Briny Deeps

When we weren’t off sampling the local spirits and cuisine, we spent an awful lot of time clambering over rocks, collecting treasures, and seeing just how far up various conveniently-located precipitous crags we could shimmy (answer: alarmingly…question of the week: ‘how in the name of self preservation did I get up here, and more importantly, how exactly do I get down’).

All that exploration works up an appetite — an appetite that can only be sated by briny marshmallows.  Briny, ocean-dipped marshmallows.  I mentioned this after last year’s trip, and there were many questions.  I felt an obligation to you all to explain in more details.  So, without further ado, your step-by-step guide to marshmallow brining.

11) Locate a handy tide pool (being able to get to it in the dark without twisting an ankle or soaking your shoe is a plus).

22) Prepare a likely stick.

33) Lay a fire (sacrificial crab shell as offering to the Sea Gods optional, but encouraged).

44) Impale a marshmallow on your stick, stride to your pool, and dip dip dip (the composition and performance of an impromptu marshmallow brining shanty at this point in the proceedings is technically optional, but highly encouraged…a preparatory adult beverage may help if inspiration fails you).

55) Toast, letting the outside caramelize into a crispy, salty crust of goodness and the inside melt into a puddle of molten, sugary goo.

66) Repeat 4 and 5 as needed, while being lulled into a state of complete relaxation by the sound of the sea and the flickering light of your fire.  Bring a blanket (it gets cold out there at night) and try not to fall asleep.

Field Trip, String Theory

Ok, I really should wrap this up.  I’m sure it’s tacky to talk about a trip for longer than the trip lasted.  But man, it was a long trip with lots of yarn-y bits, and I don’t want to leave any of them out.  Especially not String Theory, that would be a dreadful mistake.

st1You (you, the collective blog reading/rav forum chatting folks) are actually to blame for my String Theory obsession.  I kept seeing beautiful socks, going ‘what is that yarn,’ investigating, and finding String Theory.  So naturally I went and used them for piles and piles and piles of book projects (and the odd individual project too).  And of course I visited last time we were in Maine.  And so it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that we visited this time too.

st2I swear Karen and Tanis cannot make a bad skein of yarn.  There isn’t a base or a color there I wouldn’t be happy to steal away with.  And now, they have their Caper blend (that so many of you have come to know and love in a fingering for socks) in an aran weight (which is what I happen to prefer my socks to be made with), and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  It’s hard to find a nice, dense yarn with a bit of nylon at that weight, and this totally hits the spot.  If you like thick socks too, you should go get some right this minute.   And if you live in the area (which I’m defining as broadly as possible…I’d happily drive a few hours for this), you should stop by the store as they have a base or two there not listed on their website.

st3And yes, yes I did buy seven skeins of yarn.  And no, I am not at all sorry.  Well, possibly sorry that I did not buy more, but in no way sorry for what I got.  I’m sure you understand.

Impromptu

Have you ever found yourself in need of a hair elastic?  I’m guessing many of you have.  Have you ever found yourself in need of a hair elastic and been far away from either your personal stash or a convenient place to get more?  This doesn’t happen to me often (I tend to go for the long, loose, and lazy approach to hair styling), but it did on this trip.  For you see, I needed to use a handy power tool, and it was windy.  Very very windy.  And everyone knows long hair and power tools and wind don’t mix.

So I did what any knitter would do, I knit a hair elastic.  It was actually faster to knit one that to drive into town and buy one.  Much more entertaining too.   It started like this.

aAnd a bit later it looked like this.

bAnd after an hour and a half of using the aforementioned tools in high winds, it looked something like this.

cNothing if not stylish, hmmm?  The idea here is that it actually worked.  It wasn’t quite as grippy as a traditional elastic, but that’s after some heavy use, and it was still in there.  More importantly, neither I nor the saw suffered any unfortunate accidents (and as for why I needed a saw, we’ll get into that later…I have A Plan).

So, on the off chance any of you find yourselves needing such a thing, try this:

1) Using a provisional cast on, cast on 4.

