Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

Doing it the Finnish Way! February 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 7:51 am
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Valentine’s Day is a holiday pretty much designed to make at least half of the adult population of the United States feel grumpy.  There is not a holiday that I have essentially said “Bah Humbug!”  to more.  I was single for a good long chunk before I was married and each v-day seemed to come around on a particularly non-dating patch in my life.  I’ve had anti Valentine’s parties where everyone was supposed to wear black, I’ve had “fuck it! No one else is gonna buy me flowers and dinner!” nights where I bought myself flowers that I wanted (hint: it is so not roses. As part of the horticulture industry I know all too well how these flowers are handled up to the big day and why they seem to last all of 15 minutes after you get them. But that’s an entire other blog post…) and had a romantic dinner alone.  I’ve completely ignored the day acting as though it didn’t exist at all and have had a few where the other person and I sort of half-assed it with a card or something and candles at dinner.

However, last year I ended-up spending Valentine’s day in Finland with Malin.  I really felt badly about taking her away from her (then) boyfriend on this big romantic holiday until she explained something to me.  In Finland, Valentine’s Day is about friendship not romantic love-dovey crap.  I wanted to move to Finland right then and there.  Finally a country that gets it!  And gets it RIGHT!  I mean, isn’t friendship the basis of love?  If you are in a romantic relationship with someone, shouldn’t they be a friend first and foremost?  And if there is one thing that I have learned in the past year is that friends are so very important in our lives.  In some ways, much more important than the romantic relationships that we enter into.  Having friends that have your back no matter what is so much more important than having someone to date.  I wish that I had understood this when I was in my 20’s.  It would have made my life a lot easier.

So this year and from now on out, I am declaring this.  Valentine’s Day, for me, is going to be all about celebrating the friendships in my life.  Fuck the candy. Compost the roses. Give Mr T the jewelry. Drink the champagne with your friends and let them all know just how much they mean to you.*

So Happy Valentine’s Day!  Celebrate the Finnish way, which might also involve some vodka…

*I’m not going to diss cards because A.) I love greeting cards with a passion that borders on the insane and B.) there are lots of non-romantic Valentine’s Day cards available and they may be a really good way to tell your friend that you love and appreciate them.  In a friend way, of course.  Unless you love-love them, in which case you need to just sack-up and tell them to their face, ok?  That would be an inappropriate use of greeting card technology.  Even if you use one of the recordable greeting cards.


The Surprise January 26, 2012

After having a pretty rough week today I got the nicest surprise in the world.  It was a Christmas/Birthday package from my friend Barbro in Finland with all sorts of lovely goodies in it for me!

There were these awesome wrist warmers (which I put to use as soon as I took the picture of them!).

There was an awesome pair of socks which fit perfectly!

There were yarns!

There were even BUGS!!!!!

There was a beautiful project bag.

And a scarf knit from handspun yarn, with a skein of the same yarn!

There was a tiny mitten keychain so little it barely fits on my thumb!

There was 2 different chocolate bars along with a package of tiny dog themed buttons, a hand painted heart ornament, a ceramic fox button and a little tractor themed pot watcher!

This one is white chocolate and blueberries!

Near the bottom of the box there was an amazing kit from Riihivilla yarns.  This is a Finnish yarn company that specializes in using Finn sheep wool and using only natural dyes to dye it.  I bought a skein of their sock yarn when I was in Helsinki with Malin a couple of years ago and it is lovely, lovely yarn.  (BTW, the instructions are both in English and in Finnish in case you were wondering!)

And the thing that my mom tried to claim for her own (but I didn’t let her) is an amazing shawl.  The pattern is the Red Dragon Shawl by Tuulia Salmela.  You can find more information about it on Barbro’s Ravelry page about it.

I already want to make one.  Mom really wants me to make one!

Thank you Barbro.  It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed!


Random Bits November 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 11:31 pm
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My dogs have adopted a kitten.

Please excuse the lack of sheets. I was washing the bedding that day. I didn't have the heart to kick them off they were being so damn cute!

I have to watch Weezy when she is around the kitten as she tends to get a little exurberant with her face cleaning sometimes flipping the kitten over!

So far, we are calling her Sweetie Pie as she is very much one.  Meara does not like her and wants nothing to do with her.  If anyone is interested in adopting her, I would love for her to go to a good home.  As you can see, she gets along with dogs:-)

My friend Tini is still podcasting.  Check her out here or on iTunes!

