Fun Week

So far this has been a really fun week. I finished my work-week late Monday night, thinking I would have a week to catch up on blogging, knitting, and just generally hanging out. I woke up Tuesday with a horrendous pain in my mouth, and had an emergency root canal done on Wednesday. Between the pain and the drugs I’m taking for the pain (better living through modern chemistry), I haven’t gotten a whole lot done so far with my time off. I had the misfortune of growing up on a farm with non-fluoridated well water, and in a small town with marginal dental care, so have aging teeth that are starting to cost me a fortune. The good side of the story is that I live in a country that has superb dental care available to those who can afford it, and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford it. I could live the rest of my life without ever having to get another root canal, however. That would be just fine with me.

I bought yarn for a new project. This is King Cole Luxury Mohair, in the color Biaritz. I’ve used this yarn before and love its fuzzy mohair-y goodness. I wasn’t sure I’d like the black and white, but it is really shades of black, silver, gray, and white, and quite elegant looking.

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I’m making a shawl out of this. It will be a simple rectangular garter stitch shawl, and the plan is for it to be quite large. Here is the start.

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I didn’t really need another project, but I needed something that I could do while watching movies or TV that doesn’t require paying much attention. And I love warm fuzzy blanket-y things that I can wrap up in when it’s damp and cold outside.

The Rogue sweater is coming along. I finally finished that blasted hem. The twisted stockinette stitch combined with a heavy yarn and the smaller gauge required for the hem part was hard on my hands. Plus it was boring. Now I’m into the body section, with the cabling on the sides. I will just say that this pattern is very well written. Everything is spelled out, so you don’t have to guess what to do next.

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I’ll leave you with a picture of Lucy. Well, really it’s just a picture of Lucy’s tail.

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The visiting dogs have gone home, and Lucy is quite happy to have her house back.

War President

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Check out the American Leftist, and Kerstin’s post from the 19th to find out what this picture means.

And then go here, to the Washington Post Faces of the Fallen.
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(Added at 10AM)

If you want to support the troops while protesting our president’s actions, go to Jean’s post today. She has compiled a list of links in her left sidebar. It’s good to be reminded that these men and women in uniform are just doing their job. Every one of them is somebody’s son or daughter, and most of them are young kids away from home for the first time.

Filler Post

So….what do you blog about when you have spent the last week getting to this point on a new sweater project:

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Meet Rogue. If you think it doesn’t look like much in the picture, well it doesn’t look like much in real life either. This has been one of THOSE weeks at work, and I haven’t gotten much knitting done.

We have a house full of new dogs. We are dog sitting for a friend who is taking her male Kerry blue terrier to the Eukanuba dog show this week, and have her two female terriers here. I took pictures of Kiara and Bianca, but honestly, not being their mother, I admit that I can’t always tell them apart. Riley is used to having them around and knows they always go home eventually, so isn’t too worried. The cats, having a much shorter attention span, are pretty certain we’ve done something totally dumb and brought two new dogs here to stay. Willie, ever the adventurer, hasn’t retreated, but is a bit wary. He also just boxed Kiara in the nose a bit ago, so she is learning that cats are not necessarily just for chasing. Lucy is being her usual cowardly self, and we have the upstairs blocked off with a baby gate so she has a safe haven. Here they are, obviously making themselves at home.

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Competition in the Knitting Doctor world!

Go here and meet Kristen. Another knitting doctor (well, doctor-to-be). Woo Hoo! We’re taking over the blogging world! Here’s to knitting in class!

The Purple Thing

I couldn’t wait until my husband got home to get a decent picture. The buttons are on more or less straight, my hair is just-how-it-dries wacky, but here is the lavender cardigan, finished.

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Once I get a decent photo, I’ll update the Finished Projects page with the details.

First finished project of 2005! Woo-hoo!

