Golden Ticket

I’ve been in Vermont since Thursday afternoon and have left this retreat house once, on Friday to make a Diet Coke run.  We have been quite busy learning about writing in and for the fiber world.  We’ve also been busy doing our own writing, and eating and eating some more.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from attending various knitting retreats it is that we are always well fed.  The baked goods on this trip have caused one participant who was not eating flour or sugar to cave and one gluten-free participant to chance eating the cheese part off the top of a piece of cheesecake.  I will be stopping at the caterer’s bakery in the morning and filling my suitcase, screw Vermont maple syrup I need more of these baked goods.  There’s no going cold turkey!

But today we got to escape!  I felt we had found the golden ticket.  Agenda for the day: general store in town, alpaca farm for alpaca shearing, pub for some local adult beverages and the studio of our instructor.  So much yarn, so little time!

First stop was Currier’s Quality Market.  This was an old fashioned general store.  We are the middle of nowhere Vermont so the general store is still alive and well.  The number of different items you could buy was remarkable.  Also in the store is Cold Spring Kitchen, the bakery owned by the woman catering the retreat.  But the most unique thing about the store is the amount of taxidermy adorning the walls.  There are animals everywhere!  There are also pictures of people with their various catches all over the walls. The collection included a full sized moose and every other animal you can find in the woods in Vermont.  As luck would have it you can also bring your catch in and have it butchered – yum!

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Our next stop was at Log Cabin Farm.  This weekend they were shearing their alpaca and we were able to watch one of the guys get sheared.  We were greeted by the farm owner who gave us a brief history of alpaca and we saw the guys who were waiting their turn to be sheared.

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Then it was time to go and see the shearing.  It was a very interesting process and the shearer was very talented.  The guy we watched was so calm and so naked afterwards.  They wait until spring has really arrived so they do not get too cold without their heavy thick coats.

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They sell the yarns from the fleece and they sell single animal skeins so you are buying one animal’s fleece.  We all ended up leaving with some delightfully soft yarn.

Next we stopped at a restaurant/lounge called Parker House.  They have several local microbrews and local hard ciders on tap and a little store area to buy syrup and such.  Bonus of being in New England – hockey on the tv in the bar!!  Now we’re talking my language!  I tried the Hill Farmstead Citra.  It was the brew recommended by the slightly gruffy but very cute bartender who had already played one game of hockey this morning.  A lovely afternoon break.

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Last stop was at Cherry Tree Hill Yarn.  The owner, Cheryl Potter is one of the leaders of the retreat.  Our other leader is Shannon Okey who is from my neck of the woods.  Cheryl sells hand dyed yarn and is an author of a number of knitting books.  As we toured her studio I felt like we had won the golden ticket to see Willie Wonka’s factory.  Because, let’s face it, for knitters going to the studio of an indie yarn dyer is essentially the same.  I bought some wonderful yarn and am excited to use some of it to do a pattern written by one of our wonderful participants.  I can’t wait to start!

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I’ve learned so much about writing this weekend.  Some of it good, some of it not so good but all very informative.  I came with a few ideas in mind and am leaving headed in a totally different direction.  I hope to share details soon but there are still some details to work out.  You just never know why you are put in a certain place at a certain time.  Finger crossed for some exciting things to come!  I also got to meet some amazing people from all over the country.  And as I find in knitting, while we all have knitting in common we have such varied interests within knitting.  Tomorrow I hope to hit some local sights as I head back to Burlington for my flight home.

 

 

Vermont in the Spring

There are some places that as you are leaving you think “I’ll probably never make it back here again” and there are some places where you know, without a doubt, you will be back (NYC, Paris for me).  Vermont was on the first list.  My family came here a number of years ago and I enjoyed it but never really had it on my “return to” radar.  That was until I found out about a knitting/writing retreat being held in the mountains of Vermont.  And, if you’re going to attend a knitting/writing retreat I feel like Vermont is where it should be.

I arrived yesterday after one of the best flying days I’ve had in awhile (good weather and strong tail winds are a huge help).  The retreat is being held is a really old, converted dairy farm.  The floors in this place are amazing!  The stairs are another story and clearly not built to be used more than once a day.  And, there is still some pretty big snow piles up in these parts!  Early spring is not Vermont’s best season but I do hear we can buy some fresh maple syrup – can’t wait for Sunday’s field trip!!

