Tag Archives: vacation

IOWA!

I’m too excited to be all clever or reasonable or poetic, so I’ll just out and say it:  as of Saturday, I’m now the proud owner of my very own spinning wheel (!!!).

OMG YES REALLY.

It all started early last spring.  Mom was in Iowa visiting a friend (more on that momentarily), and they stumbled into a yarn shop, and in that shop Mom was told that just a few towns over was a tiny little shop that stocked Ashford spinning wheels, and that the proprietor was a really nice lady.  So Mom told me about this, and asked if I would like to go to Iowa sometime and buy a spinning wheel from the nice lady and see Mom’s old friend and browse some antique stores and have one last midwestern hurrah before I run off for the west coast.  And I said FLIPPIN’ YES.

So a couple weeks ago I reached out to the aforementioned really nice lady who owned the little spinning wheel shop, and asked her if she had an Ashford Kiwi in stock (that’s the same model that Kim lent me last year, remember?  And I really enjoyed spinning on that then, so I thought I might like to probably own that one, but I also wanted to try out a few other wheels while I was there anyway).  And she DID have a Kiwi in stock, and so plans were made for Mom and me to take a weekend trip to Iowa and see everything that the extreme southeastern corner of the state had to offer.

So here’s what happened:

On Friday morning, Mom drove from Kansas City to St. Louis.  I worked diligently all day to hit a deadline at work, then as soon as I turned that stuff in, my ass was out the door.  And Mom and I were on the road to IOWA!

(BTW, I’m totally referring to it as “IOWA!” throughout this post.  Because in my experience, IOWA! is full of nothing but beauty and wonder.  Go IOWA!)

We got to Ft. Madison, IOWA! just in time to grab some Subway, check into the hotel, and make Saturday plans with Jeanette (the aforementioned friend), who happens to live in that corner of IOWA! and knows every antique store within a 100-mile radius.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early, and I ate a waffle courtesy of the Comfort Inn (yay IOWA!):

(unnecessary picture? Yes. But I am being thorough.)

And then with some printed Google maps and my Android’s spotty roaming signal for a guide, Mom and I set out to find Country Lane Fiber Arts in nearby New London, IOWA!.

We were doing so good for the first bit, I swear.  But then Google Maps told us to follow a road that went through a state park (this one) and then I saw a cute squirrel and Mom was pointing out pretty trees and somehow we missed a turn.  Someplace.

(Jeff and Dad are both shaking their heads right now, I can tell).

We went from roads that looked like this:

to one that looked like this:

Not usually a promising sign.

Of course we didn’t figure that out immediately.  But once I noticed that the road was curving a bit more than my map indicated it should, and then we hit a town called Lowell and found a river that’s nowhere near New London, we knew we were lost.

So I begged and pleaded my phone to eke out enough of a signal that I could set us straight, and we found a loooooong gravel road that would put us in the direction of the spinning wheel shop.  And after several very confusing minutes and a few more wrong turns, we were there!

Just look at this place:

Isn’t it wonderful?  It reminds me so much of Grandma’s quilt shop.  Everything from the handpainted sign and creaky screen door to the delicious fiber-y fabric-y smell inside made me feel like I was home.

And OMG.  The inside!  It was like a fiber artist’s brain exploded.  And I mean that in the best possible way.

There was a wall of knitting needles, and giant Rubbermaid bins of spinning fiber:

There were looms bearing WIPs, and racks of finished woven textiles:

There was yarn and spinning fiber and drop spindles and spinning wheel parts and accessories:

There were spinning wheels out for testing and display:

and brand new boxed up ones for the buying:

And there were things I barely even knew about: intricate beadwork, and bobbin lace, and tatting kits:

For every craft, Diana had set up a WIP, and usually had a few FO’s for sale, too.  She knew how to do EVERYTHING, I swear.

It was seriously incredible.  I felt like I could dive into the shop and emerge years later and STILL not have seen everything she had to offer.

So after a couple hours of chatting and learning and wheel testing (I spun a bit on her display Kiwi, and also tried out a Traveler)…

I’d decided!  Kiwi it must be:

(That box contains an entire spinning wheel.  Crazy!  The laws of physics must be different in IOWA!.)

And since Diana stocked jumbo flyers and scotch-tensioned kates and high-speed whorls, and since my mom is an exceedingly generous soul, I was soon set up with those accessories as well.

And then I found the WIP gauges (cutest little bamboo one you’ve ever seen).  And Mom found the tunisian crochet hooks.  And I dove headfirst into a bin of locally dyed fiber.

We left the shop just after noon, our heads cloudy with wool.  And happiness.

I even got to pose with the  enabler  proprietor herself:

It was one of the most amazing mornings of my life.

So believe it or not, buying a spinning wheel and fiber and accessories and yarn and crochet hooks and who-knows-what-else can really work up the ol’ appetite.  Aided by a map and instructions that Diana drew for us, Mom and I made our way back to Ft. Madison, and met up with Jeanette for lunch.

Let me tell you about Jeanette.  She and Mom have been friends since they were 12.  They met in junior high, and have been close ever since.  Jeanette got married and moved to West Point, IOWA!; Mom got married and moved to Kansas City.  They still get together at least once a year to enable each other’s antiquing addictions, and whenever they’re together they do that thing where they finish each other’s sentences and have nearly 50 years of accumulated inside jokes.  It’s pretty awesome (and Stef and Mandi? I fully expect us to be like this in another 30 years.)

So anyway.  That’s Jeanette, and she’s super cool, and luckily she was able to hang out with us ‘most all day on Saturday and Sunday.

Last time Mom went to IOWA!, she and Jeanette had gone to the Ivy Bake Shoppe in downtown Ft. Madison, and Mom has not. shut. up. about it, ever since.  They were getting ready to close for a private party when we stopped in, but they let us order anyway.

My delicious turkey and veggie wrap:

Nom.

But (as one might suspect from the place’s name), the baked goods were the real star of the show.  Mom had some amazing apple cake:

(she let me try a bite.  It was ALMOST as good as this apple bundt cake I made last fall.)

Jeanette’s strawberry shortcake bar was so wonderful that it almost disappeared before I could do that annoying “hold on! I must take a picture of your food!” blogger thing:

So I think that’s a solid endorsement of its quality.

And then I had this:  a millennium (toffee) bar:

My one regret in life is that I didn’t haul out the ol’ Nikon and take a more flattering picture of this amazingness.  But that wouldn’t make a difference, because you really just have to try it.

Since I doubt anybody reading this lives in southeast Iowa (thus making it difficult to procure one from the source), how about the next best thing?

The recipe.

I will be attempting to replicate these in my own kitchen, post-haste, and you should too.  (knit night-ers, watch out.  These are heading your way, very soon.).

Next door to the Ivy Bake Shoppe was a super cute place called Artisans Next Door:

And that’s where I fell madly in love for the third time that day.

They had yarn and fiber and even silk hankies:

(you know I didn’t walk out of there empty-handed).

And they had pottery:

and jewelry, and felted soaps and little birdies, and cute house stuff, and handknits:

I just about had a heart attack, I swear.

This place was unnatural.  Even the frickin’ COUNTER was beautiful:

And Linda, one of the artists, didn’t even laugh at me when I made this silly request.  In fact, she asked for my blog URL and OMG SHE MIGHT BE READING RIGHT NOW.  (Hi Linda!)

Gawd I loved that shop.  I bought fiber and hankies, and I was happy.

