Wednesday, July 01, 2015

There will be a new sweater

I am well on my way with my summer project of Action! My Plan of Action is to carry this plain stocking stitch knitting with me all over the place this summer, and to end up with a nice fall sweater just in time for fall. How about that?

This is the yarn: some ancient black Denim I bought on eBay some time ago. It is no longer made and is meant to fade delightfully. I really wanted to do something textural with it, so that the fading was more pronounced on the bumps and cables and nubbins, but I also wanted a super-simple project. This should still leave me with about 10 balls of it, so I am not giving up yet on the cabled gansey masterpiece.

I also need a few balls of dark blue and a few balls of lighter blue. I am using an old Denim cardigan, also bought some time ago on eBay, for the lightest, but I suspect the yarn is in fact the same as my other blue, after just a few washings to fade it. There is a very pale Denim, but I think it is even paler than the sweater I am unravelling. 

This pattern calls for the reverse stocking stitch side to be the right side, and also the pattern tells you to just secure the yarn ends and then leave them to fray, here and there. I think I won't do that! And I am still not sure about which side will be shown. 

For now I am finished with the stripes, just plugging along with black. Boring, a bit, but also fast. (Ducks to avoid smiting for being hubristic.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Action, action, action

You might think things have been quiet around here, but no, we have been running to and fro like crazy. The school year has finally finished and Arthur has graduated!

Last night was the graduation ceremony. Oh, my, very long! Of course, there is one kid who wins all the awards (Elaine counted; it was actually only six).

The school is extremely diverse, not only in population but in what they teach, so along with Arthur's nerdy math-science cohort, there were also the technical kids who excelled at auto-shop and baking, the developmentally delayed group getting certificates of achievement, people going to top universities, people starting apprenticeships, people coming back to the school to do more courses next year...

Arthur is what they call an Ontario Scholar, which means he had an 80% average over his six best courses, and he got the art prize for photography.

Getting his art award

Getting his fake diploma; the real one is safely backstage in proper alphabetical order
And for those of you who like the red carpet news, he wore a spiffy Brooks Brothers suit (hand-me-down from a friend of ours) and mismatched Crocs.

So. No more having two kids in schools across town from each other... now I will have a kid in high school and one away at university! Heavens.

We still have to enjoy the summer before that happens, though. We are going out west for almost three weeks soon, which I am quite looking forward to. As well as visiting family, we have lucked into a cottage on the west coast of Vancouver Island, so we will have sandy beaches and low tide and rainforest and all that jazz.

But first, I need to have a knitting project suitable for travelling. Oh, the fun I had looking through old Vogue Knitting magazines and revisiting old favourites. There are at least a dozen garments which I have fully intended to knit for decades now. I have finally settled on Action by Kim Hargreaves from Denim People. Not sure if I will have the loose ends fraying on my cuffs, but so far I think I will knit it as written. That's a novelty!

I am still plugging away at the temperature scarf, which has become a temperature cowl.

On June 21, halfway through the year, I started spiralling around, and at the end of the right-side row, I knit the stitch together with the edge stitch from the beginning of the scarf. It will be doubly wide, long enough to loop around the neck, lovely colours, soft wool. What could be better?

And by December 20th, it will be complete and ready for use.

Now, on with Action. Miles of stocking stitch, but at least I get a few stripes. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A museum, some buildings and a story

I did take over 300 pictures in Havana, and I'm sure you'd agree they're all simply masterpieces, but I'll round off the show-and-tell today!

On our last day we stumbled across the Museo de las Artes Decorativas.

It was the home of a wealthy Contessa, who we heard later was a mistress of Batista, and who entertained people like the Duke of Windsor in her lovely home and gardens. She fled during the Revolution, probably assuming she'd be back in a year when everything got back to normal. There was a picture of a worker with a metal detector, finding the silverware that she'd bricked up in the basement!

In 1964, the government opened it as a museum, and I think some of the pieces on display are from the house and others may have once belonged to other pre-Revolutionary connoisseurs.

The front hall, with beautiful stone floor, and a table held up by an enslaved woman. 

Ivory details applied to a wooden cabinet. We just get more politically incorrect the more we look, here. 

I do love a good elephant. There was a whole room full of Asian screens, inlaid and painted. 

A floor. The Contessa had nice marble floors, and also some pretty gorgeous carpets. 

A lot of the woodwork on the main floor was painted and had bronze bits attached like this. All the door handles had bronze filigree doo-dads around them. I'm not sure how many "homes" in Havana were this excessive, but one can sort of see why sugar cane workers would welcome a revolution. 

I don't know why this one won't stay rotated; really, it looks better if you just tilt your head to the right... More fancy floor, with a touch of fantastic pink and green carpet to the side.  

This is in the dining room. It was hard to get a decent picture of the dining table; it was covered with these chandelier-like trees, which I think are merely decorative, and so much glassware it was just crazy. This set-up must be just for a wee tipple before the other guests arrive. 

The lights were also completely over the top.

This one is, of course, way up on the ceiling, but each globe has some ancient heroes etched on it. You might not think to put Achilles on your dripping-crystal chandelier, but someone did. 

Another chandelier. You can see some of the drippy bits are discoloured with age, and the ball at the bottom reflects the whole room, upside-down. I do love this and want a gigantic house just to have such a thing. 

