Virginia, I have decided, is a lovely place to teach. In fact, I would not mind visiting again. I was invited by Sherri of Coordinated Colors in Yorktown to teach a workshop. The weekend began with a train ride from New Haven, CT to Newport News, VA. At the time I was booking this trip the only flights available were twice as much money as Amtrak and about as long. It was some crazy schedule, like "Fly from Bradley to Chicago, sit for a few hours, then fly to Virginia, arriving an hour earlier than the train, but missing an extra $200". It just seemed more rational to take the train. Which was late (but only by an hour) and had a very angry woman nearby, with not one but two cell phones on her, so she could swear at two different people at once. I found this inventive, if nothing else. It just would never occur to me. For some reason it did not occur to me to take my bag down and move. I somehow thought this would be "rude". Go figure. Once off the train in VA I hopped a cab to the hotel, and called shop owner and hostess Sherri to let her know I was on the ground (so to speak) as she had knitters at her shop who wanted me to drop by for a bit of meet and greet time, and to sign some books.
I had forgotten to bring any knitting (GASSSP!!) to the shop, having just hopped off a 12 hour train ride (and having had not much time for more than washing of the hands and face, and brushing of the teeth before Sherri arrived to fetch me), but I managed to shop a bit. I got some Misty Mountain Jubileewhich is a locally dyed sock yarn, in a colorway perfect for Mr. W ('sandy foam'!). I find it of inestimable value to buy yarn for his feet when out shopping. It softens the whole "I bought (more) yarn" blow, I find. The promise of wife-knit socks seems to quell the savage budget-beast.
I also found - and was so thrilled to find - Schoeller Fortissima Socka Stars and Stripeswhich I admit to stalking since I discovered it a while back. I almost bought all that Sherri had, but decided Mr. W. would possibly faint, die, or yell if I came home with too much yarn, so I stuck to one ball. This will become something for someone, already planned and practically on the needles. (Shhhh...it's a secret!)
On Saturday morning class began at 9am in the hotel's meeting room. What a wonderful group of knitters. I wish I'd had my camera, but I sort of feel that teaching and blogging maybe should not mix? I have not worked this out yet. I need to find a compromise, because these were awesome knitters and you deserve to meet them all. I met Jennifer and Tess who loaded me up with goodies for the ride home. Tea and chocolate, and sugar that's not white! There's a Trader Joe's in Newport News, and I can highly recommend their Pomegranate White Tea, thanks to Jennifer's generosity. She claims her preparedness is due to her being a military wife. She came with her own kettle for hot water (in case there wasn't one) and enough food to last the whole day, and some to share. That's more than just being prepared, I think.
I also got to meet Karin, Serena (who just sent me a link to THIS!! KNITTING CHICKEN FABRIC!) and Leslie from Raleigh, NC. The trio drove four hours one way to take a class with me. I hope they didn't regret it by the end of the day! They spent Friday night at the hotel so they'd be bright and early for class. There was some discussion about whether their husbands truly believed they were driving 4 hours to take a knitting class. I think we could file this under "inexplicable knitter behavior". Makes perfect sense to me. But maybe not to non-knitting husbands?!
Then there was Tami who bought her yarn at Webs. Gail took care of her in Northampton, and emailed me that someone had been in asking for materials for my class in Virginia. I have to admit to a big of wondering - she must, I thought, have had some reason for being local to Webs last weekend...sure enough, she has relatives here and was visiting, not just buying yarn.
We had an awesome class, I think. Everyone left happy, and that is always my goal. I love teaching, and love it most when the students leave feeling like they got their money's worth. I really loved these knitters, and wanted to put them in my pocket and bring them home with me.
On Sunday morning I hopped back on the train and over the next 6 hours, I......sipped tea and ate pumpkin seeds while knitting......was reminded that we still have not got back to DC in the last 5 years......and got a bit of very special work done. Somewhere in there my comfort level decreased when I was joined for about 4.5 hours in my (very spoiled, as I had it all to myself till then) seat by a generously proportioned young man with a penchant for provolone cheese. Eventually he moved on and was replaced by a lovely woman from Massachusetts who 1.) appeared to eat things other than provolone and 2.) was of a size appropriate for the seats on an Amtrak train. The remaining hour and a half into New Haven was significantly improved by her presence.
When I came home I found a pile of kids books from my favorite purveyor of same, Deb Murphy. Deb and I met at a Cat Bordhi class at Webs and again at BEA when I was wandering with the sort of shell-shocked look that lovers of books quickly develop there. She sat me down at a table for a bit of a break and showed me some kids books. I am a grandmother. And a mommy. And there is nothing, nothing on earth I ever loved so well as curling up with my kids and reading books.
There is Kevin Henkes' engaging Old Bearwhich has the most lovely illustrations, and a tale of a bears sleepy dreams during hibernation. This is an awesome read-along book for grandmothers (mother too, and fathers, and grandfathers and aunts and uncles...).
And another Jamie Lee Curtis book, signed even! Big Words for Little People which helps kids understand the meaning of some of those big words we adults toss around. I personally like this one - "...if someone is there and you need to pee then say loud and clear 'Hey, I need PRIVACY!'" I wish I'd had this when my kids were little. I don't think I had a solitary sandbox moment until the youngest was 8. As soon as that door shut it was "Mommmmm....s/he's doooooing it again...." I never clarified what "it" was. But I think it had something to do with my trying to use any sort of bathroom facility; tub, sink or shower. The only time they ever left me alone in there was if I was cleaning it.
