and all the staff do their best to make everyone feel welcome. Usually the ranch only serves breakfast (slow-cooking oatmeal, homemade granola, fresh fruit, eggs from the ranch’s chickens, fresh-squeezed orange juice, I could go on and on), but since the retreat had taken over the entire ranch, Richard agreed to feed us three times a day. And did he feed us! I’m glad that we had the afternoons off to get a little exercise, or I probably would have had to roll home.

This was one of the most relaxing vacations I can ever remember having – including previous knitting ones. Cat planned material for us to learn every day. But if you were interested in working on something else or brought a project with you to work on, that was OK, too.

Mornings were spent gathered in the Inn great room, learning and sharing. After a sumptuous lunch each day, afternoons were free time until dinner. The Inn was close to town and to many of the attractions. Quite a few were within walking distance, and the exercise, as I mentioned, was welcomed.

In the picture, Arlene is making friends with some of the ranch inhabitants. All of the ranch alpacas are rescues that were given to the ranch. Like all of the animals there, they are friendly (especially if you come bearing carrots) and love to great visitors.

Cat modeling
Cat modeling

There was always time during the retreat to follow interests or whims. The sweater Cat is modeling was bought in an Amsterdam thrift store 10 years ago by one of the retreat participants. Cat and I spent a really fun afternoon trying to deconstruct how it was made. The pattern may be made available in the future if it turns out we were right – or even close. It has been named the Altered States Inn Sweater.

Dinner was another sumptuous meal. Cat gave away prizes each day. On the last day a prize was given to the person who could name all of the meals we’d had, in order, backwards. So maybe that gives you a clue about how amazing the meals actually were. All ingredients, where possible, were locally grown — if not on the ranch, at least on the island — fresh and homemade. Many of the recipes are prize-winning. Everything was amazing.

After dinner we gathered in the great room again. Cat would briefly discuss what we’d learned in the morning, and then there was time for questions and talk and knitting. Until everyone wandered to their rooms and fell into bed. I slept like a log every night.

Island Retreaters party with Dolores
Island Retreaters party with Dolores

I shared the Southwestern Suite with two lovely knitters – Flipper and her daughter Kristy. It was a wonderful space. We shared a common area with a small table and two sofas and windows that looked out over the ranch. Flipper and Kristy were in one bedroom and I was in the other. My room was a charming, under the eaves room with a window looking out over the hills and the alpaca paddock.

The Retreat had a surprise visit from Fibertarian Party presidential candidate Dolores VanHoofen. I will spare you from the list of the depraved debaucheries that took place during her visit. Yarn was involved. And maybe a little wine. And maybe a little Bailey’s. And a bit of campaigning. But, although it’s difficult to tell in this picture, Dolores seems to be sporting an Obama button. What can be the meaning of this?

I was sad to leave yesterday morning. But, bright and early, Simone and I left to catch the ferry. Of course Richart provided a sack breakfast, to stave off any hunger pangs.

I arrived home to find the cats alive and glad to see me, and the coffee pot still dead. As #1 Son pointed out, it’s a good thing it wasn’t the other way around.

Knitting |On The Road by Judy @ 5:33 PM

Yesterday I was up early. I had a knitting retreat to go to. A knitting retreat on a beautiful island where (drum roll please) there is no cell phone service. (Note that there is wi-fi, so I’m not entirely cut off from the world.)

Of course I’d been up too late Monday night. I was up late trying to get ready to go. I wanted to have the car all loaded and the bags all packed so in the morning I’d only have to throw a few last-minute items in and off I’d go. At least that was the plan. So I was up late packing and such. Tuesday morninn when the alarm went off… I told myself just 10 more minutes… And that 10 minutes turned into 45. So I was running late. And that was not good because I needed to pick up the lovely and unfortunately blogless, Simone, who was my companion on my journey. And I was supposed to pick her up at a set time. And she lives across town from me (but fortunately on the way).

So I jumped out of bed in a bit of a panic and ran out to the kitchen where I poured water into the coffee maker and added grounds and turned it on. Then I ran back to my bedroom and jumped in the shower. I’m so glad that I’m mostly ready to go! I was so proud of myself for planning ahead so well.

Clean and dressed and with the final items added to my bag, I ran out to the kitchen to feed the cats and pour my coffee. And found the cats sitting on the kitchen floor staring at a growing pool of gently steaming brown liquid. They both turned an accusing eye in my direction. WTF?