From there, Jeanette served as our tour guide/co-conspirator for the rest of the afternoon:  we visited three antique shops in the Ft. Madison area, including this one:

Which was one of the nicest antique shops I’ve ever set foot in (and I’ve been in a few, as you might surmise).

Browsing is so much fun, but since next month we’re going to be packing up all our worldly possessions and putting them into storage, it was pretty easy for me to resist buying. Much.

When we’d gotten our fill of antiques for the day, we headed back to the Comfort Inn, and then this happened:

Oh, how young and optimistic I was then.

Jeanette’s husband had kindly delivered to us their mallet and hammer, and Jeanette let me borrow a folding screwdriver.  Along with the allen key that came with the wheel, I was confident I’d have it together and spinning in no time.

HA.

and HA again.

But to be fair, it doesn’t really look all that daunting spread out on the hotel bed there, does it?  I’ve assembled furniture before.  Hell, I’ve even disassembled, stripped, refinished, and reassembled antique furniture. I was sure I could handle it.

Someone should’a just hit me over the head with that mallet.

TWO HOURS LATER, I tried to Tweet, “Does this look like two hours’ worth of work to you?”:

Cue the sad trombones.

(It’s really a shame that Twitpic wasn’t cooperating with my weak phone signal, because I’m sure Saturday night’s antics would’ve been a rollicking good time for those of y’all playing along at home).

I was bleeding in two places.  My knees were skinned from scooting around on the hotel carpet.  My back hurt, and I’d knocked a full can of Diet Coke onto the floor at some point (mercifully far away from the wheel’s unfinished wood).

It was time for a dinner break.  And a bigger-screwdriver-buying break.

(the only non-fast-food, no-mammal-meat-etarian sustenance to be found in Ft. Madison at 7:00 on a Saturday night).

The one bad thing about this part of IOWA! is the dearth of no-mammal-meat-etarian/preferably pescatarian/ideally vegetarian food options.  But still, it was probably a wise move getting away from that goddamned wheel for a little while.

By 8:00 or so I was back at it, with a vengeance.  And at around 10:30, after liberal use of a the mallet and Dollar General screwdriver, WE HAD A WHEEL.

Do NOT underestimate the effort involved in that, y’all.  Just don’t.

So even though it was late and my back hurt and I was exhausted and we had another full day ahead of us on Sunday, I couldn’t help it: I had to spin.

(That’s some superwash cheviot roving from (surprise surprise) Dyeabolical: the perfect fiber for my new wheel’s maiden voyage, yes?)

My blistered, shaky hands managed to christen her with a few yards:

And then my eyes just couldn’t stay open, so I texted with Jeff with news of my success and somehow nodded off mid-conversation.

And then it was Sunday! In IOWA!

Mom and I got up bright and early, met Jeanette, showed off the spinning wheel, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road:

Our first stop was the nearby town of Bonaparte, for lunch and (surprise!), more antiquing.  We ate in an old mill that had re-opened as a restaurant:

and then wandered for a bit.

See that antique store there at the left, with the blue awnings?  That’s where I found this:

All together now:  AWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mamacat didn’t think much of my loud Nikon clicking, so she bolted after just a couple pictures.  But her beebee was a little ham, and he and I got to cuddle and play and model and pose for a quarter of an hour.

Couldn’t you just eat him up?  I love IOWA!.  They have kittens there.

Mom and I made a plan.  I was going to stuff him in my pocket and take him home with me, and she was going to make Jeff let me keep him.

This was an excellent plan, because OMGLOOKITHISWIDDWETUMMMYYYYY!!!!!

We were buds. I really shoulda taken him.

(I took like a bazillion pictures of this little dear, and there are a few more on my Flickr photostream if you’re so inclined).

After I tore myself away from the little squeezie, it was time to get serious about the antiquing.  Because some of them were serious.  Like this:

I think I need to start a blog called “racist things I saw in antique shops.”  Much like my find from last winter, I’m still WTF-ing over why anybody would want to own this.

I CAN, however, totally understand the appeal of jarts:

Especially if you throw them at racists.  But not at tiny orange kittens.

After one last impassioned kitten-y plea (which fell upon deaf ears.  JEFF.), Mom and Jeanette and I headed down the road a bit to nearby Bentonsport for more (you guessed it) antiques and crafty stuff.

Our first stop was Iron and Lace, a pottery/weaving/blacksmith’s shop:

The metalworking was neat but not really anything I’m passionate about, but OMG you should’ve seen the pottery.

Hold on, I’ll show you the pottery, so you can be happy too:

Unf. I die.  Look at the queen anne’s lace imprint!  The beautiful glazing!

I am dead of gorgeousness (yes, that’s a thing).

Luckily I’m not dead-for-real, as I would’ve been if I had bought a beautiful-yet-expensive tea set.  That is to say, Jeff would’ve killed me.

Somehow (I really regret this), I managed to leave without any pottery whatsoever.  But Mom fell down the weaving hole, and found some placemats she just couldn’t live without:

From there we wandered across the street to Bentonsport’s old post office, which has recently become a tiny adorable exquisite fudge-and-sandwich shop:

I dare you to tell me that’s not the most charming place you’ve ever seen.  I DARE YOU.

Inside they had at least a dozen kinds of fudge:

(SO PRETTY)

Along with classics like maple, peanut butter, and chocolate, there was also divinity fudge. And something called “tiger stripes”.  And one that tasted exactly like a Snickers bar.

And there were fudge marshmallow pops, and cookies, and ice cream sandwiches, and teensy little ice cream cones made of fudge.

And did I mention the donut holes?

Mark my words, this place’ll have a line out the door within a month.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that the decor was tiny and cozy and unbearably awesomely cute.

They’d maintained most elements of the old post office, including the 19th-century collection windows:

The owner added a deck/patio area that overlooks the river and walking bridge:

Seriously, if I were going to open a business in a small town in IOWA!, it would be exactly like this.  Exactly.  I’m in love.

(Jeff is in love, too.  With the fudge. I brought him some of the chocolate-maple and the classic chocolate, and he still hasn’t stopped making yummy sounds.  I think he may be broken. Forever.)

With that, we said goodbye to Bentonsport and headed back to Jeanette’s house in West Point.  After seeing her kitchen renovation-in-progress (it’s gonna look awesome) and thanking her husband again for providing the means to assemble my spinning wheel, Mom and I hit the road.

Our trip to IOWA! was over, and it was a resounding success, and I can’t wait to go back.