This week I helped my mom give a little talk about Finland to a local nursing home.  I would have never guessed 4 years ago that I would be a local expert on Finland!

I stopped-by a Salvation Army center this week to drop-off a bag full of toiletries that we found around the house.  Most of them were the little travel sized ones from various hotels that my mom has stayed at over the past few years.  These are good for folks that are coming to a shelter.  Anyway, I was there at lunch time and was amazed at the number of people coming in for a hot meal.  And most of these folks were elderly.  It’s almost time for the Salvation Army bell-ringers to start their work.  Don’t just pass these folks by while you are out doing your Christmas shopping.  If you have enough money to buy presents, you can dump at least a little change in their kettles.  Really, I got to see first hand what this money is going to.  I think that everyone should.  So get in the Christmas spirit and help someone down on their luck.  It is only by the grace of God that we are not there ourselves…


Finland (and a tiny bit of Africa) February 21, 2011

Last week I was in Finland.

This was a slightly postponed birthday trip (it seems that my birthday trips keep getting later in the year, if I keep it up at this rate, I’ll be taking my birthday trip in June when I’m 80!) as my birthday is at the end of January.  However, I thought that it was perfect to spend Valentine’s Day in Finland as they celebrate it more as a “friends day” rather than breaking out the fuzzy love cuffs.

So, for most of the time that I was in Finland, it was cold, even by Finnish standards.  Here’s proof from the thermometer in the car driving us around one day on our massive yarn crawl.

However, I did get to see a lot of stuff.  Malin and I went to the massive castle in Turku for several hours.  They have a self-guided audio tour that you can take that you can download to your own iPod or whatever.  I had it on my phone, and it was most educational (not to mention handy!).

In the medieval parts of the castle there were a lot of paintings on the walls as well as quite old carved wooden statues that have survived the centuries.  All of the old wood (and later textiles) that have survived amazed me (coming from a climate here in England that tends to rot wood and textiles).

We went to various places in Turku, including the heated street (which I didn’t get a picture of for some reason).  It is an entire pedestrian street that has, essentially, in-floor heating underneath it.  This keeps it free from snow and ice so that it is nice to walk on even in the winter!

Malin and I then stopped in Tampere for an afternoon on our way up to Vaasa.  In Tampere we went to 2 yarn shops and a bead shop where I (apparently) also didn’t take any photos.  I did, however, get lots of yarn and oodles of beads.

I also spent some time tooling around Vaasa with Malin.  We went to the longest bridge in Finland for lunch.


This was called the "Bridge Burger" Yes that is a fried egg on top of it with a slice of melted cheese on top. Yes, I was in heaven.


And then we went to the Vaasa museum for a couple of hours.  There were lots of knitted, crocheted, nal-bound and woven garments all through the museum.

There were lots of knitted, crocheted and woven garments all through the museum.

There were also 2 spinning wheels and a ton of distaffs and spinning accessories that were made out of wood and quite often painted gaily!


I just thought that these metal whole-leg sock blockers were fun. Very much like some that you can get brand-new today!



I spent a few days with Barbro at her house just outside of Vora (it’s not spelled correctly as I couldn’t get the proper scripts to show up. If I had wanted it in Chinese, I would have been set!).  There I got my first ski lesson of my life (cross-country, not downhill!) and spent a lot of time admiring the beauty of the Finnish countryside from inside a toasty house!




Barbro took this picture for me. Proof that I actually strapped two sticks to my feet:-)


Then the three of us (Malin, Barbro and I [Kasper the dog was invited but declined politely]) went on our yarn crawl.  I didn’t take many photos except for these of the BIG yarn store that we visited in the middle of nowhere and the road there, which was pretty much one entire icy patch.  It was like I imagine being on a luge course would be like!

This store was fun in the way that it would have 100% acrylic right next to cashmere.  It didn’t take itself too seriously and was obviously in the business of selling lots and lots of yarn, whatever kind you might be looking for!

You should go check out Malin’s Blog and Barbro’s Blog to see what they say about the trip!  I however, got LOTS of yarn and not a lot of photographs (I only took my phone on this trip, thus please forgive the quality of the photos!).

