You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me ... C.S. Lewis

Do things to make your day precious ... Bernie Siegel

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Autumn in Iowa ...

This past week I was able to spend four days, Monday through Thursday, with friends in northeast Iowa where the autumn leaves are in the process of turning; in fact, I think they're at the peak. We had heard a forecast of rain and cooler temperatures, so made some plans for inside activities, but on Tuesday we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over the Mississippi. Later the sky was such a clear blue and provided a perfect contrast for those burgundy, bright orange, burnished gold, yellow and green leaves. We walked along the dike overlooking the river, then drove to scenic and hilly Elkader about 20 miles west. We spent lots of time in The Buttery, one of those shops with the perfect combination of old and new, and Willow Creek Wine and Gifts. Instead of wine, we sampled sparkling apple cider which was yummy. We were somewhat disappointed that the restaurant we'd discovered last year, Shera's, was closed on Tuesdays, but consoled ourselves with a delicious lunch at Fennelly's Irish Pub. After a quick swing through the Turkey River Mall (old and new again), we had coffee at Treats, Etc. before leaving town. It's so much fun to enjoy the lower prices in small towns like Elkader, Guttenberg and McGregor.

Wednesday did bring the cooler temperatures and rainy weather, but we were ready. We planned to drive on the Great River Road to Balltown and Breitbach's Restaurant for lunch. On Christmas Eve 2007 the original 150-year old building was destroyed by fire. As the host explained, the blessings began almost immediately. None of the employees in the building at the time were hurt, and from the day (mid-March 2008) they broke ground for the new building, they had 100-150 volunteers helping them every day until opening day (mid-June 2008), their only payment food prepared by the restaurant staff. The food and service are outstanding. They have added a wine 'shed' where they offer free samplings, with wine, fall flowers and vegetables for sale.

On our way to Balltown, we left the 'beaten path' and drove to a tiny town called North Buena Vista where a grotto has been carved into a hillside. We drove to the top of the hill where the view was breathtaking. Through the trees, we overlooked the surrounding colorful hills and the Mississippi River!

We had decided to go to the movie "The Duchess" in Dubuque, but after some difficulty finding the theater, even with our trusty GPS (nicknamed Britt), we arrived about 35 minutes early, with enough time to do some power shopping at Kohl's.

Thursday as we left Guttenberg, we went to My Favorite Things and found some 'must have' items to take home. It was hard to leave the beauty of northeast Iowa behind, but the memories are great.

We arrived in Anamosa in time for lunch at Daley Creek Bistro and Winery. I found this in the Iowa Winery booklet a year or so ago.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What I Did On My Summer Vacation ...

I can't believe summer is nearly over. In fact school began here today ... just impossible to believe. We have been blessed with the most gorgeous weather for the last two weeks or so ... only necessary to use the air conditioning on rare occasions. In the morning I love to open the doors wide and let in the cool air ... what a great way to begin the day.
Last weekend we went to Chicago to visit our one-year old granddaughter Helen. She's such a sweetie and we can begin to see her personality shine. While we were in Chicago we rode the train to downtown where we caught a cab to Navy Pier to watch the Air Show. Thousands of people were watching the show from all over downtown, but we found a cafe with an empty table on the patio overlooking Lake Michigan and the skyscrapers from the south side of the Pier, and the view was spectacular. Later we took a water taxi along the Chicago River where we enjoyed seeing the hanging gardens, attractive condos and restaurants along the riverfront. On the trip to and from Chicago I enjoyed listening to the inspirational autobiography of the coach of the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts Tony Dungy called Quiet Strength. What a role model. Even non-sports fans would like this book. I also began reading The House at Riverton by Kate Morton and Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs.
One of the reasons this weather has been surprising is because our ten-day Iowa State Fair just ended. Traditionally we have the hottest weather during the fair but not this year. I think it rained only one day of the fair and attendance records were broken. I was able to spend a few hours a week ago walking around to some of my favorite spots: the 4-H building, the animal barns, the dollhouses in the cultural center, free food samples in the agricultural building, the hymn sing at First Church in Pioneer Village, lunch at the pork tent, and the quilts and needlework in the varied industries building.
We've been enjoying the Olympics especially watching one of our hometown girls Shawn Johnson participate in gymnastics and finally win a gold medal last night on the balance beam. We were proud of the three silver medals she's won previously but the gold was the perfect ending to the competition. Unfortunately our other hometown girl Lolo Jones, after setting records in qualifying rounds, was not able to complete the hurdles, and I feel sad for her. I'm disappointed that synchronized swimming hasn't been featured on TV at all, at least not in prime time. When two of my granddaughters were in synchro for several years, I was able to see up close and personal how hard the swimmers work and what a beautiful sport it is. They were on a team that made it to the Nationals in Syracuse NY in 2001, and one of the other competitors was a 13-year old girl from California named Brooke Abel. Her routine was so stunning, I can still remember it. Brooke is now on the 2008 USA Olympic team.
One of my friends and I stalked yarn yesterday. She is making a baby blanket for friends and we ended up buying the yarn at Michael's but it was a great opportunity to visit a couple nice LYS in the area. Today's featured store is Creative Corner in Valley Junction in West Des Moines, also known as the pink house. This is a store that has been around for at least 25 years and has survived the macrame craze, the cross-stitch craze, and through it all, has always carried lots of beautiful yarn. One of my favorite blogs is Nuttinbutknittin and K who is the author of that blog works at Creative Corner one day a week.
This week I discovered an awesome podcast called Brown-Eyed Mom. Danielle is charming and fun. She's married to a cop and mother to two sons. She's a new knitter who's greatest desire is to learn everything and in her words become an uber-knitter.
We celebrated my mom's 91st birthday August 3rd with a Sunday brunch when I gave her the Sunday Market Wrap. Hopefully I can get a picture of her and the Wrap soon to post here. Mom is in the process of moving from her home to a really cute condo across the street from her church so we'll be ending the month of August helping her with that move. Recently my sister and I spent a couple hours helping mom pack, then took her with us when we checked out a couple of shops in nearby towns called Gifts of Grace in Gladbrook and Something to Share in Conrad. We treated mom to a delicious light lunch at Gifts of Grace.
Around the cottage we are still waiting for those tomatoes. We lost several during a storm about two weeks ago, but the ones that hung are are doing fine. I have a huge plant on a table on my front porch that is absolutely spectacular. I think it's some kind of begonia and it is beautiful. The leaves have remained shiny and the plant has grown and thrived, even though most of my flowers didn't look all that pretty this summer.
Later ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wonderful Wednesdays ..

