Friday, 19 December 2014

Good To Go - Finally!

A couple of minutes after publishing that last post, I received an email with our cruise tickets. Yay! Talk about last minute notification...

We are scurrying around getting our clothes and other sundries packed and ready for our drive to the stay-park-and-fly hotel near our departing airport tomorrow. I also need to pack my knitting stuff. We fly to our embarkation port on Sunday morning and will be setting sail at 9pm.

If I get a chance and the Internet isn't too slow (we pay by the minute on the ship), I'll publish some posts and photos.
We'll be spending Christmas and New Year at sea. Being away from home for Christmas will be different for us, for sure. Afterward we'll assess the experience and see if we'll do something like this again - without the last minute activity, that is. I'm not sure if I'll have the opportunity to teach at sea in 2015 unless I get in on another knitting teacher's cancellation but I've put in my 'wish list' for 2016.

See you on the flip side.

Still in Limbo

The cruise on which I'm scheduled to teach knitting as part of the entertainment program leaves Miami on Sunday evening. It is oversold and there is a waiting list. Officially, I have been bumped but have been told to stand by until 2 - 3 days before the sailing as they work through the cancellations and the waiting lists. So we wait...  

We've piled stuff up to take and I'm assembling the necessary knitting equipment  - swift, yarn winder, darning needles, extra crochet hooks, stitch markers, knitting needles, small balls of yarn from my stash for beginners' swatches, etc. etc.  Plus my own knitting that I want to take.

I am assuming that if I haven't received my cruise ticket by tonight, that we won't be getting on that ship. Thank goodness for being able to cancel our air tickets and hotel reservations without penalty.

In the meantime, I have knit a hat from the 2015 Crystal Odyssey Art at Sea Knitting collection with some lovely 'fur' yarn - Lanas Stop Koala

It has a shallow crown that is knit with lovely Karabella Aurora 8 merino yarn.
You alternate a purl round of merino with a purl round of the 'fur' yarn. Then switch to stocking stitch for the crown. It knit up in one evening. Omitting the crown, you'd get a nice headband/earwarmer.
I'm also sporting the slouchy cowl also knit with Karabella Aurora 8 yarn. I added an extra repeat of the reverse stocking stitch as there was enough yarn to do so.
These patterns designed by the witty and talented Berta Karapetyan and are exclusive to the Odyssey Art at Sea Knitting program on the Crystal Cruise line. Hopefully I'll be scheduled for a non-overbooked cruise sometime. Sigh.

Ah, yes, first world problems. Skip and I have some ideas for Plan B. We definitely won't be sitting around twiddling our thumbs.

Happy Holidays, y'all!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Sneaky Blocking

I finished Skip's manly linen stitch scarf using three different colourways of Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line 6-ply yarn.  I blocked it to 8" x 64" and sure hope it isn't too long for him. I don't want it to hang below his coat when simply crossed across his neck.

I had to be sneaky after I blocked it because I didn't want him to see it pinned out. After getting it pinned, I took the two foam tiles and just stood them up in my office where he couldn't see the blocking just looking in my door. In order to get this long scarf on only 2 tiles (24" square), I doubled it over. It will take longer to dry but I 'll be able to steam out the crease and it should look fine.
Either side will look good and it will be nice and snuggly around his neck. Just in time, too, because just this week he misplaced the last scarf I knit him. But I'm going to make him wait 'til Christmas - or until we exchange gifts if we do end up going on the cruise.

Speaking of the cruise. I received a message yesterday that we've been bumped but we won't know if that is the final decision until 2 - 3 days before we sail. It will depend on how  many cancellations there are.  Half my mind is planning for the cruise and the other half is thinking about the world of possibilities open to us for a Plan B. Not too much longer now before we know for sure...

The coolest thing happened last night while Skip and I attended our town band's Christmas concert. We were going back into the church after intermission and someone who recognized me stepped forward and said my name. I couldn't believe my eyes! It was a former classmate from university who also played the oboe and later accompanied my oboe playing on the piano. The last time I saw her was 1996 but I'd heard,  through a mutual acquaintance who was a former student of mine, that Lois had switched schools. And she now lives in the next town!!! And has for the past 8 years!!!  And Glenn Ward, the conductor of the band, also a classmate of ours, got to chat with her, too.
Wow! I was so excited about seeing her after all these years, I couldn't get to sleep last night.

Today (12/13/14) was Skip's 70th birthday and I tried to make it a 'special day' for him. I actually got up and made him what I call a 'deluxe' breakfast - bacon, eggs, and coffee. Scooter, who turned 21 yesterday, arrived in time to join us for dinner at our local French restaurant where were enjoyed a lovely meal and then returned home for tea and dessert.

