An elegant sufficiency

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Interesting day with *knitting content*!!

We decided to spend this, the last full day of our trip catching up on one or two places we've not reached so far and intended to set out from our hip, happening hotel (where most of the guests are as hip and happening as ourselves, i.e. not really!) and meet Mary somewhere midtown.

Sadly, the parking valets had other ideas. They'd lost our car.

OK, it's a hire car, there were none of our possessions in it (except for a treasured and personalised Thomas Guide to Los Angeles with markings on for all our favourite places), so we could afford to be relaxed.

But we were not. How could these people be so hopeless at their job as to give our car to someone else? How could someone else be so foolish as to drive away a car which wasn't theirs?

We harrumphed and made it clear that we were not amused, in our very British way (!) and made alternative arrangements for Mary to come over to Santa Monica and collect us. Bless her. In the meantime, we explained that they should find our car. Preferably before tomorrow, when it needs to be returned to LAX when we fly home.

We made our way to Wildfiber which, over the years we've been coming here, has transformed itself from a surface design emporium to a knitting store. It's an exciting place to explore and the stock is extremely interesting. We had a fun hour or so there and of course, made a purchase or two.

Together with a restock of some needles, I decided I needed to try some Toefutsies Chitin yarn. To quote from the label: "Chitin is fiber from shrimp and crab shells! It's naturally antibacterial!" How appropriate to bring this one home from the beach.

I think that my good friend Sue of the Magic Armchair has used this yarn, probably bought from Get Knitted? But hey, I get to carry mine a few thousand miles

Incidentally, when we got back to the hotel tonight, there was a voicemail to say they'd "found" our car. No further details. We have been out to dinner with friends and haven't checked yet, though!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The good life

Enjoying our breakfast in Santa Monica this morning, we were amused by the bottles of wine on sale - though we preferred to stick to cafe latte and camomile tea ourselves.

Highlight of the day was a visit to Paper Source in Beverly Hills, in search of the small bone fasteners for a couple of books I have in mind. As we enjoyed mooching along Rodeo Drive (as you do) we spotted a bit of a hoo-hah outside Cartier and soon realised that this was a "celebrity moment".

Who was inside? Several people asked us, but we had to admit that we had no idea. Still, it didn't stop us doing the rubber necking bit ourselves and we hung around a while to see.

Eventually the curiosity got the better of me and I crossed the road and asked one of the paparazzi who explained it was Eva Longoria - adding "of Desperate Housewives" when he saw my blank face.

We moved on.

(See here for the results of the paparazzi ambush on Cartier)

Sorry, no yarn today, Jordi. We stopped by Wildfiber but they're closed on a Monday. The Margaritas nearby are good though.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Good to be back

We've been coming to Los Angeles for some years now and one thing is guaranteed - the buzz we get when we return to Santa Monica, in particular the first walk down Third Street Promenade when it feels as though we'd never been away.

We are Gehry fans and love the Disney Concert Hall downtown. We found it fascinating to learn that Santa Monica Place is another Gehry building -designed before he entered his wavy metal period!

We spent this morning browsing South Pasadena, where Zinnia called. Interesting and friendly store with an eclectic stock - the kind of thing that needs restraint before buying. Some interesting classes on offer too.

Came back via the San Raphael Bead Company and Mary's apartment where I spent a while captivated by the Food Network! Dinner tonight was with friends Kevin and David at Genghis Cohen...great name, isn't it?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Connected again

No blog posts for a while as we were in a communications desert - no email, no cellphones. But what we lacked in technology, nature more than made up for in so many ways.

This is where we have spent the last few days. Elizabeth's house on the coast north of San Francisco is simply breathtaking and was ours for a short time as we chilled with our great friend Mary.
We loved the wildlife, quite literally on our doorstep in some cases, in others just around the corner, over the edge so to say.

We walked, talked and tried to fly kites in the brisk sea breeze.

We began the Mobius knitting project, though I decided to call a halt after a few inches and wait for a larger needle. Mary's is going well though, in spite of a few wobbles early on.