I work part-time and am able to take Wednesdays off most weeks. I always try to pack the day with too much, but always do something I really enjoy.
Today began with a trip to the dentist and although it was for a filling, I have never had such a gentle painkiller and return from numbness.
Next I met a friend on the patio of our favorite coffee shop Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure. Shady, secluded, silence. Well, except for our hour-long chat! We talked about setting up our two-person knitting group, so today I did take my knitting, but my friend forgot to bring hers.
Then it was off to my yoga group in West Des Moines. Only three of us were there today, but how relaxing and energizing at the same time.
Around the cottage: We may actually see tomatoes before the first frost. All the annuals are blooming their little hearts out. On these days with low humidity, the screened porch is the perfect place for daily quiet time.
Books of the Week: Talking Back by Andrea Mitchell. She's been everywhere and interviewed everyone. In fact I see that she is accompanying Obama this week on his fact-finding trip to the Middle East and Europe. The book is full of interesting tales including how she met and married her husband Alan Greenspan. Nesting, It's a Chick Thing by Ame Mahler Beanland and Emily Miles Terry. This is a lighthearted lifestyle book that takes a little jab at the seriousness of Martha Stewart-style homekeeping. Yes it has suggestions on decorating, cooking and gardening. I actually won this in a blog contest a few months ago and enjoyed reading it, but I think it's written for a younger audience so I'll be passing it on to my granddaughter who is planning a move to a Chicago apartment soon.
Blog of the Week: Lovely Kali is written by a young single mom who lives in Kansas. She has quite a talent for decorating on a shoestring as well as photography, and shares the good times as well as the bad.
LYS of the Week: Knitted Together in West Des Moines. Nancy formerly worked for Meredith Corporation and has a beautiful shop with mostly affordable and completely beautiful yarns. She has a lot of Cascade yarns, as well as Malabrigo and popular sock yarns.
Podcast of the Week: Sticks and String by David Reidy, an Aussie bloke. What a pleasant surprise. I know I'm at least 18 months late in finding his podcast, but am catching up now and enjoying his voice, his style, and his content.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times

