Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stick a star in your stocking

And now a word from our sponsor (my husband, the Bill Payer):

Need a last-minute gift? Adopt a star from the Tulsa Air & Space Museum and Planetarium.


It comes with a beuuuutiful certificate of adoption (watercolored by yours truly, logo-ed by my talented sister), a star map and a bunch of other stuff. All stars are viewable by the naked eye. All proceeds support the museum. Costs range from $30 - $1000, depending upon the star and package. Name your favorite star, animal, day -- they'll help you pick out a star to match.


For more info, call Chris at the TASM Planetarium (918) 834-9900 ext 401.


....And I promise to add the rest of the England trip here soon. For reals.
UPDATE: Did you see MrKnotty on FOX today talking about the Adopt a Star program? My man is media-savvy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

We met Neil Armstrong! Neil. Freaking. Armstrong.

Here's a picture. On the left, Matt, the Assistant Planetarium Director. Next to Matt is me. On the far right is my husband, the TASM Planetarium Director. And in between us is NEIL ARMSTRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who is truly as nice as everyone says he is. Who chatted with me several times and patted me on the shoulder in a kind grandfatherly way. And who, when I told him I worked with children and would he please give me a message for them said:

"Working with children? First, I am sure what you are doing is important, so thank you. Tell them I said never cease, never stop, in your quest to learn more and in your quest to be more."

So there you have it. I have a direct quote from Neil First Man on the Moon Armstrong.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day Two: Hill Top

We woke up in England for the first time. Cocooned in fluffy warmness of the big puffy bed, I was sooooo comfortable but way too excited to sleep. Stepping out of the shower I discovered another perk -- our towels were resting on a towel warmer. Yay, Drunken Duck!

Apple trees (I think they were apples) blooming in front of the windows of our room).



We stumbled downstairs, saying good morning to the house cat, and into the dining room for our first English Breakfast: sausage (made from the pigs over the hill) sunnyside up eggs, toast, homemade blackberry jam, baked tomato, English bacon (which looks and tastes a lot like Canadian bacon - but better) and, of course, TEA! I had the vegetarian sausage made from lentils and MrKnotty had the real deal. Delicious, delicious!

Part of the kitchen gardens of The Duck. There were peppers, rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, strawberries and just about every other herb imaginable.

We packed up our things, left them at the front desk, stuffed ourselves into the tiny car and headed for Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's home in the town of Near Sawrey. We team-drove, but my "Too close!" was now more of an "eek!" than an "AHHHH!"


The fake made-for-the-movie-Miss-Potter-Hill Top

To gain admittance to Hill Top, you first stop at the office, a small house down the road from Hill Top and directly next to a replica of Hill Top, used for the movie Miss Potter. As we had been advised to arrive early, we were the second couple in line, sandwiched between two British couples. We struck up a conversation with the older couple behind us, who wanted our input on the recent bank failing and the American presidential race. They told us we had arrived just in time -- a bus carrying more than 80 Japenise tourist were on their way from their hotel and would be arriving shortly. The wife made a reference to the Japenise remembering how beautiful England was from the last time they were here (persumably, a reverence to WWII from her tone) and her husband told her it wasn't appropriate in front of company.

The door opened and we purchased our tickets -- from the same woman we had purchased tickets to the gallery the day before in Hawkshead. She recognized us as well and encouraged us to buy National Trust memberships if we planned to keep up like this. I breifly imagined leaving the U.S. forever and becoming an ex-pat with an English accent, taking tea every afternoon and picking berries from the hillside. MrKnotty snapped me out of it by reminding me that the KnottyKitties were waiting for us at home. Even then, fresh fluffy scones have an allure of their own...

We walked up the road, passing Beatrix's working farmland on the way. I highly encourage you to enlarge this picture -- you'll see the sheep to MrKnotty's left and gorgeous cottages in the hillside.



