Well, apparently having a part time job away from home is really affecting my ability to blog. And I miss writing. Quite a lot.
I am still a maker of yarn. It is just my luck that I decide to take a part time job at the end of a year with mediocre sales and spend the first year of said job trying to keep up with a 25% increase in yarn sales.
I tried to set a few goals for myself last year and I think I accomplished at least a couple of them. I did more knitting for pleasure. I discovered that I can justify more time for this by using some of the knit items as samples at events. This means stealing back various items from family members, and having to hear Violet tell customers “Yeah, that Leftie shawl IS pretty. It’s mine, but I don’t get to wear it because MOM is always taking it for her booth.”
I bought an electric spinning wheel last spring. I felt like it was a necessary evil because I’m sorta ruining various parts of my body by production spinning and with an e-spinner I’ll at least save wear on my ankles/knees/hips/back. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it anymore, but I don’t think we’ll ever be best friends. It is a wonderfully made machine, tiny and beautiful and silent and responsive and top of the line…but it isn’t fast enough. And as it turns out, I really like my whole body to be involved in spinning. I lose the meditative, whole body experience with an e-spinner and so I use the machine sporadically to break up long hours of treadling. Being better to my body was a fiber goal last year and the e-spinner was very good for that.
Writing more patterns would be a good goal this year. I want to make 4 sweaters, even if one or two are for kids. At least a few more shawls. Again…I really need to learn to use those darn knitting machines gathering dust in my studio.
Right now, my house is silent. Until pretty recently, this was an absolute rarity. I had young children, and a big active social life and there were always more people and children around. A decade ago, when I made supper it was unusual if I were cooking for my family alone. And our youngest girl was one of those super busy and extremely talkative children. We developed a whole host of phrases that we’d never considered when our older daughter was young. Things like “I need you to have that conversation in your head” and “You are talking so much that no one in the room has space for their own thoughts.” This may sound somewhat cruel, but trust me…it was necessary.
So until recently, silence was rare. Willow will be 22 this spring, and Violet turns 15 in June. Willow just returned from a long stint in Europe (more about that in a minute) and although she’s moved back to the farm she’s living in her own space and planning to build a house over the next couple of years. Violet has outgrown much of her hyperactivity and is now a teenager with her own interests and need for quiet private time. I became a parent about 6 weeks after my 20th birthday, and I honestly have no real idea what it is like to live without kids in the house. I can see where some of the changes are going to be awesome-the idea that I could just spend the evening writing for instance, is amazing. But living with children is hilarious and exciting and right now I’m super glad that I was never one of those stay at home moms without many interests or active social life. My whole world would be crumbling. Sometimes I am exhausted by my lifestyle, but I’m never bored. At least I will easily find things to fill the time when Violet moves out, even if they aren’t quite as amazing as raising children.
Now onto this Europe thing. Willow and her boyfriend went to Italy at the end of the summer to work as nannies. They received room and board and a little pocket money (about $80 a week) and worked about 30 hours a week. They were in the north-Torino and Milan but didn’t love Italy quite as much as they thought they might. After 10 weeks or so, they traveled to Germany to stay with a friend of ours (super loved Germany) for a couple of weeks and then to Ireland where they WWOOFed (stands for Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms) at an estate outside of Cork.
We’d been wanting to visit Europe forever, but hadn’t been able to swing it (a kid at 20 does tend to put a crimp in one’s travel plans). Willow was staying there through the holidays, so we decided to join her. Robert, Violet, and I flew out in mid December and then took a train to visit her. We spent a day exploring her host’s estate (including a 17th century manor house and 14th century ruins of Castle Creagh), then more exploration in Dublin and northern Ireland. After a week, we took the ferry across the Irish Sea to Wales and boarded a train for London. We stayed about 30 minutes from downtown for the better part of 2 weeks, then took the train to Edinburgh for the last 5 days.
I seriously could post several pages about this trip but am holding back because my posts are too long already. Some of our favorite places or things we did:
- Northern Ireland-Giants Causeway was amazing and Dunluce Castle was magic. And apparently the inspiration behind C.S. Lewis’ Cair Paravel.
- Museums-most are free and insanely good. Like, if we get a Rembrandt touring through the Seattle Art museum, everyone flocks to the exhibit and is like “Did you get a chance to see the Rembrandt?” to their friends. At the National Gallery in London, they have them by the DOZEN. We didn’t see everything that we wanted to, but particularly loved the Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Henges-Stonehenge was exactly what it looks like and definitely worth it but they get like 3000 visitors a day. No joke. It is effing crowded. I almost think I found the fact that I was able to get shots which made it appear as though we are visiting with maybe 10 other people to be more of a miracle than the great stones themselves. Better to go to Avebury. Aside from being the largest stone circle in Europe, it’s also free and you can touch all the stones. And there really were like 10 people.
- Bath-visually stunning. No words.
- Oxford-one of our top favorites. Architecturally amazing, a great combination of lofty academic tradition and village feel, and also it was pretty magical. I had my best meal of the trip and my best ever mulled wine at the Eagle and Child, the small pub which was a second home for Tolkien and CS Lewis.
- Edinburgh-although I want to say that Ireland or Oxford was the best, I think overall we all enjoyed Edinburgh the most. Maybe we’re just partial because Harry Potter was written here. Since we are all Harry Potter nerds, we did quite a lot of things related to this subject during our entire trip.
- Note-Wales was amazing and we want to go back. Soon. Think lush green magic castle land.
I should mention here that although my yarn business did pretty well this year, I am selling yarn and not drugs or guns so it’s not like I have a lot of cash. We usually are comfortable financially but mostly because our overhead is low. I drive a car manufactured in the year I graduated from high school. You get the picture. So a 3+ week trip to Europe for three plus an adult daughter and boyfriend who are broke after traveling for 3+ months was looking to be very very expensive. I had to work hard to find creative ways to reduce costs for this trip. If anyone is planning a trip to Europe on a budget, please feel free to write me and I’ll share more details on my own strategies. But for now, my best suggestion is to sign up with www.trustedhousesitters.com If you want to join, you can write to me at email@example.com ; if I refer a friend you’ll get 20% off your membership and I think I might get a free month.
We housesat in Epsom, a small town in Surrey located 30 minutes by train from Victoria Station in London. Our hosts were away for 12 days, and left us with their sweet cat Oakley and their three bedroom home. Their place was lovely, and they allowed our whole family to stay there. We fed the cat in the morning and evening, gave the kitty some attention in the evenings, and watered the plants. And this literally saved us at least $2000 because London is EXPENSIVE. This was a wonderful experience and I’m looking forward to using the site as a host in the future.
Here are a few photos of our trip-enjoy!