IOWA! is full of awesome.

~~~
Postscript:  since we didn’t get home until late-ish on Sunday night, I haven’t had much of a chance to spin (WOE IS ME).  But I have made this:

I love my new Kiwi.  I am happy.

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I AM GOING TO SABOTAGE THAT SEAHORSE’S EMPLOYMENT WITH THIS ESTATE.

One of the things on our “Leaving St. Louis bucket list” (Subtitle: “Katie quit calling this a bucket list“) was to make one more trip to Chicago.

Every two or three years since we’ve gotten together, we’ve taken a long weekend to Chicago.  Like this one.  So we decided to repeat that once more while the beloved city is only 6 hours away from home.  We woke up bright and early Friday morning and were on our way!

For the first time ever, we drove.  We’d done some price comparison, and even with the cost of overnight parking downtown it was still the cheapest way to get there.  Which is sorta weird, because I’ve always flown, taken Amtrak, or done MegaBus before.  Because cars are scary.

But anyway.  Car knitting:

That’s a Saroyan shawl out of Dyeabolical limited edition (now discontinued) tussah silk.  I love that yarn so much it isn’t even funny.  It was seriously hard to actually knit it up, because then it wouldn’t live in my stash anymore.

And then for when I finished the shawl, I had this:

That is Madtosh Lace in “Steam Age”, and is in the process of becoming a Featherweight Cardigan as we speak.

(And despite having 960 fresh yards of laceweight, plus sock yarn, plus easy access to at least three yarn shops along the route, I was *still* worried about running out of yarn.  Knitters, you get me.)

Anyway.  Six hours and 24 potty stops* later, we were in Chicago!

This is on a big scary highway, full of people merging all over the fucking place and not using blinkers and just GOING wherever they felt like. It was terrifying. I hate city driving.  Jeff got snippy at me and then I snipped at him but then we got off the highway and found our parking garage and all was well.  WE SURVIVED.

We checked into the hotel then wandered downtown a bit.  And then we found Oysy sushi and we were done for.

SO MANY NOMS.

NOM SALAD.

NOM MISO.  (Actually it wasn’t quite salty enough. But whatever.)

AND SO MUCH NOM SUSHI.

This was the Chicago Crazy roll, and the only thing crazy about it was how much I nommed it.

NOM.

Hot damn that was good.

After that we were pretty well spent, so we retired to the hotel (the Comfort Inn on Ohio just west of Michigan, in case you were wondering.  Very nice.) and watched Downton Abbey off Netflix and fell asleep.**

On Saturday morning I steam-blocked Saroyan, following Kara’s and Rachel’s advice:

Whee! I love steam blocking.  It’s about the closest thing to instant gratification that you can get during knitting.

See?

(I actually didn’t end up wearing it on Saturday anyway; this is from Sunday.)

First order of business: the Art Institute!

(True story: I totally meant to download the music from that scene in Ferris Bueller to my iPod then make Jeff listen to it with me while we stared at this, or kiss me in front of the blue stained glass, but I forgot.  Oh well.  The better to embarrass our kids with when we go back in like 10 years, I guess 😉 )

Obligatory Jeff-with-map photo:

Because I know how much you like those.

Here, my esteemed husband muses upon last summer’s England vacation:

He also wonders if I’m ever going to finish blogging that trip.  Answer: I hope so.

The textiles exhibit was my most favorite, though…

I told Jeff more than he ever wanted to know about quilts and fabric and patterns and embroidery.

OK so then!  We left!  And had a late lunch/early dinner/whatever-you-call-eating-at-3:30pm here:

(We went to the one on Lake, just north of the park).

There was calamari:

Unf. So good.

And pizza (half mushroom and onion, half pepperoni. You can guess which is which.)

I know, food photography is not my forte.

And also, I have now died of fat.  DIED.  There was so much freaking cheese in that pizza that I made Jeff tie me to the back of the car, then run all the way back to St. Louis.  To be fair, he did drive kind of slowly.

But it was worth it.

From there we went back to Loopy Yarns (a tradition at this point), of which I took no pictures.  But I did find some yarn.  Which you will hopefully see in a forthcoming WIP post.  (Hint: think alpaca. Think laceweight.)

It was about 6:00 by then, and we had two options:

1)Go back to the hotel, watch Downton Abbey and fall asleep

or

2)Act like the 20-somethings we are, and do something vaguely nightlife-y.

Surprisingly, we chose 2).  For a bit. 😀

We’d heard somewhere that the view from the bar in the John Hancock building was actually better than the $$$ observation deck tourist experience.  So we went there.

And it was really dark.  Err sorry I mean, “romantic mood lighting.”  (Translation: I had trouble finding the table, and definitely couldn’t even see to knit. I mean really.  REALLY.  What kind of bar doesn’t even have convenient knitlighting?)

Jeff had a couple $9 beers, and I had one (1) $7.50 martini glass of pineapple juice that was nominally a virgin something-or-other.

(Ssh! Don’t tell the pregnancy police! I had a sip or two of this and it was good.  Not $9 good, mind you, but good.)

In case you ever wanted to know what a $7.50 martini glass of pineapple juice looks like situated next to a cocktail table candle (that, by the way, was our only source of heat), well, have I got a treat for you!

I told Jeff that next time I want to drink in the dark, I’ll just buy a container of juice from the store and stand in the kitchen with the lights off.  He said I was missing the point. I said he was right, because at home I wouldn’t bother with the maraschino cherry and pineapple wedge garnish.

Then I ate the garnish.  I’m getting my $7.50 worth, darnit!

I will admit, though, that the views were quite lovely:

So I suppose that made it all worthwhile.

BTW.  They say that the view from the ladies’ room is the best, and it’s true.  One whole wall overlooks downtown, and it’s not crowded with bar tables like in the main area.  Only thing is, you feel like a perv standing in a public bathroom taking pictures.  But whatev.

After dropping $25.50 + tip on three drinks with a collective alcohol content insufficient to give a yorkshire terrier a mild buzz, we were nearly fun’ed out for the night. So we stopped by Garrett Popcorn on the way back to the hotel…

And then crawled into bed with caramel corn, $15 worth of cranberry juice from the hotel breakfast area***, and and Downton Abbey on Jeff’s laptop.

Hey, we partied!  That counts, right?  (Right?)

Sunday morning we found ourselves here:

Where we waited in line for over an hour just to get in (grumble), only to find out that they changed the ticket pricing structure so now unless you’re willing to sell your firstborn****, you can only afford to see like three rooms.  All the cool stuff is an extra $20 a person.  NO WAY JOSE.  I’m not paying THREE WHOLE PINEAPPLE-JUICE-IN-A-MARTINI-GLASSes just to see the jellyfish or whatever.

(Oh god. I really am old.)

So instead we waited in line with the other cheapasses, and took pictures…

And then paid our $8 each and got to look at the proletariat fish.

YOU. SEAHORSE.  YOU ARE UNCOUTH AND A SCOUNDREL.  YOU ARE NOT FIT TO BE MY BUTLER.  AND YOU PROBABLY SWIM WITH A LIMP. I DO NOT TRUST YOU.

I SHALL CALL YOU O’BRIEN, FROG.  BUT KNOW YOUR PLACE.  KNOW IT!

AND YOU ARE DAISY.

You’re OK, Daisy. I like you.

(Meanwhile, all the otters and dolphins and stuff were off in the expensive areas, being all “Week-end? What on earth is a week-end?“)

Anyway. My point is, the Shedd Aquarium is a ripoff.  Cool, but stupidly expensive.  (Much like those drinks.  Which yes, I’m still on about.).

So then we had lunch at the aquarium restaurant, and then we went home and drove in this thick sleety snow and it took like 7 hours to get there, but that’s OK because I have this little dude and it wraps around my seatbelt and then I can see to knit without bothering Jeff.

In conclusion:  GOD I AM SO OLD AND UNCOOL.  I think next vacation Jeff is just going to take me to a Super 8 in a cornfield or something.  Maybe I’ll get to buy an Amish basket if I’m on my best behavior.

~~~

*Slight exaggeration.  Maybe.

**Because we’re hardcore party animals, that’s why.

***Using Hancock Building bar standards, of course.  Because we are normal people, though, I had nicked the juice that morning and stashed it in the room.

****They’re not interested in 15-week fetuses. I checked.

England: Day 1.5 (ish)

Grab some tea with milk and sugar, and get comfy:  it’s finally time to talk about England.

