Rain & Pain & Knitting Gain!

So far my teaching trip’s been great – a bit of an adventure in small ways, but overall REALLY wonderful!

My classes at Riverwools went beautifully.  It’s a great shop, incredibly well stocked, with ample parking and a nice cafe down the street.  Definitely trip-worthy for folks living around Terre Haute!  They made me feel SO welcome, so loved, and it was an excellent start for my first driving-teaching trip in over a year!

I taught a private class that my cousin (a newer knitter – I taught her a few years ago) set up.  We topped it off at 12 students, and that was just about right!  The students were SO good, so gifted, and an incredibly kind woman (and astounding knitter) allowed us to use her home for the classes. 

WHAT a beautiful great-room she has, what a lovely house!  It was one of the nicer locations I’ve taught a class, that’s for sure!  HUGE thanks to Peggy for the use of her home, Mary Ann for setting up the classes and Laurel for helping to make it happen!

My next class is in Canton, OH at the Stark County Library on June 13.  It’s been filling up pretty steadily and there are just a few spaces left.  You can register here if you like:

Stark County Library, Perry Branch
5710 12th St NW Canton, OH 44708
6/13/11   1pm
Combination Knitting Class $30
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I’m also doing a free lecture at the library and I’ll be signing books and selling some if folks want to purchase them.  I’ll be happy to sign anything though (so bring me your Nicky Epstein books and I’ll forge her name!)


The centerpiece of my trip is the annual TNNA convention in Columbus.  It’s a chance for me to touch base with other folks in the industry, see what’s happening and just keep the necessary connections working smoothly.

I’m not teaching here, which may be a blessing given my current joint situation, but I HAVE just heard from Interweave that they’ve added yet ANOTHER set of my classes to the Knitting Lab event in San Mateo in November.

Apparently I’m selling out (who knew?) so you’d probably better
sign up sooner rather than later if you want to be in one of my classes!

It’s wet here – raining pretty darned hard in Columbus – and like a barometer my knees and shoulders are giving me a pretty explicit weather report.

Barely visible GF shrimp, pesto & tomato pizza. YUM!

Last night I took a 3 mile ride after an AMAZING dinner at Marcellas (my favorite restaurant here as it’s not only a beautiful, well run Italian restaurant close to the hotel, they also have a GLUTEN FREE menu!)

My destination was Goodale Park, where life is good.


Ms. Annie's Wild Ride, via Daily Mile

I was ostensibly looking for tonic water (my roommate brought gin, which is why I love her…) and I found it at the United Dairy Farmers.  But I became so carried away with the warm, fragrant evening and rode in silly circles with my headlight flashing and a dopey grin on my face.

The ice cream I bought almost melted because I rode so long.  A slow, fun ride!

Folks were walking, hugging, kissing, playing music and kids were swinging all over the park.  What a fabulous evening to be free and mobile in Columbus!  I won’t be riding today, though, until/unless the rain stops, and I shall miss it.

Damn you, fibromyalgia!  You’ve won one round, but I shall win the match!

Fortunately, my hotel room is right across the hall from the whirlpool / exercise center so I can go ride a stationary bike and take a hot dip to help the joint pain.  Wet heat is an amazingly helpful thing for this pain!

From a purely disinterested perspective, the link between the weather and my join pain is  fascinating.  I sound like every older person in my family I’d listen to during weather storms as I was growing up.  “M’back is botherin’ me, I haven’t taken m’pill yet!”

It’s uncanny how I can sound EXACTLY like my Aunt Wanda on days like this.

I’m at the Hampton Inn across from the Columbus Convention Center, where TNNA will be taking place over the next few days.  I’m not teaching (given my joint angst that’s a mercy!) but I should be helping with the Stith Coop/Coop Press booth set up.  But I’m not.  Wah, wah wah…

It took a while to get the internet working, it’s finally working today and I’m afraid I’m not the general manager’s favorite person.

Dang.  Well, that’s a shame.