We drove out to Mendocino, then via long and tortuous road with many a winding curve, leading to nausea as well as to Healdsburg and the wine country. But mostly we simply enjoyed being in the most magnificent house in stunning surroundings.

No cellphone? No internet? No matter!!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Happened to be passing, so we dropped in

Way back in the Compuserve days, when several of us were chatting via the Bernina forum, I "met" Sue Yannone of Sue's Sewing Palace, Helena MT. Actually I really did get to meet her at a Knitting and Stitching Show when she very kindly brought me a whole heap of resources for my 1630 machine which were unavailable in the UK. Since then, I have regarded Sue as my Bernina Guru and though, of late, I haven't been using my machine much, the occasional email has kept her in my thoughts.

So, when we found ourselves in Helena today, of course, we had to drop in. Sadly Sue wasn't there, but Carol telephoned her and we enjoyed a chat, which was great. I even offered her a transfer to Gloucestershire, but for some reason, she prefers Montana ;-)

Her store is indeed a palace with a huge stock of machines, notions and fabric. Not only that, but there's a service depot and the most amazing classroom. Sue, perhaps it's as well you're not a little nearer, for I fear I'd spend so long there, you'd never get rid of me!

We spent most of the morning at the Montana Capitol building, where once again, we were surprised at the unrestricted access we had, never mind the fact that no-one asked to look inside our bags or ask any other security questions. We found a grand interior with an interesting collection of paintings and stained glass, though sadly, the guide's commentary did not take into account our lack of Montana local history! Never mind - we enjoyed the tour and the subsequent tour of Helena itself.

Upon our return to Bozeman, however, I needed to get a pair of shoes repaired and whilst they were being done we browsed the main street where we'd been yesterday. Sure enough, the Yarn and Fiber company were open and able to supply a skein of Mountain Colours yarn for the next pair of socks. But also, next door, we found Reproduction Fabrics where Margo Krager, the owner, was on hand to share her enthusiasm for vintage fabrics. Not only that, but she told us of her longing to visit Manchester to visit mills and other remnants of the cotton industry. My own meagre knowledge was put to shame by her comprehensive textile history and I promised to share some details I have at home upon our return.

She also recommended "The Secret Life of Textiles" of which I had no previous knowledge, but clearly I should investigate further.

Her collection of vintage reproduction fabrics, shelved in chronological order was fascinating. We especially liked her range of indigo prints, formerly UK sourced but now made in South Africa. Due to weight restrictions I had to limit myself to a couple of small bags of samples, but there were many very tempting goodies on those shelves, I can tell you.

So, on to pick up my newly heeled sandals from the cobbler - but no ordinary cobbler this, for we are in cowboy country and the boots for sale in here were rather out of the ordinary. My little white Italian sandals looked a bit forlorn amongst the Western cowboy boots and leather chaps and saddles! But my, did they do a great job!

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Sunday, June 17, 2007


When we were planning our trip, we sought the advice of good friends, the Valentine sisters, regarding somewhere to stay in Montana. Maggie suggested Bozeman, where she had lived and worked as a Professor at the University of Montana some years ago. Her advice was based on the fact that any university town is likely to offer more in the way of creative vibes and sure enough, Bozeman is an interesting place, growing fast with an upbeat and positive atmosphere.

Perhaps a Sunday morning wasn't the best time to explore. But hey, we had a good potter around and enjoyed peering in shop windows and dropping into the occasional gallery.

The Altitude Gallery was very interesting indeed and we could have easily come away with several pictures for our wall, had it not been for the fact that my luggage has already got a "Heavy" label on it! We especially liked the work of Jane Smithers and found photographs by Dennis Kirkland fascinating.

Just around the corner was a knitting shop. I normally like to highlight the individual shops I visit, because I have googled a placename myself on several occasions and brought up the name of a local store mentioned in a blog somewhere which has fitted the bill exactly. Today, however, I left empty handed and we'll simply move right along, saying no more. I'm hoping to visit The Yarn Shop and Fiber Place tomorrow, where hopefully I'll find some Mountain Colors yarn - a Montana product.

