A Year of Festivals

The alternate title to this post is “What I Would Do if I Won the Lottery”.  Recently I started listening to the New Hampshire Knits podcast (which is really charming so check it out) and it is hosted by Claire who is from Scotland but now lives in New Hampshire.  In the first episode I listened to she was interviewing the organizers of a new knitting festival which is taking place in Iverness, Scotland (you know, home of the Loch Ness monster 🙂 ) and I was totally sold by the end of the episode.  Only a lack of Internet access stopped me from buying a ticket to Scotland!  This may be due in part to my lack of travel in the past year and also, in part, to the genuine excitement the nice Scottish people had about their country.

This got me to thinking about all the knitting related festivals that are taking place all over the world. My plan is to make it back over to Europe sometime next year.  I would like to schedule my trip around a knitting festival but there are so many to chose from and I thought listing them all out, including location and time of year might help me when I’m ready to make a choice.  As I wrote up this list, I realized it would be my answer to “what would you do if you won the lottery?”  If I won the big prize I would take along all my best knitting buddies with me on my knitting trip around the world!

So, here’s my dream year of traveling (note, lottery must be won first!)


Unravel – takes place in Surrey, England.  Many of the British podcasters I listen to talk about Unravel and it sounds like a great festival.


Edinburgh Yarn Festival – in Edinburgh, Scotland of course!  It seemed liked everyone was there this year and Edinburgh looks like a great little town.


Wonderwool – held in Wales.  I went to Wales many years ago and would love to revisit it.  This is another one I hear about on the the British podcasts I listen to.

Knitter’s Frolic – just a few short hours from me in Toronto!  I almost took a last minute trip up there this year but found out just a little too late to make it happen.  This one is definitely doable for me because it is a car ride away so maybe next year (we say this a lot here in Cleveland 😦 )


Woolfest Auckland – Of course, every great list must include New Zealand – all those sheep and I love Zealana yarns!


Australian Sheep & Wool – It would be nice if this was closer in time to Woolfest Auckland but if I’m off traveling for the year it will be fine!  The show takes place in Victoria which is one of the places I did not get to on my first trip Down Under so I’m ready to go back!

Le Lot et Le Laine – takes place in Lot, France and is held every other year so 2017 will be the next festival.  I first heard about this one on the Fluffy Fibers podcast and she does a great recap in Episodes 31 and 32.  In the real world, I think this might be my next destination because France is my favorite place and I would love to experience a French festival!!!

Jyvaskyla Summer Knit Fest – held in Jyvaskyla, Finland.  My apologies as I have no idea how to add the proper “a’s” in the name of this city.  This is another new festival that somehow popped up on my Instagram feed.  I would love to hit up Finland, Norway, Denmark so this could be a starting point.  But, July is looking to be a pretty full month!


Wollfestival – held in Cologne, Germany and it looks like this one is held every other year as the next festival is set for August, 2017.  I’ve been to Cologne but did not get to see much of the city so it would be great to go back, check out the sites and check out some yarn!

Drakensberg Mountain Knitter’s Retreat – I’m not sure if this will be an annual event but I had to throw it in because – South Africa!!!  I can check off another continent, take a safari and play with yarn.  I saw this on Instagram as well and it was being promoted by Wool Diaries who has a video podcast and hosts #blanketmadness.


Great London Yarn Crawl – this is hosted by Yarn in the City (they also have a great podcast!) and will be taking place in September this year.  I believe Loop in London is on every knitter’s must see list!

September/October (these festivals span the last/first weekends)

Shetland Wool Week – this might be the Holy Grail, because, Shetland!  It’s the home of sheep and lace and all things knitting.

Iverness Loch Ness Knitting Festival – It will be the first year this year, it would be ideal if I could hit up this festival and then continue on to Shetland Wool Week – what a great trip that would be!  My favorite thing about this festival is that you can knit your own Nessie – that would be ideal for photo ops at the festival!


photo from the Inverness Loch Ness Knitting Festival page



Swiss Wulle Festival – Fall in Switzerland, yes please!!!  This is held in Zug, Switzerland but who cares exactly where it’s held I just want to go to Switzerland!

Given this calendar it looks like I might have a few months that need some filling in –  January, June, November and December.  I did see a knit under the midnight sun tour in Iceland in June so I think I could pencil that in.  Iceland is quite the knitting destination and experiencing the midnight sun would be pretty cool.  In December, I would love to check out the European Christmas markets.  And, I don’t want to forget South America and the fiber tours of Peru and Uruguay which could fill in January or November.  I believe the seasons down there are opposite of ours so summer in South America works for me!

I did a Google map to see what this might look like!

I did not even include all the US events, highlights of which would be Vogue Knitting Live, Stitches, Rhinebeck, Maryland Sheep & Wool and Knitting Camp.  But really, so many events, so little time here in the US.  I could do a whole other blog post on US events (and maybe I will)

Now, if I just played the lottery it might help!!