Earlier, I had made paleo cinnamon rolls which were a substitute for a birthday cake. Note the use of aluminum foil as a liner for the pan. It makes cleanup really easy. I hate scrubbing baked on stuff from pans.
It does look a little pathetic, but Skip (aka Fred) appreciated my efforts to keep our celebratory dessert within our dietary plan (low carb).
And now... to bed.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Quite Scattered...

I've been laying low this last week or so. We miss Ollie terribly but are realize that we are now truly 'empty nesters'. I have been doing a lot of 'therapeutic' knitting. I have been 'tearing off in all directions' as my dad used to say. I got a couple of major tasks done and spend a lot of time puttering around the house doing stuff.

I sewed and completed a couple of gift items today so there are a couple more things off my list. However, I am easily distracted - will start going something and easily get sidetracked.

Now for the therapeutic knitting...

I knit up one of the kits for the cruise knitting program. It is a slouchy cowl using lovely Karabella Aurora 8 yarn. It took 3 50g balls. I had enough yarn to add an extra repeat before the garter stitch edge and bind off.
I am plugging away at a linen stitch scarf for Skip and may or may not get it done for Christmas.

I'm using 3 different colourways of Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett 6-ply yarn with blue as the common colour among the three. I did a swatch to determine how many stitches to cast on for the appropriate length. The pattern is pretty tedious but I've been binge-watching "Downton Abbey" that PBS has been broadcasting and I've been PVRing so I'm about half done, I reckon. I'm just going to knit until all the yarn is used up. (image is somewhat overlit)
I have temporarily abandoned the Haruni shawl I'm knitting for Lorna. The yarn is some lovely Koigu-esque hand painted yarn by Rhichard Devrieze. He's from Ontario and I've bought his stuff at the Knitter's Frolic. I also purchased a couple of skeins at A Good Yarn in Sarasota last winter.
Lorna and I went yarn shopping at Romni a couple of weeks ago and found these two 'special order' skeins that were larger than usual - more than enough yarn to complete the project.

Right now it just looks like a blob of yarn but it will look lovely after it is completed with the beautiful leafy border and after I wet-block the bejeepers out of it.
Skip and I spent a couple of hours tonight going over the cruises for 2016 we'd consider going on. I had to submit a 'wish list' as all the 2015 cruises have been staffed.  Still no confirmation on whether I'll be getting on the one I was slated for. It is overbooked with a waiting list so I may be bumped off in favour of a full-fare paying guest. For now, we wait patiently and mull over what might end up being Plan B.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Update, Not Necessarily Looking Up

The car's battery was replaced on Monday morning and I picked the car up. As I was pulling into my driveway at home, I noticed the GPS was missing. Damn! The keyless remote wasn't working when the tow truck dropped the car and me off at the dealership on Saturday and I was so addled that I didn't go back and manually lock my car door. I'm guessing there is a wandering band of hooligans that cruises the parking lot testing doors. Also missing was a couple of dollars of change from my cup holder.

Another GPS was ordered online and arrived yesterday but it doesn't have a couple of features the other one had.  I will call the dealership tomorrow and tell them it was stolen in their lot.

The yarn kits for the cruise knitting program arrived on Monday and I didn't have to pay any duty. Yay! I did have to pay HST (sales tax) but I expected that. I have started a sample cowl that I actually want to use myself. It is an easy 'slouchy' stocking stitch/reverse stocking stitch pattern.

I re-started the Haruni shawl for my friend, this time using larger needles. I think it will block more nicely and be relatively 'drapey'.

Skip and I aren't sure if we'll get on the cruise or not. I took my lovely, new gown (for formal nights) in for some minor alterations and it will be ready in time. I did get a couple of errands done yesterday that I had been procrastinating about so am glad they are done. I'm getting my hair trimmed tomorrow and have to book a shuttle from the airport to the cruise port; just odds and ends to do as I think of them.

I made my hotel reservation for next October's visit to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival at Rhinebeck, NY. One large hotel I tried was already sold out for that weekend!! I found lodgings at the Garden Plaza Hotel where the pre-festival event was held this year on the Friday night. Hopefully, because of its big success, it will be held there again next year.

We are still getting used to Ollie not being around any more. I haven't been without a cat in 31 years.

