Sunday, September 02, 2012

Me, the Overachiever

A funny thing happened one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. Well, not so funny. I was in the ER, being diagnosed with a bilateral pulmonary embolism. This means that I'm such an overachiever, that a clot in one lung wasn't enough, I have clots in both lunch. I'm fine, but recovery is taking longer than I thought. It's really very unfair. I have MS, so that should have checked the illness box for me "MS? Check, that's your disease done." Oh well. A lot of stuff wears me out, so I'm not on the computer very long. Speaking of which, I'm about at my limit. I do want to finish the Islands and talk about some other stuff I did in Scotland, and I will. As soon as I don't have to take a nap every day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Island Hopping--Scotland Style, Part I

You know, I tried writing about this trip an organized manner in which I would take day by day or at least leg by leg in order, in the way I experienced it. But wow is that hard, not to mention boring. It’s hard not to start every paragraph with, “Then we went…” So I decided to be my usual organized: controlled chaos. That means I’m going to have posts about different aspects of my trip, rather than the day by day. Besides, I’ve already given you the run down, now for the fun stuff! Onto the islands

The Hebrides in Scotland consist of hundreds of islands, with only about a dozen being inhabited. We went to the isles of Mull, Skye, Lewis and Harris. I’m lucky that I’ve also been to Orkney, but that’s a tale for another day. I’m not going to go into a lot of history of the Hebrides because you can read this wonderful article by Lynne Warren with photographs by Jim Richardson on the National Geographic website. 

The Isle of Mull

After spending a few hours in Oban, we caught the 45-minute ferry to Mull. I stayed outside pretty much the whole time, not wanting to miss any of the lush scenery and Duart Castle. 

Are ye of the Clan Maclean? This is the seat of the clan, bought by Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean in 1911.

Mull is the second largest island in the Hebrides, with Tobermory as its capital. Tobermory, also, is home to the aptly named Tobermory Distillery. I’m going to do a scotch post coming up, so I won’t go into the tour very much. Mull boasts amazing beaches, archeological sites, and you can take a ferry over to Iona to see the Iona Abbey, all of which I will do on my next trip. Unfortunately, the only scenery we saw was the quick drive to Tobermory and our hotel.

But what a hotel! The Western Isles sits atop a hill, elegant in stature and overlooking the bay. 

I could have sat and looked at the view all day. Well, I could have sat there, looking at the view and knitting all day. We got there in time for a delicious dinner. Sounds simple enough, but when was the last time you went to a restaurant where one of your choices for the price fixe starter was duck pate with redcurrant jelly and an entre choice was guinea fowl coq au vin? And with this view

As the sun set, everything started to sparkle

Everything about this hotel has a personal touch and invites you to linger. The conservatory is bright and cheery, with the perfect view of the bay. 

The lounge is charming and what I would want from a 3-star, historical hotel. There are different sitting areas with fireplaces and comfortable couches and wing back chairs. 

Some might consider it old fashioned, but my romantic “I’m an American but I want quintessential British” imagination was smitten with it. I felt as if I had walked into Hyacinth Bucket’s ideal hotel, and I mean that in the nicest  possible way. 

Our room was simple and comfortable with large book of island information and stationary, a well stocked tray of tea, shortbread, water, and rubber duckies in the bath. 

I can’t wait to go back.

Before the distillery tour, we explored the main street of Tobermory, that runs the length of the bay. So many cute shops and friendly shopkeeps. 

Yes, this is a tourist place, but it didn’t feel like the tourist trap that Oban did. (I don't mean that to sound so negative about Oban. It was lovely, but the yarn shops were closed because it was a Sunday, so I was a wee bit cranky.) Maybe because it was smaller or that there were fewer people or that there were fewer shops so it didn’t feel like we were looking at the same thing in every shop, whatever the reason, it was a lovely morning stroll. We ended up at the Tobermory Distillery and sat looking at the boats in the harbor to wait for our tour to start. 

The building on cliff in the upper right is our hotel

The tour was wonderful, but like I said, I will get in to that later.

All too soon, it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland to drive to catch the next ferry to Skye.

Next up, the mysterious and rural beauty of Skye.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

I'm on a Podcast!