The retreat is being led by two published authors, Shannon Okey and Cheryl Potter.  The really nice part is there are only six participants so everyone gets some quality time to explore their ideas.  As we sat around this morning and introduced ourselves and talked about our goals it was amazing to hear all the different directions people were going in.  We are all knitters and we all want to write about the craft we love so much and we all want to do that in unique and individual ways.  Even those who are more interested in pattern design and pattern books were all headed in different directions.  Pattern design is not my skill, probably never will be and that’s okay.  Like my blog, I have more of an interest in telling the stories of knitting.  I was also surprised when throwing ideas out there how far other people can take them.  It was definitely to places I had not thought of.  Already, after only one morning I have so much floating around in my head.  Right now, we are having “free writing time” so I wanted to get a quick post done and then spend some time playing with some of the ideas we tossed around this morning.

The Thrill of Victory

For a few months now a couple of the gals in my knitting group have been talking about Lollipop Yarn.  The colorways are beautiful and I was definitely interested.  The snag in the whole thing is that this shop releases new products on certain days and times (usually Sundays at 7 eastern time) and when the yarn is released it is snatched up in mere minutes.  I don’t have the fight for that type of aggressive shopping.  Black Friday and I are not friends and I spend the day inside decorating for Christmas.  And, I never remember to turn on the computer at the designated day and time to even attempt to buy it.

With that being said, last Sunday I actually remembered and decided to give it a go.  At least I would not be physically harmed attempting to buy the yarn…  I signed on around 6:55 and kept refreshing until the yarn magically appeared in the Etsy store.  I had been warned about cart jackers (my friend’s term) so did not stop.  Saw the Great Googly Moogly, put it in my cart and immediately checked out before someone could buy it out of my cart.  I have no idea how it all works but I didn’t look back and at the end was successful in my purchase.  Shopping as a blood sport just is not me!

Three days later there was a little package on my doorstep when I got home.  I was not sure if I was more excited about my new air conditioning (which I won’t be needing anytime soon) or the new yarn, probably the yarn…  I opened the box and found this lovely ball of yarn waiting for me!

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The colors are amazing!  The really cool thing about this yarn is the super clean color transitions.  She somehow manages to cut off one color before starting the other and avoids some of those weird brown/greys that come in self striping yarn.  I could hardly wait to get it on my needles but was having a busy week.  I did get a bit of a sock started.

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I can’t wait to get more done!  And with this snowy afternoon/evening I have a feeling that will be looking more like a sock by the time I head to bed tonight!

Turtles and Volcanos

The forecast was Thursday looked to be one of the hottest days of the trip.  We decided to start the morning at the famous black sand beach, Punaluu.  The black sand is caused by the lava from the volcano and is really black and really rocky.  The big attraction here (besides the black sand) are the sea turtles.  The sea turtles nest on the beach and come up to rest and sun.  They have a large circle of the beach marked off to protect the turtles (in addition, there is a state law that you cannot get closer than 15 feet to the turtles).  There is a big area with signs and marked off with rocks for the turtles to hang out.  When I arrived there were a few curious turtle watchers and all were standing outstanding the circle.  Shortly after I arrived a tour bus came and dropped of its riders for short stop at the beach.  And, of course, the first couple off the bus went tramping right through the middle of the circle.  Lucky there were no turtles at the time.  It was interesting that all of the turtle watchers present started yelling at said rude tourist couple about getting out of the turtle circle.    Buses came and went while I hung out on the beach.  Since they are turtles (and not under the control of any sea park, etc.) you kind of have to hang out and wait for them to do their thing.  Tour buses came and went during the time I spent.  In the end, there were about 7 turtles trying to find space on the rocks and I was watching with two other couples who were also from various spots in Ohio.  

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the legends I heard before heading over.  I was talking about my upcoming trip with my knitting group and one of my friends had been to Hawaii, and particularly to the Big Island.  She implored me, a number of times that night, to not bring back any of the lava rocks back home with me because it was bad luck.  She was quite serious about this.  I was telling my Dad this story the next day and he said I had told him and I said no, I heard it last night and then he remembered his co-workers had told him the exact same thing.  I did read in Fodor’s that no one has been able to trace the legend but some believe it was started by park rangers to stop the loss of black sand since it can only be created by lava flow.  Either way, wasn’t willing to chance it!  Pictures only for me!

We then stopped at the Punalu’u Bake Shop.  It is the southernmost bake shop in the US!  They have free samples of sweet bread and also have full lunches available.  They have a beautiful gazebo where you can sit and eat the delicious malasadas and have a cool drink after a hot morning on the beach.

After lunch it was back to the volcano.  We made a stop at the steam vents and I hiked over to the sulphur rocks.

