Monday, June 30, 2014

Week 26 - Such an Idiot!

Have you heard about the weather here? The week started out beautiful, nice enough that we knitted outside at Heidi’s on Monday, but by the end of the week it was blazing humidity and storm after storm. Between Wednesday night and Friday morning, we had nearly 2.5” of rain. Of course this meant water in my basement, which completely killed my weekend. Summer in Nebraska!

More about the rain later but now to talk about some fun, yarny moments. I was having a frustrating afternoon on Monday. My co-worker was peppering me with questions and I could not take it another minute so left work ten minutes early for some retail yarn therapy at Yarn Charm. Boy was I ready to buy! I got another $32 skein of Zen Yarn Garden sock yarn plus 2 more skeins. Then on Wednesday I stopped at the loathsome Yarn Shop in south Lincoln after picking my car up at Honda (door lock fixed – yay!) just to see if there’d been any change. There is usually a clique of retired woman at the front table who comment on everything and the clerks often follow you around as if you’re going to steal something but the table was empty and the two clerks were involved in a discussion of their own so it wasn’t unpleasant. Luckily they have a piss poor selection of sock yarn but I still found one that was a good price. All this was a prelude to Friday.

I had sent Anne a craigslist posting for someone who had trash bags of yarn for sale for $20 each. The ad said they had to be gone by Friday so when Anne called, I suggested she offer for $100 for everything – 9 bags. Since I had already planned to take the afternoon off to start dealing with the basement, I agreed to go with her to pick them up. We filled her Honda Pilot and then spent an hour going through all the bags. Check it out! In all those bags there were only 3 skeins of sock yarn so I took those and some wool for felting. Most of it was acrylic for Anne and her mom to knit mittens with, which worked for me. It was fun sorting though – like a yarn treasure hunt.

Then it was home to deal with the basement. I had already stopped at Menard’s for supplies so was ready to rock and roll. The first stop was to check the downspouts, which I hadn’t thought to do when it flooded last time, chalking it up to the 5” of rain in 2 hours. Well, I’m an idiot! The corner that floods is right by the downspout that’s under my huge yew. Yup, the extender to move the water 4 feet out from the downspout wasn’t attached. Damn! That fixed, I headed downstairs.

The top two shelves of the linen shelf had come down sometime before the last flood so I’d moved those back then. What I didn’t realize was some linens had fallen down behind the shelves and were in contact with the floor so were wicking the moisture up into the linens. They’d been wet for months, which I only discovered when I moved everything. Lots of vintage linens went right into the trash. Most of the rest needed washing. I didn’t stop until all the linens were sorted and all the shelves were down. Step 1. I went upstairs intending to sit but it was pretty cool outside so I decided to mow myself, which I haven’t done in a couple of years. The grass was tall where Devin (the kid next door who does a marginal job) hadn’t mown and wet in places but my yard got the best mow it’s had in years. Only then did I shower and sit. What a long day!

Saturday morning was dark and rainy again so I started laundry (I had baskets of wet linens everywhere before the weather broke) and slogged through tons of paper, including opening the mail that came when I was in France. By the time I was done, the desk was a good as it gets (need to work on that) and the bar was clear. The rest of the house seemed to have laundry everywhere. I started hanging as soon as the weather cleared and was still hanging laundry on the line at 11:30 p.m. in hopes that some would dry overnight.

I slept late on Sunday (I wonder why!) but stripped the bed and had the sheets in the washer before I sat down for breakfast. I had been watching the weather and was hoping for some clearing. I pulled in 4 lines of sheets just before another downpour but then it did clear and I spent the afternoon finishing hanging the laundry. Some linen disintegrated in the wash so more hit the trash. Bummer.

I was down to the last loads by mid-afternoon and since I’d been dripping with sweat for most of the day, hot tea wasn’t going to cut it so I decided to go to the gas station for a fountain diet coke. I went to open the car door and it was slightly ajar and the battery was dead. Seriously, I didn’t need this! I called AAA and did go out after they left, driving 6 miles west to that gas station to help charge the battery. That diet coke was heavenly!