I'm not really feeling the Christmas spirit. I did venture out shopping on Wednesday and enjoyed the Christmas music in the stores, but I really can't get revved up for the season. I don't think I'll even put up my tree. I'm not depressed or anything... just a little sad missing Ollie and feeling somewhat like a Scrooge, shopping-wise.

Sorry, no pics this time. Too much going on. Hopefully next time.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Craptastic Week

Well this has been quite a week - fraught with ups and downs.

On Tuesday, I received an email with the flights for us to Miami to take our cruise (the one on which I'll be teaching knitting). The cruise is overbooked and there are people on a wait list. I've been told there is a possibility that we'll be bumped in favour of a fully paying guest and won't know for sure until just before; perhaps only a few days before.  We've been told to only book refundable flights in the event we get bumped. I had already given the flight booker my credit card number when I asked for her to confirm that indeed they were refundable tickets and they weren't. Eeeeek!! I decided not to book them and try to find another way to get to Miami. It should be noted that we are attempting to fly south at the most expensive time of year.

I checked Expedia and didn't find anything that was refundable. I called a travel agent and she informed me that there were no more refundable tickets available unless we paid megabucks for Business Class - more than double the economy fare. Sooooooo, Skip and I decided we'd make the 24 hour drive to Miami. It would take us at least 3 days (the way we drive).

On Thursday, I was chatting online with my sister and she asked if I had checked Southwest Airlines. As they don't sell on Expedia, I hadn't checked them out. She checked online and they had flights from Flint, which is the nearest departure point from where she lives. We could certainly drive to her place the night before and make the 1.5 hour drive to Flint for the flight. The times were right, the tickets were fully refundable, and the price was $300 less per person than had been quoted for the original non-refundable flights. And they allow two pieces of checked luggage with 50 lb. each for free. I was about to book those flights, when she messaged me that she had checked the flights from Buffalo, the nearest departure point from where we live. The flights on the day before our embarkation were sold out but there were early flights the day of embarkation which would get us to Fort Lauderdale by 11:50am. There are lots of shuttles available to get us to the Port of Miami in plenty of time for our 9pm sailing. So we're booked! Yay! And we're very relieved we don't have to drive to Miami.

When I went to book the flights, my MasterCard was declined. I typed the numbers in a couple of times - maybe I'd mistyped them. Still declined. So I had to use my VISA card (and don't get the PC Points that I'd get with the MasterCard).

I had to head out and pick up my laptop that had been serviced. Windows 8 had been corrupted and it had to be restored to factory settings. Fortunately my documents and pictures were able to be backed up. Unfortunately, all my programs were cleaned off and I didn't have a couple of them backed up. Again, my sister bailed me out with copies of both of them.

Back at home, I called the credit card company to learn that my card had been cancelled because someone was trying to make charges with it at a Target and McDonald's in Brooklyn, NY and at a hotel in Staten Island. I confirmed the charges were not authorized by me and I'll receive a new card in 5 to 7 business days. That's the second card I'm replacing in under a year.

On Friday, I tried to unlock my car doors in the garage to go to the GO station and they wouldn't unlock. I used the key to get in and the battery was 'deader than a mackerel' (as Skip would say). I had to get Skip to drive me to the GO station.  I then had a lovely time yarn shopping with a friend, followed by a yummy shawarma and falafel lunch.

Back at home, I prepared dinner for guests. Ollie, our 15.75 year-old cat, snuggled with our guest, David, on the sofa. After Susan and David left, Ollie upchucked part of his supper, making a horrible sound. He then started gasping and straining to poop. I called the emergency veterinarian clinic and they could take him right away.  After an xray, it was determined that he was indeed constipated but just didn't have the strength to poop. Even more serious was the condition of his heart and lungs. We've been preparing for this when he took a turn for the worse, rejecting his usual food, breathing in a more laboured manner, and breathing at twice the normal rate a couple of months ago.

We decided right then that it was his time to go. Solving the constipation issue would have relieved him in the short term but declining condition of his heart and lung issues could never been improved. I'm sure he was terrified having to gasp for breath. It was very sad but the right thing to do for him. It was very sad returning home to an empty house with an empty cat carrier.

Yesterday, we tried to start the car, boosting it with the other one and my car wouldn't even turn over. We called Hyundai Roadside Assistance and had the car towed to the dealership. The service department was closed so they will look at it tomorrow morning and hopefully fix it promptly. The car is still under warranty so it shouldn't cost anything.

Skip and I have been cocooning at home, licking our wounds, and trying to get used to not having Ollie around. he was such a presence in our home for almost 16 years. We miss him very much.

So that's what my week has been like. Things can only get better from here.