Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shop Til We Drop

As if hiking the island, indulging in all that good food, learning new techniques, and ribbing birders during night knits weren't fun enough... there was all that shopping. I've been wearing my red sea glass earrings constantly and, once I finish my neck warmer (no, seriously, I'm almost done..) I'm sure that, paired with the earrings, it will be this winter's Major Fashion Trend.

As a pleasant trip down recent memory lane, as well as a note-to-self re: next year's trip, I wanted to record here some of the places I enjoyed. I also want to remind myself -- Self? PAY ATTENTION-- to bring a bigger suitcase next year. Make that two suitcases. Because by the time I left for the airport, my little bag appeared to be nine months pregnant, so bursting was it with all that yarn and all those souvenirs.

So let's see- there was the cool little gift shop upstairs from the Port Clyde General Store. Run by the incredibly pleasant Bobbie Pendleton (who, yes, knits) it features plenty of nifty gifts. I, naturally, gravitated toward the room with the yarn and knitting needles, and picked up a gorgeous skein of Maine-made yarn-- rich variegated loveliness just waiting to be turned into a pair of socks.

And then, of course, there was The Mall aka The Black Duck, our home away from home at Monhegan House. I indulged in daily hot chocolates, the aforementioned earrings, a couple of very funny greeting cards (including one featuring a puffin in drag) and... drumroll... this nifty Yarn Cage. Okay, so it's not a cage. It's a cylindrical mesh bag with a zip top and a hole in it. You stick your ball of yarn inside, thread the yarn through, and, voila, you can set the thing on a table or the floor and the yarn doesn't roll away. This came very much in handy when I found myself sitting next to a totally humorless seat mate on my flight back to Austin. Clearly no one ever made the guy a handknit sweater or nice pair of mittens. I was glad to be able to contain my yarn lest it accidentally roll into "his space." I think he was glad, too.

Several of us went on a mini yarn crawl post Monhegan Island, including Romney Ridge Farm and Markings Gallery. Because I only had enough yarn for four lifetimes prior to visiting these places, and because I think it is crucial to have enough yarn for at least ten lifetimes, I had to add to my stash. I picked up four skeins of Nanne Kennedy's Seacolors yarn along with a pattern to knit a sort of jumper/mini-dress/vest which I'm certain will have nothing but a slimming effect once I find the time to make it. Over at RRF, I grabbed a couple of skeins with the intent of making some hand warmers, or maybe a hat. Or both.

Sunday I had an extra day before flying home, so I walked all over Portland including a stop at KnitWit, a mod knitting store. Judy, who was working that day, said-- upon hearing I was with the Monhegan group-- "Oh! There were some nice ladies in here yesterday from Ohio who were on that trip." Hmmm.... I wonder who that might've been. Could Cassy have traded in her Magic Ball for something more solid in color and consistency? I hope not.

One thing I picked up at KnitWit: a couple of skeins of very basic, very bulky red wool. Ori's birthday is coming right up and I recalled a long ago request of his for a Gnome hat. I have no idea if he was being serious, but any excuse to get more yarn, right? So I got the yarn and some really excellent circulars. These I took with me on the Mail Ferry that goes out to five islands around Portland. I put a red ball in my Yarn Cage and got cranking. I finished that hat the next day on the plane. And as soon as I finish this post I'm going to go complete a Gnome beard that I also made from some white chenille I had in my stash. Will Ori wear the hat and beard? Who cares-- as long as I now can justify adding still more yarn since, you know, using that chenille up depleted my stash.

When I got home and picked up my mail, I had a pleasant surprise: an advance copy of the Interweave KNITS Weekend issue that you can pick up starting September 28th. There was my essay about Monhegan. It'd been sometime since I'd turned it in and so I sort of forgot what all I wrote. As you will see, I managed to at least scratch the surface of the whole Knitting and Yoga Adventures adventure.

Here are some pics from our shopping frenzy:

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Got to Know When to Holden...

Greetings Y’all,

I’m writing this from the Portland Jetport on Monday morning. It’s a little past 5 a.m. here and I’m waiting for the JetBlue counter to open so I thought I’d take this time to catch up a bit. I have so many things I still want to post about the trip, including eleventy million photos. Over the coming week I’ll put more of those up. For today, I want to talk about HOSPITALITY. I ask you, is it any coincidence that HOSPITALITY and HOLDEN both start with HO? I think not! Every year I visit the island I am blown away anew at how cheerfully and tirelessly Holden puts up with us welcomes us with open arms.

This year, we were lucky to get to spend more time with Sue, too, who assists Holden in keeping Monhegan House running like a tight ship. And the staff was great. I must say the whole great-treatment thing hit ecstatic critical mass for me when Sue came out the last night at dinner with that amazing birthday cake, made by the other Sue, who chefs over at the Novelty. And then, when Christie did the Buffalo Shuffle back into the kitchen to cut the cake, well that’s a mental YouTube I won’t soon forget.