While you are so patiently waiting for the new posts about the trip, why don't you head over to the wonderful Louise's podcast, Caithness Craft Collective, and listen to the hubs and me talk about whisky and our trip. Louise has a fun podcast that's about knitting and crafting and Scotland and all sorts of fun things. She's funny and kind and generous, and well, just down-right adorable. We were lucky to get to meet her and husband and kids when they had us over for the best roasted lamb dinner I've ever had. While we were there we did a segment for her podcast about drams, so you can hear all about it. It was great fun and really was a highlight of the trip.

Al, Louise and me 

Friday, July 06, 2012

More Scotland Posts Are Coming!

These 102-degree temps are wreaking havoc on my MS and I am moving kinda slowly.  Sorry for the delay in new posts, but I am working on them!

Here's a pic of me on the ferry leaving Oban for the Isle of Mull. Aaaahh. I wish I was there now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

For the Love of Scotland

I’m home from a 10-day island-hopping extravaganza in Scotland. It was wonderful. Scotland is always wonderful. In my most humble way I’ll say that this is my 5th trip, and I am busily planning for trip 6. If I could afford to buy a place there and spend months at a time, I would, that’s how much I love being there.

So, the latest trip. This trip and the last 2 were with a group of friends, who are part a of a scotch-drinking group at the Dundee Dell here in Omaha. The Dell has over 800 open stock bottles of scotch and hosts a scotch tasting on the 1st Sunday of every month. Yes, I like scotch. Do I like it as much as these other guys? Wellllllll, maybe not at that level, but I do really enjoy a good dram, and I enjoy tasting different ones.

Every 3 years this group goes on a distillery tour of Scotland, and I jump on those coat tails for a trip to Scotland. Sure, it’s not the trip I would plan out for myself—not a single woolen mill or yarn shop on the list. However, I’ve been all over Scotland, so it’s been worth every tour.

This latest trip was a bit of a diversion. Normally, they’d be going next year on their regular distillery extravaganza, but we all wanted to go to the Islay Whisky and Music Festival, Feis Ile. We also wanted to go to some of the islands in the Inner Hebrides, specifically Mull and Skye. Everything about this trip was different from the others, and that’s a good thing. Sure, we went to distilleries, but we also had more time for shopping and just walking around, doing touristy things. It was awesome!
Let me give you the down and dirty outline of what we did. Later I will do posts dedicated to different aspects of the trip.
We landed in Edinburgh and immediately headed to south to Kennacraig to catch the ferry to Islay. The first rule of traveling the islands: Don’t Miss the Ferry! We docked in Port Askaig, Islay, and said “Hello old friend!”
We dropped the bags at the Bowmore Hotel, then walked down to the Bowmore Distillery for their open day. Each distillery has an “open day” which is their celebration and each distillery produces a special festival bottling, available on that day. We were way too late to get a bottle, but we did get in a tour, a few drams, and listened to some great music. Dinner at the hotel, then we all crashed.
Next day was the Kilchoman (keel-ho-man) Distillery’s open day, and we went early for a tour. Then, we joined the line to buy the festival bottle. Well, my husband and one of the other ladies from the group stood in line. I walked around and did other shopping in their gift shop and got the hubby a cup of coffee and a slice of sponge cake. He stood in line for an hour, the least I could do was feed him some refreshments. After that, we ate a delicious lunch at the Bridgend Hotel (where I’d like to stay next time), then headed over to Bruichladdie (brook lahdee) Distillery for a tour with the manager, Duncan. Bruichladdie is one of my favorite distilleries and I always recommend it as a place to tour. Then we had dinner at the Harbour Inn. We continually go there and it is continually way too expensive. Tasted good, though.
Next we went on the Ardbeg boat ride, as in a boat ride sponsored by Ardbeg Distillery. We left from Ardbeg on a powerboat that took us out onto the MacTaggart estate to a bothy cottage where we had lobster for lunch and a whole lot of Ardbeg, including the festival bottling. 