So, I never got any cooking done but by the end of the day Sunday, the corner was dry. Did I mention that my dehumidifier crapped out last week? Squeegeeing and fans did the trick. My fear is that there’s water under the totes on the other wall. It shouldn’t have affected the linens inside but it’ll still need drying. Oh well, next weekend after the cookout. I still have that to prep for too. It’s always something.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 25 - Back on Track

I finally feel completely back in the swing of things. Monday was knitting, as usual and I swam twice during the week but there was a bit of drama too. All good though.

 Wednesday was just a normal morning and I was sitting at my computer when Randy, my office mate, pushed back from his desk abruptly. He’d been dripped on so we all looked up and there was water dripping out of the light fixture over his cubie. We called Facilities and in the 45 minutes it took them to get there, we went from 1 recycle bin to 6  and from just the light fixture to that plus 6 ceiling tiles. The water was pouring out so Randy covered all his computer equipment with trash bags and the student worker had to move to another cubie. Facilities sent a team of 6 guys to fix it so it was a bit crowded and noisy.

Since we’re on the top floor, it was the AC unit on the roof that was leaking. The first thing they had to do was turn off the AC and it was in the 90’s outside and humid as all get out so it heated up fast. It was just a blocked drain so once they unplugged that, it was just a matter of vacuuming up the pooled water and waiting for the dripping to stop. The AC was back on in half an hour. We all went to an early lunch and by early afternoon they were replacing the tiles and it was like it never happened except for a small wet spot on the rug. Needless to say, we didn’t get much done that morning.

There was dangerous weather this week too. A tornado hit Pilger, which is 100 miles north of me, and another hit Coleridge where my friend from spinning lives. Her barn was picked up and came back down off its foundation and two sheds are gone but at least all her animals were OK. We had our own storm on Friday night when we were attempting a Knitting in Public dinner for World Wide Knit in Public Week.

It was blazing hot but our plan was to sit outside at Chips so we could stay after we finished eating without taking up an inside table. I actually said that it was nice that the sun was behind a cloud so it wasn’t so hot. Then we started hearing thunder then it started sprinkling. The sky had turned ominous and 30 seconds after we ran inside, the skies opened up. The rain slammed down for the next two hours and since people dashed out to beat it, we got a table inside then no one came in during the rain so we happily stayed inside and knitted until after 9:00. I snapped this picture of lightening in the clouds as I left.

Saturday was a busy day. Darla was coming for breakfast so I got up and made blueberry pancakes and bacon and Darla arrived just before 8:30. We chatted and caught up then headed to the Wahoo Senior Center thrift shop. We didn’t get much there but did score at Fremont Goodwill where we went next. It was lots of fun and we both left with a bunch of stuff. After a stop at HyVee for Starbucks and a quick bite, she dropped me at spinning where I’d hitch a ride home with Andrea. It was just a spin along and since I don’t spin, I tried and failed to start a new pair of socks. We left there and headed to Omaha where I overbought at Trader Joe’s then did a full stock up at Aldi. I didn’t get home until 7:30 so nuked some leftover pasta for dinner after putting away the cold stuff. I left the rest for Sunday.

I never left the house on Sunday and had a productive day. I put all the groceries away, did all the laundry including all the new stuff from Saturday and then finally did some cooking – a big pot of collard greens (had never made them so got directions from Ginny, who makes the southern classic all the time) and a pot of red sauce. I thawed what I thought were pork bones for the sauce (I use bones to flavor it and add cannellini beans for protein) but it was actual meat so I’ll be making salsa pork in the crock pot later this week. At least I have plenty of options for food this week. : )

So, it was a good week and I feel completely back to normal. I still haven’t written the blazing letter to the corporate office of the travel agency but have been giving it thought. I need to get that done so I can completely move on from the trip drama. I’m looking forward to some drama free living this summer.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week 24 - Enjoying Being Home

Well, as much as I wasn’t ready to leave France, I’ve got to say being home has been nice. It helps that this is the easiest jet lag I’ve ever had and the weather cooperated with perfect sleeping weather. My bladder was still on French time for a couple of days and I did wake up at 4:30 a.m. on Monday and was unable to get back to sleep but otherwise slept on Central time all week and never had a foggy head like after previous trips. Maybe it was because I was so relaxed after my trip, which was a wonderful thing after the stressful start of the trip.