But I’m online now and finally able to return emails and get some work done!  I’m heading over with Mrs. Mannequin soon, and I’ll take some nice photos from the convention (where I’m allowed…) and report on great new yarns that are arriving and any subtle currents of design evolution as I wander from booth to booth.

I only wish I could ride my bike on the TNNA convention floor!

At Long Last, Ireland (Pt 1)

View from the Raphoe Bedroom

Our Daily Ireland View

I meant to blog about our trip in it’s entirety sooner, but to be honest it’s taken me a week to decompress and collect my many, many thoughts about Ireland.

The Plan

The trip was a fluke – we hadn’t intended to go!  If you’d told me a year ago that my family would be spending 3 weeks in Ireland, I’d have said you were full of blarney.

But that’s just what we did.

As many of you know, I’ll be teaching in Stirling, Scotland in August at the British Yarn Knit Camp and thought it might be nice to find a home share situation so I could take the family.

The Raphoe Kitchen

Our Irish Kitchen

I registered our home with Home Link, and got a few nibbles, but none from Scotland or Northern England.  In all honesty I have to admit I didn’t think St. Paul – as wonderful as it is – would be a huge draw…

I did, though, get a lovely phone call from a woman in Ireland whose son was to graduate from law school in the Twin Cities, and wondered if we’d like to do a swap.

After a family meeting, a pooling of our resources (frequent flier miles) and the decision that by saving a bit each month we’d have enough for the trip (9 months away) we said YES and started planning.

Class at This Is Knit

This Is Knit! Class

Our reasoning was that life hands you opportunities sometimes, and you should grab them.

As Auntie Mame says, “Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

And – not to put too fine a point on it – since we have a full understanding of the finite nature of LIFE Chez Landy, it seemed absurd to turn down such an amazing opportunity.

The Voyage

The Famine Sculpture & Max

Max at The Famine Sculpture

Because of the distribution of our frequent flier miles, we traveled in two groups, Gerry & Hannah on US Air, Max and I on Delta.  Reviews of both airlines were mixed, but it looks like Max and I had the more pleasant flight.

Arriving in Dublin we headed to the short-stay apartment we’d rented for 2 nights so I could teach at This Is Knit (a WONDERFUL yarn shop) and the family could sight see. Unfortunately Han & Gerry had a hard time getting over their flight (they may have picked up a cold or something)



So Max and I did most of the walking and exploring. We walked all over the city center, up and down the Liffey, and had a magnificent time riding the light rail.

But the most delicious memory of my first day in Ireland?  The  gluten free chocolate muffins I found at Marks & Spencer.  Light, moist, chocolaty – I wish I could find similar ones here!

My love affair with M&S had started, there was no turning back…

The Troubles

More Bedroom Window Views

Our View

The low point of our trip – and it was the lowest point, the trip only got better from there – was the theft incident.

I’ll leave that as I covered it at the time in blog posts, but it left us rather bereft and happy to head north on our hard-won bus tickets, clutching our last 2 euros tightly.

In the scheme of life, it was money.  Just money.  And the hardest to replace physical items, our passports, were not taken.  Huzzah!


In Raphoe [ra-FOE], which is in County Donegal [daw-ne-GALL], we discovered our haven. Our host family’s Manse (for that’s what it was called, seriously) was huge and beautiful.

Peat Briquettes

Mmmm, peaty!

And full of Irish detail we hadn’t expected (peat briquettes, anyone?)

We soon sorted out our financial worries with the help of American Express and Gerry’s mom, the host family even left us a small loan that we didn’t have to use (yay and THANK YOU!)

County Sligo

Sligo Snail

The morning that our host family headed off to our tiny-but-lovely Minnesota house I took the car out for a very early morning spin on Irish roads.

I wanted to get used to

  • A) The stick shift on the Right side
  • B) The steering wheel on the Left side
  • C) The traffic on the Right side
  • D) The narrow roads that seemed to have neither Left nor Right side.