After that we made a whirlwind tour to other distilleries to buy whisky. We went to Laphroig, Caol Ila, and Bunnahabain, which was winding down its open day. That night we had dinner at the Indian restaurant in Bowmore, which we will never do again.
Next day was Ardbeg’s Open Day, so we, of course, went and got the bottle, while some of the guys played golf. Ardbeg’s activities had an Olympic theme, so there were games and a parade of nations, which we participated in. We marched to the Proclaimers’ “100 miles” with a guy from Colorado who held the flag. We finally ate at the cafĂ© (always wanted to and never had before) and had delicious soup and a sandwich. Afterwards we went to see the Kildalton Cross and the cemetery. The wonderful people at the Bowmore Hotel squeezed us in for dinner, even though they were swamped with a birthday party. And it was delicious.
Early morning to catch the ferry the following day. We drove up to Oban, getting there early enough to explore. We went to the Oban Distillery, did a tasting, and bought a bottle. I kind of like this pattern of no tours, just drinking and buying. Anyway, Oban is a tourist trap—it’s population triples in the summer. There are 2 great knitting shops, but it was Sunday, and they were closed. Later we took the ferry to the Isle of Mull. We got to the Western Isles Hotel just in time for dinner—the most amazing dinner with the best view.

Mull is gorgeous and has a cute village with some nice little shops. It also is the home of Tobermory Distillary, where we had a great tour. We had time to do some shopping before getting on the ferry back to the mainland for a very twisty, curvy road up the western coastline to catch the next ferry to the Isle of Skye. We got to the Advasar Hotel and hung out in their pub and had dinner.
I wish we had had more time on Skye. It’s a gorgeous place. We toured the Talisker Distillery, which is a fabulous whisky but a horrible tour. We drove around some, did some shopping in Portree before going to Uig to catch the ferry to Isle of Harris, where we, again, got there in time for dinner at the hotel.
The Isles of Lewis and Harris are the same landmass, but they are vastly different. Lewis is more rocky. We went to St. Clement’s Church then headed over to Harris and toured the Abhainn Dearg distillery. This was a real treat because they are just getting started. It’s very compact and laid back. I felt lucky to have seen it and bought a bottle of their 3 year old. We drove around a little more, then headed to our hotel, the Thorlee Guest House for the night.
The next morning we took the ferry to Ulapool on the mainland and started our gorgeous, scenic route across the northern coastline to Thurso, waaaaay on the other side of the Highlands. It’s at Thurso that the hubby and I met knitter/podcaster Louise and went to her house for dinner with her husband and kids. It was one of the best times we had on the trip.
The next day we headed south, stopping at Old Pultney Distillery and The Dalmore Distillery to do some shopping, before stopping in Inverness. We stayed at The Glen Mhor Hotel, a lovely place on the river, and had a great dinner after a day of shopping and just walking around the city. After being on the remote islands, we felt a little claustrophobic until we got used to it.
After a good night’s sleep, we headed to Edinburgh. Even though we got stuck in traffic for some bridge repair, we got into Edinburgh early enough to walk around the Royal Mile, do some shopping, do some sightseeing, and have dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, before going to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Leith, called “The Vaults.”
All too soon it was time for one more sleep then back to the airport to fly home.
That is more than enough for one post! Did I lose anyone? The posts after this will be more focused. Hope you come back!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Round Up & Forecast

Whew! Going from rarely blogging to blogging every day for 7 days was quite the challenge. Wait, 8 days if you count this one!

I loved it! Thank you Eskimimi for starting Knit and Crochet Blog Week. It was great to check out some new blogs and it got my creative juices going, which is what I was hoping for.

Blogging can be stressful for me because I put too much pressure on myself. Is it good enough, do I need more graphics and/or photos to break up the writing, did I make the links I should have or did I forget something, am I boring yadda yadda yadda. Isn't it sad how hard we can be on ourselves? I'm a great coach and cheerer-upper, so why can't I do the same for myself? Oh well, that's a post for another day.

So, I have more crafty goodness to write about, so I think I'm going to keep up with the blogging. Probably not every day, but regularly. I have so much going through my head, I might as well write it down because the dogs are tired of listening to me talk to them. They just stare at me, waiting for me to say words they recognize, like food, treat, park, or let's go! They eventually just sigh and walk away.

The 3rd Annual KCBW was a nice inspirational kick, and one I badly needed. All the posts are labeled with KCBW if anyone new wants to take a look at the posts. I know that I'm still going around, finding new blogs and reading what people wrote.

Until next time, I wish you even tension and happy colors!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

3KCBWDAY7 The Perfect Day

This is it! Our last day. Thank you Eskimimi for making this so much fun. This was my first time participating, and I can't wait for next year.

