Queen of Low Fares

I've been known to find some pretty good airfares, but I outdid myself today. Round trip from Burbank (not LAX!) to Denver, flying out on a Friday morning and back on Sunday night, for only

Dick made this celebratory PB&J sandwich for me.

Grand total for four people - $652. Whoo! and Hoo!


Sit Back And Wait

I knew getting onto the Pepperdine campus for graduation was going to be a hassle. Laura Bush was the guest speaker, so the Secret Service and CHP were involved with crowd management, traffic and parking. You know that old saying about too many cooks? Goes for police agencies too. Dick and I had already decided to just sit back, relax, enjoy the day, and take the inevitable delays in stride. It's a gorgeous campus, so enjoying the scenery wasn't a hardship.

Graduation was at 10:30; I wanted to be on campus by 9:45 but knew that was probably unrealistic given how difficult it is to get all of us up and moving in the morning. We actually made it by 10:00 . . . just in time to get a ringside seat for Mrs. Bush's arrival. We were second in line to make the turn onto campus when traffic in every direction was stopped and oncoming cars were blocking by a
police unit. Dick and I were pretty sure we knew what was happening (he's been there, done that), so I had my camera ready. The entourage drove around us in opposing traffic lanes, and turned onto campus directly beside us. I missed the shot (eww) of the two Secret Service guys in the back of one of the escort cars, with the tailgate open and guns at the ready, facing Mrs. Bush's vehicle. In less than a minute, it was over and everything was back to normal. Or as normal as it can be when you're trying to get thousands of people into one place.

Pepperdine handled the crowds better than I expected. They had numerous shuttle buses running from the parking areas and had an overflow venue set up for those who couldn't get into the main graduation area. We didn't even try for the main area, just headed straight to the Smothers Theatre as 'overflow'. Great decision. We had comfortable seats, air conditioning (it was pretty hot out in the sun, especially for the grads), and watched the entire event on a big screen. Sweet. We caught up with Breanne after the ceremony. Can you tell how happy she is? Not only to be done with studying and term papers and finals, but to finally have that degree in her hand. Congratulations, Breanne!!
Breanne and Garret (who is very nice and very handsome. Don't they make a cute couple?)
Breanne and cool Cousin Gary.
(He picked up those shades at career day on Friday and has worn them ever since.)


Long, Long Ago

Remember when I was all excited about this? Almost a month ago, I found the yarn on sale (for $2!!) and promptly started the pattern from Doris Chan's book, Amazing Crochet Lace.

As usual, I got distracted by other projects. But I'd like to have the option of wearing this to Breanne's graduation tomorrow (congrats, Breanne!!) - so I worked on it all day yesterday. And at 11:30 last night, I was pinning it to the blocking board and patting myself on the back for having finished it by bedtime.

Yeah, right. The fourth block - which was my first block - was significantly bigger than the others. Seems I made just a tiny, little error, which resulted in 7 sections per side rather than the required 6. So, at 2 A.M. I finished pinning the newly recreated fourth, er, fifth motif to the board and called it a night. I'll sew it up today and then see if I really want to wear it tomorrow. Cross your fingers that it doesn't look like total crap on me.


Sewn up & ready to go.
The front is one square, the back is another, and one each for the sleeves. I thought it was going to be tricky to put together, but it wasn't. It doesn't look anything like the photo above - the sleeves hit me about the elbow (not a bad thing) - but I think I'm going to like it.


Knitted FO

Have you had your smile for the day? Addy ate her first cereal yesterday and dad caught the action on video. Cute!

Betty's Fabric in Santa Maria had some yarns I'd never seen before, including this super soft "Moods" from Universal Yarns. (197 yards of 50% wool and 50% acrylic). I love how the color changes from darkest black, to progressively lighter grays, to solid white before reversing the process back to black.
Dick is a black and white kind of guy (hee) so I thought this would make a perfect scarf for him. I cast on 32 stitches on size 13 needles - the manufacturer recommended size 7-9 needles but I went bigger since I wanted this to be loose. I knit every row until I got to a solid white or solid black section of yarn, then I did six rows of stockinette before going back to garter stitch.I'm pleased with how it turned out. If I had it to do over, I'd cast on fewer stitches - maybe 15 - so it wouldn't be as wide. But it's soft, has great drape, and it's FINISHED. In only two days. And I was able to watch TV while I knit; I didn't have to concentrate solely on what I was doing. Love it!
I'd like to get more of this yarn in other colors (they had a great turquoise and a purple that I liked) but I can't find it on-line anywhere. Anybody know where I can get more of this without having to go back to Santa Maria?


