Thursday, April 30, 2009

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The to do list gets one line shorter

I love being able to scratch another line off my "to do" list! Today I got the collar and cuffs sewn onto this dress that I made this spring which was one of the entries on my list. I love the fabric, Mark bought it for me at Needle and Thread after I'd lusted for it on another visit and wasn't able to buy it! I was hurrying to get finished with the dress because I thought I was going to wear it to a Lady's Tea I'm attending on May 16th (1860's era) but after seeing it pictured, I've decided that while I love it, it's just not light enough in color for a spring social event, and a straw bonnet won't look right with it. I have a knitted dinner cap on the needles right now that will go with the dress, and I'll finish it for later on. I'll save the dress for the Loudin Park Cemetary Memorial Service that's usually the 1st weekend in June, it's somber but not full mourning attire, perfect for that event. I don't wear my really good and favorite dresses to outdoor events, I have plenty of dresses for outside. :)

I'll probably have to make another set of collar and cuffs for one of my other dresses that's flowery and light colored for the tea. I've been sewing them on rather than pinning them like I used to because they lie so much smoother sewn. But since they're sewn in, each dress has it's own set, measured for and designed for it. I'm drawn to the darker fabrics in the store but I'm going to have to make sure I have a couple of light colored dresses just for events such as the tea. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vacation Socks are finished!

These are the Koigu socks that I was handknitting on while on vacation. I'd gotten the ribbing and the first repeat of sock #1 done before leaving and finished up #2 the night that Jenn and Aidan left. I don't particularly like the yarn, it was really pretty on the skein, but once I used the yarn ball winder and made them into a ball the colors got very muddy. I wanted to get them done and off the needles so I could work on something that I really love the yarn for. I'm working on a colorway called "Rooster Rock" in a pattern called "Cedar Creek" but I'm just doing the heel decreases for #1. It's thick and springy and very much for the winter time. I did cast on another sock last night that is lacy and airy and light, being a fairly straightforward lace pattern with a 4 row repeat. Neither of the ones I'm working on is going very fast, they're both a lot of purling and special stitches, but they're beautiful to look at.
I took another sock machine lesson last evening and my homework is to make a pair of socks before my next lesson and to do some ribbing with the ribber that is now working. I'm not yet to the point where I can finish a pair on my own, I need to learn the non-needle weaving stitch for the toes and I'm still pretty fumbly. It's all about practice and more practice to become comfortable, just like with hand knitting. If you have an interest in getting a sock machine or using one you've found, feel free to send me a message, I'm happy to pass on my teacher and information to you. Not all of the experiences that I've had with this machine have been positive, and I might be able to help you watch out for the same pitfalls I've experienced. I'll reply privately.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mom and Baby left this morning. :(

We had a wonderful visit with Jenn and Aidan this week. We got to spend lots of great times with them at various playgrounds, these pictures are from the same playground that Jenn spent time playing on when she was a bit younger. Here's Aidan after running around and exploring the playground, we're on a swinging seating area, and he's not sure he likes swinging as quickly as grandpa is pushing him. It was nearly 90 degrees in Maryland on Sunday with beautiful clear skies. Jenn was pretty miserably hot after living in Hawaii for awhile since it doesn't get that hot there.
Here's the proud grandpa following Aidan around as he explores the playground. There were all kinds of things to climb on and touch and walk on top of and Aidan really enjoyed them all.

We also spent some time on the huge pre-school playground at the JCC. It has a rubbarized mat underneath all the equipment. There's plenty to do and explore there too and aidan had fun running from one thing to another. The slides were a bit hot but the other metallic surfaces in this playground were covered so they weren't hot at all.

Aidan really enjoyed the tubes and tunnels that he could climb through. Notice the really cool new shoes that Mom got for him earlier in the day. He really loves them.
Here's a picture of the two guys sitting on the steps with their yellow hats on. Mark had brought out his left over fried rice and Aidan was right there sitting with him and begging for bites. It was so very cute! Aidan started calling Mark "Pop pop" and was very attached to him the entire time he was here visiting.