You may have noticed, gentle reader, that I skipped an important step in my coffee making. The carafe sat where I’d left it on the kitchen counter.

With a glance at the clock, I snarled to myself and cleaned up the mess. I added fresh water and grounds to the coffee maker and pushed the brew button. And pushed the brew button. And jabbed frantically at the brew button. And banged the whole thing on the counter a couple of times. And gave it a whack on the side for good measure. And noticed that none of the lights were on and that there was… steam… inside the time display. There was no doubt, I finally had to admit. It was shorted out.

I cannot drive for 4-1/2 hours with no coffee. That’s just not going to happen.

I fed the cats, sent a text message to #1 Son to remind him to check on them now and again and not to make coffee while he was at it, and drove to the nearest drive-through coffee place. I handed over my empty travel mug and requested a fill up. And called Simone to beg mercy. She giggled gentle and told me not to worry. We’d get there when we get there.

Fueled by coffee, the rest of the trip was mercifully uneventful. Traffic was light, construction was minimal, and we made awesome time. And is it ever worth it!

early morning
early morning

Eat your heart out, because this was the view this morning as I took a short, pre-breakfast stroll. My companions are a gaggle of wonderful knitters. My neighbors are sheep and alpaca. Yep. I’m staying at a B&B that’s a working ranch. There’s knitting and learning and knitting and walking and knitting and sight-seeing and knitting and animals and knitting.

This morning, along with fresh-brewed coffee, breakfast started with homemade granola (from organic ingredients), fresh squeezed orange juice, apples, bananas and fresh-baked sweet rolls (from organic, whole-wheat flour). I thought I’d died and gone to some breakfast nirvana. But our hosts apparently feel that we might be in danger of fainting from hunger, because in came the real breakfast – an artichoke heart scramble sort of thing made with the ranch’s own eggs, local potatoes and sausage from the ranch’s pigs. I thought I might never eat again. But then came lunch: homemade cream of tomato soup, fresh green salad, Greek salad, cheese and crackers, served with freshly brewed ice tea.

Let you fear that this become a list of amazing meals, let me reassure you that so far I’ve only eaten those two meals and so can only add that apples and bananas are always available, along with these amazing white-chocolate, macadamia nut, cranberry cookies. Fresh baked, naturally. Lest we become weak from hunger, you know, and be unable to lift our knitting needles.

my friend Oreo, and my friend Oreo
my friend Oreo, and my friend Oreo

This morning I realized that I’d forgotten a few things besides putting the coffee pot under the drip. Like yarn. I had four different projects with me, and the yarn that goes with them, but no extra yarn to knit into other things that we’re learning about. Oops.

After lunch it was obvious that at least a little bit of exercise was called for. So, having the afternoon free, several of us wandered over to the neighboring alpaca farm. There’s a store there. That sells yarn. And other lovely things that I will tell you about later. But for now, let me introduce you to my friend Oreo. She has soft squishy fiber that has a wonderful hand. I picked up one skein for fingerless gloves for #1 Son (shhhhh… don’t tell him because it’s a surprise). The picture is Oreo in my hand and Oreo out in the field. Pretty girl, eh? She’s expecting her first little one.

From there we went into town where there exists the wonderful shop Island Wools. Although it’s not a large shop, Island wools has lots of yarn. I had no problem finding something perfect to practice with. I did have a problem not buying half the store. But I showed what I consider admirable restraint!

And Island Knits is only a block from this gourmet kitchen store that has an entire rack devoted to all kinds of licorice from all over the world. And another rack devoted to chocolate. But since I wasn’t going to talk about food any more, I will skip telling you how badly my wallet was dented there.

But it is so worth it!

Happy Wednesday.

theater marquee
theater marquee

Something about this sign struck me, and so I had to stop and snap a pic of it.

I really hope that this is not a sign of the times. But, given the current economic and political climes, I greatly fear it is.

Aye, chihuahua, indeed.

Knitting by Judy @ 11:28 AM

brioche scarf for #1 Son
brioche scarf for #1 Son

Yesterday (Thursday), #1 Son planned to come down to my work place-of-business to exchange something I needed from him for a few things I had for him.

He had requested that I knit a scarf for him from some of the mystery sock yarn he brought me from Germany, and, although I’m not all that fond of knitting scarves, I was happy to oblige because he is, after all, my kid, and he was nice enough to bring the yarn home, and it’s pretty yarn. But, being not that fond of knitting scarves, I cast around for some manly stitch pattern that could be worked quickly on fairly large needles, but would still be warm and cozy. I cast on last Friday evening, and the timing could not have been better. Autumn has arrived with a vengence, and it’s cold! I’m wearing wool socks every day now, and wrapping up warm. I didn’t want #1 Son to have a cold neck. Although he does have other scarves I’ve knit for him.