(It really did take me a long time to “digest” this trip.  We saw so much, and I loved it so much, that I feel like I can’t possibly encompass it all in a few blog posts.  I’m going to try my best, and I think all this will do is make me want to go back.  To spare you total vacation-photo overload, I think I’ll break it down to one post per day, m’kay?)

But first I have to tell you:  this trip was the culmination, for me, of *many* years’ wishes.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to England.  England was where everything charming and beautiful comes from.  England was understated and awesome and fantastic.  Or at least, that’s how it seemed in pictures and stories.

Guess what?  Pictures and stories didn’t lie:  England was all of that.  And more.  England was my favorite.  I can’t wait to go back (Jeff can I please go back?).

So….

I took a half-day of work that Thursday, and we did all sorts of fancy juggling with the dog and suitcases (the dog threw up and the suitcases smashed my toe.) and then…we left.

(Right about now you wonder if the entire story is going to be so slow-paced.  No, it won’t.  It will be worse.  Hang on.)

We flew from STL to O’Hare (where our plane was late, and we very nearly missed our connecting red-eye to Heathrow).  The longer flight was notable only in that it was my first transatlantic flight, and first red-eye all in one.  And my first dose of a horrifying full Airplane Meal.

Look! I made you a picture!

::gag::  That was their idea of vegetarian ravioli.  I wasn’t really expecting better, though, so I wasn’t disappointed.  I mainly just chewed on the inside of my cheek and thought about scones.

Behold Jeff’s look of ecstasy as he noms an airplane breakfast artfully called “yogurt + spork”:

Beautiful, huh?

We landed in England at about 9am, and spent an appropriate amount of time attempting to gather luggage* and buying Oyster cards and getting our bearings.  We were pretty confident about getting around via Underground, since we’re both already really comfortable with public transit and the whole system is so ginormous and efficient.  It was ridiculously easy to get from Heathrow to our hotel in Russell Square.  I even knitted on the way.  AND NO ONE SAID ANYTHING.

(England transit was much shorter on “hurr hurr”-type people than I’ve encountered in DC or even in Chicago.  MYOB seems to be the standard mode of operation, and it was nice.  Don’t get me wrong: there were plenty of Harolds and Irmas (mostly Americans, of course).  But on the train, I was largely left alone.)

We dropped our luggage at the hotel and found lunch + caffeine just down the street in Russell Square (just sandwiches from some local shop) before heading over to the Tower vicinity.  I also had my first Costa latte:

There were almost as many Costas as there were Starbucks, but because I was being a world traveler and being adventurous and being daring, I didn’t get a single Sbux the whole time.  You can have that whenever, right?  Throughout the trip, Jeff and I usually carried Diet Coke/Coke Zero in his backpack at all times (I am SO FREAKING GLAD that Coke products were all over the place there. I’d have died going 8 days without Diet Coke), and then supplemented with either Costa or tea from random cafes whenever the mood struck.  I tried tea with milk and sugar.  I fell in love with tea with milk and sugar.  It changed my life.

So anyway.  Suitcases + lunch + caffeine + Underground.  Now to the Tower!

I took this super impressive photo right outside the train stop for the Tower:

Really effin’ impressive, huh?  Just bear in mind that our sense of time was royally fucked up at this point, and we’d effectively pulled an all-nighter just prior.  Sort of.  And were juggling lattes.  And were confused.

…actually, bear that in mind for all the trip photos, m’kay?

Here’s Jeff’s “exhausted and filthy and in a foreign country” face:

And here’s mine:

Charming.

Here’s LONDON VACATION MAP PHOTO #1:

We’re gonna keep a tally, OK?  Because y’all know: if there’s one thing Jeff likes, it’s maps.

Eventually we started heading toward the actual Tower, which was somehow exactly like – and very different – than we’d expected:

The one thing I just couldn’t get past – and this is for all of London, not just the Tower area – is the combination of old and new, of modern and ancient.  It just tickled us silly to see the Gherkin peeping up behind a church from the 1500s, or the Shard dominating the skyline, or this thing as a backdrop to the Tower:

(That’s City Hall.  Weirdest-shaped City Hall I’ve ever seen…)
There’s really nothing like it at home, and I absolutely adored it.  It also made me think about the Great Fire, and how London might be different today had the fire not been so destructive:  would old buildings have been demolished and supplanted with new, perhaps at an accelerated rate?  Or would the old city center have been preserved, resulting in waves of new construction surrounding?  Either way, I’m sure that it wouldn’t look the same.  I’m not *glad* of the fire and destruction and loss of so much history, but I do love how the city looks today.

This sign made me giggle:

Because it’s a white image.  Of the White Tower.  And …and… maybe I’d best just let that one go.

Inside, we saw how the whole area is a series of concentric areas:  this was called Mint Street, and it’s where a bunch of fun stuff happened in the 17th century.  Coins were minted.  Coins were spent.  Love was made.  (Sometimes the latter two in the same transaction).

Our tour was led by a real-life Beefeater:

He was very funny and sincere and British.  And clearly, Mr. Palm Pilot Holster over there approved.

LONDON VACATION MAP PHOTO #2:

I’m not sure why Jeff needed a map for this bit, since we were being led on the tour, but whatever.  Jeff also appears confused.  Or maybe just jetlagged and exhausted.

I fell in love with all the architectural details, like the decorative brickwork and ginormous painted iron lamps, and cobblestones that made my be-Fluevogged feet unsteady:

New desktop background:

Here’s our first stop at Traitor’s Gate:

The tour guide briefly talked about what had happened there, and the legions of tourists snapped photos and shuffled on, and I followed along because I didn’t want to get lost.  But I knew I needed to go back, and tell Jeff all about Elizabeth’s speech on the steps, and the driving rain, and the heads on spikes.  There was too much history – too many absolutely fascinating things – for me to just take a picture and limp on.  Traitor’s Gate was my favorite.

LOVE.  But also sad.  But LOVE.

Our first time where you could really see the White Tower:

Gorgeous.

The lawn around was so gorgeous!

I’ll spare you the full list of who-all has been held there – either voluntarily or by force – over the past 600 years, but I will say that Guy Fawkes was interrogated in that room with the big bump-out window at the top right.  Which was awesome.  And also:  FUZZY HAT GUARD!!!!!!!!!

Look! He’s doing the funny guard walk and everything!

I am easily entertained.

Speaking of guards doing awesome things, I convinced another Beefeater (not our tour guide) to hold my sock:

Somehow I highly doubt anyone else asked him to do that on that day.  I also doubt that he was terribly amused by my request.

(That’s the second Minerva’s Tower sock, BTW.  I had put my Crumpets and Crazycakes in the luggage I’d checked, which was at that point still hanging out somewhere between Chicago and London.  ALWAYS BRING BACKUP YARN, my friends.  Always.)

Here’s one of the ravens which were all over the place:

Those fuckers are a lot bigger than you’d think.  Like, chicken sized.  They’re ginormous and stolid: they just walked about on the lawn posing for photos and being huge bad-ass birds.  (There’s some sort of legend associated with ravens at the Tower: if the ravens ever leave, the White Tower will fall down and England will all go to shit.  I’m paraphrasing, here.)

Here’s where the ravens are kept and trained:

And here’s what I call “time out for bad ravens”:

Nobody likes ravenjail.

The White Tower is what everybody comes to see (that and the Crown Jewels, in a separate building):

The weaponry/armor exhibit inside the White Tower was pretty much the coolest bit of the whole experience (almost.  Either that or the room where the princes were kept.  That was pretty cool, too.)