So, this will give you an idea of how much I brought back with me:

I have a small collection of these baggage tags from all over the world.  It’s pretty easy to do with this big suitcase.  Generally it’s not a matter of, “will it all fit?” it’s more, “will it weigh too much?”.  However, this bag was pretty well stuffed to the gills this time.


This is the yarn that I brought home...



Some fun seed beads that I picked-up in Tampere

These heart beads were on sale since it was Valentine's Day

These buttons were part of my "goodie bag" from Barbro

This is a knitted band to hold your fiber when you are spindle spinning it! Another part of Barbro's Goodie Bag



A Mumin towel and some herbal salve also from Barbro's Goodie bag (there was also lots of Chocolate and some Jams in there, but, erm... they are already mostly gone!)

Some little sheep that I got at a crafty type shop

So yeah, I bought toilet paper and tissues... But they have LAMBS on them! And the lambs are embossed INTO the toilet paper!

Nearly everyone in Finland has some sort of reflector attached to their coats so that it is easier for drivers to see them. Very smart I think!

I know, I know! Clothes rollers?!? But I'm telling you, these ROCK! And they have the super intelligent cover on them!

These are some wooden sheep that I found on clearance!!!! (God, I love that word!)

These were a joint project between Malin and her honey Mika. They are for wrapping your hand spun lace weight around so that it doesn't get damaged.


The whole trip was amazingly relaxing, with lots of laughter and lots and lots of good food from all directions.

I got home last night to some ecstatic dogs and cats and a very clean house.  The hubby had even invested in a system to clean our very, very tall windows!  However, the wonder hubby wasn’t here, as he had left for Dubai the day before (don’t worry, the dogs and diabetic cat were in the kennel!).

Today I went over to the neighbors to take them a little thank you gift of reindeer soup and cloudberry jam and they had a little surprise for me from Africa (you were wondering where that came in, weren’t you???).  The month prior to my trip they had been in Zimbabwe, which is where they are from originally.  They brought for me this amazing basket with a lid that fits perfectly.

And a bag that looks like it has been made out of a couple of different types of twine and hand carved buttons:

And this wire hook with a beaded spider on it.  It is a spider and not a bug as it has 8 legs…  I’m quite sure that you were worried about that!

It was fun to travel, but it is good to be home again!


Christmas and Pups January 13, 2011

So, the application is done and dusted and sent off to Imperial College to pore-over and now I get to work on a few things.  I didn’t really feel right blogging too much when I had this application looming over my head, like a great e-sword of Damocles.  However, it is done and there is nothing more to be done about it now except to wait.

Kali helping finish up the application

First off is Christmas.  So yeah, I’m blogging about Christmas on the 13th of January, big whoop.  It happened in my life and I am going to write about it.  I got lots of lovely presents including many, many books (which always makes me happy) and lots of white cake mix (can’t get it here, thus it is a luxury) and a Phat Fiber box.  Probably the most popular Christmas gift this year though was the little Halogen space heater that the neighbor gave me.  An electric fire (what I’ve been calling it) like that is a good way to bring the entire family together!


And this doesn't count the Martha Stewart mammoth that came later! (Yes, there will be book reviews!)

I had lots of fun opening the Phat Fiber box on Christmas!

Some alpaca fiber from the Phat box with the X-Files set behind

Lots of mini skeins of sock yarn (perfect!) from the Phat fiber box

Little samples of fiber to play with from the Phat box!

We went over to the neighbors for Christmas dinner, which involved a great deal of alcohol.  This is something that the hubby and I picked-up on last year when listening to radio programs and everybody was making jokes about being pissed on Christmas (pissed as in the British meaning of drunk not the American meaning of angry [or, you know, actual peeing]).  I think that this may go a long way to explaining why Santa rides through the village in a sleigh, mounted on a wagon, pulled by a lawn tractor ending-up in the pub.  Yes, you read that right, the Ivinghoe Aston Santa goes to the pub on Christmas, I mean, where else would Santa go after delivering all those presents?!?!?  Anyway, we had a wonderful time with our neighbors and their family.  The highlight of the night was when I got a trivial pursuit question about what cheese is from the  village of Hawes and I let out a whoop (I had had a few at that point) as I actually knew the answer to it!  (It’s Wensleydale Cheese before you all hit the Google).  Before y’all totally roll your eyes, I had spent most of the night listening to them rattle off obscure (at least to me) British historical facts, so the fact that I, an American knew the answer and that they, a room full of well educated Brits didn’t, was quite exciting to me.