A bit of walking later and we discovered the path up to the house, walking through the garden. This is the house she purchased after publishing Peter Rabbit, but the majority of her book were written here. Walking through the garden, was like walking directly into a picture book and I began to remember feelings I hadn't had since childhood. I realized that my idea of fairy stories and make-believe looked just like this -- and must have formed in my head at an early age from the pictures in her books. In short, I had the distinct feeling of walking into Farmer MacGregor's garden.


We arrived at the front door to find it was not yet opened. Speaking with the other couples who were waiting, they all said that as we traveled the farthest to be here, we should be the first inside -- which was very kind of them.

And so, when the door opened we stepped into the cozy two-story, as though we were walking into a friend's home -- void of tourist, other than ourselves, and with the company of of two docents. Everything in the home, from the dark hardwood floors to the stone fireplace and old wooden rocker in the corner, was exactly as she had left it, just as she insisted when leaving it to the National Trust. In the windowsills were copies of her books, open to pages inspired by those rooms. So look in the china cabinet, then look at the Tale of Tom Kitten, and there's the teapot and the dining room table -- exactly as they appear in the book. Look out the window at the hills and back at the book, and there's the same hill and, remarkably, the same trees, albet bigger. We walked upstairs and around in every corner. The rugs, the bed, the quilts -- all there. Exactly like walking into a book.


Coming back around and down the stairs, the home was now filled with tourists, so we stepped outside and into the garden where a light rain had begun to fall. There was Farmer M's watering can, and rows of tidy vegetables. We walked in circles, my desire to stay batteling with my desire to enjoy it on my own without having to remember it as crowded with the throngs of loud and very hand-sy-pushy tourists.



We headed out the path, passing Tom Kitten's gate on the way and into the gift shop, where the crowd descended and I was literally knocked against the wall by the ensuing crowd. And chose to stay there until they passed. We made a few purchases and then, rather than head back to The Duck, took a long walk through the countryside.


Through fields and up and around little homes, each with their own blooming gardens.
Past herds of sheep and several cows. Into a huge monster of a mud puddle, under trees turning orange and gold with the fall, occasionally passing another couple who, from the mud on their boots, must have come the same way.


We spent most of the morning this way until we felt certain that if we didn't turn around, we would never catch our evening train from Manchester to London. We said goodbye to the great people at The Duck, and threw our belongings into the back of the tiny car.
Took a wrong turn at some point, saw some astounding hills with waterfalls.
Stopped to take a picture of a rainbow and eventually, pulled up to the Manchester airport, dropped off our car, and jumped on our train to London.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Our trip across the pond - Day one

I have to admit it. We are officially back from England. It was a fabulous trip. We saw tons of really cool, old stuff, ate wonderful food (yes, their food is good) and, as predicted, I was speaking with an English accent the moment we hit Customs. I can't help it. The theatre is second nature to me.

Of course, there had to be Drama Making Our Flight. Luckily, it was of the knitting nature.

You can't take any sort of needles on a plane -- except bamboo. No problem, because I have lots of projects and lots of needles. Except that two hours before we are to leave I realize that out of my eighty jillion balls of yarn and four jillion needles, there is nary a project with matching bamboo needles. Not a one. Envisioning an insomoniac cross-ocean flight of hell, I panic. And then I began calling Loops before it opened. Over and over. Like a mantra. A prayer.

As we head toward the airport, me twitching like a Tourette's sufferer, my husband suggests swinging by Loops. Just in case. Because he is a saint.

On my last of many manic-dials, Gina answers. And is soon waiting at the desk with a set of size 2 dpns. Which I swoop up and literally run with to the waiting car.

Our flight was totally pleasant. No one lost our luggage, or kicked our chairs or smelled funny (wait for it in the flight back...) and I got to knit of set of fingerless mittens (photo to come).

We landed in Manchester and after waiting fourty five minutes for our rental car to move from the fifth floor of the lot to the first floor (Ahem. And the driver looked a tad on the I Hate My Job and Will Drive Around with My Lads if I Want To, Oye! - nature) took off for the Lake District. Then we stopped. Because they gave us only a quarter of a tank of gas. Thanks, Enterprise!

