My failed vacation to Spain.

img_20200313_110241As we enter into another week of social distancing, I think it’s worth noting that some days are better than others. My partner and I sometimes snap at each other over nothing, only to apologize for the other being collateral damage. We literally had an argument over how long was appropriate to be in the grocery store, while trying to grab our essential items so that we could go home and cook dinner. These are crazy times, and, unfortunately, I don’t foresee things ever going back to the “way they were”. I think there will be a before COVID-19 and an after COVID-19. Before COVID-19, we went for long hikes and dreamed of a future together. We haven’t reached the “after” period yet, but the pandemic has put our relationship into perspective. We’ve taken on trials that have tested who we are as people, but have also made us realize how serious we are about each other.

received_137817770986425Spain was meant to be an exciting vacation, one booked months in advance by two people filled with wanderlust and a thirst for adventure. I think we had been dating two or three months when our plane tickets were bought, still thrilled to have gone from being friends to being more than that.

As COVID-19 began to creep around the world, we began to pay more attention to the CDC and their travel restrictions. More attention to any restrictions placed upon us by our work. I think we checked the news every five minutes on the day that we were supposed to fly to Spain. And, as we sat in the airport to board our plane, we were still confident that we had made the best decision based upon the provided information and support from our supervisors. If anything, we were more concerned about Spain letting us in because the US had more recorded cases at the time.

img_20200313_105915We left the US when everything was fine, only to arrive in Spain to the news that Europe had gone from a level 0 to a level 3 overnight. All of Europe. No one would be allowed back into the States. There were Americans literally on the floor crying because they couldn’t get home. We got our bags and checked in with our airline, all of the flights had been booked and we couldn’t change ours. There was nothing to do but get to our AirBnB and assess what was going on.

Despite the stress that now surrounded us, I can’t help but smile at the memory of boarding the yellow bus and seeing Madrid for the first time. Of getting lost because my sense of direction is terrible. Of dragging our suitcases through a beautiful bustling city. Everything was so green and full of life. At this point, it had been almost 24 hours since we had slept more than 3 hours (gotta love a cheap red-eye) and we were still going pretty strong. Our hosts let us in early, and I crashed as soon as my body hit the bed despite the strong cups of coffee.

img_20200314_063758Next came the conversation, what do we do? Flights back home had jumped from the normal amounts to $8,000 in the span of minutes. The soonest we could get home was in six days, $843 for the two of us. That was most of the money that I had set aside for the trip, but I didn’t think twice about buying the tickets. We were paying for safety, expecting that things were only going to get crazier and we needed to begin to aim for home. Once the tickets were bought there was nothing to do but shower and head out to enjoy the city. We were going to have to quarantine no matter what, so we might as well enjoy what we could.

It’s worth noting, at this point, that other than museums being closed we feel as though we were able to see and experience the tourist “go-to’s”. The crystal palace, the famous chocolate shops, the royal palace, the major plaza, etc etc. Our first two days were crammed with as much of Madrid as we could squeeze in, we covered over 30,000 steps every day. On the second day, we went grocery shopping because Spain entered a state of emergency and we started to worry about our ability to get food.

img_20200314_054803On our last day, though we didn’t know it was our last day at the time, we spent the day wandering the most beautiful parks. Taking pictures of how empty things were and selfishly enjoying the space to ourselves. The world around us felt as though it was falling apart, but we had each other and we were happy.

I woke up the next day to my partner telling me that he bought tickets to get us home that night. We agreed that it was in our best interest to get to the airport ASAP, just in case. The flight didn’t exist until that morning, and Spain was going to enter a new level of lockdown the next day. The fear of getting home had already been there, so we packed and cleaned up within the hour and headed to the airport, seven hours before our flight was scheduled to take off.

img_20200314_054144I remember that day as the never-ending day. We waited for the check-in line to open (at this point the airline we were flying was only flying this one flight). Then we waited to check-in. Waited to get through security. Waited to get through customs. Waited to board the plane. Waited to take off. Waited for the CDC to clear us. Waited for US customs to clear us. Got a rental car, drove through the night to board a bus. Got my car back and drove to pick up my dog. Got home and tried to stay awake until a reasonable hour so our bodies could readjust to the new time zone. All the while contacting our supervisors so that we could work remotely during quarantine instead of waste vacation time.

img_20200313_150006To this day, I don’t feel lucky that we didn’t get sick, I feel lucky that we were able to get home. I feel lucky that we didn’t face crazy lines trying to get through customs when we landed. I feel lucky to have gone through everything with my partner. I feel lucky that we were able to get my dog. That I’m someone who buys frozen veggies and freezes meat/bread. I watched one country lock itself down only to come home to another country beginning to. I still feel like we made the right decision to go with the information at hand, but I also feel like we made the right decision to spend a gross amount of money to get home when the information changed.

Spain was beautiful, perhaps someday we’ll have the opportunity to go back.

Millinocket Half Marathon

A large group of runners running uphill as part of the either the marathon or half marathon at Millinocket.

About a month ago I had the pleasure of running the Millinocket Half Marathon, a free event was started in 2015 to help a struggling Maine mill town that has been devastated by the closing of their major employer. The only requirement of the race is that runners support local businesses and contribute to the Katahdin Region in some way. This was such a fun way to kick off the winter season, I regret not writing about it sooner.