On Monday three friends and I drove to The Harvester Golf Club between Des Moines and Marshalltown. It was a humid day so we were concerned that we might not be able to dine al fresco, but the breezes on the high deck did not disappoint us. We spent 2 1/2 hours relaxing over lunch and Arnold Palmers and catching up on each other's lives. The gift shop Just Fore You is open Thursday through Saturday so we only looked in the windows. I didn't realize I'd be able to stop in today on my way back from a quick trip to Marshalltown, but I'm so glad I did. I found some lovely coffees and teas at 50% off, as well as a few other goodies.
On Wednesday I met two friends in Fort Dodge at Tea Time at Sadies Tea Room. Once again, the food was delicious and the atmosphere warm. After lunch, we drove to a consignment shop in the downtown area. We discovered Repeat Boutique several years ago. We each found lots of name-brand clothing at bargain prices.
Tonight I heard a wonderful band play a free concert at my church. They are called Denver and the Mile High Orchestra and their pop and Christian music has a big band sound.
LYS of the Week: I was able to return to a wonderful yarn shop in Carroll, Iowa, called The Yarn Basket. This is a store I wish were much closer to Des Moines. Everything about it is exactly the way a yarn shop should be. I found some multicolored wool that I hope to make into a shawl. Christy has been working both times I've visited The Yarn Basket and I think she is such an asset to the shop with her knowledge and enthusiasm.
Podcast of the Week: I am completed enthralled with She-Knits. Sharon has been podcasting for just over a year. I love the way she talks as though you were a close friend. Mostly it's about knitting, pattern designing and her felted bag business, but she also shares tales of her very large family (a husband and seven children, ages 6-22). One of her greatest desires is to have her designs published in a printed or online magazine and that dream will be fulfilled three times this fall and winter by Interweave Knits, Interweave Felt and Knitscene.
Knitting Project of the Week: The Ballband Bag, a wool bag made with a solid color interspersed with an ever-changing multicolor yarn. This bag will be felted.
Blog of the Week: My Yellow Farmhouse. Karen has a beautiful house and her home was on a Christmas house tour in her corner of Minnesota last winter. She decorates, she quilts and especially enjoys working with wool. She takes great pictures of both her quilting and her home. She also shares recipes.
Books of the Week: Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner. Carol shares her memories of a rural Iowa childhood in the middle of the 20th century. Her stories triggered memories of my own. Carol is a personal friend who I am trying to entice into visiting my book club on author night.
Things I Learned from Knitting Whether I Wanted To or Not by Stephanie Pearl McPhee. A very quick read full of lots of humor and wit and adventures you can relate to. This was a gift from a good friend.
Later ...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Road Between Friends is Never Long

Yesterday I traveled 100 miles to join friends in a lovely tearoom called Tea Time at Sadie's located in Fort Dodge, Iowa. I chose the four-cheese chicken casserole with greens, fresh fruit and peach lemonade. So much food that dessert was out of the question. Afterward we stopped at Repeat Boutique, a consignment shop. It was even better than we remembered and we found several treasures that we couldn't leave behind. I honestly don't enjoy shopping for clothes as much as I once did, and in recent years most of the clothes I wear to the office I've purchased online. But the company I loved called Weekenders recently went out of business, so I'll be learning how to shop in brick-and-mortar stores again.

Yarn shop of the week: I found time on my way home from Fort Dodge to stop at a beautiful shop called The Yarn Basket in Carroll. I came away with 400 yards of multicolored wool with which I plan to make a shawl.

Around the cottage: The flowers are blooming profusely and needing water every day. My windowboxes are overflowing with red and white petunias, yellow pansies and red begonias. After a late start, the tomato plants are large enough for stakes and cages. A new lamppost light has been a big improvement.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Six Months, Or Seven

Greetings from The Cottage!
I suppose I could say I've been too busy reading knitting blogs to update my own for the past seven months. But the real culprit has been a special project at my 'little' part-time job which caused it to become almost a full-time job. The deadline was June 30th and I now feel such a sense of freedom.
We recently traveled to Chicago to see 11-month granddaughter Kit. It's so much fun to have a baby in the family again. Kit weighed more than 11# at birth and continues to grow and develop above and beyond. Her mom says she is 'off the charts' for an 18-month old. We took walks with Kit to the playground and around the neighborhood and went to the birthday party of one of her baby friends.
Around the cottage: we've added a stone and gravel path from the front door through the hostas to the front garden area. This weekend I'll be adding cedar mulch under the hostas to the edge of the path. Flowers are blooming beautifully, but they are a little late because of all the spring rain that delayed digging in the dirt.
Blog of the week: Willow Way Knitting ( Janice has such an inspirational blog with lots of recipes and an infectious enthusiasm for knitting bags and socks. When she learned to knit in 2006, she made many, many felted bags which she gifted and sold. She donated profits from the sales to a charity through her church. She also is training for a marathon in November 2008 to benefit the leukemia and lymphoma society and has a donation button on her blog. Her Ravelry name is Jarlady where many of her projects can be seen.
Yarn shop of the week: The Woolly Lamb in the historic Norwood Park section of Chicago. What a charming little shop! I was there around noon on a Saturday and there were several people taking a class and four people knitting around a table in the display room. One of the yarns that got my attention is a Lang cashmere and I kept coming back to it, but the price is $33/skein so even though I touched it several times, I resisted. Mapquest says it's less than 2 miles from our son's house, so I'm sure I'll have the opportunity for a repeat visit.
Knitting project of the week: The Sunday Market Shawl in a pink colorway of Classic Elite Classic Silk. This is a simple drop-stitch pattern that can be found on Ravelry ( and I am giving it to my mother for her 91st birthday in early August.
Later ...