Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wow!!!

I'm so happy! I've just had a sock pattern accepted by Knit Picks in their Indy Designer Program!! It's the sock that I designed for my husband for Christmas.

Plus, I have a design coming out in Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrot's new book, Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure. Here's a picture of the sock when it was in its infancy. It's called Zigs and Zags.

I'm currently knitting a couple of lace shawls -- an Escher-style design by Kalinumba and Moni's Panama shawl -- and also a test-knit sweater.

We had a great Christmas. Everyone enjoyed Christmas dinner -- including the cat -- who's washing up after the meal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

a squirrel

a picture of a squirrel at the corner of the back porch..... In the back is a row of evergreens lining the back of our property. The squirrels (and, in summer, the chipmunks also) act as though they own the place.

This year, I've finished up gifts early -- at least for me. I almost forgot to knit my DH something... But, I'm all done now.

The snow is deeper now than when the picture was taken (last week). But, it's not clear how long it will last. We're on the border line between snow and freezing rain.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

dishcloths

This year it seems that I've been doing different kinds of projects in spurts. I hadn't knit any dishcloths since February -- except for the 2 k1b ones in October, including a honeycomb one -- and those were just to try out patterns. In the last week, I've knit 6 of them -- all Maile's designs.

The designs in the picture are: Angles, Rip Tide, Just Fancy, Diamonds Plus, Shield, and Tango Lace. I used size 7 needles and Peaches & Creme yarn -- a skein of Olive for 2 of the cloths, Potpourri for another 2, and Shrimp for the final 2. They're all just over 7" wide and long -- which meant that one skein worked for 2 cloths with a little bit left over.

I had trouble with Just Fancy. I couldn't wrap my mind out of how to do the stitch in Row 6. So, I finally figured out another way, I think, of getting 2 sts from 3. First I k2tog'ed. Then I moved the second of the 2 sts in the k2tog back to the left hand needle -- as shown in the picture. Then I knit that st and the next through back loop.

I'm also knitting one of Kalinumba's lace shawls -- which is why I felt the need to knit something with larger needles. And I'm looking forward to Moni's shawl KAL starting on Christmas and MMario's shawl KAL starting on New Year's.

We're having the first measurable snowfall of the season today. The others have been just dustings. Then tomorrow, an extremely low low-pressure system is supposed to come through. The local weathermen say that it is supposed to produce extremely strong winds and is the lowest one to come through the area since 1975 and the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I'll have to see how it ranks with Colorado winds. It's not uncommon for Chinook winds in Colorado to get to a hundred miles per hour -- gaining speed as they race down the front range of the Rockies. (And, as I've probably said here before, Chicago isn't called the Windy City because of its winds -- but because of its politicians.)

We had a really nice Thanksgiving. Our DS1 visited us from California. Our DS2 was here as well -- from DeKalb. It was nice having the 2 of them here. They put up some of our Christmas lights. The lights look nice -- if I do say so myself.

People in the neighborhood seem to have more lights this year than last. Also, a lot of people in the neighborhood put up their lights the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

a third sweater finished

I've now finished the dog sweater I've been working on. The link is for details of how I made the sweater. I'd like to post a pic here but have decided against it. I tried the sweater on my cat just before it was finished. It was, of course, big for her. But, it did look nice and made me decide to go with single crochet around the leg openings instead of ribbing.

I probably could have taken her picture in the sweater, but I promised her I wouldn't. At best, I'd have a picture of an annoyed cat -- ears slightly back. At worst, I'd have an action picture of a cat jumping out of a sweater. She jumped out of the sweater almost immediately after I tried it on her yesterday and then disappeared until I told her that I wouldn't do that to her again.

On another note, my mom turns 93 tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

two sweaters finished

My Washburne raglan and BSJ are now finished. I like how both of them turned out. Plus both of them were fun to do.

Here is a picture of the raglan taken in dim light. -- And, it didn't snow the day after I finished it. -- It took 7 1/2 skeins of Vanna's Choice yarn on size 10 needles for a 48" chest size. (Each sleeve took just over 1 skein.)

Washburne Raglan

It turned out that I didn't need to purchase a second skein of Bernat Satin Sport aran to finish the BSJ. I had enough already. I finished it up with a k2tog bo instead of the recommended one and used a 3-needle bo to "sew" the sleeve together (starting at the neck and finishing at the cuff in order to add some ribbing without breaking yarn). The last bit was the collar.

