Monday, 29 September 2014

Wonderful Weekend Away

This weekend my husband and I enjoyed a Wonderful Weekend Away in Ellicottville, one of our favourite US destinations just a short 3 to 4 hours drive from London. 

We decided to drive the Z4 for our weekend away and the weather cooperated beautifully. We headed out early with the top up as it was damp and cool. By the time we were waiting in line at the border, it was sunny and warm, perfect for top down driving. 

I wasn't sure how I would like highway driving in a convertible but it wasn't bad. I will admit there is a lot of noise from all the various motors on the road. To me it sounds like a speedway, although not my favourite thing, definitely something my husband loves. I couldn't resist taking a photo of him enjoying speeding down the highway with the wind in his hair.
We arrived in town in time for lunch so headed to Katy's Cafe and Cake Creations for cappucinos and tasty panini sandwiches. I liked the messages on their mugs.
My husband was suffering with a nasty headache so he hoped the caffeine and/or food would help ease the pain. It did a bit but what he really needed was a nap.
So after lunch we headed to the ILEX INN. We stayed there last year and loved it. The owners are very hospitable and helpful plus the rooms are nicely decorated and comfortable. This chair was perfect for my needs.
We unpacked and I settled down to crochet while my husband had a much needed nap. When he awoke, we had coffee on the porch outside our room. I timed how long it takes to complete each row on this baby ripple blanket and was surprised to discover it takes about 15 minutes. I am working two rows for each colour; 30 mins per colour means only two colours completed per hour - meo my that's slow.
By the middle of the afternoon, we were ready to head to the hills for our much anticipated hike. Usually we bike these hills but couldn't manage to fit more than hiking shoes, crochet and luggage in the Z4.
On route to the hills, we stopped to admire baby alpacas at Sugartown Farms and check out their store. I think alpacas are adorable and oh so soft. I also love the yarn, sweaters and scarves sold at the store but I resisted. I will admit, I was totally tempted by one sweater in particular and some lace weight scarves made from baby alpaca yarn. They feel amazingly soft and warm. Oh well, maybe next time.
After Sugartown Farms we headed to the ski hills for our hike. We were surprised to discover a huge adventure park on the hillside at Holiday Valley Ski Resort
We carried on hiking to the top of the hill. It was a long steep climb involving lots of huffing and puffing and sweating. I wished I had worn lighter clothes as it was sunny and hot climbing uphill. We enjoyed a bit of a rest at the top where we admired the view.
I love the fall colours and the view was spectacular. We wound our way up the hill getting hot and out of breath and the walk straight down was equally challenging. Although we could breath easier, our legs got quite shaky and tired. Hiking ski hills is a great workout.
Back in town, we made two stops - our favourite cheese shop plus our favourite wine store where we gathered essentials for our after hike dinner and refreshments. Two bottles of rosé wine chilling on ice, prosciutto, two kinds of salami, two kinds of cheese, crackers and chocolate fudge made for a delicious dinner on the patio by the pool.
We brought everything we might need including my crochet which is always close at hand.
We cooled off in the pool before settling down to dinner. I changed into comfy clothes to relax over dinner with wine and crochet.
Lee relaxed in the hot tub with his tablet. He assured me it was very hot and very relaxing. I preferred to stay cool with my crochet, although my simple pattern involving three different four counts soon became too challenging for my wine addled brain. We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Ellicottville and turned in early for some well earned rest.
The next morning, we were the first to arrive for a delicious home-made breakfast.
After breakfast, I happily sat outside our room to crochet and enjoy the misty view. 
The morning mist hides the view of the hills across the road but it was still pretty and peaceful sitting on the porch.
As the sun burned off the mist, the hillside magically reappeared. I never get tired of this view.
Yesterday, we hiked to the top of this ski hill. Trust me it's even higher than it looks. 
Today we decide to take it easy and walk into town to check out the shops. Shopping done, we relax outside with cappuccinos at Coffee Culture. We love the fire pit running all year round on their patio but can't sit too close on such a warm day. We finish our cappucinos then head out early to drive the scenic route home. We've enjoyed our short stay in Ellicottville but we would like to be home in time to share birthday cake with our parents.
Our plan worked well. I picked up a cake while my husband called our parents and we all got together to celebrate his birthday.
It's just not a birthday without family and cake. Happy Birthday wishes to my dear husband who is away in Toronto for work most of this week. It was a Wonderful Weekend Away to celebrate. 
Would you like to see the progress I made on the baby ripple blanket this week? Fourteen stripes so far and many more to go. I also bought two more colours (light blue and antique white) at Walmart on the way home. I like to roll the yarn into balls to make them easier to use so I might spend time doing that before I crochet more stripes. 
I'm hoping to finish this before my daughter visits in two weeks for Thanksgiving. I'm not sure it's possible with everything else we must do before then. Wish me luck. 