There’s not much to report on the week. I managed to “swim” on Wednesday but it was water walking and my mouth got more exercise than my body. Otherwise, I didn’t do much in the evenings. Actually there was knitting and food shopping twice. That’s something but I didn’t get much done once I got home. Oh well.

I spent the weekend trying to reclaim the house. There was a bit of a scare when Dottie asked if she and Mike could come next weekend because she had 4 days off in a row. I already had firm plans with Darla that I can’t reschedule but since I have a complete inability to say no, I had left the possibility open. Well, after not sleeping Friday night worrying about it, I called and left Dottie a message saying it wasn’t going to work. Had they been coming, my weekend would have been a stressful whirlwind of chores but with the heat off, I was able to slow my pace and enjoy it. I swapped out all my winter clothes for summer, did a bunch laundry and ironed too (a rarity these days) so I’m ready for summer weather. I also neatized the rest of the house and got some weeding done in the garden.

I had planned to do some cooking but never got around to anything but blueberry pancakes Saturday night for supper. I did spend 3 hours on Saturday going through the 14 pints of blueberries I’d bought at The Warehouse for 50 cents each so have 8 1-cup bags for muffins and 3 big bags for pies in the freezer. That should get me through until next summer.

So, I guess it’s official – life is back to normal just in time for summer weather. The heat and humidity arrived overnight so I woke up to summer weather on Monday. Good thing I’m ready for summer knitting with all my newly stashed yarn. It’ll be another summer of socks. : )

Friday, June 13, 2014

Week 23 - Having a Ball

Monday was an early day but with a fun start. We were on the bus at 8:30 heading for Rouffignac Painted Cave, where they take you deep into a cave on a little electric train to see pre-historic paintings. It was pretty amazing. They even opened early just for us. Nice. Then we were off to Marqueyssac Gardens, which were the only gardens on the tour but I was disappointed that they were just topiaries. Green, green and more green. They did have a nice children’s garden and we had fun watching Sue mount one of the sheep sculptures. The restaurant was delicious too and we had a nice lunch served by Shane, our Irish waiter, and watched peacocks begging scraps. From there it was on to La Ferme du 4 Vents – an angora goat farm that had our one and only scheduled yarn shopping opportunity. It was a lot of fun and after we were all done shopping (that’s the best day they’ve ever had for sure), they brought out 3 bottles of champagne, which we drank under the trees. I snagged the corks to adorn my toran. Then it was back home to the chateau for dinner. It was another lovely day in France.

Tuesday was our first class with Nancy Marchant, the designer from Amsterdam who is the queen of brioche knitting. I had never done brioche so was excited to learn and then had no problem at all while others struggled. I sailed along and finished the sample. Loved it! The afternoon was free so we mostly sat outside and knitted. Go figure. Then Nancy did a talk on the Amsterdam knit scene before dinner. What’s not to like?

We spent Wednesday out and about. The morning was in Perigueux (the capital of the region), where Bruno, our French guide, did a walking tour of the Roman parts of the city then we were free for shopping and lunch. We opted for shopping first and I scored a bit of yarn at a Phildar store that was closing. It was slim pickings but since I’d bought so little yarn, I bought a few skeins that were nothing special. I then found the prefect, albeit expensive, apron for Lorri and promptly left my yarn bag at that store so had to leave my group and head back to get it. I rejoined my peeps at Monoprix, which is the Wal-Mart of France. We checked for yarn (total crap) but people did find thumb drives and we bought sandwiches and pastry to eat for dinner. Then Sue turned on her phone long enough to find another yarn shop that none of us had found while googling the night before. Since it was close to Monoprix, we headed there. Jackpot! It was a tiny shop with sewing machines and yarn – Bergere de France yarn, to be specific. I found hat kits to give to my airport transporters and a bunch of sock yarn for my knitting group. We were definitely not in the touristy part of town so found some normal stores, including one where Cindy scored t-shirts for her grandkids. We were quite a ways out so started walking toward our rendezvous point and found a wonderful restaurant where we ate lasagna and fresh crepes in a beautiful courtyard. The server was even American. It was a nice morning in Perigeueux.

