Saturday, September 24, 2016

Knitting Along

So, it's Sept 24, which means I'm seriously running out of time for the September WIP-finishing KAL.   On the plus side, I wove in the last ends on the linen stitch scarf last night.
On the minus side, I haven't touched the sweater that was the real reason I joined the KAL.  And it's getting cool enough to wear, so I really need to get those needles wiggling.    The real issue is that the sweater is an awkward size to carry around, so unlike scarves and mittens, it hasn't been getting the love.  

Speaking of mittens.  
Yeah, I don't know how these happen.  Every so often I chuck some more worsted weight yarn and #3 needles into my knitting bag and a few days later these come out.  

The cats are supremely unimpressed.  Biscuit and Jake didn't even bother to show for their photo op (though Biscuit left some fluff as as a stand-in).   Perhaps they didn't want to overshadow Cookie's big moment.  
But this weekend will be the watershed moment for the sweater WIP.  I wonder if I'll do any work on it?  Tune in for the next exciting episode to find out.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

And Then There Was the Knitting

Okay, June to September and I've been talking about Ireland all this time, but of course there was knitting.  First the travel knitting. I already had socks on the needles but they were almost done, and not for me- so I set them aside, and cast on something new- I wasn't going to haul even a small knit all over Ireland when it would likely be done before the plane left the ground, and it wasn't something I could wear on the trip.  So, travel socks.
The yarn is some of the Deep Water Dye Works yarn that my sister gave me, and the pattern is Undine, which I modified with a picot hem cuff and my usual flap heel. I'm very happy with them.

I actually finished them a couple of days before the end of the trip- and while Ireland was full of yarn, none of the places I was had sock yarn.  So I brought home yarn for a sweater, but spent the last couple of days of the trip fiddling around with the leftovers from these socks- which I eventually frogged as it wasn't really what I wanted to knit.

Once I got home I whipped through the last couple of inches of the chevron socks, and barely had time to block and photograph them before catching up with the friend they were knit for and giving the away.

Naturally there was assistance- here's Biscuit helping me write Ireland posts.
Cookie would have helped but was too busy having a Big (closely supervised) Adventure in the driveway.
Jake thought I was boring and was off napping somewhere until the next meal. So he didn't get his photo taken.

With those two pairs of socks done, I had to cast on another set.  Because there must always be socks. It's a rule.  The yarn is my souvenir yarn from Berlin last fall.
These were my first completed WIP in the September Finish-Your-WIPs KAL that Holly over at Fish Belly Fiber Works is running.  She's got luscious new yarns in the store at the moment.  If you click that link, you can't say I didn't warn you.   And then - because there must always be socks- I cast on the next pair, out of another gift skein.
And then, because I was starting to feel like I never knit anything but socks, I took a pile of leftover sock yarn and cast on for a linen stitch scarf.  I'm really liking how the self-patterning yarns play with the linen stitch.
And then because a person can only knit so much sock yarn.  Plus the 600 stitch rows on the scarf were starting to feel kind of long, I came across a skein of worsted weight yarn in my bag and these fell off the needles.
There is nothing like kid mittens when you feel like you just want to finish something!

And that brings us up to the present.   Absent work, the house, a dying refrigerator (now replaced) and a social calendar that has had us doing something nearly every weekend since we got back.  And a few weekdays, too.  Whew!  I'm not really ready for summer to be over but September is buzzing along, so I guess it's coming whether I'm ready or not.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Day 17: Rainy Limerick

We had juggled a number of options in our planning, but in the end, we took had to take into account the weather.  Which was forecast to be rainy, and the kind of in and out showers that had passed for rain.  So we passed on a lot of trips that would require being able to see views and set off for Limerick on the bus, bent on taking in what sights we could.  