2) Working in icord throughout, knit 1 round.

3) Purl 3 rounds, knit 3 rounds.

4) Work those 6 rounds until it’s almost as long as you’d like (it will need to be longer than you think as it doesn’t cinch up as much as regular elastic).

5) Purl 3 rounds, knit 1 round.

6) Break yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail, kitchner the provisional cast on and the last row together.

7) Weave in your ends, using the tails to bring your cast on round and your kitchnered round together into a tube like the rest of your icord.

Voila.  Ready for your next daring adventure.

 

Field Trip, Fisherman’s Museum

I warned you accounts of the trip would not be chronological.  Nor would they be terribly, um, edited.  I’m going with a more free-form approach.

You remember how I mentioned Maine seemed to be a particularly fiber friendly sort of place?  My first thought was that this had something to do with the winters (a bit brisk I’ve been told).  Upon second thought, it seems it might also have something to do with the proximity to water.  Water and string-like things seem to go together.

This was driven home when we visited the Fisherman’s Museum at the lighthouse on Pemaquid Point on the Monday after Rhinebeck.  It’s full (and I mean full…like borderline tripping hazard full) of cords and ropes and all sorts of goodness.

fish1I love this, and am still waiting to find one of these weights washed up on the beach.  I know it’s unlikely (one assumes they’d, um, sink), but I’m going to keep looking.

fish2

fish3

fish4There were also nets.  Piles and piles and piles of nets (which reminds me, I found a big whack of net last year and never did do what I had in mind for it…I should dig that up).

fish5But lest you fear it was all string and no knitting, behold, a pair of very functional and well-used mittens.

fish6And most amusing of all, this thing called a knitted bait bag.  Now I looked, and it doesn’t look quite like knitting to me.  So I did some reading, and apparently the word knitting has a specific meaning when it comes to making netting that is a bit different than what you likely first think of.  I find myself rather fascinated.  Especially after I read this article about a gentleman who makes these things, and saw this contraption for making something similar.

Add in the fact that we found several of them as we scrambled over various beaches (a few of which The Boy actually put on his head…despite knowing full well what was likely in them at some point in their briny past), and my fate was sealed.  I confidently predict the creation of some sort of bait bag inspired hat in the not-too distant future.  Funny smells not included.

Now With Knitting

What’s that? You want some knitting in your knitting blog?  How unreasonable of you.  I did just show you yarn yesterday.  But I’m nothing if not accommodating, so let’s see what I can do.  Look, a sock!

sock1Now yes, it is just one sock, but maybe if I show you two pictures of it we can pretend it’s a whole pair.  Hmm?

sock2No.  Darn.  Well, I’ll just have to knit the second then.  Yarn is Tanis Fiber Arts (their yellow label, which is a freaking perfect weight for thick socks if you ask me) in the color Olive.  Lovely stuff, highly recommended.  The second sock should be on the needles some time soon (and some rather more unexpected knitting should be showing up on the blog soon too).

Field Trip, Swans Island

So Wednesday morning’s stop had unexpected yarny goodness.  The afternoon stop though, that had totally expected and planned for yarny goodness.  For you see, Wednesday afternoon we went to Swans Island.

si 1This was another repeat visit (we went there last year too), and one well worth making if you find yourself in Maine.  Swans Island (I swear I’m not leaving out the apostrophe, that’s really how it’s spelled) makes beautiful blankets.  Beautiful, hand-made, heirloom-quality blankets.  Blankets I cannot afford, though I do enjoy waving at them when we stop by.

si 2

si 3Luckily, they also make yarn.  Their yarn is all spun and dyed in Maine with natural dyes.  It is absolutely lovely (all the colors play beautifully together) and ever so much more in my price range.

si 4

si 5Even better, in addition to their regular stock, they also have a sale room.  The yarn in the sale room is their regular bases, just in colors that are a bit off from their usual run.  That might mean dye lots that came out a bit more variegated than usual or new colors they’re experimenting with or any other sort of happy accident.  It inspires just the right sort of ‘must have it all’ urgency that leads to purchases.  It looks like this.  Feel free to drool.

si 6And the pile of goodies I came home with looks like this.

si 7And I’m not sorry at all.  My only complaint (and it is a small one) is that the seconds don’t have tags on them saying what base they are.  So just for my own future edification, I’m mentioning here and now that mine are their worsted weight, 250 yards per skein.  Because I know I will forget and then I’ll wonder what it is and then I’ll swear and the cats find that distasteful.

Field Trip, Sweetgrass

Now part of the fun of vacation is field trips.  Grown up vacation field trips are much more fun than the third grade kind.  You are not required to take a buddy to the bathroom with you, and you do not have to ride a bus.  You also get to visit distilleries, which don’t tend to feature prominently on the school field trip list.

On the Wednesday after Rhinebeck, we headed out to Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery.  We’d visited them on our first trip to Maine way back in 2009 (when I was a very bad blogger and didn’t really bother to post about these things), and knew we wanted to renew the acquaintance.  When we arrived, we were greeted by the resident Fearsome Guard Kitten.  He only allows admittance to those who provide adequate belly scritches.  He is in no way shy about demanding his due.

sg1Though His Fuzzy Highness was quite distracting, technically we were there for the drinks, so I suppose I should say something about them too.  I’ll keep it short.  The gin is fantastic and if you like gin at all, go order some now.  The blueberry smash is really a blueberry port and is the best damn thing I drank on the whole trip.  You owe it to yourself to seek it out immediately and lay in a large supply.  I’ll be expecting your thank you notes once your bottles reach you.  All their other things are delicious too, but those two are my personal favorites.

sg2

sg4But there was one more surprise to be had.  We knew about the beverages.  The kitten, while not expected, was not hugely shocking (it is a farm after all).  The knitting proved more of a surprise!

sg5Piles and piles of beautiful hand knit goodies for sale at ridiculously low prices (really beautiful workmanship, my picture in no way does it justice).  Now, perhaps I should have been expecting it (there are sheep after all, and the first time we visited I actually bought a bit of fiber from one of them), but it still took me by surprise.  It turns out it’s all made by Margit who works there in the distillery and helped us when we visited.  We chatted about knitting (much to the dismay of the random film crew that was there to do something or the other and didn’t appreciate us talking in the background) and yarn and patterns and had a grand time.

I’m taking it as further proof that Maine really is an exceptionally knitterly sort of place.  Anywhere that has knitting at the distillery (oh, and at the fishing museum, but I haven’t gotten to that part of the trip yet) is my kind of place.  Might just give Nova Scotia a run for it’s money!

Rhinebeck, Commerce Style

Now part of the fun of Rhinebeck is the critters (see the previous post), and part of it is the snacks, and part of it is the completely shameless knitterly abandon with which everyone curates their wardrobes.  But I would not be being honest if I didn’t admit that part of the fun is the shopping opportunities.  I confess I indulged.  Though technically I brought home less yarn than last year.  What I lacked in yardage I made up for in volume.

Yarnwise, I was very restrained.  A mere two skeins of Green Mountain Spinnery’s Simply Fine followed me home.  That’s restraint of a nearly alarming degree if you ask me.

rb buy 3My second purchase was a bit more eclectic.  The Boy and I are both devotees of woolly slippers, and ours are both in need of some fluffing up on the bottoms, so we grabbed a few pairs of sheepskin slipper liners.  Alas, I do not have a picture of these, as they were jammed promptly into slippers and as such are now not so picturesque.  Use your imagination.

The third item…the third item will surprise no one aware of my long-standing and well-documented fondness for blankets.  I bought a blanket.  Well no, I bought two blankets.  Two gray, woolly blankets in a lovely wool and alpaca blend from Staghorn Valley Alpacas.

rb buy 1

rb buy 2And no, it wasn’t the cheapest Rhinebeck souvenir ever.  It may well be the warmest though (we put them to good use when we went on to Maine, and they are currently doing hard service in our family room as we work to avoid turning on the heat as long as possible The Boy just caved and turned it on…I swear it was him and not me). Besides, previous experience has taught me that housewares make for much longer-lasting goodies than yarn.

Rhinebeck, Critter Style

I’m home.  I’m home, and I have a nearly ridiculous list of things I want to tell you about the trip.  I fear you’ll grow rather sick of it by the time we’re done.  There was yarn, of course, and blankets.  There was unexpected fibery goodness in unlikely spots, completely unplanned knitting (knitting in support of a wildly unlikely project that will, itself, feature largely here over the next few months), planned knitting, surprise knitting (plus bonus kitten), treasure hunting, immolation, and quite a few other things as well.

As usual, I make no guarantee of chronological integrity.  I will flit shamelessly back and forth between trip stuff and current stuff over the next few weeks, consider yourself warned.  All I can say is I will not suffer from a lack of post material any time soon.  But to start with, how about a quick recap of the fuzzy critters of Rhinebeck.  Shameless cuteness ahead.

rb1Can we start with a vicuña?  I’d not seen one before. As far as I can tell they are a cross between a cartoon character and a cloud.

rb2

rb3

rb4Next up, llamas.  A bunch of llamas.  I’ve seen plenty of alpacas before, and I figured llamas and alpacas were more or less the same critters, but no.  These are much bigger, much shaggier, and (at least in the case of these guys) total snuggle bunnies.

rb8

rb7

rb6

rb5And of course, I would be remiss not to include some sheep.  I may possibly be including a goat here as well (there is some doubt in my mind about the gentleman at the bottom there…anyone more versed in ovine/caprine distinction than I feel free to weigh in).  In any case, there was much woolly goodness to be had.  And a bit of that woolly goodness made its way home with me, which will be the subject of the next trip post.  In a day or two.  When I’m a bit more caught up on laundry and the mail is sorted.

Ornamental

Everything looks better on the beach.  Rocks are shinier and more colorful when they’re wet.  Shells are too, and they don’t have nearly the same risk of funny smells when they’re still by the shore (that only develops after you’ve forgotten them in your trunk for a week).  This shameless deception leads me to pocket no end of beach-y treasures.  They’re always less charming when I get them home.  You’d think I’d know better by now, but I still fall prey to the shiny every single time.

This most recent trip to Maine was no different.  I came home with bags full of rocks and shells and pine cones and sticks and sea glass.  Now admittedly the sea glass is still pretty and will find a home, but the rest of this stuff I could probably live without.  I needed a plan.

Part of the problem is scale.  One little shell is a marvel of nature.  Thirty are an imposition.  Another part of the problem is familiarity.  If you see the same little bit of stuff every day, it becomes part of the background.  If you only see it occasionally, it becomes special again.  So, if you want tiny and you want occasional, the obvious answer is a Christmas ornament.

I started out with these as my supplies:

Then I dug around in the kitchen until I found a few little jars.  These happen to be the ones that saffron comes in at Trader Joe’s, but I’ve seen similar things used to hold fancy salt or single servings of jelly.  If you don’t have some hanging out in your kitchen or your basement or your garage (and don’t want to buy some saffron), you can probably find something suitable in the wedding favor aisle of your local craft store.  A few minutes with a spoon, and a quick knot in a bit of twine, and I had these.

I must admit I’m taken with them.  I may add a tiny tag that says Maine 2012, or I may just write it on the bottom of the bottle.  If you had pretty penmanship and a wood burning tool, you could put it on the cork instead.  It might even be nifty to make one each time you go to a beach and have a whole collection of them on your tree (or on your windowsill if that’s more your speed).

What do you think?  Is that a reasonable amount of beach treasure to have on display?  Would you hang it on your tree, or is it too weird?  Do you guys bring stuff like that home too (or area you all more clever than me), and if so what do you do with it?