BSJ

The Möbius cowl is still coming along nicely. I thought I was just about ready to begin the edging until I reread the directions and discovered that the edging starts after 5" on each side of the center instead of 5" across. On the bright side, it looks as if this will finish off both skeins of Hand & Hand instead of just one.

And I've started on the dog sweater -- in Vanna's Choice yarn and size 9 needles. It's just over half done now. I started out with a pattern but am now just winging it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

sweater update

Monday, I was again reminded that I'm terrible at remembering shades of color. I went to the store on Monday to get another skein of yarn for the Washburne raglan and another skein of yarn for a BSJ. As I was waiting in the checkout line, it occurred to me that I'd gotten the wrong color for the raglan. So, I went back and got the correct one. Then after I got home, I discovered that I also had the wrong shade for the BSJ. I wanted aran and got white. So, I went back the next day and got the correct color. It's not as if I had just started the projects. I was over half finished with both.

Wave of Color

And since I didn't want to work on cables while watching tv Monday evening, I started on Birgit Freyer's Wave of Color. I first tried Magic Stripes denim stripe and decided two things. First, the pattern didn't work for a yarn with such a short repeat of color. It would work much better with something like Noro sock yarn. Second, this is a really nice pattern. Mobius cowls are in style now (though they're called snoods, for some odd reason). So, I switched to a color that I'd enjoy wearing -- a tan, Hand & Hand accent sock yarn. I used this version of the Mobius cast on.

BSJ

Here is the BSJ so far. Knitting-and.com (and also the wiki on Ravelry) is proving invaluable in figuring out just what to do. I'm using the suggestion to start the middle section with a new skein. The double increase I found while aimlessly web-surfing is also proving nice.

I'm now on the second sleeve of the Washburne raglan for my DS2 (and will end up using about 7 1/2 skeins of Vanna's Choice yarn). DS2 called me this morning and said he could tell that I'm about finished with the sweater. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground. ;) -- There was a heavy snow the day after I finished the sweater I made for him last year. It kept snowing more than usual for here until I finished a sweater for my mom about a month later.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Halloween

We had 165 kids come by for Halloween candy -- down by about 40 from last year. It was a nice Saturday afternoon for Trick-or-Treating. (The official hours were from 2 to 6 pm.) Maybe they had other things to do that afternoon.

The Washburne raglan is coming along nicely. It's based on Wash's sweater. I hate piecing and seaming and so decided to rework it as a raglan from the top down. I'm almost done with the sweater body. I'll have to get more yarn (Vanna's Choice chocolate). I'd forgotten that cables take more yarn than regular stockinette.

I'm slowly getting Inconceivable finished. I'm over half done now.

And, I'm getting ready to knit a couple of things for friends of my DS1. I'd been wanting to knit them (a dog sweater -- though not with fancy fur -- and a BSJ -- just because I heard it was fun) for a while but hadn't had any reason to. I'm hoping to get them done by Thanksgiving. I'm going to knit just a regular dog sweater but had been wanting to knit one ever since I saw this Tubey post -- even though I hadn't had a dog around the house since I was a teenager. Since then, all we've had were cats.

Also, I'm tempted to start a couple of lace KALs. Birgit Freyer has an interesting Mobius pattern, Waves of Color, in her Yahoo group, Knitting Delight. Moni, one of my favorite lace designers, has a triangular shawl, Windsbraut Spitzbergen, in her Yahoo group, Klabauter. Both groups have German as the main language, but the really important info (such as patterns) are also translated into English.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

quilt

I've finally finished redoing a quilt for my DS2. The back to the quilt was falling apart, and the edging already had completely fallen apart. My MIL made it about 20 years ago. It was obviously made to be used -- and was made out of left-over scraps from other quilts. It's the only one of her quilts that was tied instead of quilted.

I almost forgot to mention.... Although my MIL made quite a few quilts, she had always put the quilts-in-progress away before we visited. So, I'd never seen a quilt being made before.

First, I thought that all it needed was a new back. But, cutting off all the ties and taking off the back, I discovered that it had only an old sheet for batting. So, I decided to take that off and get new batting.