The exhibit seemed to just about fill the Tower, spanning multiple levels.  Whoever designed it was really mindful of the flow of people, and they also took pains to create a scene/atmosphere.  There was this awesome music/sound-effect thing – the closest parallel I can draw is to say “it’s like the walk-through ‘rides’ at Disney World” – but it was really so much cooler than that.  It really made the whole experience (and sort of helped justify the 20GBP/person admittance fee :-D)

Some of Henry VIII’s armor from his “burly and athletic” phase:

And here’s some from his “old and no longer athletic but not yet grossly obese and gout-ridden” phase:

Notice anything on that armor, though?

HOLY SHIT, HARRY OLD BOY.  You’re not foolin’ anyone there.

And look! There was tiny armor, too!

I don’t remember who that belonged to.  Charles II, maybe? (don’t quote me on that.)

You’ve no idea how badly I want a helmet with a tiny dragon on it.  I would wear it at work, just ’cause I can.

This set of child’s armor was amazing because OMG look at the detail!

No, really.  Look!

Each panel represents a scene from Plutarch’s Life of Alexander.  Actually, maybe this one belonged to Chuckles II?  Hell if I remember.

Everybody enjoys great size discrepancies, right?  I get such a kick out of tiny things next to giant things.  (like laserdiscs next to those tiny CDs, or espresso cups next to big mugs. I’m easily amused.)

The large suit was for a knight who stood about 6’10”; the small is the dragon armor I pictured above (for a 3-year-old child).

And just think, the little guy totally kicked the big guy’s ass, then stole his wife and his finest horse.***

(I made that up.  History is so much more fun when you’re not hung up on facts).

You haven’t lived ’till you’ve seen an authentic castle WC:

And tested it out…

(Imma print that out, like, 18×24, and hang it on the wall in our living room.)

After the armor and the toilets and such, we wandered through the exhibit to the (yay?) guns ‘n swords ‘n stuff.  Here is where I started to zone out.  But Jeff made me take pictures of a steampunk-y gun:

Dude, that was steampunk like 300 years before there WAS steampunk.

And then there were a bunch of swords that were like 20 feet long, and daggers and even a mace or two, but if you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all, y’know?

I had NOT seen anything like this before:

I love how it’s in a historical armory thing but wouldn’t it look equally at home in some rap video or something?

Enough guns.  Now for pretty things!

Alas, Jeff steadfastly refused to create a distraction so I could pry that gorgeous window out of the setting and take it home.  Jeff is mean.

Also, that window *may* have been in the building’s chapel, where we later learned no photography is allowed.  Oops.  Oh well.

One thing that we got *really* used to over the course of the trip was the whole idea of “exit through the gift shop”.  And you really can’t leave unless you wind through the whole thing.   They weren’t kidding: that shit’s *everywhere*.

See?

But I really didn’t mind too much, because how else would I find a giant-penis-holding-armor oven mitt?

Answer: I WOULDN’T.  (I sort of regret not getting that.)

Have I ever told you about my thing for squished pennies?  I LOOOOOOOVE squished pennies.  Anywhere there’s a squished penny machine, I’m on it.  So everywhere I found a squished penny machine in England, I made one.

SQUISHPENNY!!!

That’s not a fake smile.  I’m really that happy.  I LOVE SQUISHED PENNIES.

Back outside…

I call this one, “Jeff + giant cannon”:

I’ve no idea WTH is happening here:

But I’m gonna go ahead and guess that the guard didn’t find it terribly entertaining.

“Mum said I should’ve gone to trade school. Mum was right.”

We also saw the crown jewels (which was really awkward: you wait in line for a long time watching looped clips of coronations, and then you get one one of those human conveyor belt thingies like at the airport, and you’re not allowed to walk forward or backward and it just whizzes you right past the jewels and then you’re done.  No photography allowed either, obv.), and one of the possible rooms that Lizzie the First got to hang out in (mean older Catholic half-sisters are a real bich, amirite?), and the space where the Princes lived and died and were hidden.  Which was all very fascinating and rather heartbreaking, and also obscenely crowded (which was heartbreaking in its own right, in that I took an elbow to the sternum from some obese septuagenarian snapping a photo of his trophy wife).

We escaped all that soon enough, though, and took in some sights outside the tower area proper.  Like Tower Bridge!

(Jeff took that picture)

If you’re ignorant and confused as I was, you may think that that was London Bridge.  You would be wrong.  That is, in fact, *not* London Bridge.  (I know better now, and I’m making it my mission to gently correct everyone else who suffers the same misunderstanding, as well).  It is Tower Bridge.  Not London Bridge.  London Bridge is flat and boring and ugly and we’ll see it later.

Exhausted, tired feet, sore shoulders, and happy:

::sigh::

By that point it was about 5:00 and our bodies had no idea what the hell time it was anyway, so we determined that we needed food.  Preferably from a pub, and preferably of the greasy and plentiful variety.  So we wandered around until we found this place:

Which was under a bridge.

(No, really.)

And there were lots of office workers in there having an after-work drink, and fish and chips and beers were obtained post-haste, and we were happy.

(Best. Photo. Ever.)

And then we left, and saw our first-ever red double-decker bus:

And then we went back to the hotel and tried really hard to stay awake as late as we could, but seeing as how we’d been up for over 36 hours and were full of dark beer and greasy fish, it wasn’t easy.  We were asleep before 9pm.