Gauge Wars…

Or, The Revenge of the Knitting Goddess

I spoke too soon. I believe I’ve used the word hubris in this blog before. After knitting a few inches of Rogue, I measured. My gauge was not the required 4.5 inches per inch, but more like 4, or even a bit less. Even accounting for the difference after washing, this was going to be way off. The only thing I can figure is that I was very excited about starting this sweater, and that I knitted my first swatch very tightly in my excitement. This has happened to me before. Most notably, when I went to Wintergrass, which is Tacoma’s annual bluegrass festival (which is coming up, by the way!!), I found that I knit very tightly while listening to wild bluegrass fiddle music. Who knew?

I stared at this, and stared at it. I briefly considered making a live animal offering to the Knitting Goddess if she would change what I was measuring. The cats were starting to get nervous.

“Take Lucy”, Willie said, “she’s older and prettier. The Knitting Goddess will like her better.”

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That’s Willie. He doesn’t make many blog appearances, but I tricked him into the photo shoot by telling him it was suppertime.

I considered finishing the sweater as is, and hope it would fit someone. With my new measurements, it would have to be Bigfoot, and I don’t think he would appreciate a pink hooded sweater.

I did a new swatch; it works perfectly, this time on size 6 needles, instead of size 7. You have no idea of the variety of ways the “f” word can be used to apply to knitting.

So I ripped the whole flipping thing out. If you have made Rogue, and if you have followed the pattern suggestion to do a twisted stockinette stitch hem, you know how much fun starting this over is, especially on a size smaller needle than the main pattern needle size. I am already getting my money’s worth out of this yarn.

I’m not saying nothin’ else about gauge until I’m at least six inches into this sweater, and maybe not then.

As consolation, this is what the Pacific Northwest looked like this morning. We’ve been getting snow and storm warnings this week. They were wrong, I guess.

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Gauge Wizard

I have finally started a new knitting project! For my next trick, I will knit Rogue. I bought the yarn for this several months ago, and it has been aging like fine wine in my stash until now. It is from Beaverslide Dry Goods, a small ranch in Montana that raises and shears Rambouillet sheep. The colors are every bit as lovely as portrayed on their web site, and the yarn is lofty, sheepy, wonderful stuff.

I got gauge on the first try, a feat that excites me to no end. Those of you who have knit this sweater know that it is knit partly in the round, and partly back and forth, making for some interesting gauge problems. I have finally come to the conclusion (after a long period of obstinance) that knitting a gauge swatch really does eliminate at least some of the fitting headaches that go along with knitting sweaters.

Just for the record, I am using Denise circular needles, and I got gauge with a size 7, both in the round and flat. I would not have believed that my gauge was the same for both styles if I hadn’t tried. It was a tiny bit off just off the needles, but settled into the perfect stitch and row gauge once dunked in water…this yarn blooms like crazy. At first I thought the fabric would be a little board-like at the necessary gauge, but again, after a bath it is just perfect.

I’m using the fisherman weight, in the color Snowberry. Here are some photos. I didn’t want to knit two separate swatches, so first did several inches flat, then switched to in-the-round on the same needles. Instead of turning the work at the end of the row, I just pushed the whole thing back, like doing I-cord, and started the next row as if to knit in the round. I think this is an Elizabeth Zimmerman technique, though I don’t have any of her books so am not 100% sure of that one.

The finished swatch:

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Mess o’ yarn in the back:

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Yarn ends cut so the thing stays flat to measure:

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And swished in water and suds for wet blocking:

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I am a bit intimidated by this project, as it is easily the most difficult thing that I have tackled so far, but determined to forge ahead.

For those of you keeping track, I haven’t actually finished the purple thing. The knitting and sewing are all done except for the buttons. It is washed and drying, with more pins in that lace border than I can count. Once it is dry I’ll sew the buttons on and get a modeling photo. A couple of people asked about the buttons in the comments from yesterday. Yes, they are from Black Water Abbey, another place with divine yarn (yes, I have some of that stewing in the stash also). I know exactly what it’s going to be, too, but I’m not telling just yet.