And for good measure I pulled into a parking lot and practiced my parallel parking and use of the reverse gear.  I felt oddly at ease, and did quite well with it.

Dunluce Castle

Semi Circle at Dunluce

Gerry never seemed to have the same ease with the shift or the road oddness, so I did most of the driving (to the relief of the kids.)


Halfway throug our trip Max announced that he wants to grow up to design and build a museum of circles.  All kinds of circles; architectural, artistic, natural, cosmic – just circles.

Beltane Stone Circle in Raphoe

Beltane Morning

I was struck by that as so much of Ireland tends to revolve  around (no pun intended) circles.

My first circle adventure was a solitary trip to the Beltane Stone Circle in Raphoe.  It was on the morning of my getting-to-know-the-Peugeot wild ride, and the long walk up to the circle was a perfect nerve-calmer.

It was a foggy morning, I couldn’t see very far, but I could see far enough to avoid the many sheep droppings surrounding the prehistoric site.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes – I did have my “Outlander” moment when I desperately wanted to hear some of the stones buzzing.  No such luck.

But sitting quietly on one of the stones as the sun rose was a bit of a time-travel experience in itself. Everywhere we turned we found circles.

Here are the kids experiencing an amazing kid’s playground in Moville (where the kids and I went sea kayaking – more about that later!)


Speaking of travel, here is a  word about Irish Roads.  Everyone we met told me that driving in Donegal would be the hardest driving I’d ever do in my life.

Evidently these folks hadn’t driven in Scotland, West Virginia, or the rest of Ireland.

Minis on Parade

A School of Minis

Donegal was no harder driving than many other places that I’ve been (although I must say that Ulster was a teeny bit easier going.)

All over Ireland there are roads that are hardly wide enough for one small car – and in those cases you drive carefully and look for a wide space where you can let oncoming traffic pass.

The curves and mountains were no more daunting than tooling around Beckley or Ripley, WV, and the hedgerows (my own personal bete noir) were no thicker than in Scotland. But driving in Donegal – in all of Ireland – does take a certain nerve.

It’s like driving in snow.  You can learn it, but nothing takes the place of growing up with it and watching your parents deal with it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good as a native Irish driver, but I pride myself that I’m as good as any Yank driving in Ireland. 

I zipped my camera into my hoodie to take this driving moving from Letterkenny to Raphoe, then I forgot all about it.  The sigh of relief when I come to a stop says it all…


Gerry Works

Gerry Stays Home

But we were in Ireland to SEE the country, not to lay about watching The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle (both on Sky TV) and Black Adder (on videotape, now our kids are fans, too!)

Glenveagh National Park

Territorial Swaledale Sheep

So while Gerry finished up his two online classes at St. Paul College, the kids and I explored. I saw, Glenveagh National Park on a map and thought, “Oh, trees – a park – a castle!”

BOY was I wrong!

Park? check. Castle? check. Trees? Not so much.

In the course of our stay in Ireland we passed through the Glenveagh area about 5 times, each time it looked less daunting, more beautiful, less frightening.  I began to fall in love with the spare and dramatic landscape.

But that first day, driving alone with the kids to what I thought was going to be a green parkland and entering a very forbidding and dramatic lunar landscape (with goats) was – well – terrifying.  It was rainy and overcast, it was cold.

The fact that a Shostakovitch disk left in the CD player started up then just added to the overall effect.

The kids and I were fascinated and creeped out in equal measures.  Thus is the effect of music on an adventure.

And I got totally lost and couldn’t find the castle, which was no surprise given my shaky mental state at that time.

Glenveagh National Park

Jaysus On A Stick

We stopped the car at one point and I took a video of the barren, windy, desperate landscape, ending with a shot of an unidentified something attached to a post.

What was it?  A statue of Jesus – he definitely had his worked cut out for him.

I felt oddly comforted. Not only had folks been here before, they’d attached a statue to a post.

…and, I must admit, seeing anything on a stick puts me in mind of the Minnesota State Fair.

Next Post: More Ireland traveling with the WHOLE family!