To be continued…

~~~
*We had one carryon suitcase, one checked suitcase, Jeff’s backpack and my pursebag, for the whole 8-day trip.  The checked bag missed getting on our connecting flight, so it arrived in London later that evening (and Delta delivered it to our hotel at about 8:00pm).  Luckily, I’m a suitcase-packing goddess and was equipped for any contingency.  Rather than having “Jeff’s suitcase” and “my suitcase”, I put half of our clothes in each suitcase: so even if the checked bag got lost altogether, neither of us would be left without the necessities.  I also put bare essential toiletries in Jeff’s backpack (but we checked things like hairspray and makeup), and a change of undergarments and t-shirts.  That way, we could change clothes in the airport if need be.  It was actually quite helpful, after we landed, so we could freshen up before that first exhausting day of sightseeing.  It’s a wonder the difference that clean underwear can make.**

**I’m going to embroider that on a tea towel.

***She was ugly as sin, but she could ride for miles and miles without rest…

DC Saga: Monday and Tuesday and then I went home

Jeff was back to work on Monday, so I took the day to wander around Georgetown.

I didn’t eat here, but will next time:

(“Good story, Kate!”)

I walked past Georgetown Cupcake:

And took a moment to laugh at these idiots:

(Digression #4:  Jeff told me that someone brought these to his office one day a couple weeks ago.  He didn’t know the shop was famous, and he wasn’t impressed.  His exact words were, “They were sorta dry, but the frosting was good.  I like yours better.”  I AM THE FREAKING BAKING QUEEN, Y’ALL.  My cupcakes are better than this stupid shop’s.  Why don’t I have a freaking TV show, huh?  I’d call it “Better than Georgetown Cupcakes.  Suck it, bitches.”)

I loved the residential parts of Georgetown – cobblestone sidewalks and all:

But M St. left me a bit underwhelmed – I kept wondering about what boutique was kicked out so that Zara or Benetton could move in, y’know?

That said, I must admit to buying a cute little top at Anthro.  But it was on sale!!!

OH!  So there’s this weird mall, right in the middle of Georgetown.  It was like something out of the Twilight Zone:  all dead and abandoned, like it was frozen in time:

(See the cute little Anthro off to the right there?  I wonder if that building’s really old, or pseudo-old.)

Inside of creepy mall:

See?  Just weird.  It was only like 30% occupied, and there were almost no people walking around.  I looked on Wikipedia, and it was only done in 1981.  Not, like, 1922 or whatever it’s supposed to look like.  Plus, why would you go shop indoors when you’re in an area with lots of streetside retail?  Just a dumb idea all-around.

This historic site, on the other hand, was really cool:

Built in 1765, it’s now across the street from a Starbucks.  And it’s a bona-fide historic site/museum.  So cool.

I want to live here.

I always love the cheesy info that goes with old-timey fiber arts displays:

It’s so all the Irmas can say, “Look kids!  This is how they had to make clothes, before you could buy them at the Wal Marts!”

Look indeed, kids.  Look indeed.

The child’s bedroom was my favorite:

I love rooms under the eaves.  So cozy and snug.

And look at this cute little hideaway, off a side street:

Isn’t that wonderful?  Behind that gate are three little houses.  One of them will become mine.  And I will live there and never leave.

I got bored with Georgetown after a few hours, and walked back to Dupont Circle and to the Starbucks that had rather become my “home base”.  There I killed time knitting and people-watching until it was time to meet Jeff for dinner.

Oh!  Guess who I saw?

So on Monday night we got back to Jeff’s apartment and I said “JEFF!  Guess who I saw walking down the sidewalk outside Starbucks this afternoon?” and he said “who” and I said “ANDREW SULLIVAN….’s doppleganger.”  At which point Jeff informed me that no, in all likelihood I really saw Andrew Sullivan, because he lives in Dupont Circle.  AWESOME.

(It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t realize it was Andrew Sullivan at the time, because I’d have surely come up with a really great way to embarrass myself.)

So anyway.  I walked down to K St. where Jeff’s office is, and met him outside, and we took the train to Alexandria (actually to Courthouse/Clarendon) and ate Thai food and wandered around.

And OMG YOU GUYS.  I didn’t take any pictures *here* either because I didn’t want to be a crazy creeper lady (Theme #2 of this gargantuan blog post), but I LOVED that area.  The most perfect neighborhood in the world exists just a 3-minute walk from the train to DC, shops, restaurants, and Whole Foods.  It has a Prius Quotient of about .43, and all the houses are tidy little Arts & Crafts or American Foursquare, with cracked and well-used sidewalks and nary a cul-de-sac in sight.  I’m in love. This may be my new goal in life.  Oh and the hydrangeas!  Hydrangeas *everywhere*!!!  And everyone had dogs, and clotheslines, and… it was seriously like something out of a dream.  Like Pleasantville, if Pleasantville were 4 blocks away from a gay bar and a high-rise.   Love.  Seriously.

After that, we went home, watched IT Crowd, and… oh you know the drill by now.

On Tuesday I was starting to feel a bit tired (and my feet were about to spontaneously remove themselves from my legs), so I just lazed about in the morning then spent the afternoon reading and knitting at two different Starbucks in Dupont Circle (gotta keep things interesting, you know).  I met Jeff after work, and we headed to Capitol Hill to have a light dinner at Cosi then check out the Supreme Court building, the various Library of Congress buildings, and the Capitol building.  Suppose it would’ve been smart to save this for one of the weekend days, because of course by 7:30pm everything was closed.  And I forgot to bring my big camera.  So we just wandered around and looked at ducks, and you’ll have to trust me that we were there.

After that we went back to his apartment, then changed into our party clothes and went to a bunch of clubs, where we picked up some hookers and blow and I missed my flight back to St. Louis because I was passed out in a ditch.

…just checking to make sure you’re paying attention.  (Really, we watched IT Crowd, ate reduced-fat Oreos, and were asleep by 10pm.  As per routine.)

One last question:  In DC, why on earth do they call them “Speed Humps”?  Seriously.  Were none of the planners ever teenage boys?

And finally (I really mean it this time):  how do you convey a bunch of new yarn home, in an already-overstuffed suitcase?

Just like that.

I was really sad to leave DC, but had an amazing time while I was there.  It was fantastic getting to see Jeff – will make these last couple weeks go buy that much more quickly!  I also enjoyed getting to toe the line between tourist and…not.  I can’t wait to go back! 🙂

Love,
Irma

DC Saga: Saturday

Saturday morning we decided to do the tourist-y thing together (so much more fun than doing the tourist-y thing alone):  Smithsonian stuff, the national mall, and a boat ride.

So we had to have a POWERBREAKFAST! at Founding Farmers:

(Nothing says “hardcore” like egg whites, fresh veggies and whole grain toast.  Amirite?)

Jeff also let me sample his buttermilk pancakes with cinnamon-infused maple syrup:

Seriously delicious.  And look at that little syrup distribution system!  So cute.

 

And since we’re on the MAGICAL INTERNET and you don’t have to watch our 10-minute walk and train ride…

 

Ta-da!  Look!  We’re at the Mall!

Here’s my first artistic portrait series, inspired by the works of art at the Smithsonian.  I call it, Annoying one’s husband as you walk down the Mall.

“1:  Studiously ignoring the wife.”

“2:  About to sneeze.”

“3:  Post-sneeze nose rub.”

I AM AN ARTISTE!

I don’t even know.  He’s gonna yell at me for putting this up:

Can anyone tell me why I took this picture?

Ooh but this was the most exciting of all.  Behold:  a tract in the bathroom at the Washington Memorial!

I tried to dry my hands on it but the pages were too slippery and non-absorbent.

(Has anyone cornered the market on towel tracts yet?)

Here’s Series 2, entitled Annoying one’s husband while he waits for you to finish taking pictures of tracts in public restrooms.

“1:  Observing from a distance.”

(And look at that guy in the blue!  I’m so good, I’m even annoying *other people’s husbands*!)

“2:  About to make the kill.”

[“3:  Here Jeff, have a soggy tract.” has been temporarily removed for cleaning and restoration.  Our apologies for the inconvenience.]

And now, a quiz:  Am I standing at the base of the Washington Monument, or in front of a nondescript office building?

Answer:  YOU’LL NEVER KNOW.

