Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tea, Wool, and Friends

After saying goodbye to charming Culross we stopped to visit Marsie's mum and dad in their home outside of Glasgow. They are an amazing couple, well into their 90's and still living on their own. As is our custom on my visits we enjoyed tea and biscuits in their home.

Wool has eluded me on my previous trips to Scotland. All those sheep grazing on the fells were surely tempting reminders. Shortly before this trip I met Tigerlilith on Ravelry. She has an online shop Old Maiden Aunt Yarns as well as a storefront in the small village of West Kilbride on the west coast of Scotland. Marsie graciously drove me to West Kilbride where we managed to find both the shop and Lilith. She was just leaving for the day and spied me in my shawl from across the street. What lovely colors and blends she has! She has a special Homecoming Collection (250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns). I was proud of myself for making a quick decision in the midst of color overload. Even the names such as "Bracken" and "Ae Fond Kiss" conjur up romantic thoughts. Sigh. I did quite well with my 3 laceweight skeins, one sock weight, and one special skein in a color designed by the young Scottish designer Ysolda Teague. I can't wait to see what Ysolda designs for this wool! Lilith carefully wrapped my parcel in tissue paper. She is camera shy but I promised she would not have to pose. She looks lovely, doesn't she?

Later that evening we met Marsie's friends for dinner at The Coffee Club in Kilmarnock. I would say we had quite a full day!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Day for Piping

Last Saturday our band competed in our first competition of the season. Friday it rained and stormed all day. There were flash flood warnings--and actual flash floods--and more rain than the news weatherman could remember in one day. So the fields were wet, but the pipers and drummers, marched on!

One of our pipers posted a video on u-tube of Celtic Cross Pipes and Drum's competition. In this video you will see and hear us marching into the circle and playing a set of 4 tunes. The people walking around the circle and writing on clipboards are judges. There were two piping judges, one drumming judge, and one ensemble judge. (Ensemble is how well the pipes and drums play together.) We placed #2 in our grade level that day so we were pleased.

Celtic Cross Pipes and Drums Competition

You will get a glimpse of me off to the right once or twice during the performance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Culross Scotland Photos

After breakfast in Culross we walked up the cobblestone street hill to the Abbey Ruins. We were fortunate that the garden was open that day. No ticket necessary, just a box for donations.

I'm always attracted to stones with moss, lichens, and succulents. Look at the color here!

The view to the sea was stunning with this gorgeous array of spring greenery in the foreground.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our New Gilmour Lawn Mower

Years ago we tried one of the old reel mowers after I picked one up at an auction for a few bucks. Even after sharpening the blade it took a lot of power to push through the grass. I tried it and really couldn't manage more than a wimpy swath. Mowing entailed taking a running start with the mower and maybe advancing a few feet before having to pull it back and start again. After completing the lawn my husband came in the house with grass in his hair, on his glasses, and even in his teeth. Needless to say, we abandoned that idea. Our intentions were noble.

Now that manufacturers have come up with lighter and more efficient models it was time to consider this option again--no engine, no oil, just pushpower. I was able to order this Gilmour Reel Mower using Longaberger myDream Points. These are points we Longaberger Home Consultants earn with sales, sponsoring, etc. We can spend them on our choice of products. I didn't even have to pay shipping! Nice! I believe this product retails for under $300.

The assembly was so simple that I am sure I could have done it myself. As I was expecting it to be more difficult I had already asked my husband to help. It only took about 10 minutes and several of those minutes were used going to the basement to get a Phillips screwdriver.

The sun was setting but I was determined to get the front lawn mowed since we had not done it yet this spring. We've had so much rain it is hard to find a time when the lawn is dry. The mower works great! It fulfilled all my expectations. It is a good workout for me but not so difficult to be discouraging or to leave grass in my teeth and hair. My forearms were a little sore the next day so I figure that is good for me.

Conventional lawn mowers produce a lot of air pollutants because there is no regulation on mowers. If you have a reasonable size lawn, this is a fine way to maintain it. The reel mower doesn't cut down everything. If there are some dandelions, it is likely to leave the flower stalks sticking up. This sort of thing doesn't bother us because we don't expect our lawn to look like a golf green. If you have young children around the reel mower is a safer alternative because it is unlikely to throw an object. In fact, one disadvantage is that sticks tend to lodge in the blades so you have to stop periodically to dislodge them--or else make sure the lawn is devoid of sticks to begin with. We live on the edge of a woods so we do have to rake the sticks or stop to dislodge the sticks that catch.
As for maintenance, you just have to clean the mower after use. That doesn't take but a minute or two to wipe the grass clippings off with a brush. The Gilmour comes with a grass catcher that hooks on behind but we tend to let the clippings fall back into the lawn.
Since that first maiden mowing, we've mowed the back yard, which we like to keep on the wild side, and I've done the front again. The Gilmour Reel Mower is a great little machine!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Crafty Morning

Yesterday two knitting friends came at my invitation for a surprise craft project. I had actually invited four friends but only two were brave enough. I told them the project was related to, but did not involve knitting. I am not really good at keeping secrets like this so when Nicole asked what we were going to do, I blurted it out. Sarah, on the other hand, was curious, maybe even wary, but trusting enough to show up with the specified materials: a t-shirt that could be sacrificed for the cause and a bag of polyester fiberfill. Hmmmm. That must have kept her up all night.