When the waitress asked us where we were going in the afternoon, my response was “some chateau.” I guess we were getting chateau overload to go with the duck overload. The chateau was Bourdeilles, which was more of a medieval castle and so had rooms filled with museum exhibits rather than furnishings. I found a bench on the 2nd floor and sat the tour out. Despite having had plenty of time to relax, I was feeling spent. From there we went to Brantone, which is a beautiful town with an old abbey. We checked out the cave carvings by the abbey but didn’t have much direction on where else to go so left and found a café for tea. The shopping was minimal and I wasn’t in the mood so we headed to a park and ate our picnic dinner. Afterwards we sat in the sun on a wall by the river feeding bread to ducks and then knitting. It was a totally pleasant end to the day before boarding the bus for the ride back to Forge du Roy. Luckily Thursday wasn’t a day out.

We started with our second brioche class with Nancy – two color brioche. Again, I got it and so immediately started a real project after I’d finished the sample. After a lunch on the patio, we had another relaxing afternoon at the chateau. It was warm enough to swim so a bunch of us went to the pool where I swam a bit, did a few water aerobics moves and then sat in the pool house and knitted. That night we were headed out to a bohemian restaurant (style, not cuisine) in the chestnut woods. Most everything served was grown or raised on site and it was all amazing. We started with a violet flavored aperitif, then salad with nasturtium flowers, duck, lamb, potatoes roasted in duck fat and walnut cake for dessert with 6 different sauces to pour on, including an interesting one that was pine flavored. We ended with some home brewed l’eau de vie that was so strong that just the tiniest sip left my throat warm for ten minutes. We had to rush off because the bus driver was nearing her maximum hours for the day. Bad planning since we’d only had her for supper.  Oh well.

Friday was our last day and I was feeling some shopping pressure. I hadn’t bought a single stocking stuffer yet nor anything for Nora (who drove from Lincoln to pick me up at the airport on the Saturday I couldn’t leave) and our options would be limited since we were going to Beynac – a teeny, tiny town – to see their chateau. Since I’d been warned of the climb and had seen the hill from afar, I wanted to skip the chateau, which was another medieval one and so would be sparsely furnished if at all. Erica was on board with skipping too but when we told Philip, he gave us a big guilt trip. “If you skip the chateau, you’ll be missing something magnificent!” He said that if we walked up, we could take the bus down so we started the climb. It was the hottest day yet and the climb was not fun. The only thing magnificent was the view. The castle was as suspected and we were through it in 30 minutes. When I asked Philip where the bus was, he said it would be back at 1:15 and we were leaving town at 1:30 which meant we were stranded at the top with minimal shopping and only one café for lunch. I accused him of not thinking like a woman and started back down the hill. It was cobbled with irregular rocks and had no handrails so I did the Tim Conway shuffle ALL THE WAY DOWN! I had left Cindy and Erica in a shop up top, figuring I’d need a head start but they didn’t catch up until I was in a shop Jean had pointed out 2/3 of the way down the hill. I was first in and found a couple of scarves (check Nora off) and then we headed further down and I found 2 shops where I hit pay dirt on stocking stuffers. With that pressure off, we needed lunch and found a cute café right on the river where we had pizza and ice cream. It was just off the parking lot where the bus was too so we enjoyed our table with a view until the last possible minute. I had been a great morning despite being duped.

We were back at the chateau for a “free” afternoon. Packing. Since I’d bought so little and packed so light (it was a joy being able to do laundry, which we did twice), packing was no challenge at all. I was done in an hour and then spent the rest of the afternoon knitting on the terrace. It was hot but sitting in the shade next to a 3 foot thick stone building made it tolerable. We started the evening with a knit review under the wisteria arbor where we all showed our torans. Then it was on to our farewell dinner on the terrace. I’d been smelling hot smells from the kitchen all afternoon and was skeptical of the Indonesian rice table planned for dinner but it was the best dinner we’d had at the chateau. Everything was delicious and the wine flowed freely but it was bittersweet because for the first time ever on one of these trips, I was not ready to leave. I walked the grounds after dinner taking pics to remember my time at the chateau. I could have easily stayed another week and was sad to be going. We had an early morning though so didn’t linger long past dinner in favor of going to bed early.