We walked over to the White House next:

Though I can understand the reasoning, I don’t really like that they keep the public so far from the building.  Makes me pine for those days ’round 1902 when the T. Roosevelt children and I would play and tumble about on the lawn, and have secret picnics in a copse of trees.

Y’know.  Those days.

This isn’t just an empty signifier of abstract philosophy.  It’s me saying “fuck war” as politely as I can.  I told Jeff that I almost wish there was a draft on, and that women were eligible, just so I could register as a conscientious objector.  I don’t think he believed me.

This is what got me so pissed off at pointless fucking wars started to line greedy bastards’ pockets:

Not to get too political (hahahaha who am I kidding?) but I mean, did we – as a country – learn NOTHING from Vietnam?  Ugh.

(I hope we do move to DC, just so I can take part in any number of protests.)

(I tried protesting here in St. Louis once, but Jeff said that ranting at him in the living room isn’t the same thing as protesting.  Especially when he already agrees with me.)

If there was ONE THING I wanted to do in DC:  hug Jeff.  If there was ANOTHER THING I wanted to do in DC:  see the reflecting pool.  So, of course, they drained the stupid pool:

Very impressive, huh?   I’d worn my swimsuit and eb’rything.

My favorite stop on the Mall was (big surprise) the Lincoln Memorial:

Fantastic:

I tried to read the whole Emancipation Proclamation and Second Inaugural Address as carved on the monument’s side walls, but there were just too many people jostling around and hitting my ankles with strollers (seriously, who carries a stroller up those steps?!) and brushing me with their sticky Banana-Boat-scented shoulders.

Though I guess that’s what you should expect at a tourist destination on a Saturday in June.

(Digression #2 – see that guy off at the left, with the striped shirt and backpack?  That’s a “Harold”:  the quintessential obnoxious, clueless tourist.  By the time I left DC, I was SO FUCKING SICK of the Harolds, and their female counterparts – the Irmas.  Everywhere you go, Harold and Irma are standing – rather than walking – up the left side of escalators, or asking for directions, or gawking at street corners.  Goddamn.  Sweaty, overweight Harolds and Irmas fanning themselves with brochures, or blocking the sidewalk to take family photos, or trying to parallel park their Dodge Grand Caravan.  Fucking tourists.

“Harold and Irma” is a designation Jeff and I came up with several years ago in St. Louis, for the idiot suburbanites who would ride the Metrolink once a year to attend a Rams game, who would jostle about on the train and giggle helplessly and get their purses caught in the doors.  The term translates nicely to all tourists, everywhere, who happen to be in my way when I’m just trying to fucking go someplace.  I can’t stand Harolds and Irmas.)

We escaped the crowd inside the Lincoln Memorial after just a few minutes, and retreated to the back portico where we could sit and swing our legs and watch traffic and drink Diet Fanta.  It was my favorite.

It was getting pretty warm and crazy sunny, so I busted out my parasol (if by ‘parasol’ you mean ‘umbrella purchased at CVS *after* the Thursday night rainstorm’) as we walked toward the Smithsonian buildings:

Contrary to Jeff’s initial statements, I was *not* the only white girl doing this on Saturday – I saw at least two others.  (and about 40 old Asian women tourists, but that’s beside the point)

We decided to see the museums piecemeal rather than try to catch everything in one go, so we just hit up a few exhibits each in the Natural History museum and in the American History museum.

This was my favorite:

Clearly.

Yes, that’s THE Stephen Colbert portrait.  Err…one of them.

Lol.  “Portrait.”

(See what I mean about thorough placards?)

And here’s its prestigious location in the American History museum:

Right by the staff offices and restrooms.  Only the best for Mr. Colbert.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the famous ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz:

When I was a kid – 11 or 12, maybe – Mom and Dad took us to a traveling Smithsonian exhibit when it stopped in Kansas City.  I remember going, but I even more distinctly remember being way too cool to look at anything, choosing instead to stand off to the side and look aloof and awesome.

God I wish I could go smack my preteen self.

The hat that Lincoln was wearing the night he was assassinated:

Have I mentioned my little Lincoln obsession?  No?

Oh!  But THIS.  This was the best:

JULIA-FUCKING-CHILD, guys.

This is about as close as I’ve ever come to a religious experience.

You can’t actually go in (duh), but you they did set it up with plexi-glass “bubbles” that you can step into so you can see the kitchen from all sides.

It was amazing.  And I would’ve been able to appreciate it even more if Irma and Harold’s 20,000 obnoxious grandkids weren’t screaming and running around the whole time.

But still.  Damn.

From there we went to the Natural History museum, where we sat outside and I ate the best damn soft pretzel of my entire life.

And then we went in and looked at dinosaurs:

I wanna know what this giant sloth and sabre-tooth cat were talking about:

“Hey man, my breath stink?”
“Does your breath stink? Seriously?  It’s so bad my nose just fucking fell off!  You smell like a dead animal.”

I decided to perform a little social experiment.  I stood next to the fish tank for two minutes, and counted the number of times some Harold came by with his stupid kid and said “Hurr hurr!  Look Aiden!  Nemo and Dory!”

8 times, y’all.  8 times in 2 minutes.

When I couldn’t handle the Harold-ing anymore, we decided to leave and go someplace that we could be Harold and Irma.  Jeff had bought a Groupon for a 2-hour cruise thingy on the Potomac, so we did that:

And that’s the only evidence.  It was fun, though.  Even if I did spend the whole time thinking we were traveling east, while it turns out we were really going south (Fucking maps.  How does it work?!)

Good thing they didn’t let me drive the boat.

After that, we went home and… (guess?)…watched IT Crowd, ate reduced-fat Oreos, and fell asleep by 10pm.

DC Saga: Friday

Friday was my “unabashedly tourist-y” day.  I messed around the apartment for a bit, tidying up and sorting Jeff’s laundry.  Then I headed out to Bethesda for some yarn shopping.

(Digression #1:  Jeff didn’t bring a car to DC because we knew it would be so wholly unnecessary, so we got around exclusively through Metro, with a couple bus rides and the (very) occasional cab thrown in for good measure.  DC’s Metro is awesome.  So clean and efficient, and really intuitive.  I had no problem going everywhere from Bethesda, to Silver Spring, to Arlington.  Love the Metro.)

The only bad thing about the Metro is these freaking escalators.

Apparently, I have a hitherto unknown fear of massive escalators – which I quickly realized as soon as I got in on Wednesday night.  So for the rest of my trip, I survived by a)taking the elevator b)walking up a stationary escalator or (last resort) c)staring directly into Jeff’s eyes and clutching his arm for dear life.  Once I almost had to ask a homeless person if he’d let me clutch his arm for dear life, but I managed to abstain.

In case you were wondering, there are 143 steps to get up the Dupont Circle escalator.  I counted.  Multiple times.

I visited Knit and Stitch = Bliss on Friday morning:

And I have to say:  I love this shop!  Everyone there was super nice, and they have a wonderful inventory.  They didn’t even laugh at me when I walked around stroking a skein of sock yarn!  I liked it so well that I went back the following week (which is when I took this picture).  If/when we move to DC, I could *so* see this becoming my LYS.

Here’s what I found there:

Some Tosh Sock (I know, I know.  I have a problem.  But isn’t this colorway lovely?)

AND some Habu Wool/Steel and Silk/Steel!

I gotta admit, I didn’t really think this was my thing until I saw a shop sample knitted up – just one strand of each, held together and knitted in garter stitch on US8 needles.  A vaguely witchy-looking little scarf resulted, and I was smitten.  I’ve already cast on.  (Knitters – this will look sort of like the Kusha Kusha scarf that the Yarn Harlot loves so much, but more web-y and less soft.  It’ll be awesome.)

I left the yarn shop and was headed back to the Metro, when I saw a little farmer’s market!

(This is what I love about DC.  There’s hidden awesome stuff everywhere you go.)

I sorta wandered through the outdoor stalls, but didn’t buy anything.  I headed inside to look at the produce and live plants, but was soon led astray by the smell of delicious Indian food at a stall in the back.  I couldn’t resist.  So I got a little dish of rice + something, and a Diet Coke, and sat on a nearby concrete bench to eat it and people-watch.