And last but so very not least, there'sThe Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann.Oh how I adore this book. "A Story about Adventure, Friendship and Chinese Characters". And it truly is. Each of the characters are introduced in a way that makes them part of the visual image of the story; they're "hidden" within illustrations that help one remember the meaning; sort of a mneumonic, but...not? A visual mneumonic! It's just brilliant.
Yesterday was a married people day. Mr. W. and I went to the Big E all alone. He was supposed to be a substitute for Girl who's accompanied me for years on this trek. He failed, but succeeded just the same. Years of attending fairs and such with my kids as a 'school day' have sort of forced me into a fairly rigid pattern of behavior. Enter at gate 9. Walk to the Mallory Complex and see what's up, engage in conversations with as many farmers as time allows. Get a Jet Shake. Move on to Farm-a-Rama. Then it's time for state buildings where we get fish on a stick and a potato in Maine and a pickled egg in Massachusetts (that may just be me, but it's a habit, and I love them). And so on. Mr. W. messed me all up, but in a good way. We entered through gate 9 (we're good so far) hit the rest room by that gate (ok, still on track) and then went...the WRONG WAY. Rather than heading into the Mallory Complex wherein lies sheep and cows and the Fiber Nook, we wandered around in the Better Living Center and watched a Vita-Mix demo (make peanut butter, soup and smoothies all in the same appliance!), and saw all manner of as-seen-on-TV products, not to mention allegedly 400 count cotton sheets for the LOW LOW PRICE of $40 a set, ANY SIZE!! (that you could see through. And the Super Chamois, which can apparently hold a 2-liter bottle of soda. I had a set. I never got them to hold much more than a half a glass of water, myself. I passed them by, thanks, anyway). We wandered until we came to this:Those are sea lions. And this is not Sea World. Just...weird. Also very, very smelly - horrible odor of rotting fish in the area. I often feel bad for traveling animals. I have a feeling they'd rather be in a nice ocean someplace. Now in a minute I am going to say something that may seem a bit like I am tracking back on myself. But I won't. You'll see.
I had chosen this day for a reason, but really could not remember why and failed to get a program or check the days events online. At around 2:30 we wandered quite by accident into the Coliseum and saw on the electronic signboard that there was a horse draw at 2:30. Now I love a good pull. But Mr. W. does not perhaps share my enthusiasm. Poor darling. He did say we could stay, so we grabbed seats and he found a nice beer and some wine for me, and we sat. And we sat and sat and sat. And time passed. And there were no horses, just a nearly empty arena. Mr. W. fidgeted like a five year old on Sunday morning. He sighed. He whined a tiny bit. But he stuck by me and waited. Finally, horses appeared...note the time on the clock above the signboard. Click on it if you need to, and check it out. Yankee farmers move on their own schedule. It's the way of things.I love to watch them pull. On my way from the ladies between draws while they were reloading the boat I overheard two women very angrily decrying the abuse of the animals involved. "It's not fair...it's sick that they make them do this!" Here's where I appear to go back on myself. These are draft horses. They are bred to pull, the way my dog is bred to pull, and my father's dog is bred to rat and my old dead and gone dog was bred to hunt. They love to pull. Horses are much more complex than people seem to realize. A horse with no occupation is no different than a dog without one. Bored, lonely, miserable. They may have hay, water and a lovely barn to rest in. But without something to do, some work, they're miserable on the inside. You can see in the eyes of these horses when they come to the boat. They WANT to pull it. They're ready to go, excited to do their job, and sometimes jump the gun and take off before the farmer is ready. Most of them have day-jobs. They work on a farm, hauling and pulling and doing what they were bred to do. They're beloved by the farmer and well-cared for. Maybe my perspective is different because I've grown up around agriculture, surrounded by farms and farmers, horses, dogs, cows. These farmers load their animals up, drive a hundred or more miles to pit the strength of their horses against those of their fellow farmers. It used to be a bit more casual, and involved much less travel. As time changes and we lose more and more small farms and farmers, the ones that remain keep their tradition alive this way. I think this is a good bit different than schlepping sea lions around the country in a truck that's parked 150 miles from the nearest ocean.
We got to see the delightful display of canine prowess, speaking of working animals, that is the Sheep Dog Demo. Peterson's Working Sheep Dog Demo uses ducks in place of sheep to show what a well-trained dog can do in the right hands. The ducks are put through their paces, over a ramp and through a tunnel, "weighed" on the scale normally reserved for sheep, and posed prettily in front of the curtain used for much bigger animals.
Then we saw a steer auction, where 4-H kids sell off their stock, making back some kind of a profit, hopefully, on their years' labors.The steers are sold by the pound, around $2.50 or so, and ranged in size with an average of about 1,000 lbs. If you can afford the cash up front, and have someone in mind to slaughter and butcher, you can save a fortune on a freezer full of beef and get some pretty high quality meat, AND encourage tomorrow's farmers, rewarding them for their labor. 4-H and FFA are really the backbone of farming. These kids are the ones who someday will have the farm around the corner that will be providing your locally raised milk and meat and eggs. Speaking of milk. In all the years we've been to the Big E I've never managed to hit the milking parlor in time for this demo. FINALLY! And finally Mr. W. knows why a "normal" milk cow would not be in our future. Gallons upon gallons of milk, twice a day from the average production breed. Give me some lovely small heritage breed that puts out a gallon a day.
Oh. For anyone who's been and seen the sweet little baby chicks hatching out in Farm-O-Rama and wondered where they go at the end of the fair? Um. I finally found out. And. Uh. Don't ask. You don't want to know.
Now that I have posted, bored the heck out of you, I am going to go work a bit. Design a sock or two, and try to get my mail without getting into trouble with the pack of coy that are trying to take over my neighborhood. They need some nice predator to teach them a lesson. Maybe me...