There are a couple of new buttons on the sidebar to the left. First is a link to the Knit One Read Too member ring, for those of us who have joined that project. This is the brainchild of Cara from January One. If you are interested check out her post here.

The second is a button I grabbed from the Yarn Harlot’s blog, to celebrate the unbelievable $22,843 donated to Doctors Without Borders so far, inspired by her January 3rd post. Here’s the button:

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King Cole Shawl

The yarn is King Cole Luxury Mohair, in the color “Roma”. The pattern is just plain garter stitch. I started at the point with 3 stitches, and increased at the beginning of every row until it got as big as I wanted it.

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Corps of Discovery Hat

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Finished approximately in January, I think. I forgot to enter this earlier. The yarn and pattern are from here. This was fun to knit, and I plan on making at least another one for me. Doesn’t he look a little like an explorer here?

2004 Roundup

Before I get to the Roundup, however, check out the Yarn Harlot. Her post from yesterday articulated what I think a lot of us feel. But $10,879 in less than 24 hours?? This is an amazing, lovely thing. I sent my entire family and several friends an email that challenged them to give up their “wants” as well for the next week and donate the money to Doctors Without Borders, and referred them to Stephanie for inspiration and prodding. She said it much better than I can.

2004 was a good year on the knitting front for me. The best thing I did was to start a blog. After a few posts of “see what yarn I bought today”, I quickly realized that I better start knitting or nobody would come back to see what I was up to. This is not to say that I have quit shopping (I have not totally lost my mind), but the blog has kept me working on projects instead of letting them languish forever.  It also makes me rip stuff out and do it better so I don’t have to show pictures of total crap.

Here is a list of what I finished this year:

An Aran baby blanket for John’s grandson Sam, AKA “cutest baby in the world”.

A vintage style matinee coat for my great niece, also born this year.

John’s sweater. I may be most proud of this one, as it took me the longest to finish.

The fizzy orange creamsicle scarf.

That damned ice blue sweater.

A goofball bucket hat.

The Audrey sweater.

Montego Bay socks.

Eggplant Hat.

I found a few more projects that I finished early on this year that I never put in the gallery until now.

I knit a hat for John.

And a simple shawl for me.

Now that I have it all in one place, it looks like a lot more knitting than I really thought I had done. One of my goals this year is to use up some of my yarn stash. I have a huge collection of sock yarn, as well as bags of yarn purchased to complete at least five or six sweaters. OK, maybe more. I would like to practice some of the finishing techniques so that my sweaters turn out looking a little more professionally done, and less like I drank a fifth of bourbon while sailing through the buttonbands.

And speaking of buttonbands, I am nearly done with the lavender sweater. I have finished the collar and the buttonband, and am in the middle of the buttonhole band. Then it will get the pee-wadding blocked out of it and be ready to wear.

Here you go:

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And here is what the buttons look like. Of course, they won’t all be crowded up at the top of the sweater like that.

I am still working on the Birch shawl, though somewhat sporadically. And a pair of striped socks. Once I finish this sweater, I’ll show pictures of my progress on those two. I’m getting a terrible urge to start a new project as well, so I better finish this one soon!

Donate

Go here, donate to the Red Cross now.  Death count as of this morning is 67,000. if you don’t like the Red Cross, donate to another relief organization of your choice. Those of us with blogs, computers, internet access, and electricity are unbelievably fortunate.

Solstice Party

The light is coming back!  Even though I can’t actually detect a difference, I KNOW that the days are getting longer from here on out.  To celebrate the event, we had a neighborhood Solstice party at our house last night.  It was a sit down dinner for a dozen good friends, and if the number of empty wine bottles on the counter this morning is any indication, a good time was had by all.

We had to rearrange our dining room a little to accommodate everybody.  Here is the table before we sat down.  John and I went to Pier One earlier this week and bought every red, green, and white candle they had.  And yes, we had the fire extinguisher handy last night just in case.