Travel Tuesday – Midwest Craft Con edition

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a Travel Tuesday post (and this makes me very, very sad) but all my recent trips have been foiled by Zika virus, leaking roofs and other mishaps.  I started seeing social media posts about the Midwest Craft Con which was being held in Columbus, Ohio – a mere 2 hours from me.  I checked it out and due to current circumstances decided against attending for the entire weekend but considered driving down for the day.  And then, Frekol, the new platform on which I’ve opened a store held an Instagram contest which I won!  And the prize was a weekend pass the conference.

Because this is a Travel Tuesday post, let me say a few things about Columbus.  I travel there often (especially when I was at my old job) but usually it’s for work or an Ohio State football game so I don’t actually spend a lot of “tourist” time in the city.  This trip was not too much different as the conference was packed full of activities.  We did, however, get a 2 hour lunch break on Saturday and it just happened to be 70 degrees – a temp not often seen anywhere in Ohio in February.  The break allowed for a little exploration time.

The conference took place at the Hyatt Regency which is where I stayed.  I will say this about the Hyatt – it needs some updating.  I can’t recall the last time I stayed in a hotel where I could clearly hear all of the conversations my neighbors were having, I was less than impressed.  The exciting part was that is was a block away from the North Market.  I had heard of the market but never had visited so I set off during our lunch break.  It was packed – nice weather bring out a crowd.  There was a mix of prepared food vendors and grocery vendors.  I was there to check out the donut place, the Belgian waffle place, the pretzel place and the ice cream place – tells you something about my food preferences, right???  Even I realized this was an excessive amount of starch so I ended up with a red raspberry/hibiscus donut from Destination Donuts and a single scoop of ice cream from Jeni’s – it was 70, clearly it was ice cream weather! The donut was the best donut I’ve ever had and according to the market website they just won Donut Showdown on Cooking Channel and I can see why.  Next trip will be all about the waffle and the pretzel!

Now, a bit about the actual conference.  I had no idea what to expect which can be a good thing.  It was attended by craft business owners from all over the Midwest.  The crowd spanned from makers, store owners, and show organizers.  I was definitely not near as established as all these people.  There were keynote speakers set for both Friday and Saturday and Abby Glassenberg kicked it off on Friday.  I have followed her on Twitter for awhile now so it was very cool to hear her speak and to actually meet her and chat with her.  Abby publishes sewing patterns and writes about the business of craft.  She gave lots of useful time management tips and just, general, how to make it work tips.  Saturday’s keynote speaker was Lisa Congdon.  I was not familiar with her, probably because she is an artist and illustrator – worlds I don’t wander into often.  However, her speech was so inspiring.  She spoke about finding your own path and steering your own ship and it really has stuck with me.  I will be thinking about things she said for quite awhile.

After the speeches they had Craftivities which were about as fun as they sound!  Friday night included a crafty spelling bee (I made it to the 3rd round) but most of the final round words I had never heard of before so it would have been hard to spell.  Saturday night featured a version of Craft Corner Deathmatch (if you never watched it was a show that was on in 2005 and what I did not realize was hosted by Jason Jones), oh, and karaoke! And, while all that was going on you could learn cross stitch, make a friendship bracelet, play with googly eyes or just work on your craft of choice.

Saturday and Sunday were packed full of sessions given by a variety of experts.  There was a choice of 3 different sessions in each time slot which meant there was always as least one of great interest.  One of the sessions was given by a literary agent from New York.  She also made herself available for 10 minutes one on one sessions which you could sign up for.  I got a slot and I think that was the best 10 minutes I spent during the entire conference.  I really want to write but I get stuck and she was so clear with her advice and gave me an outline and a starting point and told me to e-mail her when I got the book together.  It can’t hurt to have a connection in the book world.  I shared with her some of my ideas and she weeded out what she could sell and what she could not sell.  She also gave a great talk on craft book publishing with lots of things to consider.  Thanks Kate for your time!

My other favorite session was given my Mei Pak and was on social media.  I think I can use the information she shared for both my knitting and for the non profit I work with as we are in need of some social media savvy.  Mei makes food jewelry that smells like the food it is shaped.  Check out her stuff at Tiny Hands!

It was a great weekend!  And, it at least scratched my itch to get out (I still need a real trip and soon but that’s for another day…).  It’s taken me a day to really sort out all of the swag we got (so much!) and connect with the crafters I met and set up my writing plan and that must be the sign of a successful conference!  Below are some pics from the weekend!

I Heart NY*

I really, really love NYC with one tiny exception – Times Square.  I know this is contrary to everything that NYC is about but I consider it a necessary evil that I have to walk through in order to see shows on Broadway.  So, this is the tourist post from my recent trip.  Last week I covered all things yarn related.  This week I will talk about the touristy things I did this time, which will include Times Square.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and had a reservation at the Fitzpatrick Hotel which was located across the street from Grand Central Station.  I found it on Booking.com and it was amazing!  Super reasonable rates, close to the subway and I had a really nice room.  The only downside was that it was summer so in order to get anywhere on the west side I had to transfer subways at Time Square and that station was a toaster oven.  As I was riding the escalator out of the depths I felt like a bagel that was fully toasted by the time I got to the top.  Otherwise, I will definitely keep this hotel in mind for future trips.