(I’ve just re-read the last paragraph and have decided that I need to get a life immediately.)

New Years was quiet, like the hubby and I tend towards.  Neither of us are party animals, so going out on a night when there are tons of drunks wandering about just doesn’t appeal.  We usually stay home and have a fondue party for two.  This year we just did cheese, no chocolate, but it was still good.  Drank a little fizzy drink and then went to bed.  I know, you just can’t keep up with us party animals!!!

The Beacon, sometime around Christmas

Truth be told, the whole holiday season was mostly about chilling-out on the couch watching X-Files (I got the entire series on DVD from the hubby. 2nd most loved present this year!) and knitting.  Oh, the sock yarn blanket has done well!  I am making it large enough to fit over the top of an IKEA king-sized bed. (If anyone has any sock-yarn leftovers that they don’t need anymore they would be well-loved here!)

Milo must investigate the blanket on the bed.

Willma Attacks! Oh God what are we going to do?!?!?!?

Milo decides that everything is better with cat butt. The End.

Since moving here Christmas has become a smaller affair.  Fewer parties (the hubby’s work only does parties for employees, not partners), fewer presents (shipping is just too damn expensive to/from the US!), less decor (no lights outside).  The funny thing is that of all of it I miss getting presents for other people the most.  In the US I would start shopping in January for Christmas.  I LOVE buying and wrapping presents!  It’s about a million times harder here because A.) Everything needs to be physically small to be able to ship it B.) Also not too fragile C.)Things just don’t go on sale or clearance here like they do in the US, thus everything is more expensive too.  I’m not complaining about getting fewer presents, rather about being able to give them.  My favorite year was one that I got a passel of Christmas stockings at the after-after-after Christmas sale (like in February) for mere cents each.  I then filled these stockings up with fun, small things (they were pretty good-sized stockings) and sent them off to my friends.  They were heavy and a bitch to pack, but they were so well received….  I would like to be able to do that again sometime (and I wish that I had taken pictures of the dozen or so stockings that I filled that year!).

This was the bulk of the Christmas shipping this year...

Last week was a week of packages.  I got a book that had been shipped on the 15th of December for Christmas on the 5th of January (yeah, the shipping in this country was that messed up over the holidays! I also got a rockin’ package from my friend Tini in Germany.

This Awesome bag with the totally rocking button that Tini MADE!!

Two books that Tini sent. It was a very cool box (and I have eccentric reading tastes, I know!)

Some Luscious alpaca (I believe) laceweight yarn in a much prettier red than any camera that I have seems to be able to take a photo of

Socks! Tini made me SOCKS!! (there is a picture around here somewhere with them on, just can't find it right now, but they fit PERFECTLY!)

A cute doggie cookie cutter

Candy, tea and tissues. To appease the snot monster???

This year instead of going to Chicago for my annual must-go-somewhere-insanely-cold-for-my-birthday trip, I am going to Finland.  My friend Malin has promised to try to teach me how to cross-country ski (and she says knit socks at the same time, I’m dubious about this idea given my coordination) and that I will get to see lots of snow.  I have my long underwear ready to go!  I don’t leave until the 11th of Feb as I am currently watching the neighbors 2 dogs as well as my 3.  The neighbor gets back on the 11th so that she can walk Mal during the day while I am gone.  I’m quite looking forward to going back to Finland and seeing Malin and Barbro again.

Now, here are some random photos of, what I call, Peace on Earth from an Electric fire and the cute dogginess that is going on around here right now..

Kali and Fluffy, our dogsitting charges for the next month (Kali is Malcolm's "girlfriend")

Weezy REALLY loves the heater

Kali is nervous about the couch as the sectional tends to push apart at that end and she's ended-up on the floor a couple of times already!

The blond sisters. They really are that cute in real life too!

And last but not least, a gratuitous cute Meara shot!


Estonia, Finland and the Stansted Airport Carpark December 6, 2010

So I’m sitting here this morning having my breakfast of Skittles and Dr Pepper (What?  This isn’t your typical breakfast?) and editing pictures of the trip to Estonia and Finland and I realize that I am supremely weird.  Not eccentric, not odd, not a little la-la but full-on weird.  I WANTED to go to ESTONIA and FINLAND in NOVEMBER!!!!  And I’m planning on going to Finland again in late January/early February!!!  Nuts.  absolutely nuts I tell you!