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We had a cheese and pate selection for before-dinner munchies, along with champagne and numerous bottles of wine.  Dinner was a huge standing rib roast.  It wouldn’t fit into my oven, so we cut it into two pieces and roasted it in two ovens.  We had a wintery root crop side dish as well as a red beet/white beet combo.  Mashed potatoes with gravy and steamed green beans completed the dinner.

For dessert we had a trifle:

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And a few more pictures from after dinner:

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Here’s Riley saying goodbye to everyone:

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We put all the food away and stuffed the dishwasher full of as many dishes as would fit before we went to bed.  Here is what the scene still looks like this morning:

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Clearly the kitchen gnome forgot to stop here during the night.  I’m hiding in the basement until somebody cleans that mess up.

For those who love dessert, here is my trifle recipe.  I had never written this down before this morning, so the amounts are flexible.  You might want to overestimate a bit, in case I underestimated!

Lorette’s English Trifle

1 large clear glass bowl

Sara Lee frozen pound cake, 2 of them.  I actually only used about half of the second cake.

Whipped cream, I used about a quart of whipping cream, whipped with a bit of sugar and vanilla.

Vanilla pudding…NOT INSTANT, it will separate out in the trifle unless you eat it right away. I used 2 large packages of Jello brand pudding.  Make this the day before so it can chill.

Fruit.  I used frozen fruit in big bags that our local market carries. Thaw it out, and spread out on paper towels on cookie sheets to absorb some of the moisture.  In season you can use fresh fruit. Peaches, blueberries, raspberries went into this one, along with kiwis for decoration.  A big trifle like this one used a dozen or so kiwis, peeled and thinly sliced.  I probably used 3 or four cups of sliced peaches, roughly the same amounts of the berries.  Use more or less as you prefer.

Seedless raspberry jam.  I used about a quarter to a third of an 8 oz. jar.

Sherry.  Doesn’t have to be really expensive, but make sure it is not cooking sherry, use something you would actually drink.

Slice cake into about half inch slices, then cut these in half or thirds and line the bottom of the bowl.  Spread a thin layer of jam on the cake pieces.  After trying various utensils to do this, I decided that just using my fingers to spread it around works best.
Sprinkle with a bit of sherry…I used about 2-3 tablespoons per cake layer, maybe more, maybe less.
Stand your kiwi slices on end around the side of the bowl.  See picture.

The idea is that you see the layers of kiwi slices through the glass, so you have to be a little fussy about placement.  Putting the kiwi in place before you plop on the other layers keeps it all neater.
Layer fruit next, then a layer of pudding, then a layer of whipped cream.
Now do another repeat of the same layers…cake, sherry, jam, kiwi, fruit, pudding, whipped cream.  Depending on the size of your bowl you might get a third repeat, but my bowl holds 2 sets.

On top of the last layer of whipped cream, arrange fruit slices in a decorative pattern.

Chill for at least 2 hours, then serve.  You can make this earlier in the day as well.  If you make it the day before, things get a little soggy, and the whipped cream doesn’t hold up as well.

You can vary this by using different fruit, different jam, flavor your cream, etc. I’ve seen variations that use chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, etc.  If you’re not feeding the whole neighborhood, obviously you can cut this back and do it in a smaller bowl.  The leftovers are great for breakfast, though, and people will eat more of this than you think.  Even after devouring about twelve pounds of prime rib, we ate two-thirds of this bowl last night.

If you were Martha, you would make your pudding from scratch instead of a mix, and would make real pound cake yourself instead of buying it.  It’s good even with the shortcuts, though. There were grown people standing around the bowl just digging in with spoons by the end of the party.

My Desk

photo_update_121604_009In keeping with the latest trend, here are a few pictures of my office.  This is the “bonus room” of our house, and is a balcony room overlooking the main living area.  It has a spectacular view out over the lake, and serves as a writing room, work office, and the knitting room.

Here is what one of the desks looks like:

My other desk is an ancient oak rolltop.  I haven’t been able to get the top down over all the crap for decades.

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If you were wondering, “Is that a crown on her desk?”, why yes, it is a crown!