On Saturday, we went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Aidan had been to SeaLife Park on Oahu but it's very small compared to the Aquarium. As we waited for Mark to park the car, we noticed that there was a guy Kayaking in the Inner harbor, and Aidan and Jenn were looking at him. Mark got this picture of Aidan making his "fish face" which he does so well!

As you first enter the building there is a huge tank full of Brook Trout. Aidan kept pointing at them and he even said "fish" a few times. It was really neat to see how interested he was in everything during our visit. He's only 17 months old, but his attention span is great and he's learning new words on a nearly daily basis.

Here's Jenn showing Aidan all the pictures of Fish Eyes that were on the walls along the exhibit route at the Aquarium. We borrowed a kid backpack for the visit and Mark carried Aidan around most of the exibits on his back. It was pretty crowded but Aidan had a fantastic vantage point for seeing most of the tanks. When we reached the huge reef and shark tanks, Aidan wanted to get down and walk on his own. I think he was just a tad overwhelmed by everything there was to look at.
Mark took some really beautiful pictures in the exhibits. This is a butterfly fish in the Coral Reef tank. My camera doesn't take great pictures in low light but Mark's does.
These were some Coral Reef fish like we see when we go Scuba diving down in the Caribbean or the Atlantic. The yellow ones are Yellow Tangs...It was sometimes difficult to get to the tanks to see the fish because of the numbers of people that were in the Aquarium but a little patience always netted a spot right in front.
This is one of my Florida Gator friends posing for the camera in the Freshwater swamp exhibit. There were actually 3 Alligators in this huge exhibit, all hanging out and relaxing. I was tempted to teach Aidan that Gator's say "I eat bulldogs for lunch" but it was a little complex for his age. He did like seeing the Gators, though.
There is a place along the exhibit route where you can see into the deep pool in the Stingray and Shark tank. Aidan really enjoyed seeing the big fish and rays swim by while looking into one of the windows. This tank is incredibly large and you see it when you walk into the Aquarium, you can stand on the edge and look down into it from above as well as seeing it from underneath. There are several species of Sting rays, some are VERY large, there are Tarpon, some baby sharks, and some docile sharks that won't bother the other fish. There's also a 3 legged Sea turtle that couldn't be released into the wild because it's one fin was damaged and had to be amputated. I don't think that turtle knows he's any different, he seems to enjoy swimming around in the tank with everyone else. While we were there, there were 2 divers in the tank feeding the Tarpon and the Stingrays. That was really cool.
We're all looking at the large sharks swimming by in the shark tank. It's really dark down in the exhibit so you can see the sharks quite well. Aidan got to feel the nose from a Sawfish as there was a volunteer walking around with one. Then he got to see live sawfishes in the tank with the sharks.
Bubbles! Aidan really liked looking at the Bubbles in the tubes near the Gift shop. As I recall, his Mom used to like looking at them when she was a little younger, too. :) Aidan got a few really neat things to take back to Hawaii with him from the gift shop...a stuffed Spotted Stingray, some sea creatures, and some frogs to play with on the plane and to have fun with when he gets home. Mom and he left very early this morning with Grandpa who went as far as Chicago with them (he's on a business trip and had to take a different flight out of Chicago). When I got home from helping them and seeing them off at the airport, the house was way too quiet and the cats were looking out the front window for them all to come back.
I'll be seeing Jenn, Michael, and Aidan in July, and August, but it isn't soon enough. :( The cats miss them too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Unexpected visitors

While we were driving back from South Carolina, I got to talk to Jenn quite a bit. Michael is still in school and not able to be home so she decided to hop on a plane or two and come home for awhile and visit. She and Aidan (Michael too) are always welcome so we came home to get ready for the little guy...who is much bigger than he was when they left last time in December! He had a good time exploring the house and checking out the cats. Here he is offering a piece of his snack to Grandpa.
I'm guessing that one of the cats walked by at the moment that this picture was snapped and Aidan looked down at her. He now can say "Gracie" and "Rosie" and he even makes the hiss noise that Belle makes when he chases her into the corner. :)

This is a picture of Aidan being a big guy and sitting at the table without a high chair or anything. He's having sea life shaped chicken nuggets which are about as cool as anything!