Quickly from Killarny

We decided to take a few days in our last week and drive down to Southern Ireland to see some of the sites we didn’t want to miss.  High on our list was Newgrange, the cliffs of Moher and Coole Park (that was for me, the Shavian in the family)

Day 1 Driving

Day 2, MORE Driving

The hotels we found were splendid, but I did a bad job of matching hotel to where we ended each day, so an additional 2 hours of driving was added to each day for no good reason.  Live and learn…

Our car rule is that if anyone sees something they MUST stop and photograph or see more fully, we stop.

There’s no set limit of stops, but I (as the driver) have the final say.  We stopped a LOT yesterday, and each one was wonderful!

Here we are by the road, photographed by a lovely woman from Upstate NY we ran into!

Twee, twee, twee!

Our time up North has been GLORIOUS! If I’d had any qualms about being bored, or not having enough to see and do, they’ve been completely dispelled! Every place we’ve visited (and I will write about them fully when I have better wifi) has been interesting and fun and worth the effort.

The one place we traveled to that was less than impressive was the Folk & Transit museum in Belfast.  Perhaps it was the long distance we’d driven combined with the high entrance fee, but the displays seemed rather lackluster and the aerospace exhibits were, sadly, mostly broken or not working.

The folk museum part was lovely, but most of the stores were closed, most destinations were deserted.  This was on a Sunday (I figured on a weekend more would be open) but the few folks we met who worked at the park were wonderful!  I just wish there were more of them, and more shops / venues open that we could have visited.

Having said this negative stuff, we had perhaps the most memorable evening of our visit at the folk park when we wandered into a small farm homestead and visited with 3 goats, 2 chickens, a pig, 2 horses and a bunch of chicks – and a CAT – for a very enjoyable few hours.  We brought our tea and sat and had it amongst the animals – no humans around at ALL.

More later – the family is gearing up for a full Irish breakfast before we head off again.  Life is good!

Waiting For ____________

First of all, I have to start by saying THANK YOU to folks who are helping us climb out of the hole we collapsed into after the wallet theft.  I am grateful beyond words, absolutely blown away by your generosity, we’re almost back at square one, thank you!  I will write to each of you when I have time to write and I’m not standing in line at An Post all day (read on…)

Today was just a day.  There were annoying bits and wonderful bits, but mostly we felt that we were fighting against an unseen, uncaring megalithic power beyond any human control: An Post, the Irish Post Office.

Gourmet Dinner in Raphoe

At the start of the day all looked promising. We’d had an AMAZING dinner last night (soufflé) and a wonderful night’s sleep.

I contacted Amex by using skype (our phone salvation!) and arranged for them to send an emergency wire transfer via Western Union to us in Ireland.  Amex also enabled us to use our one remaining credit card for a withdrawl of funds using a pin number, and I was thrilled to be able to set all this up via skype.

The Irish post office allows folks to pick up Western Union money grams, so we were VERY hopeful as we set out for Raphoe. But when we got to the post office, there was a problem.

It went like something this:

– “Hi, I’m here to pick up some money wired to me by American Express, sending under the name ‘Merchant International’, and the money transfer code is xxxxxxxxx.”

A Couple of Bronze Chicks Sitting Around Talking

– “Oh, yes, here’s the transfer!  And your name checks out, the passport is correct, you have the proper code… But wait, there’s no name in the ‘from’ section of the transfer…  WHO actually sent you this?”

– “It was sent by American Express, under the business name, ‘Merchant International'”

– “But what’s the first name?”

– “There is no first name – it was sent by a company.  There’s no one person who sent it, just ‘Merchant International'”

– “Yes, we’re showing ‘Merchant International’ as the last name, but we need a first name before we can release the money.”


– “Try ‘American Express'”

– “No, that’s not working…”


This went on from about 1pm to after 5pm.  Conference calls were made between all parties involved, the folks at the post office were AMAZINGLY helpful, it really wasn’t their fault.  They were at the mercy of the computer application which would NOT clear the funds for release.  It was the An Post computer which would NOT allow us to pick up the money.