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After all the morning activity it was time for a drive.  We started down the Chain of Craters road.  With the park map and signs there are a number of stops as you head down the mountain and eventually end up at the ocean.  There was also about a 15 degree temperature change from top to bottom.  The funny thing about the drive is you get in a groove so the people you meet at the first stop will follow and lead you down the whole drive.  We were heading down with a German couple who spoke little English so we would just nod and wave from stop to stop.  We did not stop at every stop and did not keep track of how long the 19 mile (one way) drive took.  The payoff at the end is a rough parking lot with limited facilities.  There are some very primitive toilet facilities, a ranger’s station and a small shack that sells cold drinks (and could really charge much more for them) and some souvenirs from the end of the road.  There is also a small, but rocky, hike to the Holi Sea Arch which on a sunny afternoon is stunning.

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You can also take a longer hike (from what people told me about 20 minutes one way) to see the end of the road.  The road has been closed by lava flow that hardened across the road.  Given the heat I passed on that – the people coming back looked really, really hot and I’ve heard mixed reviews on how interesting it actually is to see.

We headed back up the road and stopped for dinner at the Lava Rock Cafe – cute name and good food, and one of the few places in Volcano to eat.  Then it was time to get packed up as it was our last night in Hawaii.

 

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

I was singing this song all day today but before that a little bit of catch up.  On Tuesday we spent most of the day with my Dad’s cousin.  He took us on a tour of resort area his house is in and then we went to Waimea to eat lunch at Village Burger (it was delicious!!).  We finally made it back and I went to the Mauna Kea Beach for the remainder of the afternoon.  It was a little overcast and there was a high surf.  They have great beach chairs and towel service.  It also has a beach side bar (no alcoholic drinks on the beach but they do make a killer smoothie you can take back to your chair).

Wednesday came it was time to head to the other side of the island.  We took the scenic route (19) through Waimea where we caught our first look of Mauna Kea – the snow capped mountain on the island.  We had breakfast at the Waimea Coffee Company in the Parker Shops.  It was delicious!  Our first stop was at a little Catholic Church (Our Lady of Lourdes).  It was Ash Wednesday so we thought maybe they would be having a service.  There was a man walking across the parking lot and we asked if he worked there, which he did and he told us the service was at 7:00.  We decided to peek in the church and it was so interesting.  All the walls were painted white with royal blue trim, honoring Mary.  I really liked it.  It turned out the man we talked to was the parish priest and he offered us ashes when he learned we were traveling.  After that we stopped at all the scenic outlooks and our first official stop was at the Waipio Scenic Overlook, just past the church.  You can’t see the famous Waipio Falls from the overlook.  You can see the valley and steep cliffs that form the valley and the river running into the ocean.  There is plenty to be seen from the parking lot but the real view is located down a number of stairs (also the bathrooms are down the stairs) and they are a little steep for anyone with walking problems.

We hopped back in the car and headed to Akaka Falls.  The falls are located in a state park and there is a small fee to enter.  There is a beautiful view of the falls (and facilities) from the parking lot.  There is also a 1/4 mile loop walk that takes you past a second (Kahuna) falls and gets you much closer to Akaka Falls.  It is has a lot of up and down all on paved steps with railings.  I was surprised to read that Akaka Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls, a place I have been a number of times.  Interesting fact!

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We left Akaka and turned off the main road for the “scenic route”.  Around one of the bends was a little place I think was called Shake it Up.  It served lunch and fresh made smoothies using fruit grown on their own farm.  It was a perfect lunch stop!  Just down the road was the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden where we stopped briefly but continued on due to time constraints.  It should be noted that you might think the “scenic route” was to see the ocean but it was really to drive through this beautiful forest.  Back on the main road and we were almost in Hilo.

In Hilo our first stop was Rainbow Falls.  This is a great stop because the falls are totally  accessible from the parking lot so everyone can see them.   Just down the road are the Boiling Pot falls.  I would not go out of my way to catch them (unless there was a heavy rain and they could live up to their name)  Otherwise, they were kind of blah compared to the other waterfalls we had stopped at.

Finally it was time to head to our final destination – Volcano!  First we found our lodging – the Aloha Crater Lodge.  This is an old house that has been divided into a number of rooms.  It is on a tiny side road and the driveway is a little scary but it is well marked.  Our key was waiting in the door for us.  The room is a good size and has a small kitchen area with basic supplies such as a coffeemaker, microwave and mini fridge.  The owners have stocked the room with fresh fruit and pastries.  There are also a number of other staples.  It’s a bit rustic but a charming room.

After dropping our bags we went straight to the National Park.  A quick stop at the visitor’s center sent us in the right direction.  It was about 5:00 and the visitor center was about to close but they sent us down to the Jaggar Museum where you can view the active volcano.  We joined the ranger talk and got up to speed on the area volcanic activity.  My favorite part was when she was talking about seeing fresh lava flow, she called it the “lava lottery”  Currently there is no fresh lava flow so we did not win the lava lottery.  The ranger herself was very interesting and let us know that being a park ranger had been on her bucket list.  Wonder what else was on her list???  What is going is gases being released in one of the craters and when the sun goes down the gases reflect the hot rocks in the bottom of the crater and the  gases turn red as it get dark so it looks like a giant bubbling pot.  I  loved watching it as the sun set because you could watch the red start near  the bottom of the gas cloud and work its way up as it gets dark.  We learned later that this was the first night this week it was clear enough to see the gas plume so we got lucky with that.