I also discovered that making a quilt is more expensive than I thought it would be. I bought some Mountain Mist Ultra-Fine batting on sale and some Debbie Mumm fabric on sale (both at Jo-Ann). It came to about $40. (I was going to use an old sheet for the backing but couldn't find the one I was thinking of using. I decided that if I'm going to go to the trouble of putting all of this together, I might as well use quality fabrics.) The ties are Vanna's Choice toffee yarn. I left the top as is. I used some of the fabric (cut on a diagonal) as edging. The internet was invaluable for help in how to finish a quilt.

I thought the ties would be the easiest part. But, it took quite a bit of thought on my part to figure out how to go about it -- even though I did watch some videos on-line. I finally settled on using an old 3" long needle (that probably belonged to my grandmother), a 13" embroidery hoop (that belonged to my MIL), and a newly purchased threader to work the ties.

It's fall. The Winesap apple tree we planted in the spring bore a single apple -- which was delicious. (We hadn't expected any on a newly planted tree.) We didn't get any blueberries (probably because of how dry the summer was). And the Filbert trees didn't make it. They never leafed out at all. It's the first failure I've ever had from trees from Arbor Day. Finally, Halloween is going to be celebrated on the correct day here. (Last year, Trick or Treating was held a couple day early. -- In Columbus, Ohio, Trick or Treating was never held on Halloween for as long as we lived there.)

My big project now is a Wash (Firefly) pullover for my DS2. I'm redoing it as a raglan so that I won't have to seam -- and so there will be a shorter pattern repeat for the main pattern. I hope it doesn't start to snow the day after I give it to him. It snowed the day after I gave him a sweater last year -- a month earlier than normal.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

k1b

I'm finally getting Fjordland finished to my liking. Here is a picture of the sock redone with a slightly different color scheme than before (KnitPicks grass, pine, and buckskin and two size 1 circs). I was planning on changing the heel from a short-row heel to a reverse heel-flap heel (because I have a high arch) -- but then decided to take the easy way out and work a Fleegle heel. (I made gusset increases in the background color.)

Then for the cuff, I decided to try out a sock cuff from the "Knit One Below" book that I'd recently purchased. Even though I worked the cuff over the same number of stitches as the garter stitch rounds preceding it, the cuff is looser and stretchier than any of the rest of the sock -- even than the garter stitch rounds just before the cuff. It was fun -- and I'm looking forward to making a whole sweater using the technique.

I ordered yarn from KnitPicks in case I needed some to finish the sock. I didn't. So, it looks as if I'm doing stash busting in reverse. I just about used up my leftover grass and pine sock yarn on the sock -- but got a couple of full skeins to replace them plus some of the new heather colors (which I really like the looks of).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stitches

I went to Stitches Midwest a week ago Saturday. It was the first time I had been to Stitches, and I had a good time. Even though I didn't take any classes, I did get to meet a couple authors and see some of their creations in person. It was fun looking at and touching the huge variety of yarns.

I now have yarn for MMario's KAL in January. I got some lace yarn from Skaska Designs in Fort Collins, Colorado -- where I went to university way back when -- and where it seems to me the "Knit One, Kill Two" mysteries take place. ;)

I got a book "Knit One Below", signed by the author.

And, I also got some yarn (Colrain) from Webs for a couple of sweaters. Unfortunately, I guessed wrong on the amount of yarn needed (despite being given a card at Stitches listing usual yardages for different projects). So, I ordered more yarn from Webs the next day. The order is still pending. I wrote this too soon...
The order is still listed as "open", but today I received all the yarn I had ordered.


Wavelet socksI've also been working on finishing the second sock of the pair for socks I test knitted. It's great at stash busting. In fact, I got to the bottom of my sock yarn bin and found some Wavelet Socks. I had knit the first one as a test knit. But, I had knit the second of the pair longer than the first -- just to use up yarn -- and had planned to reknit the first to match. Well, I finally have. Here's what they look like -- in KnitPicks Essential (now Stroll) Tweed flint and size 1 needles.

I did so well at stash busting sock yarn that I decided to order some more -- partly to finish up Fjordland to the length I wanted. I ordered from KnitPicks this past Sunday.