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Sunday, 21 September 2014

My Crochet Monkey

As mentioned in my last post, I made a monkey ear about two months ago but just couldn't settle down to finish it. Instead I made dishcloths and generally enjoyed doing other things besides crochet.
Last weekend I finally got back to monkey making in earnest. I thought it might be interesting to show my monkey making materials. I always print out the pattern and list the number of rows for each part in a little booklet so I can check them off as I go along. The little orange stitch marker is handy. It stays put and is easy to unclip and move as each row is completed. I also use polyester fiberfill, a stuffing tool, scissors, a magnetic case which is very handy for my needles and a 3.5 mm Addi Swing crochet hook. I just love the ergonomical design of the Addi Swing hooks. 
By Friday I had completed all but one arm and a tail. The end was clearly in sight. 
With the arm and tail finished this morning, all I had to do was add a face and assemble the parts. This stage is always so much fun. I love the final reveal. What do you think? Isn't he a cute little monkey? 
I considered making a vest or shorts but I think I like him just like this, oh so sweet and simple. If you would like to make one too, you can find the free pattern here.

My Crochet Monkey is happy to join all the other crochet toys in the big white basket. Here he is hanging out with his new best pals.
I got them all to pose properly for a group shot. I wonder which two will be finding a new home in Boulder soon? It will be interesting to see which ones our grandchildren choose.
It has been a busy and productive weekend. We checked off a long list of chores including closing the pool and painting the basement so I am very happy to have finished My Crochet Monkey.

Next I am looking forward to starting a crib size stripey ripple blanket following instructions from Attic24 found here. I can hardly wait to see how it looks in these colours. As always I will be sure to share a photo once I finish.
Well my husband is back from shopping with steaks for grilling and my tummy is rumbling so the blanket will have to wait for a bit. It's time to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner. A perfect end to another perfect weekend.

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Friday, 19 September 2014

Back To Crochet

Over the summer, my crochet efforts have been focused on crochet dishcloths and flower scrubbies as described in this postAlthough useful for using up Bernat Handicrafter Cotton yarn stash and accumulating a pile of hostess gifts, this sort of crochet is not particularly exciting or engaging. 
I took a mini break from dishcloths to crochet a bobble baby blanket in July. I must admit it was a welcome relief. You can read all about the creamsicle banana pop baby blanket here. I was happy to use up more of my stash and loved the finished look. 
Happily this blanket found a new home with my cousin's daughter who had a baby boy in August. It was so nice visiting this week, cuddling her adorable little boy and presenting them with this hand-made gift. Hand-made gifts are always appreciated as fewer people have the time or interest to learn to crochet. 

Once I finished the blanket I thought I might make a monkey in white and dark grey. I love making toys so I crocheted an ear and there it sat for almost 8 weeks while I carried on making dishcloths in between writing blog posts and generally enjoying my summer. 
I love writing and really enjoyed covering Motivation as a theme for August and starting September with a party reuniting friends from my Grade 8 Graduating Class of '77. 

Life at home over the past couple months has been wonderful overall yet I have not been able to settle on any interesting crochet projects. I wonder if it might have something to do with our son moving away to University? I wrote about that here. It was a change I was looking forward to and dreading all at once. I do miss him and would love to hear how he is doing but he is not good at keeping in touch. 

Yes, I know he is a teenage boy. Yes, I know it's not considered cool to keep Mom in the loop. And yes, I know it's totally normal and necessary to grow up and seek independence. It's hard but I am doing my best to be respectful and let him be. I hope he appreciates how difficult that is for me. And yes, that is a little dig as he mentioned he might read my posts while he is away from home.  