[Prom Ready!]

["Hmm, I suspect it was a birder, in the laundry room, with a buoy."]

As you all know, I plan to write a TV series called Birder She Wrote, starring Holden, whose fictional name will be Holden Court (say it out loud fast five times). In each episode, a birder will mysteriously disappear, the locals will share theories in hushed and conspiratorial tones over at the Black Duck, Holden will grumble pleasantly throughout the show and then, in the end, with the help of his sidekick, a talking lobster named Armando (and, pronounced, Ahhh-MAN-do), he will resolve the mystery. Each installment will end with a group of relieved and happy knitters in the parlor discussing, in awestruck tones, Holden’s amazing capacity as both a hospitality genius and PI. (I’m thinking this show will be so successful I will make enough to buy Monhegan Island outright and, if I so choose, ban the birders. Which I won’t do, of course, because, dang, Birdman has really grown on me…)

So Holden, if you’re reading this (and I know you are even though you should be up on the third floor showing a puzzled guest how to work those kooky screens): THANK YOU. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. That was such a wonderful week. I don’t know how I’m going to carry on without afternoon cakes and cookies.

Speaking of which, for any of you who missed it, Holden—offering still more proof of his never-miss-a-detail superpowers – hauled butt down to the dock right before we left, careening in his little white Holden-mobile, dodging lobstermen and birders alike. And what was the rush? Why he remembered Patty had requested a Whoopie Pie and so here he was, making good on a promise at the last second. Too bad Patty never found out about that WP but I sure enjoyed it. (Just Kidding, Holden!)

Something some of you might not know is that Holden has been coming to Monhegan Island for ninety years! Doesn’t he look great considering? Oh, wait, hold on—his family has been coming to the island for ninety years. Holden’s just been coming since he was a baby so, like, 29 years.

[My Hero!]

While I’m heaping on the praise and thanks, I want to also give a big shout out to Allison who did me an enormous favor on the drive back to Portland. Some of you know I got stung by a bee that flew into the van and down my shirt. Almost before the bee made his move, Allison had the Benadryl out and got me taken care of. That was such a relief, as was knowing that six very skilled knitters where sitting nearby ready to administer a Signature Needle tracheotomy should that prove necessary. It didn’t. I passed out on the drive home from Benadryl exhaustion but ultimately had just a big itchy welt to contend with. So nice to be so taken care of by everyone. So thank you ALL.

[Host Toast!]

And a very special thanks to Lisa, the mastermind behind the whole operation. I spent the past couple of days with Lisa in Portland and you'd think she'd be too exhausted to speak. But no-- she continued to tirelessly serve up her wonderful hostessing skills. Thank you, Lisa, for another great week on the island.

Here are some more pictures. Hope you’re all readjusting to reality as well as can be expected after a week on Fantasy Island.

[Annual Tradition-- Imagine Their Thought Bubbles]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of...

How it got to be Thursday already is beyond me. And I continue to be behind in reporting everything because there is an awful lot to report despite the insane amount of relaxing we've got going on here on the island. I think I need to make a list so I remember to touch on all the points I want to touch on:
  1. Balls
  2. Cables & Lace
  3. Hot Stones
  4. Not Knitting on 3500 Calories Per Day
  5. Bingo!
  6. Nature Nature Nature
  7. More Balls
  8. Pro Photo Bonus!
And now, some explanations of the above, which I shall illustrate using the amazing photographs of Patty and my own fine-photo self.

So, balls. Where to begin? When we discuss balls in regards to a knitting retreat, naturally we are talking about the firm but soft variety, composed of yarn, and typically wound from a hank or skein. Why all yarn doesn't already come pre-balled is a query for another day. All I know is I have seen some pretty unique ball-rolling techniques this week, including irrefutable proof re: Why God Gave Us Knees.

Beyond our run-o-the-mill ball-rolling, we actually had a very special ball-rolling class, headed up by SuMi who dumped the equivalent of four tractor trailers worth of stash in the middle of the floor. Then she explained that we would be rolling balls composed of many different kinds/colors/textures of yarn. This immediately pushed some of my less savory buttons-- despite my outwardly deceptive appearance, which suggests I don't give a rat's behind about fashion and color, I'm all about using either solid yarn or factory variegated stuff because actually I like my fiber a very particular way. SuMi wanted me to do WHAT? Mix it up? No thank you. Others, however, embraced the concept:

Meanwhile, I retreated to the parlor to wrestle with my cabled neck snood, continuing to spend four hours per 102 stitch row. I want to note this has nothing to do with CaPa's teaching or the pattern, just my own severe allergy re: learning curves. Anyway, back in the Magical Ball Room, several campers dug right in -- and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that among these, Cassie and Marianne should win some sort of a prize. They rolled balls bigger than... well, you get the picture. In fact, I was so inspired by the size of these ladies' balls, I had a change of heart and sat down and rolled a big ole ball of my own and I am here to tell you: Big Magic Ball Rolling is, as it turns out, awesome! So soothing! So silly! So big and fluffy!