Sightseeing With Amtrak

Dick had a hankering for some Santa Maria-style barbecue so what better place to get it than . . . . Santa Maria. We've often talked about taking a train trip and he decided to combine the two into a day jaunt. Our plan was to take the 9:15 Amtrak from Oxnard to Guadalupe, then return to Oxnard on the 5:01. Dick went to the station on Thursday to purchase our tickets; Amtrak's website is difficult to navigate (there's a surprise). The agent said that Coach was almost full - there might only be standing room - so Dick bought Business class tickets. Maybe the agent got a cut of ticket sales or maybe there were a lot of no-shows, but coach was definitely not full; more like echoingly empty. (We know this because the restrooms in our cabin were broken, as were the ones in the next two sections. Everyone had to use the toilets four cars back.)

Business class had definite advantages. Reclining leather seats, plenty of leg room, free snacks and drinks, and big windows to watch the world roll by. Very comfortable and relaxing.
With one annoying disadvantage - cell phone usage was not banned, as it is on airlines. See the guy in the seat behind Dick's head? Very loud, very carrying voice. Lots of big important travel plans he had to arrange right. this. minute. We got to hear all about it until cell service suddenly cut out (awwww) just north of Santa Barbara.

Why, if we wanted Santa Maria, did we go to Guadalupe? For this -
The Pacific Surfliner travels along the coast all the way from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, with a stop in Guadalupe but not in Santa Maria. To reach Santa Maria, we would have had to take a train to Santa Barbara, then a bus from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria. Not what we had in mind.

The highway and train track run right along the coast from Oxnard to Santa Barbara. At Gaviota, the highway turns inland but the train continues up the coast into areas with few roads. The scenery was breathtaking, with ocean vistas on one side
and meadows, ranches, and mountains on the other. And the best part was that we got to sit back, relax, and leaving the 3+ hours of driving to Amtrak.

We had a few minutes to kill while waiting for the taxi in Guadalupe.
The depot is a three-sided, open air building with benches and entertainment - two birds scolded us - then serenaded us - for disturbing their nest building activities. But watching their antics also showed us these - spider egg sacs. I really don't want to be around when those hatch . . . .

Guadalupe was a little further from Santa Maria than Dick thought (a $33 cab ride, each way. ouch. Public transportation in CA s***s.) The driver dropped us at a BBQ stand near an antique store (another reason we chose Santa Maria; they're supposed to have a lot of great antique stores) - which turned out to be beside a fabric store with a wonderful yarn shop. Can you say 'stash enhancement'?

I found this book, which I'd never seen before.
Cables are my favorite thing to crochet; I can't wait to start on these patterns. The store also had some unusual yarns. I bought one skein to make Dick a scarf, along with (better sit down - this may be a shock) some knitting needles. And I knit while waiting for the train - and while on the train - and all day today. And tomorrow, I'll have an FO to show you. A knitted FO.


Eye Candy Friday

It's RAINING. Not just little walk-between-the-drops sprinkles either. Hooray! We really need it - this has been one of the worst years on record for rain.


Done, Done, Done!

Not that I'm excited or anything, but my shawl is DONE! I love the colors, I love the drape, I love the yarn, I love the shawl! And I love my new favorite toy - I've always used the carpet for blocking but I'd been coveting a blocking board. The 'real' boards run about 80 bucks - more than I'm willing to spend. Last week I came across the idea of using a cardboard quilting board; the blogger said she'd used one for years, and the cardboard withstood wet blocking very well. So I handed over my $7 (!!) to Joann's (they're on sale for 50% off) and brought it home to go with my $8 fluxless welding rods from Harbor Freight ('real' blocking wires go for about $25 and these work exactly the same) and my rust-proof T-pins from the local office supply store (cheaper than quilting pins. Do you see a theme here? Why spend potential yarn $$ on name-brand supplies when something that costs less works just as well? /end rant.)

The shawl is enormous, with over 1000 yards of Merino goodness. For reference, that's a yardstick at the top of the picture. I should have measured while it was pinned flat, but it looks to be 7-8 feet across and maybe 5 feet long. I had it about half blocked when I spotted the boo-boo. Do you see it? No? How about now? Or now? I thought about ripping it back for, oh, about 30 milliseconds. It's done. Nobody will see the mistake but me (I hope). Sigh. I really hate when FO's aren't perfect.