Anyway, now that he is settled at University and I've gotten used to the quiet and things are somewhat in order at home, I'm ready to get Back To Crochet. This week I made good progress on the monkey started 8 long weeks ago. I've completed both ears, the head, body, legs and one arm. I have to make an arm and a tail plus add the face before putting it all together. You can find the free pattern here if you would like to make one too.
I haven't decided if I might add shorts and a vest. I'll be sure to post a photo of the finished monkey along with instructions for clothes if I do.

I think I have a good selection of crochet toys for our grandchildren to choose from when they visit for Thanksgiving which is only three weeks away. I can hardly wait to see them all again. So far I have Bunny, Paddington Bear, Sweetie Bear (pink dress), Betty Bear (blue dress), Monica Mouse and Grey Monkey (to be done soon). It will be interesting to see which ones our grandchildren pick.
In anticipation of their visit, we are also painting the basement to make the guest suite super special. Once the painting is done, the carpets will be cleaned so it's suitable for crawling babies. We plan to move in a comfy couch and set up a play area outside their bedroom. 

Last year, we pitched a tent and decorated it with festive lights for our grandson. He had fun sleeping in a tent but I think the new decor will be even better and much safer for our little granddaughter. I'll be sure to share photos once we're done.
I'm so very happy to be Back To Crochet. Once the monkey is finished, I have plans to make a crib-size stripey ripple blanket incorporating this assortment of fine (#3) yarns. I love this mix of colours. 
When I read this post by Lucy at Attic24 covering her "Coast Ripple blanket :: ta-dah", I couldn't help but get excited about making one myself. Lucy has a talent for joyfully describing her life and projects. I love reading her posts and always feel happier after visiting her site. Lucy's work and colour choices are bright, beautiful and full of fun. You're in for a treat when you check out what's happening at Attic24.

Who knows, you just might be tempted to get Back To Crochet too. 

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Monday, 8 September 2014

Blast from the Past

A few months ago Joyce an old friend and neighbour from Lucan posted some photos from our Grade 8 Grad in 1977 which brought back many happy childhood memories. 

Joyce posted this photo of the parents smiling and happy to see us graduate - Ferlin's Dad (no longer with us), Laura's Mom, my Mom, Ferlin's Mom (Joyce) and my Dad. They were neighbours and they were friends and they looked so young!! It took me back in time. I remember thinking it was great to have neighbourhood friends whose parents got along well and socialized together.
Jamie M., Ferlin, me and Laura (photo above). Laura and me (photo below). All of us were neighbours, friends and classmates.
I thought it might be fun to post our Biddulph 1977 Grade 8 Grad Class photo on Facebook as well. It generated a lot of activity and prompted a few friends to organize a class reunion. Teresa, Anna-Lee and Pam set the date for September 6th and announced plans for a party to be held at Teresa and Jeff's place. They created a Facebook group called "Biddulph '77 Graduates" and asked everybody to get the word out to as many folks in the photo as possible. 
Back Row: Shawn, Darin (deceased), Ferlin,Rob, Bernie, Chris, John Ha., Brad D .(deceased), Brian, Ron, Jamie S., Brad A., Jamie M., Mark
3rd Row: Chuck, Paul H., Ted, Stuart, Gord, Paul W., Erin, Eric, Steve, John Ho., Brad H., Doug
2nd Row: Melanie, Joanne, Lori, Anna-Lee (party planner), Lynn, Heather, Beth, Barbara, Pam (party planner), Tracy N., Carol, Tracy Q., Darlene, Kim H. (deceased), Jeannine
Front Row: Anne Marie, Kim S., Laura, Ethel, Sherry, Diane Y., Lisa, Kathy J., Diane G., Kathy R., Teresa (Hostess), Angela
It was quite a daunting task considering name changes for the married ladies and having lost touch over the years. In the end, 26 grads were able to attend. That's almost half the class if you consider there were 63 grads with at least 3 who sadly are no longer with us. An amazing accomplishment really. 