We fuel up. And notice smoke coming out from under the hood. Yes, smoke. We hadn't noticed before because of the pouring rain. MrKnotty pops the hood. The smoke stops. He can find no cause for it. We have no working cell phone. We have no Plan B. So we decide to drive on. For the first time in my life, I pray some small animal met it's untimely but unobtrusive, smoky death on the engine -- which would explain the smoke and not make me a bad person.

My job was navigator. It included following along with the map and occasionally screaming "Too close!" whenever the left side of the car approached the curb, a ditch or, in many cases, an ivy-covered stone wall.


Somehow, it all works out. And through a series of seriously tight roads with lots of scary turns ("Too close! Too close!") (really, these are narrow winding driveways with two lanes of opposing traffic) we reach our destination: The Drunken Duck Inn.


We officially love The Duck, as everyone calls it. They have upgraded us to a suite. And got our room ready early for us. While we waited in the parlor drinking tea and relaxing with the cat.



MrKnotty. In the parlor. With the cat.






Then we unloaded our stuff, shook off the airplane-ness, and took off for Hawkshead, home of the Beatrix Potter Gallery, William Wordsworth's grammar school and a really old church.

Aside from the rain, it was a beautiful day. But without rain, it wouldn't be the so green. Or England.

So here's a bit of Hawkshead. The Beatrix Potter Gallery is in the former offices of her husband, a lawyer named Mr. Heelix. He was the man she married after her first fiance, a man her mother didn't approve of, died. Her mom didn't approve of Mr Heelix either but at that point, it appears Beatrix told her the Victorian equilivant of "stuff it."

In the gallery were lots and lots of the original illustrations for the Peter Rabbit stories and various bits of original furniture. It was small and dark and very cozy.



And here's the church, surrounded by gravestones, perched atop a hill and looking down over the town.






The whole town looked like a studio backlot. So quaint it couldn't be real. I wanted to knock open a door to see if live-action Wallace and Grommits were setting up tea and cheese inside.


It was wonderful. And peaceful. We wandered. And shopped. And took in the Englishness of it all. And, when I had regained my courage, Chris scooted me back into the car and we drove to The Duck for afternoon tea.

Which was lovely. The jam was made fresh from local berries. The scones were light and fluffy. The tea was fantastic and even MrKnotty, an avid avoider of hot tea, enjoyed it immensly.


Inside the Duck for tea, joined by locals with their doggies.


We were afraid that if we didn't keep moving, we would fall asleep, so we decided to take a walk after tea.




The Duck is nestled right into the hills, surrounded by farmland. These photos were taken right outside.





We walked a lot. Walking was big on this trip. Sort of our theme. Although it might sound tiring, we loved it. It was so peaceful. Surrounded by these fairy-tale-like settings and without any deadlines to worry about or cell phones to ring.


Sheep were big here too. All over the countryside. They were everywhere. I think I now have as many sheep pictures as I have pictures of my cats. So I guess if I was born British, my parents would have worried I'd grow up to be a crazy sheep lady.




These wild blackberries were growing everywhere. I wanted to try one but we didn't have time to fit an ER visit into the schedule.

We walked until dinnertime and returned to the Inn. To find fresh plums and cookies in our room. Doesn't The Duck rock? It also has a four-star restaurant which uses all local ingredients.

We had a big dinner. I can't remember specifics, but I can remember deliciuos oysters, lamb, lentils and wine. And that it was really good. Also, I was so tired, I convinced myself I was having an allergic reaction. Until the owner assured me there were no anchovies in the building. And I shut up. And began to really relax. I love, love England.

End Day One.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trick question

"Honey?"



"Yep?"




"If you were a vampire, would you risk my soul to turn me into a vampire so we could be together for ever or would you leave me human and watch me grow old because you couldn't risk my soul even though it meant losing me forever?"