Anyway, just a heads up to y’all, this is a very picture heavy post, so if you are iPhoning it or on a really slow connection or something, you may want to wait.

So, a here is your promised post about the trip.  But, you see, I can’t start on the trip unless I back-up just a little further and show you the trip project.  Yes, I decided on a special knitting project just for this trip.  And, ironically, it’s a Finnish pattern!  (That just happened, I didn’t do that on purpose as I don’t read Finnish [or Swedish for that matter, which is another language that a lot of folks there speak]).  Anyway, I was looking for an appropriate pattern that had a heavy leaves design on it for the skein of Wollmeise lace that I have in Orient (I was going to put a link here to show a better picture of the colorway on the Wollmeise site, but alas, there doesn’t seem to be one).  Anyway, I balled the yarn which was a rather larger undertaking than I anticipated as they are 300 gram hanks, a tad more than my ball winder really likes.

Fat Swift!

I ended-up diving the yarn into two cakes and cast on this pattern.

For some reason, I don't have any other photos of the balled Wollmeise so please accept this gratuitous Malcolm shot.

So I had a bit of this shawl started when we went to Stansted airport to take our EasyJet flight to Tallinn.  My bag got pulled for a hand search not because of my metal KnitPro needles but rather the 59 Euros in change that I had in the bag (the hubby never seems to use change when he travels thus we ended-up with a lot of it).  The security agent wasn’t sure if they “allowed” knitting needles and toddled off with my Wollmeise and project to find out from a supervisor.  I had checked the website for the airport as well as the national security site and neither said that needles were a no-no.  After a few minutes, she came back and said that the supervisor said that they were ok and that the yarn was pretty.  I don’t really blame the agent as the rules about what is and what is not allowed seem to be constantly changing.  However, if she had come back and said that I couldn’t take them on, I was fully prepared (and early enough for the flight) to throw a class A fit.  Luckily for everyone involved, I didn’t have to:-)

EasyJet knitting in an exit row! Scandelous!

So, we get to Tallinn and it is all very, well, underwhelmingly dramatic I’m afraid to say.  The airport could be anywhere.  The taxi was cheap to the hotel.  The hotel was, well, I guess that the hotel was a bit on the odd side.  It had a 1970’s decor style, which meant that we were looked over all night by a large photo of Jimi Hendrix on a motorcycle.  That, and the rooms were a hallucination making color of red/orange and mustard yellow.  Other than that, it was ok, and right across the road from the ferry terminal.

The next day we were up bright and early to take the ferry over to Helsinki (I know, the travel agent who booked this trip is nuts!) which was smooth and uneventful.  The ferries between Tallinn and Helsinki are HUGE, at least twice the size of the ship that I took to Shetland this summer.  There was an either 2 or 3 story bar at the back of the ship where we hung out and I knitted.

Ferry knitting. It's too damn early to be taking pictures of me!

We get to Helsinki, drop our bags off at the hotel where we are going to be staying that night, and head to the train station to catch a train to Tampere.  The train station was a seriously cool art deco mammoth.  None of my photos of the inside turned out at all, but here’s a shot of the main entrance.

While I’m there, I spotted this at the extensive news agent there.

Yeah, Florida Design magazine in a Helsinki news agent.  I guess that it’s a case of serious wishful thinking maybe?

Anyway, our train finally arrives and we get on.  It is the quietest train that either of us have ever been on.  You felt as though you should whisper like a library.  It also had outlets to be able to charge stuff, which was a serious plus.

The Frozen Finnish Countryside

We quietly pull into Tampere and sort out where we need to catch the bus to get to the craft show.  We just missed the bus pulling away, so we had a little wait for the next one.  One of the cutest things were the babies so bundled-up that they couldn’t move at all, their little arms sticking straight out from their bodies like tiny little snow angels.  I didn’t take any photos of them as cute as they were as I really wasn’t in the mood to get arrested.  However, I did spot a sheep.

Trust me, the animal is a sheep. I checked. I promise.

It was really quite brisk (I refuse to call it cold, there were no digits falling off or anything!) so the light was really nice.