The most delicious random little lunch ever:

I have no idea what that was.  It was rich but not greasy, and had spinach and eggplant and those little spicy things I can never remember the name of.  No cheese, so not paneer.  It was vegetarian, and seriously nomlicious.

There was, randomly, a Pioneer Mothers statue in Bethesda:

I don’t know about you, but when I think of westward expansion, the Oregon Trail, and “poopface has died of diphtheria”, I always think of eastern Maryland.

After eating, I headed back down to DC proper, to go to the National Portrait Gallery.

On a side note, here’s the moment when I really regretted leaving my big camera back at Jeff’s place:

My phone camera’s lens may be good, but it’s definitely not wide-angle 😉

I totally geeked out here, I must confess.  I spent the next 5 hours quietly wandering around, just taking it all in.  It was heaven!

The museum’s whole Civil War exhibit was especially fantastic, and all the description cards (in all exhibits) were crazy comprehensive and informative.

This was one of my favorites, of General Grant, by Ole Peter Hansen Balling:

Wanna know why that was my favorite, though?  Because of this:

Once an editor, always an editor (I mean, still an editor).  Does anyone know if that misspelling of Mississippi was historically acceptable, or deliberate? I tried a couple quick Google searches and didn’t come up with anything…

Love this one of Hunter S. Thompson:

Flippin’ awesome.

OH!  And guess what I saw?

Unf.  I just died of amazingness.  This was seriously awesome.

My absolute favorite, though – even more than the Hope painting – was Lincoln:

I love Lincoln.  LOVE.  And getting to see one of my favorite portraits in person?  Amazing.

But this was even more amazing:

Those are two life masks of Lincoln, and one of his hands (head:  1861 at left, 1865 at right.  Hands are 1861.)  I must’ve stared at these for 15 minutes, just taking it in.  Absolutely amazing.

I was glad to see one of my favorite anecdotes included in the hands’ placard:

“Lincoln’s right hand grasps a section of broom handle that he obligingly fetched from a shed when the artist suggested he hold on to something.  When Lincoln began smoothing the edges of the sawed piece, Volk told him that it really was unnecessary, to which Lincoln replied, ‘I thought I would like to have it nice.'”

LOVE.

After a while, though, my feet got tired.  (That’s an understatement.  I truly thought they were going to fall off.)  So I decided to relax with a ginger ale in the museum’s atrium, and wait to meet Jeff for dinner.

This was a really great space – if I lived closer, I’d seriously hang out here all the time.  Somehow they managed to make “cavernous” and “cozy” co-exist.  Perfect for people-watching and knitting.

Jeff took me here for dinner:

OMG.  So cool.  They have an awesome ever-changing beer list, and their pizzas have that sweet-salty, super-yeasty crust that I love.

I wish I remembered what this was, so I could tell you to try it:

It may have been a Hefeweisen (brewed by who? I don’t know.).  It was delicious.

IRREFUTABLE PROOF that I’m not just making this up:

That is your tired but contented heroine.

And her partner in life, and in crime!

Cutie pie.  (I love the expressions of both people in the background there, too)

Our foodz:

(They didn’t have anything vegetarian on the menu, so I did a “build your own” with mushrooms and eggplant.  Just look at that!  Oh it was nom.)

Jeff’s was markedly less “light” than mine:

Oh! And look at the ceiling!

HAHA, I just stole your crust while you were staring at the pretty ceiling!  Idiot.

Friday night we just went home and chilled – we watched some IT Crowd, ate reduced-fat Oreos, and were asleep by about 10pm.  Yes, we sure know how to “live it up”, as the youths say.

DC Saga: Wednesday and Thursday

(This was originally going to be one ginormous post, but then I realized that it was getting stupidly long.  So now we’ll have several shorter posts instead.  You’re welcome.)

 

Yay! I’m back from DC!  And have finally written a bunch of “what I did on my vacation” posts!  Complete with pictures and irreverent commentary!

(It’s OK if you want to click away.  I’ll understand.)

So…I went to DC on Wednesday the 15th.  Highlights of the outbound flight included having a whole (3-seat!) row to myself, and seeing another knitter while waiting in the terminal at STL.  She was struggling laboriously with bamboo straights and some textured stitch in bulky yarn.  I sort of wanted to hug her and tell her it would all be OK, but I didn’t want to be Creepy Airport Lady.  So I just subtly flashed my sock-in-progress instead.  Now she just thinks I’m Pretentious Airport Lady.

I took this picture on the plane:

That’s a very artfully-composed shot, entitled “DC at 9pm and a paperback resting on my knees.”  Prints are available for $50 each – $75 if you want it signed.  By Roxie.

Since Jeff had to work like normal during the week, I was pretty much left to my own devices for four days.  It was sort of fun, actually 🙂

On Thursday I decided to learn my way around Dupont Circle and wander aimlessly throughout the area.  My aimless wandering did, however, need to ultimately take me in the direction of a dress to wear to the Nationals/Cards game that we’d be attending with a bunch of people from Jeff’s work.  When I’d packed, I hadn’t realized that we had fancy box seats or that there were going to be other people from the firm – besides the summer associates, I mean – there.  So the t-shirt, jeanskirt and flats wouldn’t really work.

I don’t really have any pictures from Thursday’s wanderings, or from the game, because I was meeting new people and trying to be on my best behavior – so I couldn’t bust out the Nikon, y’know?

But it’s OK.  Because here’s what happened:

I found the *perfect* cotton floral sheath dress at Filene’s Basement, for which I just happened to have packed the perfect accessories, including my red Fluevog Malibrans.  I took the dress back to Jeff’s sublet, and showered and did my hair and makeup and got ready all pretty-like.  I knew I would be meeting people and wanted to impress them, so I put forth like 65% extra effort.  (which is like 2% by normal people standards, but never you mind.)

I stepped out the door with plenty of time to get there by 6:00pm, and AT THAT MOMENT the heavens opened up.  I was thoroughly soaked in about 2 seconds.  I ran to the corner store where the owners are always super friendly, and asked if thy sold umbrellas.  They didn’t, but the owner gave me a plastic bag to hold over my head while I dashed toward CVS.  I only made it as far as the Embassy of Senegal (you really can’t make this shit up), where I was forced to take refuge.  Well, refuge under their building’s overhang, that is.

I called Jeff in tears – “MY NEW DRESS IS RUINED MY HAIR IS SOAKED AND MY FLUEVOGS ARE SQUISHY AND THEY’RE DESTROYED I WANNA GO HOME” – all the while trying to hail a cab.  After 10 minutes of sobbing and hailing and desperate hair-scrunching (trying to magically change it from “soaked” to “artfully tousled”), I finally found a cab, which delivered me to Jeff’s office by 5:59pm.  I was freaking MacGUYVER in that cab ride, let me tell you.  Using only a hanky, my tub of Brambleberry Rose lip balm and my cracked old Cover Girl compact, I managed to transition from “hot mess” into “passable”.  FUCKING A, MAN.

Nevertheless, I did get to make that big first impression as “wet and bedraggled Kate” rather than “cool and collected Kate”.  And my Fluevogs were still very, very squishy.

So…the game was awesome.  Everybody from the firm was really nice, and we all enjoyed the Diamond Club (I know, I thought it sounded like a strip club, too.  But it’s not.  It’s just the place where people serve you gummy bears and cheddar popcorn in little plastic cups, and they have tiramisu on the dessert table).  I made at least two jokes which were passably humorous by normal people standards, and Jeff only had to kick me under the table once.  SUCCESS.

(The Cards lost, though, so Jeff endured his fair share of good-natured ribbing on that account.)

After the rented van (OK more like party bus) dropped us off at the firm, we started the 12-block walk home.  At which point, it started pouring rain again (detecting a theme here?).  But, hell.  My shoes were still squishy and it was 11pm and Jeff’s knee hurt and we were both fucking exhausted.  We made it, and we crashed into bed (err…into futon) and fell straight asleep.

Just in case you were wondering, my Fluevogs are OK.  I dried them near the air conditioner, slowly, over the next two days.  I love those fucking shoes.  I want to have their babies.