The yarn is superwash Merino sock yarn from my favorite supplier of yarn p0rn , Fearless Fibers. The colorway is 'Venerable', a blend of royal purple and shades of charcoal gray, rainbow dyed to give a mosaic rather than striped or patterned effect. Lovely, lovely stuff.

The pattern is based on this. It was nice and easy to work up; a six-row repeat where four of the six rows are the same. I substituted wool sock yarn for the cotton, made it a lot bigger, and eliminated the scalloped border at the top, using single crochets instead.
Can you tell I love it?


I Wish I Had An FO

I thought I'd have an FO to show you today, but I admitted defeat at 12:30 last night and went to bed. I'm on the last row of the shawl, but I'm seriously thinking about ripping out the last 4 or 5 rows and doing a different border. I'll decide tonight. One way or another, I hope to have some honest-to-goodness crochet content tomorrow.

And I was going to show you more photos from our Colorado vacation, but Blogger has decided that photos are bad and won't let me insert any. Bah humbug.


Changing Lives, $25 At A Time

This is the neatest idea I've seen in awhile. Through Kiva, I'm loaning money - in $25 increments - to businesses in developing countries. The emphasis is on "loan" - each business owner pays back the money loaned to them over a set period of time (usually 6-12 months). As the loan is repaid, I get my money back. I can then choose to lend it to another business if I wish. To date, Kiva has a 100% successful payback rate.

I found the idea here (thanks, Carol). There's more info here (the official Kiva website). And here.

I believe there are other organizations that do much the same thing; I like Kiva because the website is easy to use and I get to choose who to finance. I love the feeling that I'm helping a specific person. And that the money isn't charity; it's going to fund a business so the individual can work to support themselves and their families.

So far, I'm a partner in a cattle breeding operation in Azerbaijan
and a beauty salon in Kenya. I'd like to find a fiber operation to fund - knitting, spinning, weaving or something along that line. Lending opportunities change every day, so sooner or later I'll find what I'm looking for. Or something better.


I love spring flowers. The recent winds and dry weather haven't caused as much damage as I expected (knock wood). These are all from our front yard. And one spring vegetable. Who knew veggies could be so pretty?


Stanley Hotel

Dick and Gary are big fans of the TV series Ghost Hunters and one of their favorite episodes (scary happenings with real ghosts!) was taped at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. We stopped by the hotel to see if they were giving nighttime ghost tours (only in the summer) and Dick asked about staying in "the" haunted room (the one where Jason saw the closet door open and the water glass shatter). A few minutes and a credit card swipe later, we'd reserved room 401 for the following night. Gary didn't want to stay in the room alone (he's brave but not crazy) so he enlisted buddy Kyle as his roomie. Turned out to be an excellent choice - Kyle is an even bigger Ghost Hunters fan than Gary and has every episode downloaded to his iPod.

Since I didn't think the hotel would be thrilled to have two 17-year-old boys hanging out on their own, Dick and I reserved a room for ourselves. We started out in another haunted room but opted to change to an un-haunted room with a king-sized bed.
Comfort over haunting . . . I wish now that we'd kept the original room.

Although they tried to act cool, Gary and Kyle were so amped about staying here that they were practically jumping out of their skin. They spent at least an hour, camera in hand, exploring the entire hotel. Dick and I were having dinner in the hotel restaurant (very good and very expensive), when Gary and Kyle appeared at our window, waving and grinning like crazy.

So, is the hotel haunted? The boys swear the answer is definitely "yes". Nothing happened in their room but they heard children's footsteps running up and down the hallway all night and one of Kyle's photos appears to show an orb of light in that same hall. Would they stay there again? In a heartbeat. This was definitely the highlight of Gary's trip and something he'll remember for a long, long time.
Tourist stuff: The Stanley is a great place to stay, especially in the off-season. The public areas of the hotel are beautifully restored - lots of dark wood, frosted glass and period furniture. All the guest rooms have been, or are in the process of being remodeled, and they've retained the old world charm while adding modern amenities like nice bathrooms and comfortable beds.

If you aren't afraid of ghosts, ask to stay in room 401. We were surprised at its size; that's a king-size bed in the photo above and you could easily fit another king bed in there. The doorway leads onto a small enclosed nook with a patio table and two chairs - perfect for enjoying breakfast and a spectacular view of the mountains. Dick and I are planning to stay here on our next trip!