I do not consider myself a food person but when I got to NYC most of my plans involve food.  This trip – Shake Shack and Big Gay Ice Cream were tops on the list.  Shake Shack is totally worth the hype and I’m willing to open one here in Cleveland.  There was an Asian tv station filming some sort of tv episode while I was eating which was kind of fun.  From there I headed to the TKTS booth.  For my pre-show dinner I stopped at Big Gay Ice Cream.  I went to the West Village shop and it was my first time walking around the West Village.  The shop was easy to find and the staff was really friendly.  I ordered the American Globs which was a huge cone of soft serve vanilla mixed with pretzels and sea salt and then dipped in chocolate.  It was amazing!

It was an absolutely sweltering day in the city.  It was close to 90 degrees and I heard later that the humidity, at one point, had been as high as 85% plus all that concrete.  I can only imagine the person who came up with the term sweltering was in NYC on a similar day.  I was so happy the show started at 7:00 in highly air conditioned theater so I could sit and cool off for two hours.  It was a great show and I can’t wait to see it again.  I thought it was everything a musical should be – a bit campy, had a big musical number, great costumes and really smart writing.

My plan for Friday was to take the Metro North up to Connecticut to visit a former colleague (now friend) of mine.  It was great to escape the heat and the train ride was fun.  We spent the afternoon at the beach on the Long Island Sound.  It was the day of the blue moon so the when the tide started going out, it really went out.  The water was very clear so I could see all these minnows swimming around and it seemed that every shell had a hermit crab inside which really amused my friend’s children.  As the tide went out a bunch of the kids found a real crab, I think it was a spider crab and it was quite the attraction.

Saturday morning was the last free time I had before I had to head out to the church in Bayside, Queens where I was speaking that weekend.  I decided to head over to Roosevelt Island and what a great decision that was.  It only cost a subway fare.  There is a tram that runs from E.60th and 2nd over to the island and then it is about a 10 minute walk to the memorial to FDR.  On the way there is a deserted (and crumbling) old hospital that has been marked as a historical building and beautiful views of the NY skyline, some of the best views I’ve seen and all for the price of a subway ride!  The memorial park is free so it’s a very reasonable day out in NYC.  There was a food truck parked and where I grabbed a quick lunch before heading back.  It was very peaceful and not very crowded – a little hidden gem!

I had no idea what to expect in Bayside.  It turned out to be very “suburban” and not nearly as easy to get around without a car as the city.  The church I was speaking at was in an area with a large population of Korean-Americans and so one of the masses was entirely in Korean which was really interesting to see their different customs.  I lucked out again and the priest at this parish was very supportive of our work in El Salvador.

One last note – I bash United Airlines, a lot since they took over Continental.  But these two weekends of travel for COAR I had six total legs – 4 in and out of O’Hare and 2 out of LaGuardia and every flight left on time and landed on time or early so maybe it was just good karma because I was doing good work, either way it was really, really nice.

Glass, Yarn and Cows – A Weekend in Wisconsin

The past few weeks have been busy travel weeks for me.  My first trip was to Appleton, Wisconsin, it also happened to be my first trip ever to the state of Wisconsin (another one checked off the list!)  I serve on the board of a non-profit, COAR and we are assigned churches to speak at each summer so I volunteered to do a couple of the talks.  Please feel free to check out our webpage or my blog posts from earlier this year on my trip to El Salvador.  End of commercial – back to Wisconsin.

I had some interesting airport experiences the morning I left.  Starting with guy who kept asking where he could eat because he wanted beer and breakfast before his flight.  I stopped in the newsstand to get my water (I never get on a plane without a bottle of water and a snack because you just never know these days) and I had a bag that I won at a raffle that has the picture of a knock off Monet on it.  The guy ringing me up asks if that is Monet on my bag, why, yes it is, thanks for noticing.  And, ending with the girl sitting next to me on the plane who could not figure out that we lost an hour going from Cleveland to Chicago and that she would lose two more hours going from Chicago to San Diego.  But, I finally arrived in the tiny Appleton airport where they do not even have the spikes for you to drive your rental car over when you leave.

As luck would have it, I have a friend who lives in the area so I gave her call and we made plans to get together on Saturday which gave me Friday afternoon to explore.  I read about a glass museum (and it was free and it was in the town where there was a yarn store – double bonus!) and decided to head that way.  It’s the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass and you can read more about it here.  It is located in an old mansion so the actual building has a lot to offer and the collection of glass was very interesting.  I believe there 3-4 rooms just of paperweights and they were stunning.  The museum was very close to the shores of Lake Winnebago so I headed down there next where I found a little park to get out and walk around.