After a great coffee at the Leaf and Bean cafe we hit the road again and pootled to Livingston, site of a railway museum we'd read about. Great place, interesting and set in a fascinating building designed by the same architect as Grand Central Station in New York City, such was the importance of the railway in the early days of Yellowstone.

On the way home, this chap strolled along by the car, fine fellow that he is. We also enjoyed a short stop by this statue of John Shields, a member of the Lewis and Clark team of explorers. What a beautiful setting for a fitting memorial.

Supper was an "interesting" pizza at the MacKenzie River Pizza Company which was very good indeed, although we drew the line at mandarin oranges and stuck with pretty conventional toppings!

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Yogi was on holiday, however

In some ways, the best wildlife viewing of the day was upon opening the curtains this morning. A moose was browsing along the hedgerow and fortunately I grabbed my camera just as a passing motorist scared it off. Poor thing was quite overcome and darted here and there before disappearing into the brush nearby. But today, we were headed for Yellowstone and another new state for our collection - Wyoming.

The wildlife viewing was good in the National Park too - we saw plenty of bison, deer, elk, a bald eagle and several smaller critters. But it was the landscape which impressed us most, the variety and the immensity of it all.

Of course, we headed for the familiar first, and it showed up right on time. At about 10.45, Old Faithful began to bubble and spit a bit, and then at 10.56 exactly it shot a plume of water into the air, satisfying the hundreds of people sitting in rows waiting for the show. Though it was impressive, it wasn't really the highlight of our day - that was to come later. (We found video podcasts for the park features here)

We made our way to the West Thumb thermal area and loved the colourful pools there. We picnicked in the sulphurous air and chatted to a couple from Boulder, Colorado.

Highlight of the day, without doubt, however, was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. A complete surprise to us, the canyon was not only huge, but gloriously photogenic with the turquoise river contrasting beautifully with the red ochre cliffs and olive green trees. My photographs don't really do it justice - those in my head are the best ones, as always.

We finished our day with a beer and supper at the Montana Ale Works. And very good it was too!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Geography lesson

Today's flights from Chicago to Billings MT, via Denver, were a great opportunity to see the landscape of this vast country.
Leaving Chicago, we could see the mall, IKEA and countless other attractions of nearby Schaumburg.
Before long, the landscape opened out into fields,
which changed shape and format as we flew West,
approaching Denver, the mile-high city, with the Rockies on the horizon.
Onward in a smaller plane to Billings, over snow mountains and then
finally coming to land on a bluff above the city. You can see the ridge in the photograph and the airport is on the top of it:
Montana is quite a contrast to Chicago!

We are now in Bozeman and plan a visit to Yellowstone tomorrow. Yes, Edward, we will take good care of our picnic baskets!!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

What a day!

One of us is more interested in railways than knitting,and the history of American railroads is a particular speciality. It happens that the largest railroad museum in the country is just outside Chicago and so we planned to spend some time there today. Just before we left, we looked over the route on the map and I noted the place name "Marengo" (one of the handful of useless historical facts I retain is the name of Napoleon's horse) I also remembered that one knitting shop I identified as worth a visit in the Chicago area was in Marengo - poor Mark!
The railroad museum was ho-hum and though the exhibits were stunningly beautiful in a huge-engine kind of way, they were crammed into the tightest of spots, making photographing them difficult. As Mark walked around exploring the place, I sat on a bench and drew a couple as the heat caused the metal to creak and groan - they were almost alive!

We didn't stay long; the fact that some amazing engines were there but we were not able to view them comfortably was frustrating to say the least. It was an interesting morning though and it's always fascinating to drive out of a city and explore the smaller towns out in the countryside.

Sure enough, The Fold was not far away and was a wonderfully welcoming place. Heaps of Blue Moon Fibers which I've only seen online and a completely different selection of yummy yarns I'd not heard of before. I picked up some yarn for my knitting project for next week (wait and see) and a hank of Blue Moon Rio, in Lagoon colourway. I can see that I am going to be tempted by more Blue Moon before long!