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A friend gave me this crown, clearly realizing my royal potential.  I wore it to the hospital all day on Halloween this year.  Most of the patients loved it; a few were clearly confused as to why the Queen was visiting them in the hospital and asking them how their breathing was doing.

In case anybody in knitblog world thinks they have the most books, you are dead wrong.  Here are five of my bookshelves:

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There are three more of those ceiling high bookcases in the lower level of my house.  And books in stacks all over the floor as well. Even if they had been able to fit in my office, I’d have been afraid to have that much weight all in one balcony room!  Every so often my husband has a meltdown and insists that we weed out some crap and give it away.  When this happens, I spend an agonizing several days going through all the books to find ones that I can get rid of.  I almost always find at least one little box that I can part with.

There is knitting going on in this house, and actually out of the house as well.  Remember this?

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I’ve used up one whole ball of yarn, and spliced in the second ball (of three) while at the theater last night, matching the stripes perfectly, I might add.  We went to Noises Off, at the Seattle Rep.  If you live in the area, go see this; it is very well done. On a much sadder note, Tacoma Actors Guild folded last night due to financial difficulties.  They were the only professional theater group in Tacoma, and have done some fine work over the years.  We were at their last performance Wednesday night; of course we didn’t know it was the last one.  Here’s hoping that some huge corporation bails them out and fills their Christmas stocking with a wad of cash.

Purple Thing

After some serious dithering, the sleeves are done and are on the blocking board.  The fronts and back shoulder seams have been matched up, and I’m just waiting for the sleeves to dry so I can set them in.  Then a little seaming party, a few bands, buttons, and voila! A sweater!

Oh my god.  Buttons.  I forgot to buy buttons for this thing.  I’m thinking something really girly and elegant. Another shopping opportunity.  I just happen to have a gift certificate to the Weaving Works in Seattle, and we just happen to be making a trip to the city later today.  Who the hell goes to a yarn store and just buys buttons?

The consensus on the bands, by the way, is seed stitch.  I will try that first and see what it looks like.

Here are the sleeves:

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I am one of the apparently few knitters who like the sewing and finishing part.  I look at all those pieces and think “wow” I knit all that!  Helping them all get put together in the right configuration is fun for me.  Even sewing in yarn ends in not onerous.  That moment when the last stray end is hidden, and the last button secured, is wonderful.  Even if it is the middle of the night I want to get up and parade around the house in my finished work of art.

Don’t be sending me all your unfinished sweaters just yet.  I don’t find the finishing THAT much fun.

The dithering on the sleeves was the result of my apparent inability to remember which decreases are paired with which, and which ones go on which side of the piece.  The knit side increases I have finally committed to memory, but the last 18 rows of the sleeve caps required a decrease on every row.  I am just not a fan of purl side decreases.  I haven’t done them very often, so they don’t look as neat as they should.  Then I just plain followed my scribbled instructions wrong, so had to rip back about three times to get it right.

For the record, and if I write it down here, I might have a prayer of remembering it the next time I have to do it.

On the KNIT side, the decrease that goes on the right side of the work, that is left-leaning, is a SSK.  The left side of the sleeve gets a right-leaning increase, a K2tog.

On the PURL side, it gets a little dicier.  After trying a few things, here is what looks best to me.
On the right side, the left-leaning one, is a SSP.  Slip the next two stitches, one at a time, as if to knit.  Return them in their now-turned configuration to the left needle.  Now purl into the FARSIDE (the back leg) of the stitches, purling them together.

The left side of the sleeve as you are looking at it gets a right leaning decrease.  The book that I looked this up in said to just P2tog, but I like how it looks on the public side better if you P2tog through the back loops.

I have to say, it takes a bit of practice to do the through the back loop ones without stretching the stitches way out.

I will leave you with a couple of pictures that make me happy.  We have had the same angel on our Christmas tree since we were married.  Here’s old Gabe:

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And here are the Three Wise Guys:

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If I could find the rest of the nativity scene that matched them I would buy it in a minute!