....


....


"What's the right answer here, Amy?"

"Which would you pick?"

"Finish your book so we can have normal conversations again, please."


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Le Slouching on the job

So I finally finished Knit and Tonic's Le Slouche', a gift for my younger sister's birthday (yes, the birthday which occured three weeks ago). Modeled here by Gina Y of Loops and Marie of Five a Day. I used Debbie Bliss Aran Wool -- very squishy and soft. Loved it. Hate to mail it off. Now I just have to finish my brother's socks for his birthday (two days ago) and a purse for my other sister's birthday (a month and a half ago).



.....Um, scheduling issues, okay?


FINE! FINE! You want the truth? I'll give it to you! I've been reading Twilight, okay?!?!?! Is that what you wanted to hear? I, like every fourteen year-old girl on the planet, am now obsessed with a melodramiatic fictional teenage vampire, who, if the author can be believed, is just dreamy -- in a You Are My Density, I Mean My Destiny - like way (thanks to Adrienne for using George McFly to illustrate the point).


I'm halfway through the series, and terrified to look anywhere on the Internet for fear of spoilers.

Gawd. So embarrasing.

Pictured: teen angust is so sexy. Enough to get over the creepiness of a one-hundred-year-old dead guy in love with a seventeen year-old-live-girl. I wish my husband could carry me on his back as he ran through the woods. Wait, ... he can. ..."Training for a marathon" or vampire hiding as astronomer? He works in the dark, loves red meat. It. All. Makes. Sense. I'm the luckiest girl in the wooooooorld.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How did I get in this nutshell?

I finally found both the camera/computer cord and the time to write. Horray!

OK, so here's everything in a nutshell.

We're going to London! More on that in a later post.
Catch Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Doogie Houser sings, and so does Captian Tight Pants (scroll for the photo). Absolutly wonderful. It starts a bit slow, but hang in there. It's worth it. The song "Laundry Day" is so heart-breakingly sweet. You can watch it for free at the link or download it on iTunes.


I went to some great fiction writing workshops at Conestoga. It was really helpful, particulary the lessons led by Shanna Swendson and Deborah LeBlanc. I've been a fan of Shanna's Enchanted Inc series and now I'm reading Deborah's "A House Divided." Check them out.



The newset addition to our home, KnottyKittyJunior is fitting in quite nicely. He and KnottyKitty are now inseperable. This was not always the case, as you can see from this photo which I have entitled: Waiting for New Sheets or If I Ignore You, You Will Go Away.



And since several people have asked about the house, here's a nutshell recap:






We bought our first house. That's MrKnotty, me and our Realtor on closing day. The house was built in 1929 and in need of some refurbishment. The first night, MrKnotty and I had pizza and champagne for dinner and slept on the floor in sleeping bags in order to officially be in our new house before KnottyBrother could move into his new house (ha, beat you!)




The next day, we started refinishing the hardwood floors. We have decided it is our mission in life to warn others not to do the same.
In the end, I think we threw away four bags of our floor. And had severe rashes. And crabby temperments.
Then the staining and coating (I believe you've heard that story).


Then painting.

And painting. And painting.






Somewhere in there, we had a storm. MrKnotty's hobby of climbing trees with saws continued, with me on the speed dial for the ER. Luckily, we had no trip to the doctor. This time. (MrKnotty's slogan: "Ask me about my scars!")



Then the organization began -- starting with a pot-lid rack in the kitchen (which, oddly enough was located NO WHERE in the state. I had to order one from the Container Store. Why? I have no idea. I got a deer-in-the-headlights look from every kitchen-supply-store employee I asked.). The most recent work was hanging the shelves to hold my yarn jars. Pictured here in-progress with the assistance of KnottyKittyJunior.
You may recall the previous color pallette: Baby Poop Yellow (living room and hallway), Insane Asylum Creepy Dirty White (office and guest room), and my favorite, Silly Puddy Pink (kitchen walls and ceiling -- oh, yes, the ceiling too).