Now, the important part of the day – yarn store!!  I also have a friend in Madison, WI who was enjoying Knit Camp while I was there but before she left I had asked for recommendations.  She suggested Yarns By Design and she did not disappoint!  I was greeted by a very friendly clerk and explained I was in town visiting so she explained the layout of the store and was happy to let me wander at my own pace.  We did end up chatting quite a bit.  They had a great selection of sock yarns (my kryptonite…).  I did have to give her a hard time as she failed to disclose they had Regia Arne & Carlos sock yarn which I found upon closer inspection of the sock yarns.  I had been trying to get my hands on some of that for months! I bought the yarn and the needles so I could cast on new socks that night!!

On Saturday I headed out to meet up with my friend.  She married a Wisconsin farmer so I went out to their farm and met all their cows, I mean all their cows!  They raise cows for beef and farm wheat, corn, soy and alfalfa.  It was really interesting and I have a whole new appreciation for my food after seeing what all goes on down on the farm.  After that it was time for me to go to work.

The church I was assigned to was actually two parishes that had four separate locations.  Each church was so different.  These were rural churches and the one church was 150 years old and had been built by the original German immigrants in the area.  I finished up Sunday around noon and my next stop (which I believe some in the area also think is a place of worship) was Lambeau Field.  I feel like every football fan has to go if they are in the area.  I was surprised to find it was crowded, in fact, there was even a line to eat at the restaurant.  I didn’t take the tour but walked around the open spaces and snapped a few pictures and then drove around Green Bay.  Not much to see there.  I was trying to find a good space to check out the bay but really never found that.  And then it was time to head back to the giant Appleton airport and head home.  I enjoyed my short stay in Wisconsin and was happy to raise money for COAR and check off another state from the list!

Colorado Getaway

My cousins have lived in the Denver area for as long as I can remember which means when I was young there were long car rides to go visit them and as I got older plane rides.  My first trip was the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and my grandparents took me as they were going to my oldest cousins’ high school graduation.  During that trip my grandma took my cousin and I to Salt Lake City to visit her sister and her sister’s family.  These days I’ve pretty much seen and done all the touristy things in and around the area.  About a month ago I was listening to the Knitmore Girls podcast and they were doing an interview with Galina Khmeleva who mentioned the Estes Park Wool Market and a light bulb went off in my head.  I promptly checked the dates and texted my cousin (who is not a knitter) and asked if I could come for a visit and would she mind driving me up to Estes Park for the wool market (it’s about a 2 hour drive).  She’s such an awesome cousin that she said yes, come on out!!!

Once I got out there my other cousin decided to join us so the three of us set off early Saturday morning.  The problem with mountain towns is there is usually only one way up and when we hit dead stop traffic on that road we knew it was going to be a long drive.  Turned out the Ironman Boulder competition was going on and the bike portion was going through the road we needed to be on to get to Estes Park.  We finally lost all the bikers and headed up.  The entire area had been devastated by a flood in 2013 and the damage was still evident as we drove.  We made it up and it was sunny and beautiful and we were immediately greeted by these cute llamas!


There were tons of animals – llamas, alpacas, angora rabbits, goats and sheep!  We also watched a sheep herding demonstration which very cool.


And, of course, the entire building of vendors!  It was a great show on a terrific Colorado day!  If you’re interested in reading more about the show I’m doing an article for KniteEdge magazine and I will let everyone know when the issue hits the stands!

As often happens in Colorado the storm clouds started moving in as we were leaving in the late afternoon.  There was even hail which was not fun.  We decided to stop at the grocery store and pick up some snacks to eat in the car and head back to the city before the storms got worse.

On Sunday, I asked if we could go to the Denver Botanic Gardens as my cousin is always posting pictures from the garden and it looked amazing so off we headed.  Side note – during breakfast we debated whether it was “Botanic” or “Botanical” because in Cleveland, our garden is the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  A Google search ensued and we learned that the two words are interchangeable.  Botanical is more 21st century while botanic is more 20th century and has gradually been falling out of use.  But, back to the main attraction.  The Gardens are huge and in the middle of the city so really amazing.  While we were there they had an art exhibit going on called The Nature of Horses and throughout the gardens there were statues of horses made from cast bronze.  Not my thing but cool to keep an eye out for as we wandered the gardens.  My favorite part was definitely the water lily pond.  I could not get enough of the water lilies when I was at Monet’s garden in France and the same went for this trip.  To make them even more cool there were tons of dragonflies landing on them – we’re lucky I moved after that!