We’d been a bit uncertain about Limerick which in the past has had the reputation of not being a great place (twenty or so years ago, it was known as ‘Stab City’ for all the knife violence}.  We found this to be extremely out of date.  If Limerick is not now a major tourist destination, than it can’t be far off.  They have a charming riverfront walk, with pleasant views of the city.  I particularly liked this statue honoring the dock workers. 
We started by walking to King John's Castle, an imposing and very evocatively castle-like structure.
The historical exhibits at St. John’s Castle are both interesting and extremely well and professionally done.  At the castle we saw the exhibits, briefly braved the wet towers and chatted with the costumed interpreters  (Who were extremely pleasant, especially considering they were huddled in cold shelters in the courtyard, barely sheltered from the damp.)  We spent some time chatting with the lute player, who talked very interestingly about the music and the instrument.
We walked around the castle enjoying the atmosphere despite the rain.  Here's the courtyard. 
And the views of the river from atop the towers were excellent. 
 After viewing the castle we stopped for lunch (and also breakfast) at the cafe, which provided soup, toasted sandwiches and a very generous pot of steaming tea, for which I was very grateful!

We moved on to the Hunt Museum, bequeathed to Limerick by the Hunt family- they appear to have been collectors of some note, with interests ranging from early glass to medieval Irish artifacts to pottery and religious artifacts.  The museum apparently still makes acquisitions of contemporary art, which is hung in the stairwells, while the galleries are reserved for the original collection.  (JT’s explanation for this, “There isn't enough wall space in the rest rooms.”)

By then the rain had slackened to a mere sprinkle, so we resumed walking- to the Milk Market, which was sadly closing down, and up to admire the rows of handsome buildings in the Georgian section of town.    

As the afternoon progressed, most of the town began rolling up the sidewalks, it being Sunday.  Most of the retail establishments and the city museum were closed.  So we strolled down the other side of the river, stopped to view the Treaty Stone, supposedly the stone on which a treaty was signed between the Jacobites and followers of William of Orange.  

We crossed back over the river and  proceeded on to the pub with traditional music and dancing we had spotted for our last evening in Ireland. The Locke proved to have good food, good music and really terrific dancers.  See for yourself.  (Let me know if you have trouble viewing the video- I may have to repost it through Blogger.)

I don’t ordinarily shoot video (I tend to think of it as intrusive) but Sarah, who is dancing in the video asked if I shot any good pictures or video if I would post them to  the pub’s Facebook page, so I took that as tacit permission.  That’s Cian dancing with her- he was also playing flute and I think piano.  Sarah also sang- she has a lovely voice- and Deirdre played harp and Brendan button accordian. 

We lingered until the show was over and then had to hustle back to the bus station to get our ride back to the hotel.   And the next morning we flew home.  Usually by the end of a long vacation like this I'm more than ready to sleep in my own bed, but Ireland was marvelous and I was sorry to leave.  We're already talking about things we missed seeing this trip and want to do next time.  

Thanks for joining me on this virtual vacation!  Next post we'll be returning to our regularly scheduled knitting and crafting content.  

Day 16: A Day in Ennis

We had considered all sorts of options for the last couple of days in Ireland, but ultimately decided that a couple of day trips from Shannon were the best plan.  Some our fellow tourers had recommended Ennis as a nice destination for a day trip, so we took the bus there in the morning. As we walked into town from the bus station, I spotted this spectacular rose bush in a passing garden.  Isn't the color amazing?
Apparently there are a number of purple and lavender rose varieties, but they're not terribly common.  I can't recall ever seeing one in person before. 

A very charming town, Ennis, large by Irish standards, it featured busy streets missing most of the usual chain stores that have invaded most places of any size.  
We started by seeing the Clare County Museum, s very nice small museum, coincidentally run by the son of one of our tour escorts.   It was his day off, but we left a note with a greeting from his mother for him on Monday.  One of the parts we particularly liked were the recordings of local people, talking about events and local customs from their youth.

Just as we were leaving we happened upon the walking tour of medieval Ennis, and joined it for a pleasurable hour of strolling and seeing the many medieval features and buildings of the town.

In passing we were charmed by a number of murals painted on walls and buildings that very cleverly incorporated real details into the pictures.
A quick lunch and then we strolled around, seeing the rest of the town.  Sadly, the sun had clouded over and a light rain started to fall.  We visited Ennis Abbey, a thirteen-century Franciscan church.
And then we browsed a succession of book stores and acquired yet another CD in the excellent traditional music shop, as it was drizzling a bit outside.  In between showers we strolled around and took in several parks and the Fergus river.
The pub with the early session did not offer food, so we found a nice Thai place and went by the pub afterward.   The music was good, but it was sharing the pub with a lot of sports fans, so we stayed for a bit and then headed back to the hotel to plan our last day and get an early night.