Here's the living room now.


And here's the dining room. We recovered the chairs this weekend.

And the kitchen. You'll notice that not only is it white with cabinets which match one another, but we installed new lighting (I heart my potrack/light combo).

The kitchen shelves have been cute-ified as well. Thanks to Colorcrazed who suggested the red on the shelves.

Hallway, complete with cats.



And the office. Please notice the shelves with ginormous jars of yarn. There's another one just like it on the facing wall. In the bottom right, you'll notice my Amy Butler Knitting bag. Que retro, no?

We still have quite a lot to do. The bedrooms, bathrooms and pantry need to be painted and we have furniture and wall decorations to buy (I almost wrote "wall decor," but it sounded too Pier One.) and the yard to tackle, but I think we've come a long way in a short time. We start on the guest bedroom this weekend.


I just spotted a squirrell digging in my peppers. Have to run. Bad squirrell!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm back, I'm back

I have paint in my hair and several scratches and bruises from bumping into boxes, but I'm back! We've planted grass in the front yard and rosemary and peppers in the back garden. All the common rooms are painted (trim, walls and ceilings) so I'm taking a break before starting the bedrooms. Last night we hung the dining room curtains and it feels like a real home now (albeit, a messy one). Now I have to stop ignoring my knitting because I have three birthday gifts due soon -- and a sock blank for swap.

New news: We rescued a kitten who seems to be immune to KnottyKitty's horrific disease (and oddly tolerent of KnottyKitty's aggressive bath-giving).

Pictures and writing coming soon.

Pictured: Cat covered in paint representing yours truly

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why I Haven't Returned Your Calls & Emails

Hooray! We are homeowners as of this past Friday!

I know I haven't yet returned your calls and emails. The reason can best be summed up by the email I just penned to a friend:

I hope Nebraska is being kind to you and that your training is going well. Please come back soon so we can be Real Friends.

We haven't yet heard from Andy but I'm sure he was enjoying his holiday and we'll hear from him tomorrow. I'm sorry you were away instead of relaxing by your pool. I appreciate you calling him.

So this is sorta funny: After I got off the phone with you, we did, in fact find the realtor sign. He
[the previous owner] had chucked it, and more debris, on the far side of the garage -- but he had nailed the gate shut so we couldn't go back there during the re-inspection or walk through. Ha ha on us! We spent the day sorting the debris and found all kinds of things -- including old pipes, a camping grill* (complete with a can of kerosene! How safe!) a huge pane of glass, enough storm debris to build a forest and the contents of the compost container they had at the back of the yard (gee, thanks!) At one point we dug up a huge Something and we both said "Is that a skull?!" Thankfully, it wasn't. Then one wall of the tool shed fell over, ending the debate as to whether or not we should take it down. By 6 pm we had successfully sorted what was the 5 1/2 foot wall of debris (excluding decomposed compost) into four piles: Rocks and Cinder Blocks, Branches and Leaves, Nail-studded Boards and Building Supplies, and Bizarre Garbage (*see above). Now we need to figure out how to get rid of it.

The floors are coming along, albeit, two days behind. The sanding took
[MrKnotty] a lot longer than he anticipated (tool issues) and we were up last night until 4 am staining the floors trying to stay on schedule. [MrKnotty] forgot to wear his respirator and when he started babbling about Snow White and laughing hysterically, I said "Oh, my God! The fumes!" at the same time he said " I think the floor is moving..."

We went back to the house to finish the floors this morning but, due to the rain, they are still too wet. Ha ha on us -- the Sequel! That's when we decided to work on the yard and discovered another of the
[previous owners'] parting gifts (see also:Broken Picture Frame in the Oven, Broken Toilet and, Stealing the Shelves from the New Bathroom Cabinet Because You Never Know When You Might Need Them).