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The garden had two separate cafes and a very nice, but kind of crowded gift shop.  Once we finished there we headed over a couple of blocks for a visit to the Lamb Shoppe.  This was a super cute yarn store in my cousin’s neighborhood.  They serve coffee and tea and have an amazing selection of yarns.  It was bright, open and airy with yarn stacked high.  There was a big table in the front with people working on projects.  The woman working was very friendly and we chatted a bit about the wool market.  She mentioned an Interweave event that took place in April which she really enjoyed and recommended so you never know!  Here’s a picture of the shop and I will definitely be making a return visit.  If you are in the Denver area it’s definitely worth a stop.  The neighborhood has a great vibe and there is a restaurant, an ice cream place and Wild Flowers which is shop that sells flowers and other home goods.  After all that everyone was hungry and thirsty (with the altitude in Denver I’m always dry as a bone and it’s wise to always carry water) and the whole family enjoys Mexican food so that’s how we ended our day.  Nothing like a cold margarita and chips and salsa to end the day!

Walking in Memphis

How can I not quote the Marc Cohn song for a blog post about a quick trip to Memphis???  Let’s face it – I’m just that type of geek (yes, I played Billy Joel’s Allentown while driving around Allentown…).  But, back to the trip.  Work has been super busy as of late and I’ve had to do a lot of traveling.  As long as I’m going I figure I might as well take some time to look around.  I’m working with an attorney from Atlanta on this case and he asked if I could meet him in Memphis if I was not adverse to travel.  We have not worked together that long so he did not understand what a funny statement that was!

I had work obligations from the time I landed on Thursday until late Friday afternoon and a plane home Saturday afternoon so I did not have much free time, although, that was probably okay but we’ll get to that later.  I landed at lunchtime and was meeting the attorney for Atlanta and our client who lived in Memphis.  My client was happy to show off the best places to eat when he found out it was my first time in Memphis so we went first to Corky’s BBQ where I ordered BBQ and was served a giant plate of meet with a few fries on the side.  First lesson about Memphis – people have very serious opinions about BBQ.   The natives I met would always ask if I had BBQ yet and when I responded, yes, Corky’s I got a variety of opinions.  Clearly, some people approved and others did not.  I do not think my taste buds are sophisticated enough to know the difference and I enjoyed my plate of meat, even if it was a very heavy lunch for me.  Also, BBQ is a tough first meal with people you are just meeting because I’m pretty sure I was covered in sauce for most of the meal, there’s no avoiding it!

On Friday we headed downtown and the building we were working at was on the edge of the Victorian Village which has many houses that were built in the late 1800’s.  The building we were in was a typical shotgun house and was really narrow and really long.  The owner had done a wonderful job of restoring it and not covering up the original design features.  When we finished up my client gave me a little tour of downtown Memphis, including a stop at the warehouse my client operates (super exciting part of the tour, NOT).  We ended up at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken for lunch so you guessed it – another plate of meat that was messy to eat for lunch!  I would note – while this trip was short it was full of food!  Finally, around 4:00 I had wrapped up all of my work obligations and was able to get out explore a bit.  Second lesson about Memphis – almost everything is a 20 minute drive.

I felt there were a couple of must see places while I was in town.  And, this is where I have to confess, I’m not really a music person.  I enjoy the radio but music is not my thing.  I’m tone deaf, this may have something to do with it.  But, I’m not really interested in sitting in clubs and listening to music so Memphis really was not shaping up to be my kind of town.  I kind of equate it with Austin and New Orleans (also not my cities).  But, first stop was a yarn store.  There happened to be one really close to my hotel.  It was Yarniverse which was very cute.  They had a wide variety of mostly commercially available yarns.  I did not see anything I had not seen at my LYS and definitely nothing I couldn’t live without so I left without making a purchase!  It was still nice to pet some yarn after a long two days of work!

My next stop was Graceland – because I had to right???  I’m definitely not an Elvis person and I have friends who have made pilgrimages down to Memphis just to visit Graceland.  I was happy to discover there was a pull off on the side of the road if you just wanted to peak over the wall and look inside the gates and then carry on with your day.  I was very underwhelmed by the actual mansion.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but I definitely was not expecting a very normal looking large, mansion-style home.  I thought the wall around the property was far more interesting than the actual house.

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I have a friend who went to school in Memphis and she recommended I go to The Local for dinner.  It was in Mid-Town which was a really fun, funky area of town.  It had some cool restaurants and some interesting looking shops.  Dinner was great and then I figured I needed to at least take a drive down Beale Street.  I’ve listened to the song…  I had a feeling I really was not going to want to spend a lot of time there but had to see what it was all about.  Unfortunately, there was an NBA game that night and traffic down in the area was crazy.  Upside to that – more time to check things out.  I finally hit the intersection of Beale and there was no driving down it so I looked both ways and sped away!  But I did see it!  I then drove straight for the river.  It was getting close to sunset time and I knew that would be the place to be.  I found a lovely little riverside park and enjoyed some fresh (very cool) air, peace and space!

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That’s one great river!

Saturday morning I met the daughter of one of my knitting friends who is living in Memphis.  She has a newborn and I was able to check out some of my knitting on the little guy!

I felt I had just enough time in Memphis – there was not much I felt I missed out on.  Things I loved about Memphis – the old antebellum houses and architecture were amazing! and it was pretty easy to get around.  Things I did not love – not really enough to do and the lines between the safe areas and the do not drive in areas were very blurry (pretty sure I saw a drug bust driving from dinner to Beale St.).  I’m sure it’s a great town if you love music and especially blues and soul music and it’s definitely a great town for eating!