Heading back to Chicago later in the afternoon, our hire car, a Jeep of some description, decided to play silly. As Mark was refuelling, I hopped out of the car to speak to him and heard my door click behind me. Yes, the keys were still in the ignition - and the car had locked itself automatically. Oh ********! Fortunately, the chap staffing the petrol station was friendly and after a few false starts we remembered that our UK AA membership means we could use the AAA service. An hour later, rescue appeared in the form of a knight in shining tow truck! The paperwork took longer than the process of unlocking the car, needless to say.

Returning to the hotel to pack for a 5.30am start in the morning, we found the place in darkness. As we walked into the lobby, we were greeted by a young man offering us candles and a lightstick - to enable us to manage their first ever power cut. We were glad the lifts were still working and we didn't need to walk up the stairs to bed - on the 27th floor.

We decided to leave the packing until dawn broke and instead went to bed in darkness, worrying about how we might get our airline tickets, passports, laptop etc out of the safe if the power stayed off.

The lights all came on again just as we fell asleep around an hour later. Phew.

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I've finished my book

I found this book incredibly moving and rather unusual. Have any of you read it? What did you think?


Just got in from the Windy City

...and yes, the Windy City is mighty pretty. But today, we seemed to have an eye for the amusing rather than the picturesque.

Firstly, we enjoy watching the policemen on their Segways. They look cool.

Secondly, I've watched German loo seats swivel around as they are cleaned in between each use, but this is the first time I've used a loo which has a cling film wrapped seat.
Press the button and a fresh wrapping is applied. I was tempted to repeat the process by pressing the red button again but thought better of it and thought of the environment instead. Refuse excess packaging! (Seat diagrams and technical info for those interested can be found here)

Passing this bus stop, I was intrigued by the advert for Springfield, Il. Fun!

But best of all, was the sign we could see as we ate breakfast this morning.

Actually, that's not quite right. best of all was the view of my breakfast this morning.

And yes, it tasted as good as it looked. I think I'll order "Morning Glory" again tomorrow!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wonderful day!

What a day!

We'd decided to explore the city today, walk down the Magnificent Mile and end up in the Art Institute, because, as Mark would agree, there's more to life than shopping...

It was another beautiful morning.

I think Chicagoans must have nerves of steel to park their car here - and yes, they're all backed in, too.

First stop, the Millennium Park, and Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate.

Not only is it an amazing piece of art, seamlessly constructed, it's terrific fun too! We spent ages taking pics, ogling ourselves and enjoying watching others do the same. Love it.

Could this be a Frank Gehry structure over the trees there? Didn't know about that!
It's the Jay Pritzker auditorium, and an orchestra were assembling for a rehearsal. We sat and listened to them play through some of Mendelssohn's Elijah and found out there's a concert tomorrow night. A free concert. With Brahms and Beethoven.

Shall we go? Of course we will!

Dragging ourselves away from the rehearsal, we wandered through the Lurie Garden, where there was a scene which might have inspired an impressionist.

Which reminded us, we are heading for the Art Institute...

Hang on, what's happening here?

A fountain on a sunny day is always a magnet for children and this one was no exception. Another incredible piece of art, the faces of 1000 Chicagoans are featured in two walls built of illuminated bricks. The water feature amused us all - and we loved the fact there were no notices telling us to be careful, not go in the water, don't know what I'm referring to, don't you?

At last, we reached the Art Institute! Where we could take photographs for our own private use...

I have never been in a gallery where photography was permitted until now, and delighted in taking photos of American Gothic, of Matisse and Picasso's work, the work of unknown artists which attracted my eye and above all, the really fascinating building. I very much appreciated that and since I don't want to abuse the privilege, will just include one, of the "Fragments of Chicago" exhibit at the top of the stairs.

And yes, we did pop into the museum shop....

Across the road we found the Chicago Cultural Center, which just happens to have the world's largest glass dome by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Which I photographed badly. So you can imagine how wonderful it is...

Possibly that was enough culture for one day, so we walked back along Michigan Avenue in the late afternoon, passing by the Chicago Tribune building and spotting the funny bits of stone on the wall which we'd forgotten about.

Had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory under the John Hancock Center - and no, we couldn't. Of course we resisted the temptation!

And fell into bed, exhausted!

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