Anyway, we get to the craft show and meet-up with Malin and Barbro without any incident.  The show is absolutely huge, even by my jaded been-to-Rhinebeck-and-big-shows-in-London view.  I didn’t go buck nutty buying stuff much to Tech Supports surprise.  A lot of the things that people were going crazy for there (a wall of Cascade for example) just didn’t do all that much for me.  I like to get things that are local, or very quirky, though I do understand the feeding frenzy for it.  I mean, this is a pretty big country and to get to all of the yarn shops would probably be pretty tough for most folks.  I did get a few things, but they all managed to fit in my purse:-)

This little sheep was from Savi-Jonttu.

I'm a sucker for insect jewelry!

Some Jade(?) beads from the gemstone show that was going on at the same time as the craft fair.

This is a really big circle bead that I am going to try to use for a shawl pin. It is stone of some kind...




























I got a few other little things, but most of them were gifts for other folks.  I got some lovely gifties from both Barbro and Malin while there too.

Cupcake themed soaps from Barbro, one for me one for the hubby.

Indeed, I DO ❤ Finland!

These are little wooden pot lid minders. You put them between the lip of the pot and the lid to keep whatever you are cooking from overboiling.

A doggie themed knitting bag from Barbro that is now the PERFECT size for my Finnish shawl.

Handmade soaps made by Malin's boyfriend (lucky girl!) One is manly Tar and the other is coffee.

Sheepy pj's from Barbro!!!




























After the insanity of a HUGE craft show, meeting Finnish fiber folk, and just generally being overwhelmed, it was time to go back to Helsinki with Malin.  That evening, we had a lovely, yummy dinner with Malin’s younger brother and his fiance in their apartment where Malin was staying the night.  We then headed back to our hotel and collapsed into bed.

The next day we got the COMPLETE tour of Helsinki from Malin including a run through of main Stockman department store.  I probably should mention that it snowed on and off all day while we were touring, as it did the day before while we were in Tampere.  However, it was really cool to see the city from the eyes of a native.

Malin fixing her knitting while I get in the way in front of Helsinki landmarks...

I only picked-up a few things from the various markets that we visited.  A little wool, a little food (no pictures of that as I snarfed it later in Tallinn).

Finnish sock wool from Finnsheep.

Traditional Grey Finnish sock wool.

Cute little nesting dolls pin.

That evening we boarded a very different ferry to go back to Tallinn.  Now, I should probably mention this for all of those folks who don’t know much about Estonia and it’s relationship with its neighbors.  Estonia is joining the Euro zone at the beginning of 2011.  This means that it is still running off its own currency called Kroons.  Kroons aren’t worth a whole lot.  The fast and dirty way that we would convert the prices of things was to remove a 0 and divide by 2.  So, say the price on something was 400 Kroons, then it would be about 20 quid.  Anyway, Estonia is still a LOT cheaper than a lot of its Scandinavian neighbors.  This means that a lot of folks take the ferries from Stockholm and Helsinki and go to Tallinn to buy booze and cigarettes and pretty much anything as things are a LOT more expensive in Finland and Sweden.  If you were having a wedding in Sweden or Finland, it would be cheaper to take a big vehicle on the ferry, fill it up with booze and ferry it back across than it would be to buy it in your home country.  This also means that Tallinn is a big party town for people looking to get drunk and stupid (hen and stag parties are big here).  The ferries have cheap booze because they are based out of Tallinn, so there are actually BIG liquor stores on board where you can buy a pile of cases of beer and they throw in a trolley so you can get it home.  A lot of folks view the ferries like “cruises” where they never even get off the ship, just use it as a floating drunk boat, going from bar to bar in the ship with huge dildos or silly costumes (or sometimes both) getting plastered.  Now, we had the fortune of being on this party boat on a Saturday night.  Lucky us.  People were lined-up to the bar in the ferry terminal before we even got on the ship!  To say that there were a LOT of drunks aboard this ship would be a gross understatement.  I honestly felt sorry for the families with small children because there was really no refuge from the drunken insanity. We didn’t get any alcohal from the ships store, however we did get these, which were so much more fun.

Yes, licorice Skipper’s Pipes.  How rocking is that?