I’m off to finish my Christmas shopping.  Who am I kidding?  I’m off to START my Christmas shopping.  Where the hell is the challenge in getting ready for Christmas in October??

Back to the Purple Sweater

I am near the end of the sleeve misery.  I haven’t quite figured out why people who love to knit, and spend every spare moment either knitting, thinking about knitting, or shopping for the next knitting project hate to knit sleeves.  My theory is that you knit the sleeves last, so you are good and sick of the whole project by the time you get to that last row.

Anyway, I need some opinions about the button bands and the neckband.  This is a pattern that I designed with Sweater Wizard software, so I am the boss of my knitting on this project.  For those of you who have forgotten what the purple sweater looks like (because I’ve been doing it for so freaking long), it is a plain hip length cardigan, knit  in stockinette stitch, with a wide lace border on the bottom hem and sleeves.  At one point I thought about doing seed stitch bands, but now I’m thinking about a 1 by 1 plain ribbing for the bands.

I know, I know.  I should try both and see which one I like best.  And it certainly may come to that.  What do you all think?  Do you have a preference?  Here are a few old pictures to get your mind around what this sweater looks like.

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The polls are open.  One hopes that this vote won’t be as controversial as the November elections.
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Many thanks for all the anniversary wishes!  My husband would personally like to thank everyone who commented on how handsome he is in his tuxedo.  He is not so impressed by those of you who commented on Eric the Chef.  I believe he thinks that some of you are shallow and featherbrained for drooling over a handsome man just because he’s cute and has a French accent.  In case anyone is really wondering, it was only a temporary insanity on my part.  How could I even for a nanosecond think of trading in a man who gets up every morning and makes me coffee and breakfast, and who is at this moment cooking me something to eat out of the Cordon Bleu cookbook while I “work” on my blog?  And no, he’s not for rent!

Cruise Pictures

I got exactly one row of knitting done last night before I found a freaking knot in the yarn about two inches from the end of the row.  I undid the knot to find that I had two separate pieces of yarn, with not enough attached to the end of the row to weave in.  I said some bad words, tinked back the whole row, attached the “new” ball of yarn and did the one row over, and gave up and went to bed.  Sleeves.  Gotta love ’em.

Since I have no new knitting pictures, I’ll show you where we went on our anniversary vacation.  We took off from LA, through the Panama Canal, and ended up in Ft. Lauderdale, stopping at San Diego, Cabo, Acapulco, Huatalco (Mexico), Costa Rica, and Grand Cayman.

We found a bottle of champagne in our cabin when we embarked.  Sweetpea, the bear, is the most well-traveled teddy bear that you will ever meet.  Yes, you now know my secret.  I sleep with a teddy bear.  She goes everywhere that I go, but only in my carry-on bag.  I never put her in the checked luggage.  And no, she didn’t get any champagne, even if she looks a little tipsy.

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Here’s us on formal night.  We clean up pretty good, don’t you think?

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I packed a teddy bear, John packed a martini shaker and a jar of olives.  He has his priorities, after all.

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I did actually get some knitting done:

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There was a chef on board from the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Ottawa.  They did a series of cooking classes that we signed up for.  Here I am, with Eric the chef, and my creation.  It didn’t hurt any that Eric was gorgeous.  I’m ready to move to Ottowa and sign up for the year long course.  You really didn’t think I would be that happy over sauteed duck breast, did you?

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Then there were the long days in the observation bar, writing my novel.  This must have been early morning, as the drink of choice was coffee, not a bloody mary.

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The trip through the Canal was fascinating.  As you can see here, everybody else thought so, too.

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And another one:

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And another knitting picture.  Notice the bourbon in one hand.  No wonder I didn’t get much of that sleeve done.

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Sunset over the Caribbean was glorious.  John must have thought so, because I had about a gazillion pictures to choose from on the camera.  I’ll show you just one.

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That just leaves me speechless, so I’ll close with that one!