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It was freezing so after the sun set we headed to dinner.  We stopped at Volcano House which is the only hotel (and restaurant) actually in the park.  The restaurant  is a little pricy but the view is totally worth it.  The windows  overlook the crater so  we were able to watch the red gas cloud  as we ate.  The food was good and the views were better!

Kona – Take 2

When traveling I have learned that some days you just need to reset and start over the next day.  That is what happened on Sunday – the pouring rain took it’s toll and as much as I hate to waste a day it was best to just pack it in.  On the upside, our hotel had an “art museum” which was basically an installation of one native’s paintings depicting the history of the area.

We woke up Monday morning and there was a slight glimmer of sun in the sky and we were ready to set out.  The plan was to head to the southern most place we wanted to see and work out way back north, ending up at our cousin’s house near Mauna Kea Beach.  Our first stop was Puuhonua O Honaunau National Park.  This was an area of refuge which was used by the Hawaiian people.  What remains is a giant wall that was built on the sea and many other ruins.  It is on the shores of lava rocks and is quite scenic.  We started with the ranger talk.  The ranger was very fun and had lots of good information.  We then headed out to explore the ruins.  I did some hiking on the lava rocks until I ran into some bugs and the rocks got slippery where they were getting wet.   It was a perfect day for this because it was still slightly overcast so we were not fried in the sun.

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Next stop was St. Benedict Church or the Painted Church.  Oddly this was one of the best marked stops we have made.  The inside church walls were painted with various Bible stories by the Belgian priest who was bringing Catholicism to the islands.  It was a little, old church and I was delighted to find a statute of St. Bernadette out front.  The paintings were very cool.  I had visited another painted church in Germany a number of years ago and I was very pleasantly surprised to find this one was nothing like the church in Germany which was definitely different.  The church had a table set up and was selling Christmas ornaments and other religious souvenirs on a honor system.  It also had some really nice gardens.

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Then we tried to the find the Captain Cook monument look out and were not at all successful.  From what I read it is an obelisk and I’ve seen one or two of those so I was not overly concerned.  By this time I was starving and we pulled into a McD’s for an iced tea and I had to try the taro pie.  Taro is a very popular crop here.  It had a kind of purple tint to it and I’m not exactly sure what it tasted it like but it was fun to try!

I then stopped at a yarn store (see separate post) and our last stop was at the King’s Shops.  My Dad had seen a watch made of koa wood in one of the tourist magazines and loved it.  Only one store sells them so we found that store and he got his watch.  We also grabbed a bite to eat at a fish and chips place.  And then we headed to our cousin’s house for the night.

Kona, take 2 was much better than day 1 and it is all much different than Oahu.  Heading to the other side of the island next!

We Have Yarn!

I had the names and addresses of two yarn stores in Honolulu but never had a chance to check them out.  Today we were driving around Kona checking out some of the tourist spots before heading north to the place we are staying.  I also had the names and addresses of two yarn stores here on the Big Island and one of them happened to be between us and the house we were headed to.  Bonus, it was raining again so it was the perfect time to check it out!

Island Yarn and Art Supplies is located in a rather industrial looking complex (in fact it is next to a auto body shop).

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The first floor is full of art supplies of all kind and then upstairs is the knitting area and what a pleasant surprise!  It was full of yarn, mostly organized by color and included 3 tables to knit at (or in my case study Ravelry to determine what I could make with the yarn I was finding!)

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There was an entire wall of Malabrigo and an adorable old bookshelf filled with more Habu than one could ask for!

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I loved the display on top which included a large mason jar filled with old spools of thread.

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Plus the colors of the Habu up there are amazing!!!

On one of the tables was a basket of hand dyed yarns, all of which were done in Hawaiian colors with Hawaiian names – they were gorgeous!

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This basket was all sock weight.  I later found a basket of bulky and bought a skein in “Lava Flow” which I thought was great for the area since were in the middle of nothing but lava fields.  She also had some hand made buttons from a crafter who uses local wood to make them.  They were very cool!

I was chatting with the owner while checking out and she is the one who dyes the yarns and all of her yarns have Hawaiian themed names.  She calls the yarn Pu’olo Yarn.  On the label it says the definition of pu’olo is a bundle of wonderful things – I couldn’t agree more!

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