Anyway, we survived the drunken masses and found a great side effect to being amongst the few sober folk on the boat in that we got the first taxi in the line, no waiting!  Our taxi ride to our hotel was picturesque and uneventful.  Our hotel was … nice.  I mean, it was nice, it’s just that we were on the 5th floor up some seriously narrow and steep stairs.  It was a bit of an adventure to sherpa our bags up that high, especially the last flight of stairs which were exactly wide enough for one person to go up them.  I do not know how they got the furniture up there considering that the windows weren’t big enough for any of it to pass through.  The only conclusion that I’ve come to is that they either A.) IKEA’ed it, meaning built the furniture in the room or B.) Built the rooms around the furniture.  Considering that the building is medieval, I’m seriously doubting B.  However, as billy goat as we had to be to get up to our room, the location of the hotel couldn’t be beat with a stick.  Especially for the price.  That damn travel agent is seriously cheap I tell you!  Anyway, the hotel was located about 2 blocks off of the town square, the center of the old part of Tallinn.  The next day we set-out in the snowfall to see the sights of medieval Tallinn.

Castles + Gnarly trees = wicked cool!

There were two women who were strangely enamored with this tower. They kept taking each other's photo's in front of it. I figured that I'd best take a photo just to not seem odd.

Dragon waterspout on the Town Hall. Never got anything nearly so cool on any town hall of anyplace I've ever lived!

This is a crocheted shop sign. The shop was not nearly as cool as their sign unfortunately.

Little shop and a phallic tower!

The famous clock of Tallinn.

This is the woolen goods market along the city wall. All of those stalls are selling knitted goods, mostly mittens and hats. I got 2 pairs of mittens. They rock. Of course I had to support the knitters! A lot of them were knitting in their stalls!

Here you can see what they are selling a little better.

This is what the city wall looks like from on top of it!

Here's a shot of the wall without the distracting knitted wares.

Here's a shot of the wall without the distracting knitted wares.

A walk along the monastery. The large stones on the wall on the right are gravestones.

One night we went to The Old Hansa restaurant where they had live music which was remarkably good. One of the travel websites said that this is Tallinn's Eiffel Tower, meaning that you HAVE to go to it if you are there.

Of course in all this wandering about I managed to happen upon a yarn store or two, as well as a lot of shops selling awesome handicrafts.

These buttons even SMELL good!

Lots of metal work in the city...

Wool to try to make a hat to match my rockin mittens!

Amber is everywhere, even though it doesn't really come from Estonia. This piece has BUGS in it! How awesome is that?!?!?

Yarn Ball earrings

Yarn ball and needle earrings

I think that I am going to have fun with this!!!!

Rainbow lace

Red "Haapsalu Lace Yarn"

Proper white Haapsalu lace yarn

Linen laceweight on the metal cone still

Rainbow color changing yarn

A big hank of naturally colored Estonian wool yarn

Wee glass ewe and lamb

My "Sunday" ladybug mittens

















































































The next day we took the bus to Haapsalu, home of the famous knitted shawls.  Ok, so a word to the wise, if you are going to Haapsalu in the winter, make sure to go on Saturday, as that is when the shawl museum is open.  In fact, it seems that pretty much everything is open on Saturday, but not on Monday.  To be fair to my travel planner, that is really the only day that we could go, but still…go on a Saturday.  And plan to take the 3 o’clock bus back, not the 5 o’clock one.

The famous White Lady window.

The (closed) Haapsalu shawl museum.

Haapsalu Castle

Proof that I didn't just go to Scotland and take a bunch of pictures. Me all babushka'ed out with my Clapotis (that reminds me, I owe a SERIOUS apology to Kate Gilbert for how many times I took her name in vain while making it. I have used the hell out of that scarf!) also wearing my rocking pair of convertible Estonian mittens which I have been showing off to every cashier at Tesco much to the hubby's amusement and the cashiers' bafflement.

More Haapsalu castle

The most verdant bathroom in Estonia. Yes, I took a picture of the bathroom.

Of course I didn’t leave Haapsalu without getting a shawl to take home with me!

I also got these fun postcards with the various traditional patterns of the Haapsalu shawls on them.

The next day (our last in Estonia) is a bit of a wizz for me due to a wicked head cold and copious amounts of drugs (see I am the Snot Monster for more about this).  We spent hours in Karnaluks ogling the sheer amount of stuff packed into a pretty big space.  It was a little weird getting in as you have to be buzzed in the door, making it feel sort of like you are getting ready to enter a sleazy strip club.  However, once in, well, I’m afraid that my mouth was agape for the first hour I was in there, and not just because I couldn’t breathe through my nose!