Aidan likes playing with his cars and trucks and his new bulldozer on the table. Rosie wanted to see what Aidan was doing so she jumped up onto the table. Aidan thought she was coming over to say hello.

Belle and Rose looking through the stairs down at Aidan below. The girls love the open stairs in the house and use them all the time to spy on the humans.

When Jenn decided to come visit we were particularly excited since Nanny and Poppa were in town this week and we had plans to see them for dinner on Thursday night. Since they didn't know that Jenn or Aidan were with us we thought we'd surprise them. We had Aidan knock on their hotel room door and boy was Nanny surprised when she opened the door to see the little guy! It was a fantastic surprise!

Here's Poppa hugging Jenn while Aidan looks around to see what he can get into. We had a wonderful dinner at Legal Sea Food and Aidan was incredibly good. He ate well, and behaved better than any other 17 month could be expected to. We were very impressed! Nanny and Poppa got hugs from the little guy as well as us big humans, and we really enjoyed seeing them.
Here's Aidan lying on the inflatible bed in the living room watching Shawn the Sheep on TV.

April Excellent Adventure, Part 1

i had some work to get done in the morning so we got an "after rush hour start" to our little vacation. We started our long weekend at our usual travel spot, a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Virginia. It was so strange to have them ask us if we wanted smoking or not...there isn't smoking in resteraunts in Maryland or Pennsylvania and it's great.
We drove down the coast to North Carolina and found this monument to the First 100 years of flight. The pillars are etched with a timeline of important events in flight and exploration. It was high up on a sand dune in Kitty Hawk, NC, a very beautiful area. The entire Outer Banks area was beautiful and I'd love to spend some time there over the summer, it looks like a very mellow and family oriented area, especially compared to some of the other beach cities we've been to.
It was incredibly windy all day though it was sunny. The waves were very high and really whipping around on the shore. We stayed the night in Kitty Hawk, and I was not surprised that they often suffer hurricane damage. The waves were nearly under the houses just on this windy day.
This is the monument to the Wright Brother's first flight at the National Park at Kill Devil Hills, NC. It was Orville Wright's Birthday the day we went so we got into the park free. It was really neat, they had replicas of the glider and airplane and the shop where they worked on the plane. There really is nothing out there and I can see why they used a tall spot in the dunes to launch the plane.
We also went to Ft. Raleigh which is also called the Lost colony. This is Mark by the Visitor Center. This is a National Park, but it shares land with a play that's been running about the lost colony, as well as beautiful Elizabethian Gardens. The wind was still pretty strong, but it was a beautiful sunny day all over the sites that we visited.
Here I am posing with the British flag in Ft. Raleigh. The earth walls don't look like much defense against the Native people who initially helped the settlers when they came to NC. The entire colony of people, including the first child born in England 's colonies (Virginia Dare) disappeared in 1587, hence they were referred to as "The Lost Colony".
The next morning bright and early we got started going to look for lighthouses on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The first one we encountered was the Bodie Island Light which was outlined by the sunshine of the morning. The wind had died down somewhat and it was a beautiful day. This lighthouse was not open to climbing. I love how each light house is painted differently on the Outer Banks.
This is the famous Cape Hatteras Light house that was moved from a spot that became too near to the beach to the spot where it now sits in 1999-2000. The Park Service does permit climbing up to the top for $7.00 per person but I thought I still wanted to be able to walk the next day so we declined not to do the climb. There is a nice but small visitor's center, and I was surprised that they hadn't given much information on the move of the lighthouse. I thought it was a monumental undertaking and deserved to be talked about.