Day 15: Fort Caherconnell to the Cliffs of Moher

Friday July 17

Our first stop of the morning was at Caherconnell Stone Fort and sheep dog demonstrations.  The morning dawned dry but chilly, and we set off to see sheepdogs working.   They were quite amazing.  Though the handler told us that Lee, who was more interested in working sheep, was a much better dog under the circumstances, than Lyn, who was more interested in cattle.  We could see it in that Lee would stay focused on the sheep even when she wasn’t specifically being told to- and boy didn’t the sheep know it!  They fairly leapt to do whatever the dogs wanted.  Lyn on the other hand was quite bored and looked to the handler whenever she wasn’t being told to do something.  

There were two other dogs- Rosie, who was still in training and quite excited when she was finally allowed to do something.  And the last dog was Sally, who was ‘what we call retired, being that she’s nineteen and a half years old’.  She came over to check out the tourists - possibly to determine if we needed herding- but otherwise just hung out and relaxed.  As well she should- that’s an amazing age for a large dog.  

It must be said that the sheep, who are herded several times a day for the edification of tourists, have long since grasped their roles and generally leap to do the bidding of the dogs.  At a series of whistles and shouted commands, the dogs deftly herded the sheep around the field, through a gate, and back into the center, where they held them in a tight grouping.  

The handler was dryly humorous and the training of the dogs extremely impressive.  From there it was only a short stroll up to the fort.
The fort dates back to the 10th-12th century, and while the site was considered very interesting, due to the number of sites in Ireland, and lack of funding, they couldn't finance an excavation.  So some creative and ingenious archaeologists started an archaeology field school- in partnership with the National University of Ireland, they run the excavation with students from all over the world coming to learn excavation technique (and paying for it)--and not incidentally excavate a fascinating site that was occupied for centuries.  Successive generations put down layers of stone flooring over the centuries, so as each layer is removed, ever older strata are exposed.  

After the fort, we went up to the Burren, and viewed the alien looking karst pavement.

And the neolithic portal tomb of Poulnabrone Dolmen, one of the most photographed sites in Ireland (as you can see, I did nothing to change this dynamic. 
Although the broad sweep of the landscape was stark, in the finer details, it bloomed with life and beauty.  Numerous varieties of wildflowers filled all the cracks and crevices. 
After exploring the Burren, we headed back to the coast. 
We had lunch in Doolin village, where we had caught the ferry to the islands the day before.
Among other things, Doolin is known as a bastion of traditional music, and in addition to eating, we checked out a music store and book store.

Then we headed out to our last stop of the day, the Cliffs of Moher.  The day before we'd seen them from the sea, now we had the chance to see them from the land side. 
The visitor's center is striking for being built into the side of the hill, in such a way as to minimize the disruption of the natural landscape.  And the outdoor constructions make striking use of local materials.  The limestone pavement and steps are simply chock full of fossils.

Aside from the majesty of the cliffs, the thing that most struck us was the cavalier, even reckless disregard for their safety observed by the general run of the tourists.  In this picture, the safe, recommended trail runs just inside the barbed wire fence that separates the cliffs from the fields at the right edge of the photo.  As you can see, the vast majority of foot traffic has completely ignored it.  And if it's not obvious?  The cliff edge was crumbly and rather obviously unstable.  We stayed well away from it. 
But we saw tourists standing on the edge of the cliff, backs to the view, jockeying for position as they took selfies.  We saw people climbing over the edge of the cliff on to ledges in search of the perfect picture.  We did not see anyone plummet to their deaths, but we felt that it was surely only a matter of time.  We did note that there was effort being made to intercept deliberate jumpers:

After the cliffs, we clambered back onto the coach for the last ride of the trip, back to the hotel in Shannon.  We had a lovely musical evening with Donal Clancy, our tour leader's cousin, coming in to perform, and most of us said our goodbyes then, though we would see a few people the next day at breakfast. 

Though many of our tour mates were headed straight out on a flight, JT and I still had two days left of our travels and were furiously researching options for our final days of sightseeing.