Many of our spouses joined in on the fun so there were a lot of people altogether. Teresa our hostess has the perfect place to entertain such a large group. She and her husband live on a large two acre lot in the country with a huge shed and plenty of space for parking. There were lots of tables set up inside for the food with lots of room left over for our chairs and coolers and to move around and socialize. 

The shed was equipped with a decent sound system for party music and there was a toilet conveniently located at the back. I would say it is the ultimate man cave and my husband who loves to work on cars would agree. He was totally impressed with their setup. 

After months of anticipation and preparation, the party was a huge success. As I was getting ready, I was all excited and nervous at the same time. The thought of seeing so many old friends after so many years was kind of freaking me out. I wondered what it would be like. Would we recognize each other? Would it be awkward after all this time? Would I remember all the names? And what about their spouses? How would they manage?

I need not have worried. Everybody was fabulous and fun. Yes we did forget some names and yes we did get a little confused about who was with who (at least I did) but everybody seemed to be OK with that. 

My husband and I arrived shortly after 4:30 p.m. and stayed until after midnight which is way past our bedtime these days. We really had a terrific time socializing, reminiscing and catching up on the past 35'ish years with everybody. 

Once all the guests had arrived and gotten reacquainted, it was time to gather outside to recreate the infamous Grad Photo from 1977. Our hostess, Teresa got everybody moving. Here she is with her husband Jeff leaning against the wall behind her.
It took a bit of effort to arrange as chatting and socializing continued. 
We needed somebody to take charge.
It's so much fun getting organized with so much laughter.
Let's have another drink and figure out how this might work. 
OK we have the old photo. Let's line up - oops are we in reverse order?
Finally Anna-Lee takes charge and we line up properly.
Almost there but the front row will have to kneel as we don't have bleachers this time.
Time to smile. I think some of us were looking. Let's try that again.
At last a perfect group photo similar to the original minus all the pretty dresses of course. Some changes were necessary to balance the gaps plus Brian had to be photo-shopped in as he was working and arrived too late for the group shot.
Back Row: Shawn, Ferlin, Rob, Paul W., Gord, Eric, Jamie S., Brian, Brad, Doug, Sherry
2nd Row: Laura, Joanne, Anna-Lee, Ethel, Heather, Beth, Barbara, Pam, Tracy N., Carol, Darlene, Jeannine
Front Row: Diane G., Kathy R., Teresa
A few photos were taken throughout the evening. We were all busy chatting and having a terrific time. Dare I say it was a Perfect Evening? Yes it was and I think everyone would agree. 
Tracy and Jeannine enjoy catching up.
Paul W., Joanne (married to Paul) and Jamie S.
Best of friends through grade school and high school. So many happy memories with Laura and her family.
Tracy and I started at Biddulph in gr. 5 but lost touch after her wedding 25 yrs ago.
That's better. Ditch the back lighting and smile, so pleased to have met up again.
Part of our neighbourhood 'gang' - Laura, me, Ferlin, Ethel and Darlene
To sum up our Biddulph '77 Grad Reunion, I have to say, seeing so many old friends and familiar faces was truly a 'Blast from the Past'. I loved seeing everybody, chatting, laughing, reminiscing and catching up. I loved every minute of it. 

We've gone our separate ways but will always have a common bond growing up together and sharing childhood memories. This reunion was a perfect opportunity to take time to reflect and celebrate. Family and Friends are the Best. 

You can just feel the joy as you browse through these candid photos. They help keep our memories alive. Thanks Ferlin!

Anna-Lee (happy party planner) and her husband. This photo captures Anna-Lee's expression from so many of her class photos...always laughing.
Joyce (Ferlin's Mom) got the party planning started and this is Julie, Ferlin's beautiful wife. So nice to meet Julie in person. FB is good but real life is better.
Joyce and Ferlin (Mom and son team) - great work tracking down so many people from our past and thanks for sharing these photos
Thanks to Teresa and Jeff for their generosity in welcoming us all into their home. Thanks to Teresa, Anna-Lee and Pam for planning and organizing this reunion. Thanks also to all your helpers. I know it must have been a lot of work. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

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To respect the privacy of my friends, I have used first names only. Biddulph '77 Grads are welcome to share this post and these photos with family and friends.

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