We had an early breakfast and were on the coach heading to the airport at 7:00 a.m. Jean and Philip gave us their “you’re the best group we’ve ever had” speech but I think this time it may have been true. I was choked up as I hugged them goodbye. Now for the long haul home. There were more hugs when we got off the bus at Bordeaux airport but my gang – Sue, Cindy and Erica – were all on the same flight to Paris so we hung out in the gate area. Sue had booked this leg separately so had to pick up her bags in Paris, change terminals and check in again so there was some trading of seats so she’d be close to the front of the plane. I settled into my middle seat towards the back but the flight attendant came to me and said she had a better seat up front for me. I think this must have been because of the note Regina from Delta had put on my ticket to make my flights as pleasant as possible. I finished Sue’s monster socks, dubbed Never Saw Paris Socks and my way of apologizing for stranding her in Paris, on the flight and had the flight attendant deliver them to her. It was a very nice flight.

Too bad my inept travel agent put me in a middle seat in the middle section for the 10 hour flight from Paris to Minneapolis! I find it hard to believe there wasn’t an aisle seat available when I booked it in early February. Just another epic fail by Travel Leaders Omaha. Anyway, I made it through the flight, watching movie after movie and getting up whenever the man in the aisle seat did to stretch my legs or walk the aisle. There was an open area by the bathrooms where I stood for quite some time. It was all about getting through it. My connection in Minneapolis was tight considering I had to go through customs and change terminals, which I foolishly didn’t take the train for, arriving just as they were boarding. I called Lori to say I’d be in on time and she and Andrea were at Super Target so I had them get me milk and bread. There was very little food in my house so this would get me through the weekend. The last flight was uneventful (dinky plane) and I was in Omaha just before 7:00 and home by 8:00. The cats were hiding and didn’t come out until I called and called but then did and shot out the door. I puttered around a bit, took a shower and went to bed just before 10:00. Despite not wanting to leave France, it was still good to be home.

I woke up in the wee hours but was able to fall back asleep and didn’t get up until almost 8:00. I was feeling pretty good and after a bowl of cheerios, I had a normal Sunday morning and then unpacked and started laundry. I had hoped to get tons done in the house, which was a wreck, but only managed to do four loads of laundry and sit and knit. The weather was gorgeous and I was enjoying being home. I had fabulous memories of the trip – made a new friend and enjoyed hanging with the old ones, learned some fun new knitting techniques, finally went back to France and lots of my French even came back by the end of the trip. Despite all the problems getting there (must compose a scathing letter to Travel Leaders corporate), it had all worked out and I was happy. So, wait for it…. Life is good! Now to get back to work.

P.S. Click here to see all of my pictures from France.

Week 22 - Finally in France

Monday was a blur. I had had things in order for Tuesday before I went to bed except for getting the passport pic and going to work to fill out the passport app and print new tickets and such. I did do that late morning but the rest is a blank. I probably ate cheerios and knitted but don’t really remember. Go figure.

Lorri picked me up at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday and we drove the deserted streets to the airport. I checked in and flew to Minneapolis with no drama at all. How refreshing. Unfortunately I couldn’t check my bags at the airport because all the lockers were on the other side of security, which I couldn’t get to without my passport. So I schlepped my bags onto the tram and through downtown Minneapolis to the federal building. I got there at 9:10 and had an 11:00 appointment but they took me right away. I had done everything by 10:00 and walked across the street to a fancy hotel for a $20 breakfast while I waited. I was surprisingly calm but then everything was working out. After my nice breakfast, I picked up my passport and was back at the airport just after noon for an afternoon of hanging around waiting for my flight. Everything was smooth and easy from that point on. The flight was on time and I settled in for a long night, hoping for some sleep.