The next lighthouse going south is on an island called Ocracoke and due to a big storm in the 1800's it is now only accessible via ferry boat. We waited for about an hour and then loaded the car and us on the ferry for the 40 minute ride over to the island. There is a really cute village there with houses and shops and places to eat.
This is a view of Hatteras as we left the island. We had seagulls following the ferry the entire time we were in the water. It was really neat, they took along some 18 wheelers too.
This is the Ocracoke Island light, it's the oldest (1820's) operational light on the East Coast. It's smaller than the others but it's really beautiful. The visitor center for this island is not near the lighthouse and it's not open for visitors so I took this picture from the ferry.
And speaking of "from the ferry", here are the socks I've been working on knitting during the trip. We're on the ferry in this picture, we had to take the ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island. We were trying to make the Cape Lookout Visitor Center before 5pm but we arrived at 5:05pm. That's ok, we wanted to spend more time there so we'll come back on the way back north.
This is a picture of the Cape Lookout visitor center right on the edge of the island. It was like in National Lampoon's Vacation after driving to Wally World and finding it was closed.
South of the Border is a place that I've mentioned in past blog entries. It's a place that is full of fun neon and statuary and campy shops. It's on the road to Myrtle Beach, SC right below the border with North Carolina. As happens about 80% of the time, we arrived there in the middle of the night. We took a couple of pictures of the neon and got onto the road again.

Another shot at the neon at South of the Border. They actually looked as though they'd done a bunch of work on the shops there and cleaned up the area a lot. It looks like it would be not a bad place. We'd actually gotten to stop there once during the day when we were driving Jon from Basic training in SC to AIT in Virginia. We did a lot of driving back and forth to see Jon while he was at Ft. Eustis in Virginia, but never got to go by South of the Border again since we didn't have to go that far South.
This scene really made me sick and alarmed me. This was at a Truck stop in South Carolina. Yes, they're real Gator heads. There are quite a few baby heads too. I just can't understand why they'd kill so many baby alligators, for food or leather, they'd want older gators anyway, why senselessly kill these. And I just can't even imagine the use for these...surely people don't keep them on shelves and coffee tables, do they? I just had to take a picture of this. EWWWW.
This picture was from Saturday morning while we were waiting for the Hunley center to open. We had timed tickets to see the historic sub and I was excited and we got there early. I had time to knit and worked on my sock a bit before the Center opened. We also met a really nice Canadian family that was there to see the Hunley. The dad was a definite Civil War buff, and had been to Gettysburg and a few other Civil War sites.
This is the photographable area of the Hunley. We weren't able to take any pictures of the sub itself in the conservation area. It is submerged in clear water because they are trying to take out all the salt out of the metal. The salt makes the metal fragile and brittle so they definitely want to get all the salt to come out. They do drain the tank periodically so that conservators and archeologists can study and work on the sub. This is a picture of most of the Hunley crew. The 3rd crew to die on the sub was the last crew, these are the guys that managed to sink the USS Housatonic which was the first ship to ever be sunk by a submarine in wartime.
These are the Medals of Honor that were awarded to the crew of the Hunley after they went down. The sub sat in the silt in the bottom of Charleston Harbor for 130 years with the crew entombed in mud that had seeped into the sub. They were later buried in North Charleston. They had the actual gold coin that was in the Captain's pocket as well as the jewelry that he had in his pocket when the sub went down.
This is a mock up of the sub. The Captain of the sub was 5'8" to 5'10" and there was one crewmember that was over 6 foot tall. They had to crank the propeller by hand while stooped over in the tiny sub. The experience was amazing, and of course, we got a couple of tee shirts for ourselves and the adorable Grandbaby.