It turns out that 3 of us were the perfect number to make our individual body doubles. The instructions are found in Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits and this is one of the reasons I bought the book. Having a body double to try on garments is genius and when you can do it with duct tape, an old t-shirt, and some fiberfill, it is pretty cheap genius at that! We chose Nicole as our first guinea pig and she was certainly a good sport as Sarah and I read the directions step by step, pondering once in a while to figure out the next step. I think it took Sarah and me much longer to wrap Nicole than when Nicole was wrapping Sarah and me. We attributed that to the learning curve and that Nicole sews a lot.

After wrapping a body, you cut down the back and then tape it back together. Nicole and Sarah are figuring that out in this photo.

We have a few tips to share:

  • The plastic wrap proved unnecessary. If the t-shirt has a reasonable neckline, we just taped around that.

  • Get plenty of tape. It takes a lot.

  • Get plenty of fiberfill. One large bag is not enough for one dummy and none of us are considered large.

  • Do not attempt if you are overly modest.

  • I thought being wrapped in duct tape would be claustrophobic but it wasn't. It didn't bother me at all and I'm the kind of person who doesn't like crowded elevators.

  • Allow 45 min to an hour per person.

I don't look very happy in the photo, but it wasn't bad until I saw the finished product. Yikes! Am I that chubby??????????? (I asked my husband and he is smart enough to give the right answer.) Nicole looks a little wild-eyed. I'm glad I didn't know she had scissors in her hand.

The final stage was cutting a cardboad bottom, stuffing with fiberfill, and inserting a hanger.

Nicole looks happy with her finished Nicole #2.

I am just drawing a blank trying to think of labels for this post! It isn't knitting but it was fun.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Windows, Doors, and Pathways

After a good sleep we walked to a local cafe for breakfast. Then strolled through the town of Culross and up the hill to the Abbey ruins.

Mossy stones and walls always attract my eye.

I could live in a wee cottage like this.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Binnie's Vennel and other Paths in Culross

We walked down "Binnie's Vennel" to reach the walking path by the firth. I am guessing that "vennel" is a sort of alleyway. Anyway, I love saying that name and had to take a photo. It was a bonus that the nameplate was on a stone wall, but then, there are stone walls everywhere in Culross.

After our walk we found Judy, the proprietor of St. Mungo's, a lovely Bed and Breakfast just down the road. Judy's bright and beautiful kitchen has windows that showcase the emerging spring garden out back. Judy was the keeper of the key to our lodging for the night.

Back at Robin's house we were able to go through the house to the back garden which is very private. Eley House has thick walls which means beautiful and functional deep window sills, each of which frames a calming view.

Inside the house we found sweet pressies and a welcome note from Robin. I had knitted a few dishcloths for her. See the cloth on the table? The colors in the two dishcloths at left were amazingly close.
Later on we walked the block or so down the quaint street, Lower Causeway, for dinner at The Red Lion, which I believe is the only place in the village where one can eat an evening meal. We had a wonderful day and looked forward to more exploration in the morning.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring is a Bluebird Whisper Cardigan

I am officially obsessed with the Whisper Cardigan by Hannah Fettig from Spring 2009 Interweave Knits. I ordered 3 skeins of Knit Picks Gloss Lace(70% merino, 30% silk), which is 1 skein too many for sure. I believe each skein is $3.99 so this is a very economical sweater in luxury yarn. The color is Bluebird and I absolutely LOVE it! Friday evening I cast on for the first sleeve and I'm already knitting across the back. On this pattern you use several needle sizes and since I'm a loosey goosey knitter, my largest needle is a size 5. I eliminated the bell on the sleeve and also lengthened the sleeve to 3/4 instead of elbow length. The design is quite unique. It is a shame that Interweave Knits did not provide a schematic for this pattern. Thanks to all the Ravelry knitters who have gone before me in this venture. Your notes are very helpful.
Saturday afternoon I walked in our woods. I should say "climbed" in our woods since much of it is hilly. At the bottom of the ravine we have a very winding creek. Several small morels poked their spongy masses through the dead leaves but I did not pick them because I didn't find enough to cook.
Spring is my favorite time of the year. Each day brings new surprises.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our Trip to Lovely Culross

On Maunday Thursday we drove to Culross, stopping first at McCallum Bagpipes, between Troon and Kilmarnock. Then on to a lovely lunch before continuing our journey.

We stopped to take this photo as we drove into the town of Culross, which lies on the Firth of Forth.

The atmosphere of this village can take your breath away. I seem to take a lot of photos of doorways and windows. The cobblestone streets are a bit tricky for walking but you don't think about that much since there is so much beauty here.
This is Robin's house, where we were staying. She and her family were away for the Easter holidays and she graciously left the key at a friend's B and B just down the road.

Eley House has a lovely garden out front and a stone wall with gaily painted gate to border the front garden.

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