My friend and I picked up our bibs the night before at a craft fair, where local vendors were selling everything from honey and jam to handknit hats. We spent about an hour trying to decide what to spend our money on, everything looked so good and/or fun! I settled on some spicy jam and “guts” (pulp leftover from making hot sauce), knowing that I would want to save my cash for race day. It was really hard to limit my spending, vendors at the fair had a wonderful array of goods and everything was displayed so nicely.

Half marathon running close the passing the finish line.Post craft fair, we grabbed supplies to make our meals for the next few days from the local grocery store and headed to the place we would call home during our stay. Where we nervously ate food that we knew wouldn’t make our stomachs churn during the race.

Oatmeal in our stomachs, we pulled into the high school parking lot at prepared to jog the half-mile to the starting line. I had heard the town came out in spirit to support the runners, but I was not ready for the enthusiasm and kindness that I was met with at every turn. Almost every mile had volunteers handing out water and snacks. Spectators had dispersed themselves along the course with cowbells, jingle bells and other noisemakers to cheer us on. Runners showed up in costumes and there were a lot of people who opted to walk the 13.1 distance.

While I’m no stranger to the energy surrounding a race day, Millinocket is easily a race destination I will look forward to each year. If you’re in the area next year, I highly recommend this one!

The other plus side is the 7+ hours spent in the car allowed me to finish the Flax sweater I’ve been working on and get halfway through a pair of Vampolka mitts. So if you’re not a runner consider walking. And if you’re having trouble motivating yourself because the cause isn’t good enough, just think of all the knitting time you could have on your hands!

December Book Club: The Whale Rider

949039The copy I have of this book is a gift from one of my best friends, who purchased a used copy because he knows that I have a soft spot for books that have lived a life before coming into my possession.

It’s worth noting, before even diving into this review (see what I did there?), that the language used in this book is poetically descriptive and sets a beautiful landscape for our story. I love that each part of the book was separated by an update of the whales and what they were up to. It was a nice parallel between what was happening on shore.

The Whale Rider is a beautiful story that looks at the intersection of tradition and change. More specifically Ihimaera focuses on this idea that change does not mean the dying of tradition, but rather the strengthening of it for future generations. Kahu spends her days wanting to learn more about her culture, despite the idea that only men can carry on the tradition. When it comes time for the day to be saved, Men are called into action but are unable to make a difference on their own. Kahu, in her white dress and ribbons, finds herself knowing what to do and dives into the water to become a whale rider.

Kahu’s potential sacrifice marked a turning point for the “elders” of her tribe and the whales. As her Paka came to the realization that she was the leader he was looking for and the whale came to the realization that his original rider had moved on, Kahu risked her life to save both. Each, in turn, realizing how special the child is and how they had been living in the past.

I found myself becoming lost in this story and could hear the waves crash upon the shore. Though this was a quick read, I didn’t find myself longing for more story or more detail. The pacing of the tale and Ihimaera’s ability to put me into the story as if I was sitting in the room with the narrator, Kahu’s Uncle, listening to him tell me a story about his niece and why she is special.

It is unclear, at this time, if I will sacrifice the images I’ve created of the people I have experienced by watching the movie. A part of me fears that adaptation will miss some of the nuances that I have come to love.

For January’s book club, we’ll be stepping back into historical fiction with the Australian novel Picnic at Hanging RockWhile I don’t typically read a lot of historical fiction, I stumbled upon this title while looking for something to watch on Amazon Prime and was taken aback by the trailer. This book, I believe, will be the gothic horror that I was hoping to find in November’s book club.

791345It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.


Dyeing Experience with Smooth Rock Tripe

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It finally happened, I caught the natural dye bug. As I hike through the woods, I find myself wondering what color different things would bring to my yarn. Spending hours thumbing through beautifully illustrated natural dying books (Wild Color, The Modern Natural Dyer, and Harvesting Color, to name a few) piqued my interest, but it was not until my coworker started showing off her hand-dyed yarn that I started to become invested.

Fast forward almost a year, my coworker created a bath of Smooth Rock Tripe that she picked up while in Rhode Island and soaked for three months. The resulting dye bath looked very similar to grape juice, a dark rich purple, a color that our yarn sucked up happily and willingly.

This time around, I dyed three skeins: two of 100% wool (worsted weight) and one that began as a golden yellow. The color of the yarn post-bath and rinse is different from the dye color and the color of the yarn while in the bath. The smooth rock tripe created a cooper color when mixed with the golden yellow and a matte purple when allowed to sit on the 100% wool skeins — a very different color from the initial bath and my expectations. In other words, not exactly the look I was going for on the worsted yarn, but I’m still happy with the results.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of the cooper yarn. It will have to be used as an accent color or in a very small project. 440 yards of worsted weight is a good amount, however, I foresee at matching hat/mitten set in my future (or perhaps a wide woven scarf).

My coworker left behind some cooper water, which should create a green dye bath, and some dahlia water, which should create a yellow-orange color. I’m leaning towards dying over the worsted yarn to see if I can create a warmer color, or perhaps something with a bit of variegation. (If I end up dyeing over the worsted weight yarn, I’ll make sure to document what it looks like.)

All in all, I still feel the same way about dyeing (and spinning, when I think about it); I don’t have enough control of what I’m doing to provide me with the results I thought I was going to get. While this isn’t a bad thing and experimentation is fun, it would be nice to be in a place where I do have control and can plan out my projects.