For the last day, I decided to go with the wildcard instead of the suggested topic. The topic was fine; I like knitting and crochet, even though I totally suck at crochet. My edges are wavy in crochet because my ability to count seems to leave me. But I will get better, and until then I'll make symmetrically edged knitted objects.

Besides, I daydream about my perfect day of knitting all the time, so I might as well put it in writing.

My day starts as I get off the airplane in Edinburgh, Scotland. I've had plenty of sleep because of course I flew in first class, so my comfy seat reclined after I drank all of my champagne. I jump in a taxi and head down to the train station, where I sit, again, in first class and buy sweets from the trolly. I'm taking the train up into the Highlands to my cottage. I'm taking a train instead of driving because I want to knit on the train.

At the station, I rent a car to get to my cottage that is off a single lane, curvy road. The estate agent has it ready for me, with a stocked fridge, a sponge cake, a teapot ready for hot water, and a bottle of scotch for later in the day. There's also a fire roaring in the fireplace.

Next to the fireplace is an overstuffed chair with a basket of wound yarn. I had already placed an order for some Alice Starmore yarn, so it's ready for me to start knitting the St. Ciaran wrap.

I throw the suitcase in the bedroom upstairs, then make a pot of tea before I settle in to start knitting. I turn my iPod on to listen to knitting podcasts. I stop long enough to make another pot of tea and call the hubby to check on the dogs, then back to knitting.

I put another log on the fire, take a sip of tea, eat some cake, knit, rinse and repeat.

Because I've come from so far away, I've decided that a day isn't long enough, so I'm staying a week. I meet up with the local knitting group, I meet new friends, and I buy groceries at the local shops. I might do some sightseeing, but then again, I might not. I won't finish the wrap in that time, but I'll get a lot done, and once I get home and work on it and later wear it, I'll remember my perfect knitting vacation.

3KCBWDAY6 Improving Your Skillset

First things first, the answer to the cyrptoquote:
I will resist the urge to underestimate the complexity of knitting. --Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

We're winding down on the 3rd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week. It's gone pretty fast, and I've had a good time going around to the different blogs to getting to know new crafters.

Our topic for today is all about what we have learned, what we are learning, and what we want to learn. When I started knitting, everyone said over and over, "It's just 2 stitches, knit and purl, and once you know those you can do anything." I think that little piece of advice has a double meaning.

Yes, once you learn to knit and purl, everything after that is variations using those 2 stitches. You may increase or decrease, but you still are knitting and purling. So, in that sense, don't be intimidated because it's just 2 little stitches.

However, your learning isn't over just because you can knit and purl! There's lace, cables, yarn overs, a myriad of increases and decreases, intarsia, fair isle, double knitting, duplicate stitch, entrelac, mitered squares, knitting in the round on double point needles or on two circular needles or on magic loop, jogless stripes, weaving in ends, kitchener stitch, and the list goes on and on. Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

I feel pretty confident in my skills. I may feel intimidated by the complexity of a project, but I feel confident I have the skills to accomplish it. Some things need more practice *cough fair isle* but I have tried all of the techniques and skills I've mentioned.

Sound cocky? Just wait, the confession is coming.

If you look on my project pages, you see lace shawls, cable mitts, fair isle hats, intarsia blankets, but you will notice a glaring hole in my repertoire. No sweaters. I'm intimidate by them--the seaming, the sizing, and so on.

Every year I tell myself, "This is the year I will make a sweater!" And every year I chicken out. It seems like such a big project that takes so much time and yarn that I would be really frustrated if I screwed it up. But I'm getting pretty fed up with myself and my excuses. You know it's bad when even you scold you.

So, I'm looking for a sweater to make. I think seamless would be good for a first sweater, it's just hard to decide which one. I am taking a seaming class at Stitches Midwest this year, so maybe that will give me the boost I need to piece a sweater together.

I'm not going to give myself a deadline. I know me; I'll ignore it. I set the alarm on my phone to remind me to take my afternoon meds, and I just ignore it thinking, "eh, I'll get them in a minute," then I don't. I'm dependable unless I'm depending on myself.

But I want 2012 to be the year I make a sweater. Any suggestions?

Be sure to go check out other people's posts and see what they are wanting to improve on.

*Clip art from