What’s on My Needles This Weekend

Well, I think I’ve finally found the perfect travel project!!  And, it just happens to be what’s on my needles this weekend.  I have two weddings to attend in May.  Both couples are in their mid-20’s and both started dating when they met in youth group, the youth group I’ve volunteered with since all four of them were just freshman in high school.  I’m touched that they’ve invited to celebrate their special days and am looking forward to both weddings.  Being me, I wanted to knit something but weddings don’t scream hand-knit gifts quite the way babies do.  That’s when I remembered I have favorited a cool dishcloth pattern and decided to knit those up and tie them together with a gift card to include something handmade and something they could really use – cash to spend setting up their new homes.  Now, I started planning all this in January because I needed to knit 8 dishcloths before May – that came out to two a month.  I’ve done really with the schedule.  Last month I had a plane ride to El Salvador and that’s when I found out just how perfect of a travel project these are.  The pattern is super easy to memorize so it doesn’t need to be out.  The yarn doesn’t take up much space and there’s no counting involved.  And, if you’re flight is long enough you can finish one – like I did last week!  Here’s the info:

  • Pattern: Sinkmates
  • Yarn: Sugar’n Cream (main colors Denim and Ecru)

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It’s a fun pattern – you start by knitting an i-cord and then you pick up and knit the stitches so it’s being knit on a diagonal using a center double decrease and in the end you have a square!  Another bonus – the designer is donating proceeds to the Special Olympics.  On Ravelry she shows them in groups of four so that’s what I’m doing.  Denim for one couple and ecru for the other.  For travel purposes, I’ve been knitting the two i-cords and then bringing along only the main colors and the one set of needles which cuts down on what I need to bring along.  I’m down to the final two dishcloths so I’m confident they will be ready for the weddings.  I’ll be sure to post final pictures!

Quick Trip, Take 2 – Hockey, Yarn

Okay, in January I managed to combine football and yarn so I’m rather excited this month to combine hockey and yarn!  How many other blogs out there can say that???

Last year for work I made two trips down to Delray Beach, Florida and I’m back this year for the same reason except the location moved a bit further south to Boca Raton.  I flew in the day before and find that, even with a non-stop flight, flying, renting a car and finding your hotel always takes longer than you might hope.  I was starving and my hotel is on the grounds of an outdoor shopping area so I found a taco joint.  Unfortunately, there was not quite enough time to hit the beach so I did the next best thing – I found a yarn store and a hockey game!

A quick check of Ravelry led me to the Raging Wool shop in Pembroke Pines, FL. I have to say when the banner on your website says “Planning a Trip to South?  Put Raging Wool on your to-do list” I”m sold!  Also, it has a picture of a bunny wearing a knit hat talking about the cold.  I’m from the north where a bunny might actually need a hat so this made me laugh.  I found the shopping plaza but had to call the store – turns out they just moved to this location last week so there was no sign out front yet.  But the store was wonderfully organized and I would have never guessed it was their first week in a new location.  The woman working was very friendly and the store had some fun decor!

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They had yarn displayed in a giant wine glass!  And the huge alpaca statute wearing a brightly colored crochet blanket was super fun!  There was a group of ladies knitting at one of the tables.  I found this fun yarn and was drawn by both the colorway and the packaging.  The yarn is from Done Roving and I did some research after I got home to find they are a family operation out of Maine.  They try to source as much of their materials as they can here in the US which is really cool! All the colorways were beautiful and I would say I hard time deciding but I knew which one I was going to bring home.  I bought the Gradient DK Weight in Pot ‘O Gold.  Confession – I’m totally addicted to rainbow yarns and will continue to buy them anytime I see them.  I have a small section in my stash of just rainbow yarn so you’ll see why I could not pass this up!

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And, to show how knitters are – the phone rang and when the lady working hung up she explained it was a knitter from Louisiana who was coming on Saturday with five of her friends and they had a few hours between when their plane landed and when they had to be on their cruise ship so they wanted to know if they could come by the store and whether there was anywhere to eat nearby.  They were going to get a taxi to do some yarn shopping pre-cruise.  We’re a dedicated bunch!

I had to leave and head up the road to take in Florida Panthers/Detroit Red Wings game.  I love hockey and love to catch an NHL game whenever I get a chance.  The fact that the home team was playing one of the teams I like the least made it easy to cheer on the home team.  Hockey in Florida is a funny thing.  In the parking lot, there were people tailgating and getting out of their cars and putting on winter gear.  The plaza outside of the arena was full of activities and palm trees.  It was quite beautiful!


Once inside, it was sparsely attended – I’ve seen more people at minor league games in Cleveland.