It was all simple logic:

If there was no ‘sender’s first name’ information, the money could not be released by the computer.  Therefore it was impossible for us to pick up our money gram.

The fact that there was NO first name provided by the sender, that the field in the form could not even be filled out, was inconsequential.

Concurrently, while Gerry was at An Post, I tried to use our Amex card in every ATM in Raphoe.  Unfortunately, none of them would take Amex.

Our hosts fed us today – beautifully on pot roast and parsnips – but they leave tomorrow morning.  They have, however, lent us enough money to get through a week or so, which is very kind and entirely NOT expected of them!  But BOY do we appreciate it!

Everyone’s been very kind (well, everyone but the guy who took the wallet and the person at An Post who programmed the damned computer to reject any wire transfers from a business to an individual.)

The view from our bedroom


Tomorrow we drive to Letterkenny to a travel agency that is supposed to be an OFFICIAL Western Union stop with a ‘free standing Western Union console’ which will – according to general consensus at the post office in Raphoe – allow the operator to override the computer and give us our money.

We’ve also asked Gerry’s family to wire us some (why didn’t we think of them before?) so that even if plan A doesn’t work, plan B should and we should have SOME funds we can use for silly things like gas and food.

This day was so full of frustration, though.  At one point I was on the skype phone with my own bank’s branch manager back in St. Paul, who was very sympathetic, but there was really nothing he could do.  We went around and around with different brainstorms, but each solution seems so convoluted and fraught with potential pitfalls (like no first name in the sender field for a money gram from American Express)

Max & The Jenny Johnston

It was slight consolation that EVERY person we spoke with at Amex, Western Union my bank, even the postal employees, thought the situation was ridiculous.  No one could even imagine how it could be that we, the recipients, could have all our documentation, the money transfer code, even authorization on the phone from American Express and STILL not be able to get our money.

The only folks who seemed unable to judge how insane the whole thing is were the higher ups at the An Post. It seems they would rather follow the letter of some insane non-sensical protocol rather than use logic to solve a problem for a customer.


As it happens, we were explaining to the kids the other night about Beckett, and the Theater of the Absurd (Michael Gambon is appearing in Krapp’s Last Tape in Dublin, I would have liked to see it but things didn’t work out that way…)

Our Swap Kitchen

Sitting in the back room of the post office (they very kindly let us in to rest about 3 hours into our adventure) Hannah said, “This is like one of those plays – like the one where the guys are waiting for the other guy to show up…”

It would have been fitting if the missing first name turned out to be, “Godot”

But lest you think it’s been all rubber stamps and queues, I’ve sprinkled some wonderful photographs we’ve taken so far of our trip to Ireland through this post – enjoy!

We’re Here, Lots of Good & A Big Piece of Shite

We arrived in Dublin yesterday and whilst Hannah and Gerry rested, Max and I wandered along the Liffey, seeing the sights and getting our bearings.

Max, in Happier Days

Gerry and Hannah both seemed to be suffering from some travel illness, so this morning instead of the three of them heading off to sight-see, G&H stayed home and rested.

The class at This Is Knit could NOT have been better!  Engaged and GIFTED knitters who responded well to what I had to teach them.  I felt like such a piker, teaching IRISH women to knit – who do I think I am?  But they found me amusing, and I found them charming, and it was a love fest all over!

Max and I walked home, picked up Hannah who was feeling a bit better and headed to Marks & Spencer to get Han a new hoodie and dinner for Gerry.  Back home, dinner in the oven, and I took the kids to the corner pub so I could enjoy a bit of wifi (the only free spot open near us)

For whatever reason Max had a meltdown.  I think it was just too much excitement, too much missing out on what HE wanted to do (ride a double decker bus) and too much following me around and helping me today.  He got terribly upset over some stupid joke Hannah and I were telling, and it made me feel like a piece of shite.