As for cables & lace-- so I admit it: I struggled with my cable knitting. Cathy helped. I struggled some more. Cathy helped some more. I knitted when I shoulda purled. I purled when I shoulda knitted. Finally, very gently, Cathy took the tangled mess and fixed it in an instant, seeing as she is the Cable Whisperer. It took me another five hours to finally get it but, folks? We have a Winner!! Yours truly learned a big new skill on the island. That's right, I get the cable thing now. Yay! That makes two skills picked up in four days-- there was also the lace/chart lesson learned with SuMi. I observed many other knitters making tremendous progress with their projects.

Next topic: hot stones. By applause-- how many of you think maybe Mary Alice's massages need to be outlawed seeing as the relaxation her treatments trigger is borderline criminal? I mean, talk about reducing the productivity rate on the island. There I was, face down on the massage table, wishing she'd set up a dribble cup for the moment I knew was inevitable: the hypno-drooling-trance moment. Suddenly, I felt a warm sensation on my back. MA had borrowed a few stones from Pebble Beach, heated them up, and lined them up and down my spine. She also put one in each of my knit-weary hands. I stumbled out of that massage room like a lightweight stumbling out of bar after 1.5 strawberry daiquiris. (As you can see in the photo above, I also received an impromptu outdoor rock massage.)

Not Knitting on 3500 Calories Per Day is Jan's special slogan for what actually can happen here at knitting camp. And it's true-- between the French toast, the omelets, the hikes, the massages, the lobster rolls, the shopping, the dinner, the WHOOPIE PIES and other sweets, PLUS the BINGO it's almost a wonder that we get anything knitted up at all. (Oh, but we do.)

Wait, did somebody say BINGO!? How lucky-- I mean how L-U-C-K-Y could we get in the timing department? I think Lisa didn't even realize it when she scheduled the retreat but, hello, our time on the island coincided with the September BINGO game, which is a fundraiser for the Monhegan School.
The Monhegan School currently has two students, and rumor has it they are twins. The boys ran the benefit-- calling the numbers and handing out the prizes-- and Eva won THREE out of the five or six total games. Marianne also won a game. And Ruth one what was, imho, the best prize of the evening-- a totally blinged out stapler. Seeing as I was sitting next to Eva and back-to-back with Marianne and mere inches from Ruth, I can only conclude that I was the common denominator lucky charm so you might want to consider sitting next to me when Holden starts handing out door prizes at the closing ceremony: that's right, he's giving away THREE PROPERTIES on the island and I'm thinking anyone sitting near me is going to be mighty lucky.

The prizes at BINGO were terrific, as you can see from the picture of Eva, who plans on wrapping up all of this most excellent booty and giving it to Marianne for Christmas. We also enjoyed speculating about what it must be like, going to a school with a total of two students, particularly when your classmate is also your brother. I imagined an after school conversation like this: "Mom, there's this boy at school and he won't quick picking on me...."

Nature Nature Nature: You know, there's so much nature on this island I just don't know what to do with it all. But I still have about 70,000 photos that Patty took, so I'm going to put some of them in at the end of this post and will show some more tomorrow night at the slideshow.

Which brings us to the final two items on today's Must Write About List: More Balls and Pro Photo Bonus! SuMi's Magic Balls weren't the only thing rolling around the Monhegan House this week making everyone oo0h and ahhh. As it happens, Melora also brought some (non-yarn) Magic Balls which she uses in yoga to help loosen everyone up after long, late nights of laughing, knitting, and bending forward to grab leftover afternoon cookies from the tray that Eva sneaks out of the walk-in. (Sorry, Holden...) As you can see from the photos, these Magic Balls are helping several campers to feel better. I'm predicting Cassy is going to become a yoga instructor when she gets home, and that she is going to use giant Magic Yarn Balls to help people work on their balance.

And finally, as if all that weren't enough for one day! Susan had a photographer, a model, and a hair/makeup artist out to MI this week to shoot pics for some upcoming Classic Elite Yarn books. She also recruited Christie, who has been entertaining us all week in the dining room, to model. I barged into Susan's room for a sneak peak at the great handknits that will be featured in the books. Alas, I cannot show pictures or even reveal hints here about those-- you'll have to wait for the books. Unless you're here at camp, in which case you'll get a sneak peek, too, on Friday night.

And that, my friends, is all for today. I'm ready to head back down to the parlor and swipe me a whoopie pie and work another row or two before hitting the sack. Tomorrow is our last full day on the island, which is too bad. In fact, I refuse to think about it another second. And now, here are some more pictures for your pleasure: