Monday, July 30, 2012

Dave's Guest Post: Nightmare Museum and Londontown

Note: When it comes to writing, brevity is not my style. I apologize in advance for the length of this entry.  -Dave

On this, one of the last weekends of our Washington, D.C. odyssey, I awoke, like most mornings, to the faint clicking of knitting needles. Heather was up early, which is to say, up at her usual early morning hour, compared to my later morning rising. For some reason, the children were also rising and conversing at their usual (not quiet) volume. After saying, “Good morning,” Heather’s first comment of the day was something like, “So, where are you taking our little creatures so I can have some time to myself?” At least, that’s what I heard. What she actually said was more like, “You should take the kids to the medical museum today.” At any rate, the message was received, and after breakfast was consumed, I prepared lunch and snacks, and the kiddos and I set out to the visit the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

The NMHM has been on our to-visit list for a while, particularly because of the legendary human hairball reposing in its collection. It’s located in Silver Spring, Maryland, about a mile north of the D.C. border, and it involved slightly more busing and walking from the Metro line terminus than I was comfortable with in an unknown area, so we drove the truck for this trip. Upon our arrival, we observed it was significantly smaller than other D.C. area museums. Initially, I thought we were in the wrong area until I spied a small sign saying, “Museum,” inviting us into a small parking lot. Inside, we were greeted by the staff and set about exploring the small, mostly unoccupied building.

In hindsight, I should have done a little research before taking the kids to this one; admittedly, I really wanted to see that gigantic hairball and didn’t consider what other displays might be waiting to evoke nightmares for weeks to come. Oops.

The first hall we entered, purely by chance, was fairly benign compared to the others - the exhibit contained some considerably grotesque life masks of civil war casualties and injuries, before and after reconstructive surgery. Eamon was immediately spooked, although it took me a minute or two to figure out why he was behaving so nervously. Aine was more curious about what the heck they were. Benton apparently couldn’t care less. There were old surgical and veterinary kits containing very dangerous- and medieval-looking devices. After leaving that hall (we’ll call it the “War Injuries” hall) we entered the second, randomly selected room (we’ll call this the “Human Organs in Various Degrees of Disease” hall. Oh, and baby skeletons. Lots of baby skeletons.) Once inside this hall, I noticed the oldest was no longer in tow. I poked my head back out into the hallway to see Eamon sitting on the floor with his back against the wall.

Me: “Eamon, what are you doing? Come look at this neat stuff.” 

Eamon: “I don’t feel well. I don’t want to see any more. Can we leave?” 

After some discussion, we agreed he would sit in the hallway and guard the stroller while the rest of us quickly perused the rest of the exhibits.

Long story short, by the time we got to the “Bizarre and Nightmarish Maladies of Human Anatomical History” hall, all three of the kids were wide-eyed and reluctant to step into another room for fear of what garish, pickled specimens might await. I took a quick peek at the enormous, stomach-shaped hairball (how the .... did that happen?), but not without having to glance past the immense fermaldehyde jars containing siamese twins, troll babies and numerous other deformed infants who were all clearly ante partum and who looked like something one might see on the cover of the Weekly World News. All in all, the museum visit was a bust. Unless you have a trust fund set up to pay for years of therapy, don’t take your children to the NMHM.

Still reeling from the sideshow, we chowed down in the truck while we considered our next destination. I was reluctant to go back home so soon, cutting short any free time Heather might have been enjoying. So, while the kiddos nibbled on their PB&Js, I turned to Nüvi to save the day. We’ve had a nüvi for a long time, but since we replaced our aging model with a new one, our confidence has been shaken. The new model just seems... confused sometimes. A lot of the time, actually. Nonetheless, I placed my confidence in the little GPS and sought out new adventures in southern Maryland.

First I saw there was a mormon temple within a mile of our location, and I figured since we were in the D.C. area, it would likely be an architectural spectacle. Indeed, it didn’t disappoint; but, the kids weren’t particularly impressed (wise children, ours), and I again turned to nüvi to show us the way. I found something called Historic Londontown and Gardens in Maryland, which appeared to be close to Annapolis and along the Chesapeake Bay. “Hmm...this sounds interesting,” said I. Having never heard of Londontown, and hoping for a hidden gem, we set out for a 35 mile trip along US-50.

I didn’t share our destination with the kids, lest I had to deal with a tsunami of groans and moans of having to endure another “museum.” They evidently thought we were headed home and were dismayed when we pulled into the gravel lot at the end of a dead end street on the bay. What we found, after cajoling them out of the truck and toward the oldish, plank-board structures, was an amazing little village and park to which they took an immediate liking. The place was nearly uninhabited - we didn’t see many vehicles in the lot, and we didn’t see another soul for the first 45 minutes we were there.

The kids were immediately drawn to what appeared to be a 17th or 18th century home. It was open and the interior was very accessible, and the kids became enthralled at all that the house and surrounding property had to offer: an enormous hearth with drying herbs and flowers hung above it; a sharpening wheel and woodworking tools; period homemade furniture and mattresses; an arbor under which rested a rope-making machine, a hand-made ladder and other evidence of wood carving; a small garden; and a large barrel, presumably for capturing and storing water.

From there, our eyes and curiosity were drawn to a large brick building and its companion well standing near the water’s edge. Eamon and Aine were convinced we could walk inside and take a look around, but the doors were all locked. We strolled down to a rickety pier and enjoyed a view of the waterway and its shores, including a different perspective of Londontown. The clouds in the east were pinkish and the sea air swirled around us as waves from passing fishing boats lapped at the pier’s piles. The kids and I agreed it would be nice if Momma could be there with us (even if she was enjoying some much-needed alone time).

We strolled back up toward some more modern buildings and the sound of music. By then, the parking lot was full, and many young families, not unlike our own, were ambling toward a shaded, grassy area where many blankets were laid out and live music was being enjoyed. Another stroke of luck, but we didn’t stay long. We took a stroll along a path through the gardens where we happened upon some beehives, an aging gazebo and a pleasant sitting area near the shore. Eamon and Aine pulled a couple of long, waxy leaves from a low-hanging tree, which immediately became phones, prompting telephonic conversation along the way.

The insects were getting a little too friendly for Aine’s liking, so we walked back to the truck, eager to return home and share our serendipitous adventure with Heather.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Making Lists

This week has been much like the last. I worked alternately on the mystery shawl  and garter swing sweater. I have finished clue 2 for the Stephen West mystery shawl, which means I am halfway done. The knitting has been easy, although I have decided that I dislike purling light fingering weight yarn. I am still not sure what I think of the design. It looks a bit like a superhero cape to me. I just need to wait until Friday to see what the next clue entails and decide if I keep or gift it. Eamon is starting to hint that he may want it. The red sweater is going quickly. The yarn is an aran weight, so it is fast. I am an increase or two from splitting for the sleeves. It is so nice to pair this knit with the mystery one. I can actually read while knitting this sweater, since I only need to pay attention every other row for the increases.

In between knitting these two projects, I have begun making lists. The Ravellenic Games begin on Friday. I am planning to participate in a few events. I had wanted to finish the languishing socks on my needles, but they haven't been sitting long enough to count as a WIP. Instead I will be competing in the modular event with the hope that I will catch up on my granny square sampler afghan. I need to crochet 16 squares to catch up. I am sure I can do it if I really focus. The third Camp Loopy project starts on Friday as well. I have the yarn at the ready, but haven't decided on the pattern. Once decided, that project will count toward the shawl sailing event. The final event I am considering involves swatching. I have a few upcoming projects which require fair isle gauge swatches. I figure now is a good time to do those. I am also hoping this will force me to do a true gauge swatch complete with blocking. Eek!

While working on the red sweater and planning my involvement in the games, I finished two books. I enjoyed both The Story Sisters and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The kiddos really enjoyed the latter. I think I read almost half the book to them on Monday. They kept wanting another chapter. We are reading it with others as part of the Read Aloud Book Along with Annie of Bird and Little Bird. I appreciate all the work she does for this project, and we all wonder what the activity will be for the novel. My next read is one recommended by Amanda and is entitled When God Was a Rabbit. I may need something light after this one as the past few books I have read included kidnapping of a child, drug abuse and molestation. Heavy topics for this mama.

So what have you been knitting and reading this week? If you are looking for good project and book ideas, head on over to Ginny's for more yarn along posts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Could Stay All Day

I knew a repeat visit to Shenandoah was needed before we left this area. We settled on another trip to Big Meadow entering the park at the northern end this time. It was just beautiful. The weather was mild and the views were stunning. Low clouds hung around the mountain eliciting excitement from the kiddos. The wanted to touch a cloud. With hungry bellies, we stopped at the visitors center and sat on the back deck to eat.

Much to the kiddos delight two young deer were hidden in the nearby grasses. We watched them eat, play and hide for a long time before heading into the meadow ourselves. We travelled across the expanse of the meadow searching for wildlife and being rewarded with wild blueberries. The kiddos stopped and picked some berries stuffing them into their mouths greedily. Such fun to find them along the way. Dave and Benton turned back as the gnats were finding Dave irresistible; the feeling was not mutual.

With Eamon and Aine skipping and running along, we hit the forest and made our way back. We found some scat and talked about how we would handle a bear. They thought it was funny that I recommended bunching together, standing tall and making a lot of noise while waving our arms (a little Girl Scout trick). As we returned to the visitor's center, I spotted a buck near the road. he already had quite a few observers already. We moved closer and watched him eat. Aine was so very excited to see a daddy, since "all (she) ever sees are mamas and babies." She also noticed the velvety antlers. I gave them a little lesson on white-tailed deer versus mule deer with a hat tip to my dad. (I also told them GrandDad could tell them more than they ever wanted to know about deer).

When the buck had leaped off, Eamon recommended finding the rest of our family. We started to meander our way back along the road. As I stopped to take a few photos, a gentleman we passed told us to look again. The buck was on the move. I had to laugh a bit at the crowd which turned in a panic and ran as that deer headed straight for the spot where everyone was standing. It ran across the street before reaching a small standing of trees. It turned once more, and we all agreed it looked very majestic standing in the woods.

Our drive out of the park was rewarded with another bear sighting. This time he came so close to the vehicle. I snapped quite a few photos as we watched him uncover rocks and dropped trees looking for food. With his tongue hanging to the side, he ambled right by our car giving us a perfect view of his antics. It was a perfect way to end our day in such beauty.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cooler Temperatures

With the cooler temperatures after the rain this weekend, I donned my latest socks. I never was able to wear them when they came off the needles a month ago due to the summer time temperatures. For some reason 70-80 degrees seemed cool enough to wear them. They fit really well. I love everything about them from pattern to color. I am eager now to start another pair of socks or perhaps at least finish the ones I have already started.
Pattern: Achillea by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy Into the Mystic colorway
Needles: Size 1 magic loop

Sunday, July 22, 2012


 (This is Dave racing by near the midpoint. What do you mean you can't tell. It isn't easy getting a photo of someone running in the rain at night with three kiddos)
Happy to be done and enjoying a malty beverage

Last night we ventured out in the evening for some fun. Dave mentioned a few weeks ago that he would like to run in an upcoming 5K with a few of his coworkers. His night had finally come, although none of his coworkers did! As we walked to the race point, we passed many runners. Aine kept pointing them out, and we enjoyed comparing race wear.

Race headquarters was on a grassy area complete with DJ. Dave assessed the situation and warmed up, while the kids and I enjoyed some music complete with a bubble machine. With booming sounds, the racers lined up. The best time last year was just under 15 minutes. We knew right out of the gate it would be fast. Boy was it ever. The kiddos loved yelling at all the runners. They enjoyed yelling at daddy best though. Aine even made a sign which read, "Go Dad, Go Dad, Go Dad. Don't Give Up."

After the fast start, we moved to the other side of the race course to cheer at the midpoint. The kiddos were a bit amazed at all the people. They wondered where daddy was and why he hadn't passed yet. I had to explain the difference between a 5 minute mile and a 10 minute mile and how both are impressive. It was also hard to explain that even those people near the end were working hard. I spotted Dave, and we all yelled. It had begun to rain so photos were tricky. We continued to cheer and wave as Dave neared the finish. He completed the course in the rain in under 30 minutes. Not too shabby for this twilight run.

Friday, July 20, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cooler Evenings

With a storm blowing through, we welcomed a bit of relief from the hot days. After several hours at the library, we hit the park. Two huge piles of sand on the volleyball court were the biggest draw. Thunder, lightening and a bit of rain brought an end to the visit, but we really enjoyed our time outside.

Willy Nilly

My pink sweater is done. I spent the morning last week seaming the shoulders and sleeves. I took my time, and they look great. I followed these directions, which helped a lot. Once I had the seaming done I tried it on. It fit well. I loved the look, the color, and the style. I didn't like the collar. It was a bit wonky, so I tinked back and redid the collar. I picked up the recommended stitches and knit the last few rows. Bliss! It looks fantastic now. I tried to find buttons this weekend at a local store, but forgot the sweater. Even with Eamon's help pulling out buttons, I just couldn't commit without trying them with the actual sweater. I hope to venture out again this week in search of the right ones. I am eager for cooler weather, so I can wear this. (I also am eager for cooler weather as it is humid here. Phew!)

With the sweater done, I spent a lot of time plotting my next project. I still had a few days before the Stephen West MKAL. I decided to actually do a gauge swatch for that shawl, finish the book I was reading, and then begin another sweater. My gauge worked out well, but I ended up changing the yarn. I wanted to use Swans Island fingering in charcoal, but I learned that the indigo could crock and may discolor the result. It definitely discolored my hands as I wound it into a ball. I plan on using it in a single color item instead. A quick color change, aided by my local knitting friends' help in color matching, and I was able to finish the first clue. I am not sure about the pattern yet, but I am willing to forge ahead and see where the mystery takes me.

With the gauge done, last night I set about starting the next sweater. Summer is my time to knit big items (last year I made myself three sweaters). It doesn't make logical sense due to the heat, but makes perfect sense in timing. The next two sweaters I want to make are the Garter Stitch Swingy Sweater and Nanook. I fortunately have yarn for both here in D.C. Previously I did gauge swatches for each, so I figured I was ready to go. I opened up my notes for the first sweater and noticed how thorough my scribblings were. The only thing missing in the gauge information was the actual needle size. I had all the information about stitches per inch, rate of decrease, lengths, and measurements, but no needle size. ARGH! So last night, I cast on for the second sweater. While doing that I checked one last spot for the needle size. Voila! I found it, and cast on for that sweater too. All this willy nilly casting on should produce a sweater or two in the next month.

With a project off the needles and several beginning, I took a few moments to finish the book I was reading. The Butterfly Cabinet was a better read once I actually took time to sit down and read it for longer than a few minutes. It still was a bit slow, and I didn't think the surprises were that amazing. I am not sure I would read it again. I find I am stingy with my reading time and only recommend those books I truly enjoy. We all enjoyed Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms. Eamon wanted to pre-order the next book in the series. We are also enjoying Where the Mountain Meets the Moon very much. The kiddos want to read "just one more chapter" every time I try to set it down.

So, what are you knitting this week with Ginny? Do you ever make meticulous notes only to find crucial information is missing? What books would you recommend over all others?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Slowing Down

For those paying attention our little family is slowing down. It has really warmed up here. Dave and the kiddos ventured out yesterday for some treasure-hunting (geocaching). I stayed home to catch up on some quiet alone time, reading and knitting. They stumbled home two hours later drenched in sweat, but full of stories about their great finds. It was a hot one out there.

Instead of grand adventures in our adopted town, we have been:
* swimming
* visiting the library in the evening when it is cooler and stopping at the park before walking home
* venturing forth after dinner to catch fireflies
* watching movies
* running errands that involve returning online purchases which were too big (I bought myself a few new clothes)
* meeting friends at the local yarn store and chatting for a bit while browsing during the stores third anniversary (more on the purchases later)
* lots of reading (our new chapter book is this)
* playing a bit of wii upstairs
* more swimming
* classes at the nature center; Eamon loves his rocks
* playing with friends at the park enjoying a play pool and sprinkler very much
* trying to determine our departure date and road trip route back to Arizona
* staying cool

This week is full of more cool relaxation, but I think I miss some of our adventuring. There will be a bit of that too.

Not sure