So I cast on. And I knit a bit on the weekend, but I was pretty busy. I knit during teleconferences on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But it wasn’t growing all that quickly. It was the only project that I brought to Wednesday Night Sip ‘n’ Stitch so I had to work on it. And I knit and knit. And I went home and planned to finish it up so all I had to do was the fringe. And I settled down for a little late-night knitting. And promptly fell asleep in front of the TV. I woke up at 3:00 AM, and knew that no more knitting was going to happen that night.

Thursday dawned clear and cold and I was still scarf-less. I knit through teleconferences and while reading email and during conversations and while reviewing presentations. I stopped only to eat a quick lunch and when I had to type or otherwise use my hands – making sure, of course, that work did take priority and was not impacted by several feet of scarf a few stitches here and there.

After lunch, #1 Son and I had the following phone conversation:

Judy: Can you come at 5:00?

#1 Son: No. I have to be at work at 4:30. I could come at 2:00.

Judy: No. You can’t come at 2:00. How about 3:15? Can you come at 3:15?

#1 Son: Uh… OK. Whatever. I can come at 3:15.

Judy: That would be great. But don’t come before then. And don’t come after because I have a meeting at 3:30.

#1 Son: OK. I’ll see you at 3:15.

It should be noted here that #1 Son is used to my peculiar ways, and thus the relative lack of comment on the apparent state of my mental health.

At 3:05 PM I finished applying the fringe and gave it a final trim. Loopy helped model it for me, as trying to catch #1 Son long enough for a photo op is nearly impossible.

At 3:15 PM, the scarf was delivered to #1 Son, who said, Cool! It’s perfect. Or words to that effect.

The Particulars:

  • Yarn: Mystery sock yarn from Germany, brought home in #1 Son’s guitar case. I used all of one ball, which I’m guessing had about 450 yards on it.
  • Needles: Addi Lace 24″ circ, US#6 (4.0mm)
  • Techniques: Brioche stitch. What seemed like miles of it.
  • Finished size: 7″ x 50″, unblocked and not including fringe. #1 Son likes shorter scarves, so this worked out about right. There was no time to block it, but it didn’t really need blocking anyway.

Knitting by Judy @ 7:12 AM

Loopy at work
Loopy at work

Somebody followed me to work yesterday. She may have followed me home from OFFF…

OK, not really. This is the Loopy Ewe needle felting kit from Woolpets. I got this awhile ago from The Loopy Ewe (where it is exclusive), but only a bit ago had time I could devote to this project. It was lots of fun, and it really didn’t take very long.

The kit came with everything I needed except a foam pad. The directions were wonderful! Very detailed with lots of step-by-step photographs.

Loopy is up on my bookshelf at work, now, where she can peek over the cube walls and greet visitors.

The Particulars:

  • Loopy Ewe needle felting kit from Woolpets (available exclusively from The Loopy Ewe
  • Needles: Sharp little needle-felting ones that I, being not very good at this at all, spent a lot of time poking my fingers with. Blood sample, anyone?

On The Road by Judy @ 7:19 PM

When I was off traveling for business a couple of weeks ago, my journey took me to Scottsdale, Arizona (once I managed to make it through airport security). I will spare you, gentle reader, the sad tale of over-booked hotels that left me sleeping on a pull-out sofa the first night. Or not sleeping as it actually turned out. Suffice it to say that the hotel did eventually make it all good by giving me a room that faced northeast and had an unobstructed view of the sunrise.

I was born in the desert (not Arizona, but Idaho), and I love the desert. I love its clean beauty and long vistas and spare colors. I really love the sunrises and sunsets. I loved drinking a cup of coffee on my little balcony and snapping pics while watching the sky: first the false dawn, then a hint of color in the clouds, then glorious color and the sun leaping up over the mountains.

My friend M asked if I’d put a few of the pictures up so she could see them, since it doesn’t seem likely I’ll get around to printing any of them out. So… for M… a sunrise:

(as always, click on the pic to see the slideshow – right and left side of the frame to advance/go back)

P.S. What appears to be a lake or pond is actually the water hazard at the golf course that my room also looked over. I had a nice view of several of the sand traps, too.







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