But the fun wasn’t over.  We went back to the apartment and after a brief discussing decided we’d sally forth, get a bus/light rail pass and just ride around on double decker buses to pay Max back for being such a big help to me today.

While waiting for a bus that never came, Hannah set down my bag.  She’d offered to carry it for me because I was exhausted, and I didn’t think twice about it.

Unfortunately, when the bus didn’t come and we walked away to go to the next bus st0p, the bag remained behind us.  It was just too much responsibility for a 13 year old girl.

I realized it was missing about 2 blocks away, Hannah run like the wind back to the stop, the bag was there but my wallet and cell phone were gone.  I’m still a bit in shock.  As luck would have it, and for the FIRST time in my life, I had Gerry’s 2 credit cards with mine in the wallet, so we’ve lost all our cards but the one he still had with him.  It’s bad news.

Fortunately, the bag was there, Max & my passports were there, my camera was there AND my current knitting project was there.  And my makeup.  So the vitals.

I feel so foolish, so irresponsible.  Hannah felt like a bit piece of shite, too, and it took a lot of talking down to get her to understand that it really was MY responsibility.

Police reports were filed, after 2 hours online the credit cards are cancelled.  We have no phone service here and we’re hoping the bus service will take American Express for the tickets tomorrow.

The US Embassy is closed tomorrow, we’re supposed to go to the police department and get some form and take it to the embassy so I can MAYBE get a license to drive here.  MAYBE.  But that won’t be until Tuesday, and that means another night in Dublin.  Ch ching.

And here we sit at the corner pub, me with my last 6 euros, posting to my blog.  At least I have my priorities straight…

At the advice of several readers, here’s a button if you’d like to donate something to help us offset what we lost.
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Everyone here in Dublin’s been most kind, but it’s a very hard situation to be card-less & euro-less on Bank Holiday in a foreign country…

Seriously, Rick Levine, Are You Stalking Me?

Thursday, April 15, 2010 By Rick Levine

Virgo Virgo (June 21 – Jul 22)

It’s likely that you have been thinking about taking a vacation or doing something with educational value, but you haven’t been able to pull it all together. Today, it’s reassuring when your vision finally falls into place. But the work isn’t done; you still have to fine-tune the details before executing your plan. Don’t try to do everything all at once; give yourself plenty of time to make it happen.


And that’s exactly what we’re doing!  We’re tacking our packing projects a little bit at a time, cleaning the house and getting all of our old clothes sent to goodwill.  We’re making space for our new houseguests!

Spring cleaning is good, and now that I’m on Prednisone (the bronchitis would NOT abate without it) I’m actually able to smell again (a mixed blessing) and my energy is up a bit (funny how not being able to breath will flag the energy, no?)

I’m not overdoing it, but I AM getting stuff together and I’m trying to intelligently delegate to Max & Hannah.  THEY’RE not nuts about that part, but it’s necessary, and they’re still of a good age to help us out with a minimum of grumbling…

In terms of my Fibromyalgia pain, it’s worth mentioning again that if I don’t get at least a small amount of exercise every day, my pain is much harder to control.

It may be that the warmth of Spring has something to do with reduced pain this week, or that my bronchitis is going away, but I chalk a lot of it up to being more on top of taking my Vitamin D (I flagged during our trip to Rushmore) AND my wonderful bike! YAY BIKE!

I don’t ride far, but I enjoy every last minute that I’m ringing my bell and waving to the crowds!


The new energy’s gone to my head.  I’ve scheduled a few classes in the coming months, no more than 1 engagement in any month (oh, for the days when I used to do 2 a month 12x a year…)

So here’s my schedule from now through September.  3 countries, no waiting!

I also have a few banner ads for my classes.  Since I’m foolishly proud of them, I’ll list them here, too!


I’ll be a guest on Knit & Purl Girl’s Stitch & Dish radio program Friday night (tomorrow) at 8pm Eastern Time.  If you have a way to get online, you can listen to the show!  She’s a fun interviewer, I really hope you’ll tune in!