I would guess more than half of the fans there were actually Red Wings fans (which was completely annoying).  The people two rows in front of me had winter hats on and were sitting under a blanket.  I would say it was normal ice rink temperature and I was a little chilly with my t-shirt and hockey jersey on but found the blanket and fur hat to be a bit excessive.  The arena was really nice but no one that worked there really knew what was going on.  I received a number of bad directions.  Also, Dan Gilbert has spoiled us all in Cleveland – how was I supposed to see that tiny jumbotron???  There were a number of patios (smoking areas?) I’m not sure but everyone runs outside in between periods to defrost.  I found the whole thing quite amusing!  Overall, it was fun – got to see a lot of great players and the home team won!  But, it was a very boring game and I thought the whole game experience really was lacking.  Hats off to all at the Cavs organization that make the Monsters game so much fun!

I did have quite a long work day the next day but we finally wrapped up in the early evening.  It was unusually warm and it was still 85 degrees at 6:00 so I headed for the beach.  I ended up at Deerfield Beach where there were plenty of dining options on the beach and a fishing pier that for $1 you could walk out on and get a great view of the ocean and the city.


There’s nothing like some ocean air and a beautiful sunset to wipe away all the stress of a long day at work.  So, it was a quick two days but as I always say, if I have to travel for work I’m going to take full advantage of that opportunity!

A Study of Contradictions

After our wonderful first day at COAR, it was down to work for the next two days.  I found myself thinking after this trip that El Salvador is really a country full of contradictions.  On one hand it is a beautiful country full of lovely people which on the surface seems like a perfect place for some fun in the sun, but lurking just under the surface is political unrest, gang violence and third world infrastructure.

The property that COAR is on used to be a coffee plantation and the plantation house is still standing.  Until 2009, the nuns who ran the village lived in the house.  It is now used as a guesthouse for visitors.  It’s not quite the plantation house that one can find in the southern United States but still beautiful.  My first example of the contradictions, the beauty of these window (my morning view each day) is tempered by the barbed wire just outside which is on top of the cement wall that encircles the village.


We spent both mornings in meetings with the local people who run the village and the school.  These were quite long and difficult for me as I speak no Spanish.  But, they were very productive.  One interesting thing that came up was this program that the government is running to try and encourage tourism in El Salvador.  They are investing in programs which train locals to work in hotels and restaurants.  This leads to example number 2.  This is a picture I took from the oceanfront restaurant we had lunch at on Monday.


This picture could have been taken in any beachfront town is any country.  However, if you crossed the street and walked 1 block this is what you find:


These are the streets of La Libertad, the main beachfront town.  It’s a busy, crowded town full of market stands and crime.  We were there to visit an American priest from Cleveland who is the pastor of the church of in La Libertad.  He told us of the struggles of the people in his community.

Both nights we were there we had very local dinners.  Monday our lunch at the beachfront was later in the afternoon and quite filling.  On our way back to the guesthouse we decided to stop at the grocery store and pick up something to make at the house.  It was after work and the store was bustling full of locals and we even ran into a few friends.  On Tuesday we had a huge lunch which was prepared for us by four nuns who recently came to COAR to serve the children.  They are Spanish and I believe are worse than any Italian grandmother on Christmas when it comes to pushing food.  I think it was a five course lunch.  Needless to say we did not have much room for dinner that night.  We ended up at the Central American version of KFC which is called Pollo Campero.  It’s just like any fast food place here in States, complete with a play area.  These people love their chicken so much there is always at least one person with a box of chicken on the flight home!  Both of these nights, had you told me where I was I would not have known.  Despite all the normalcy, it was made clear that we should be back to the house by 8:00 and we should only be riding around with drivers that we know.  Just calling up and ordering a taxi is also a no-no down there.  The priest we visited would not let us leave until he found us a driver he trusted.  Both nights it just really made me think about how this all seemed so normal but there was serious danger on the streets.

On Tuesday afternoon we went to visit an American couple who has been living down there for a number of years.  They run a mission called Epilogos.  Mike and Susie have a real commitment to the people of El Salvador.  Mike picked us up and took us back to their home.  They told us about the gang activity that has moved into their community.  There are two gangs at war over territory and after it gets dark things get dangerous.  They live in San Jose Villanueva and it’s a cute little town.  It was hard to tell that at night it turned into a war zone.  As we were driving back we drove by a few groups of young men and Mike let us know those were gang members.  I would have never known – they looked like any other group of young people.  Like I said, contradictions.

It was a busy two days and it brought back many memories of my trip in 2007.  How can anyone forget the stop/go light in customs at the airport?  To create an appearance of completely random selection they have a stop/go light in customs, when you get to the desk you push a button and find out if you have been chosen for screening or you are free to go.  I’m not sure it is as completely random as they want you to think but either way I hold my breath until the green light comes on.  It makes me miss small things like street lights (there are none down there), hot water, and water that runs all day and night.