More yarn

More Yarn


Walls of yarn


I was so doped-up that I didn’t even think to take pictures of the rest of the store, which has everything.  There was an entire room of zippers!  Walls and walls of ribbons, beads, cords, bindings, fabric… you name it they probably had it somewhere on the shelves.  They had an entire wall of addi lace and bamboo needles for cheap.  It was nirvana.  Admittedly, a lot of the yarn was acrylic, but there was also an entire row of Rowan.  There were deals galore to be had, especially if you were looking at buying yarn by the bag.  I got a few things there…

























































After all of this, we more or less headed back to old town to eat and then repack our bags at the hotel.  By this point I was in a lot of pain so rather than try to “do” more of the city we just headed to the airport, where we had a few hours wait.  All in all, it was probably for the best that we just sat around and did nothing (well, some knitting after security). Our flight back was on time and our car was still waiting for us in the long-term carpark (I worry about these things).  Back home we went to cat litter needing changing and our own bed.


I Just Couldn’t be Arsed November 17, 2010

Yeah, that about sums up my urge to blog the past few weeks.  And I’ve stuff to blog about to be sure.  I went to Fibre Flurry in Birmingham and had a great time despite the M1’s attempt at making me miss it entirely.  I went to Loop in London, finally.  I had dinner with one of my roommates from KC and her family.  I had a tour of a prospective campus for my graduate degree.  I’ve done a lot of spinning.  The annual moving of the tender plants into the conservatory took place.  I mean, TONS of stuff has been going on, but I’ve not blogged a bit about it.  Just couldn’t be arsed.

So, a super speedy tour is deserved if you’ve hung on this long awaiting a new post.

Fibre Flurry was fun.  The M1 was not.  We (tech support came with me) were stuck on the M1 for hours going under 30mph for most of it.  However, we did finally make it, and it was great!  The building it was held in was super cool, with the exposed logs of a very old building and super modern glass and steel for other parts.  Being late to the game had its advantages as we avoided the scrum match that apparently occurred in the morning.  Since I wasn’t taking any classes, being late wasn’t the end of the world as there were only (God I sound so jaded don’t I?) 26 vendors, so it was easily doable in an hour or two.  Of course I got to chat with Jon from EasyKnits and his lovely hubby Roy for a bit as well as Ann Kingstone and the fantastic gang at The Bothered Owl.  I’ve seen most of the vendors before, though there was one that was new to me, Posh Yarn which had some absolutely lovely stuff.  I bought one skein of “Martha” sock yarn in the colorway “Running Wild” which has been my petting yarn for the past few weeks.

Loop in London is an absolutely lovely store in a very fun little shopping neighborhood.  I didn’t take any pictures (bad me!) but I did get a book and some Malabrigo lace yarn.  I could easily make an entire day of the neighborhood, which has lots and lots of vintage and antique shops on tiny back streets.  That night I met with Kirsten and her wonderful family for dinner.  It was a really lovely day to say the least!

I went to the Silwood Park campus of Imperial College London for a tour and to learn more about the masters program that they have there in both entomology and integrated pest management.  I plan on applying for one of these programs which would start next year in October.  It’s a year-long program, including research.  It would be a crappy drive to get to Ascot each day of the week, but the days seem full and well planned and I wouldn’t be driving an hour each way only to spend an hour or two in classes or something.

Tomorrow the hubby and I are leaving for Estonia and Finland.  Well, to be precise, we are going to Tallinn, staying overnight, then taking the ferry to Helsinki where the hubby may stay in the city or may come with me up to Tampere where I am meeting with Malin and Barbro and going to a big craft fair.  Then Malin and I are coming back down to Helsinki where we will get to meet her furry niece (dog) and her hopefully not so furry brother for dinner:-)  The hubby and I are then spending the night in Helsinki, then taking the ferry back over to Tallinn for the rest of the week.  I hoping that we will have some time to go up to Haapsalu, home of the lace knitters made famous in the US by Nancy Bush.

Since I have no pictures of any of the exciting things I’ve been doing, I will go to my default.  A gratuitous Meara shot:

God, she gets me every time!

(Just an FYI, the dogs and Jiji the cat are going to our local kennel while we are gone.  They love going there.  The first time we left Meara there, she came back with a pulled muscle in her, well, her bum from playing so much.  It’s a vacation for them too I think!)