Several neighbors came by to say hello -- and one who reported seeing
[the previous owners who claimed to have already be in Little Rock and therefore absent at closing] driving by the house several times on Saturday. The neighbor wanted to know what they were doing and thought it was odd. Hey, us too! Perhaps they miss their garbage.

Anyhoo, we have fans running all over the house in an attempt to dry the sucker out. Please keep your fingers crossed so that Toby, the electrician, the cable guy and the security guy don't stick to the floors or have to learn how to defy gravity.

Really, I know I sound grumpy but we are happy to have a home -- just wish the previous owners weren't so, well, I don't know the word for it. I have no idea what they were thinking.

Please pray for low humidity!!!!!

Take care!


So, that's it in a nutshell, folks. The stolen/broken list which began with All the Curtains and Curtain Rods in the House continues to grow. We had all the locks changed before it could get any worse.

It really is a pretty house. But we're in the middle of an exorcism of the previous owners right now. Wish us luck and I'll be in touch soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My bootie -- and berries

I went to Gene's Baby Bootie class at Loops last week. It was his first official Loops class (yay, Gene!) and he did a great job. These little stinkers are so easy. And so cute!

The buttons are functional and Gene has a lot of examples of really cute color combos with whimsical buttons. This is the same pattern that he used to make these.

You can get the free pattern here. Gene had some variations on it for row 25, but it's a really easy pattern to follow once you just sit down with the needles and do what it says. You know what I mean? How some patterns look complicated until you just start knitting and you get that ohhhhhhh, that's what they meant moment?

Now for the berries: MrKnotty came home with two pounds of strawberries for me last week. He's sweet that way. So for our Friday night dessert, I made KnottyLady Strawberry Tart. I had to wing it, because all of my cookbooks are in boxes, but I think it turned out great.

KnottyLady Strawberry Tart
1 pre-made pie crust
1 package of cream cheese
1 can sweetented condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint strawberries
handful of mint leaves (optional)
drizzle of honey

Bake the pie crust, following the directions and then let it cool (I put mine in a tart pan -- that's why the sides are fluted). Combine the cream cheese, milk, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until it's as smooth as you can get it. Pour it into the pie crust and let it set. Wash the mint leaves and dry them with a paper towel. Set them on top of the filling. Wash and slice the strawberries. Set them on top of the pie. Drizzle with honey. Try not to gorge yourself.

You could make two pies using the filling -- it's very rich. But if you like that kind of thing, go for it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Knitting at the Messier Marathon

Messier Objects are a set of astronomical objects cataloged by French astronomer Charles Messier. How many of them you can see depends upon where you are and when you are. Messier Marathons are when astronomers, like MrKnotty, meet up and set up their telescopes, attempting to find all 110 objects in one night.

MrKnotty decided it was time for me to experience a Messier Marathon so, along with several other Oklahoma astronomers, we set out to Checotah -- that's right. Home of American Idol What's Her Nose With the Blond Hair.

While he set up the telescope, I checked out the scenery.

Then I came back to see he, and all the other astronomers, were still fiddling with their telescopes and comparing electronic gadgets.








So I wandered some more, meeting up with the local wildlife.



Assuming that I am a wuss who would not make it through the entire night, MrKnotty set up a tent and chairs for me. So, unable to resist, I sat down and knit.







Here's Checotah at nightfall. It was really peaceful out there.

One guy brought a huge telescope -- I had to climb a ladder to look through the eyepiece. It was really fun. I saw a spiral galaxy, the Orion Nebula and the rings of Saturn.

Eventually, I did wuss out. I abandoned MrKnotty and went to sleep in the tent. My punishment? The next day when we were driving home, I saw a mole on my neck that I didn't remember having before. Of course it was A TICK!!!!!!!! I made him pull the car over and pull that nasty thing off me. Then I spent the next several days convinced I was going to die of some exotic tick disease. Luckily, I didn't. But still: yuuuuuuuuuuuuck!