One last story of contradiction, and we really thought there was some sort of sign with this one.  Sunday evening as everyone was playing games one of the kids noticed that a baby bird had fallen out its nest.  Mary quickly interceded and was holding the bird safely in her hands until we could find a ladder to replace the bird in its nest.  The next afternoon as we were visiting the priest we sitting outside at his table which had a ceiling fan above it.  All of a sudden we heard a thud and then it was raining feathers.  Yes, a bird had flown into the fan.  Lucky for us it only caught it’s tail.  But we both thought of the bird she had saved the night before.  You win some, you lose some down there.

Afternoon Fiesta

So, I’ve decided that Tuesdays will be Travel Tuesdays on the blog!  I think that will give me the chance to mix it up and share some of my recent travels on the blog which I have not been able to work in with all the knitting!  The first few Travel Tuesdays will focus on my recent trip to El Salvador.

Way back in 2007 I had the opportunity to visit El Salvador and that trip has stuck with me.  Our youth group was looking a mission trip and, through some connections, we became aware of COAR Children’s Village in Zaragoza, El Salvador.  This project appealed to us because it did not involve building anything and was more of an immersion trip.  We went and spent a week playing with the children who lived at the village and visiting various sites in El Salvador.  When we returned home the first thing I did was sign up to sponsor a child and I’ve continued to support COAR since that time.

In November of last year I was asked to join the board which I was happy to do.  I knew I needed to go back and visit the village.  I remember talking to people before my first trip about how it was down there and everyone I talked to had been there multiple times.  After having been there for a week I thought all those people were crazy.  It’s a scary place down there with none of the first world comforts we have up here.  And yet, on a cold and snowy Saturday I found myself headed back down there along with our executive director and program director.  There is something about the country and the people that pull you back despite all scary stuff.

The Village was started in response to the war that was going on in El Salvador back in 1980 and it took in war orphans. The end of war led to a change in the kids that were being taken in, now they were victims of the crime and gang culture that sprang up at the end of the war.  Families were unable to care for them and they come to us.  Today, the Village is still evolving as the child care laws in El Salvador have changed and we are mostly seeing children who have been victims of abuse and/or neglect at home.  In the States we would say it is more of a foster care system.

Some of those changes are allowing the kids to go home on the weekends.  Because of this we did not know how many children would be there when we arrived on Sunday.  Lucky for us it seemed like many had stayed the weekend.  As we arrived, they were planning for a group of visitors from a parish in Cleveland and had arranged a fiesta.

I should say now I don’t speak any Spanish and these kids only speak a little English so communication is tough but they were so excited to see us!  The kids all knew the staff members I was with and they were anxious to meet me.  While we waited for our visitors to arrive the kids decided to watch a Korean TV show which really confused me – I was watching a Korean show, dubbed in Spanish and could understand none of it!  They have one TV with a DVD player which is kept in the community center.  As I questioned the choice of TV show, I was informed that Korean TV is dubbed and distributed very cheaply – they all loved it!


Those plastic chairs are everywhere down there!!!  One of the differences from my last visit is that most of our kids are pre-teens or teenagers now as opposed to 2007 when most of the kids were pre-school/elementary school age.  This is somewhat due to the child care law change down there.  And, many of the same girls were still there, I even recognized a few of them.  As with many countries around the world, boys are more highly desirable so we tend to have more girls as they are not “useful” to the family.

Our visitors finally arrived and the kids needed a little time to get their skits and songs together so we took them for a tour of the village before coming back to the community center.  The kids sang a few songs and did a skit and presented the visitors with small gifts they had made.


And then it was time for a game!  The beauty of games is that the rules can be explained by demonstration and once the game starts no conversation is needed so they bridge the language gap.  I’m not sure I ever heard what they called this game but I’m pretty sure you could not get away with it in the States as the possibility of someone losing an eye is extremely high.  Basically, there were two people who had very long sticks on each side.  The goal was to get the ring around the stick and this involved a sort of basketball like guarding of the stick.  The ring could be passed between teammates and then tossed like a Frisbee towards the stick.  It’s great because it requires no special equipment and no special field – it can be played anywhere with materials you can find around.  Everyone who played had a great time!


While some played, others gathered around one of our visitors who had brought her guitar and had a sing-a-long!


After the game, our guests had to leave and we were able to have dinner with the kids.  We had pizza, Coke and tres leches cake which was pretty tasty!  The most interesting thing going on during our dinner was the book list that was circulating around.  Our program director had offered to donate Kindles for the kids to read books but instead the kids wanted actual books (be still my heart, I guess I belong in Central America…)  So, he told them to make a list and make a list they did!  All during dinner kids kept coming up to add books – most of which are popular here in the states, titles such as Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Hunger Games, Divergent and Percy Jackson to name a few.  All excellent choices!  Kids who want to read – it warms the heart!

One last picture for this post – this little girl is new this year and really stole my heart.  Down there the school year runs January – November so it’s still early in the year and she’s still getting used to her new surroundings and is quite shy!


I’ll be posting more about my trip in upcoming Travel Tuesdays but if you wan to learn more about COAR you can visit our website by clicking here!