April Excellent Adventure, Part 2

After visiting the Hunley in Charleston Saturday morning, we made our way out to Ft. Moultrie which is a very old fort that helped devend Charleston during the Revolutionary war. The grave shown here is that of Osceola, a very famous Seminole (Florida) Indian Chief. I grew up in Florida and we learned about the Seminoles in school, they were the only tribe that never surrendered or signed a treaty. Osceola was held in Fort Mountrie until his death and he was buried there on the front lawn.
This is the flag at the Fort. It was used in every war until after WWII so it has variously aged installations, buildings, and cannon from each era. You can see the WWII buildings from this picture as well as a cannon tripod lifter in the foreground. The fort is painted with camoflauge paint on the water side and you really can't see it from the harbor.
This cannon was interesting, it's from the war of 1812. It travels on cast iron tracks so that it's adjustable with big wheels that also travel on smaller cast iron tracks on the frame it's on. Pretty amazing.
This Palmetto is in front of Ft. Moultrie. The original fort was made with trunks from the native palmetto trees. When the Brits fired on the fort, the palmetto bark absorbed the shock and damage from the shells and the fort was able to withstand the attack without too much damage. That's why the Palmetto is on the state flag, which wasn't adopted until Civil War times. This beautiful tree was at the Charles Pinkney National Park in Charleston. His actual house is now gone so I didn't take pictures of the rebuilt home that's on the property. He was one of the Continental Congress and a very driving force in the State of South Carolina's decision to seceed from the British Kingdom, doing so even before the Founding Fathers voted to write the Declaration of Independence.
And Speaking of Secession...after South Carolina legally seceeded from the United States in 1861, armed forces were brought to the not quite finished Ft. Sumter rather than vacate the state as they were asked to do. Ft. Sumter was defended for 36 hours and then fell to the South Carolina militia. Mark is looking into one of the Cannon ports in the mostly rebuilt fort. It was turned to rubble after 4 years of being bombed and shelled by the Union forces but it was used as defence during WWI and WWII so it was partially rebuilt. It's now a National Park.
These are scenes of the rubble inside the Fort, as well as the dark black section which was built for WWII. They'd put a small National Park store and a museum into the newest part of the WWII buildings. The museum had the flag that was taken down upon the Fort's surrender, (there were actually two flags, both presented to him) and, in keeping with the Southern way, was given to the Commanding officer. His family kept it and it is now owned and preserved by the National Park Service.
This shell was lodged in the wall at the Fort. It was fired by Union Artillery during the 4 years of the war. This one and a few others that we saw were found during the excavations that were done after the Fort was given to the National Park service. The range on these artillery pieces was pretty long, as the Fort sits out on an island in the middle of Charleston harbor.
One of the sides of the fort nearest to the WWII installation was actually filled with sand to act as additional padding for defensive use, and when the fort was excavated, these 1890's cannons were found perfectly preserved and still sitting on their carriages. This entire end of the fort was the best preserved of the entire fort. It was pretty amazing.
It was a beautiful sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing. The flags looked beautiful with the backdrop of a few wispy clouds behind them.
This is the Sign for the Fort. We were going to get back on the ferry to go back to the mainland and we just couldn't seem to get a picture with nobody standing in front of the sign. Kids were taking pictures, and it was really cute so I just snapped them in front of the sign.
The Park where the ferry dropped us back off has the USS Yorktown parked there as a museum. Right outside the park area is a monument to Cold War Submarines and it was really cool looking with the top of the Sub peering out from the grass.
This is me at Ft. Moultrie. It's a horrible picture but a neat cannon. I ended up getting sun and wind burned during the day, it had been cold and windy and overcast most of the spring in Maryland so I haven't been outside much.
This is the sock I was working on knitting during most of the drive. It's Koigu yarn and it's a Socks that Rock pattern called "Leafling". It looks like cables but it's not. The other one is still on the needles but I'm nearly done with it.
The next morning we went to Moore's Creek which was in North Carolina. This was the scene of a very decisive Revolutionary War battle, the first one in the South. The area around here is so very beautiful with the creek and the swamp and it was a nice day too.
This is a shot of Moore's creek from the bridge that was built in ths location of the old one that the British had to cross for the battle to take place. The signs said there were alligators in the swamp but we didn't see any.
This mounument is to the women of the Revolution that helped out with the soldiers that were wounded. The commander's wife from this engagement rode a great distance to come and help out with the injured men.
The next morning we got up early and drove out to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The weather had turned rainy and cold again so we weren't able to go out to the island. There are no bridges or roads to the islands and it certainly wasn't ferry weather! We went to the Visitor Center and learned more about Portsmouth Village which is on the island, as well as the local animals and ecosystems.
Poor Mark was helping clean out the car after we got home and ended up having to wear my straw hat into the house. Little did he know that I was waiting with the camera. LOL
Yes, we are National Park stamp people...I actually have 2 more on the next page in my passport! It was a great vacation with lots of stamps, though we didn't get the 3 from the Cape Lookout Seashore. We left them to do another time. :)