Outside. The garden was not so excellently kept up as the inside, and if they were clever they would set up a little place selling cold water. Maybe when the hordes of tourists come someone will think of this. 

We had fun being goddesses. 

A few more stunning interiors, just for fun, like the Museo de la Revolución, the former Palace of the Presidents. The interior of the palace was done by Tiffany, so now you see the glass cases with Che's shoe or pages of Fidel's speeches, with little bits of glamour and glitz hidden behind. 

The central dome, with mosaics, gilding, marble, glass...

The palace even has a Versailles-like Hall of Mirrors, which is being renovated right now. 

This is in the president's office, complete with a bust of José Martí, who is honoured now as a revolutionary along with the modern ones. He fought for Cuba's independence from Spain in the 1890s. 

Although you can't tour the kitchens of the Contessa's house (which made me very unhappy, let me say), you can take a look at the bathroom off the president's office. I was pleased to note he didn't get a seat -- we often found that you could have paper or a seat, but rarely both. 

One more vision of crazy opulence: the Bacardi building. We could only walk around on the main floor, but that little peek was overwhelming enough. 

How many colours of marble does one elevator need?  

The floor! Oh, heavenly! Our shadows look a bit crazy because we were carrying bags and posters and whatever. 

Ah, we arrive at the final evening. We went to a restaurant I had read about, and that was a very clever move on our part. One of the owners (many restaurants are owned by the government, but "paladares," or family restaurants are cropping up all over the place) is a Canadian who has lived in Cuba for over 20 years. He came out to the terrace where we were sitting to and we chatted for a bit about Cuba and Cubans and Fidel and prosperity and government... Very nice, I wish we'd met him at the beginning of our trip! The food was good, but the highlight was the view. The building is on the Malecón, the seawall along the north edge of the city, and the restaurant is on the third floor, so the views of the sunset over the water are magnificent. 

We returned to the hotel (in a convertible Ford from 1953), packed our bags, set our alarm for 5 am so we could get the bus to the airport and all was well... till around 10:45 pm when my friend wanted to go out for a last smoke before bed (she had some funny habits, like smoking and also purloining meat from the breakfast table to feed to stray cats). 

But! She couldn't get the door open. We both turned the knob on the deadbolt, and the handle turned but the bolt stayed right where it was. So we phoned the desk, they told us someone would come.... Guy comes, tries the door, yells through at us to jiggle the handle. We tell him we've done that. 

Guy goes away. Comes back with more guys, a chisel, a drill... They do a bit of shaking of the door, go away, the woman from the front desk calls and tells us to turn the handle.... Finally, around midnight, they break the door frame and set us free! 

photo by T Teskey

I'm glad we didn't have to go through that all at 5:30 in the morning! We would have missed our bus, for one thing. We had to move rooms, of course. It was not soothing, let's just say that. And my camera battery was dead. Time to go home!

Monday, May 25, 2015

More pretty pictures

I'd love to show you all my Cuba pictures, but I'm editing like heck here. We'll start with a few pictures from the hotel. 

The elevator only took children with an accompanist. Tee hee.

And this is the handrail in the hotel elevator. Not much left on the wood. The elevators did work fine, though!

A couple of car pictures. The yellow beauty above was spotted in the Plaza de la Revolución when we went through on a bus tour (on the second day, after walking 26,000 steps on the first day). I assume the fellow with the car will gladly take you for a ride, for a fee, but am not certain. 

And below, just some cars artfully arranged with some of the trees that looked like rhododendrons gone crazy. 

Oh, heck, let's look at more cars!

We were not really driving this baby. The cab driver took about a million pictures of us in the car, waving, standing up and so on. It was a Studebaker from 1951, I believe. 

There was a lot of this sort of thing: parking your nice car in front of a coordinating building. We wondered why a lot of them were painted pink -- to appeal to the ladies? 

Me and another cab. Cheaper, because not as flashy! On our way to dinner on the last night. 

Just a nice old green car. 

Wow, this one was obviously well loved. 

Practically a Cuban Batmobile, from the back. When we looked in the side windows, though, we saw broken windows, missing chrome, cardboard on the seats. Maybe the owner of this does not have a cousin in Miami to send him parts. 

And back to the bus tour and the Plaza de la Revolución. Huge, as you can see. 

You might not recognize this guy, Camilo Cienfuegos. He was one of the big three revolutionaries, along with Fidel and Che Guevara. (I misnamed him in this post: the third man is definitely Ceinfuegos and not Raúl.) 

If you don't recognize Che, I'm sorry to say that you are not alone. When we were in the airport on our way home, someone (who had apparently spent their time soaking up the sun at a resort and not going to museums in Havana) wondered why this one guy was on all the T-shirts. Honestly, I was gobsmacked. 

Some delightful glass in an awning to get away from politics and back to just gawking. 

More pictures from the bus tour: the lovely polka-dot building that could use some care, and a great coloured, curving-balconied, palm-tree-in-front building!

Followed by the building with a lace panel up the middle...

... and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, against a clear blue Cuban sky. 

These three brick towers are outside of the Museo de las Bellas Artes, Cuban collection. And they represent...

yes, indeed, three kinds of screwdrivers. I loved them. 

A funny tree to end off! I think I can manage one more post to round up my Cuba pictures, and then we'll move on. Until I go back...