I didn’t get any sleep at all. Bummer but I was still operating on adrenaline so was OK for the train leg. I struggled at the kiosk trying to print out my ticket but found a train employee who helped me then I got some euros from the ATM. I found a British couple who knew the ins and outs of the TGV, which included waiting on the platform at a specific place based on your seat assignment. I boarded the train and was at a table with a mom and her 2 girls, who placed Clue (called Cluedo in France) and were very nice with my lame French. I got to Bordeaux where I paid to pee, found a café for a pot of tea and used the wifi until my next train came. When I got off at Bergerac, a taxi was waiting for me and 100 euros later, I arrived at the chateau. Jean was just beginning her presentation but I popped in to say hello and got an amazing welcome and outpouring of love. I skipped Jean’s talk in favor of a shower. I was exhausted but happy to be there and after dinner (no clue what I ate – I was that tired) I fell into bed. I had made it there and was ready to start enjoying my trip.

Wednesday morning was Jean’s class on knitting a toran, which started with a walk through the gardens for color inspiration. While the toran was not on my knitting list, I embraced the class and started one for the little window in my front door. It was pretty mindless knitting, which was all I could handle at that point. After lunch on the patio, I spent the afternoon sitting and knitting socks. That night was Show and Share (I brought socks, of course) and then dinner. It was a fun first day and I was loving hanging with Sue, Cindy and her friend Erica, who I hadn’t met before and was thoroughly enjoying. This trip was gonna be great. Damn good thing. : )

Friday was a day out in Roque Gageac, which was having market day. We had fun shopping (I bought my first gifts), had a nice lunch (roast pork and salad with ice cream for dessert) and then took a boat ride along the Dordogne river. Then it was on to Chateau des Milandes, which was where Josephine Baker lived.  I had just seen a documentary about her on PBS so it was especially interesting. They also had a falconry show that was surprisingly fun and even included a stuffed bunny on wheels for the falcon to “kill.” What a hoot! We ate dinner at a cute little restaurant where I had magret de canard – fattened duck breast, which is a byproduct of the local fois gras industry. It was a yummy dinner and we laughed a lot. But I was pretty much over the duck and it was only day 2. Pas de canard (no duck) became our mantra for the rest of the trip. It was challenge for sure since duck was on every menu in every restaurant. Sheesh!

Saturday was another day out – this time to Sarlat on their market day – with an early start of 8:00 on the bus. We were all tired and I wasn’t in the mood to shop. Bummer. The town was cute and we had a yummy pizza lunch. I should have made an effort to find gifts and stocking stuffers but didn’t. The afternoon was a boring pre-history museum (nice views though) followed by our first cave tour, which was odd in every way. We pulled into an unmarked parking lot by the side of the road then walked half a mile through the woods to find a wizened old French man by a door into a hillside. Very Narnia-esque. The only light in the cave was a battery operated car headlight that the old man pointed at what he wanted us to see. Sometimes it was on a wall when you needed it on the floor. There was one cave beyond the first one that you had to walk down a 40 degree wet slope to get to. The entire time he was yelling at us in unintelligible French (even our French guide couldn’t understand him) and hitting us with a stick if we didn’t move fast enough, got too close to a wall or just weren’t where he wanted us. It was an interesting experience to say the least. We ate at a restaurant on the way back to the chateau where I enjoyed a steak. Yum. Meat. Not normal for me but the meals we’d had so far at the chateaux were very light on the protein and with no full English/Irish for breakfast, I was often hungry.

Sunday was a day of rest starting with Jean’s class on Croissant Knitting (crescent shapes.) It was an excellent class and I left inspired to knit a garter stitch (one of my least favorite stitches) shawl with color fade yarn when I got home. That afternoon I had my first ever massage. 30 minutes from the waist up. It was perfectly pleasant. She used a ton of oil though so I was pretty greasy for the rest of the day. I would have taken a shower immediately but someone suggested I let the oil sink in for my skin’s sake so I was a greasy mess until bedtime.

It was hard to believe the first week of the trip was over but I was happy and having fun so at least the week ended better than it started. It pretty much had to but still. I had five more days to look forward to so all was good.