In knitting Fjordland, I rediscovered something that I knew from knitting dishcloths -- purl patterns turn out better when knit with a smaller needle. -- The Fjordland pattern turns out so much better when knit with size 1 needles instead of size 2. Size 1 is what I generally use for KnitPicks Essential (aka Stroll) yarn. I often go up a size when doing colorwork. But, I needed to go down a size again (back to size 1) when doing colorwork with a purl pattern.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

a scarf mystery CAL

First, an update: I'm finishing up some old projects. I'm finishing up the second sock in a pair to some test knits (Great Plains and after that Fjordland from Chrissy Gardiner's book and Crevasse by Angela Johnson). I've got some tv knitting to work on -- scalloped placemats, one pictured. And I'm working off and on, on a shawl - Inconceivable by Katherine Vaughan.

So, of course, when I heard about a mystery Peacock Scarf CAL coming up, I had to sign up. Sign up deadline is September 12th. -- I haven't done much crocheting for a while.

My final big project is to try to put a new back onto a quilt my MIL made about 20 years ago. The top (squares of double-knit fabric) looks good, but the back is falling apart. So, with the help of Diane Wold's book on quilting (We knew each other in Carolina.) and the quiltville chat Yahoo group, I'm going to try to refinish the back and edges.

Friday, September 04, 2009

China - Day 14

Monday, July 27
a 37-hour day

This was our last day in China. DD's flight was in the morning. Our flight wasn't until late afternoon -- which meant that even though we'd cross the International Date Line, we didn't go forward to Tuesday before going back to Monday. Though, it is possible we may have gone back to Sunday before returning to Monday again. DS2 thinks it's most likely that we went forward to Tuesday before crossing the date line. ... It's academic since we slept most of the way back, and DD's flight didn't cross the Date Line. For us, midnight in Beijing to midnight in Chicago was 37 hours.

We had some time to wait before going to the airport and so went to the pedestrian street near the hotel. There were a lot of kiosks on the street. And yes, there are some US-based chains in China. We even tried them out. Papa John's in Shanghai was excellent. But, Pizza Hut in Beijing wasn't. KFC in Beijing was one of the best we'd been to anywhere. We ate at a different KFC than in the picture. That one was too crowded. (We needed to occasional break from Chinese food. And those three were the only times we went to non-Chinese restaurants.) In the evening, kiosks along this street sell unusual foods such as star fish.

And speaking of food, some usual foods in China are unusual to us. We bought some blueberry-flavored Pringles at an airport. A person in our group bought what he thought was a lime frozen ice pop but was actually pea-soup flavored.

... I see from my previous posts that I hadn't included any pics of lions -- which is odd since people on the tour were kidding me that I was trying to take a pic of every lion statue in China. So, here's one. It's from the Ghost City on the Yangtze. And, yes, there is a carved ball inside the lion's mouth. That's fairly common.

We learned a little Chinese. "hello" = ni hao. "thank you" = xei xei (shay shay). The symbol for China is a box with a vertical line through it. Entrance is a lower case lambda followed by a box. Exit is double lower case omega followed by a box. The family and I didn't figure out the symbol for sun (a ladder with 3 rungs or 2 boxes stacked atop each other) until we had a Firefly marathon. And, at least in southern China, a common greeting translates to "have you eaten" -- due to food shortages in the Great Leap Forward.

Our visit to China was great. It was sad when it was time to leave.

Edited to add a couple more pics. ... The first is a picture of water buffalo - taken outside of Wuhan - on our way to where we'd try to view the eclipse. There is a water buffalo grazing to the front of the picture. There are several more in the mid distance.

And here is a picture of a traffic light in Chongqing. We saw traffic lights like these in many of the larger cities. There were countdowns for both green and red lights.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

China - Day 13

Sunday, July 26
Ming Dynasty Tombs
the Great Wall of China

Our last full day in China was another day packed with things to see and do. Our first stop was a cloisonne showroom. Cloisonne patterns are formed by soldering copper wire on top of a copper object. Glazes are then added and the object fired and polished several times. Here is a picture of glaze being added to a vase.

Our next stop was the Ming Dynasty Tombs. There are quite a few large statues on the Sacred (or Spirit) Way leading to the tomb area. Different animals as well as officials guard the path. Here is a pic of an elephant resting from his guard duty. We supposed that guards were needed because the path is straight instead of angled. We also learned that lions are mythological creatures -- or, at least, the lions prominent in Chinese statuary. (This was the only place I saw any birds in China. In fact, there were bird feeders on the grounds. We didn't see any pigeons at all in our stay in China.)

Next was the highlight of the trip, a visit to the Great Wall of China. I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the wall. But, it was even more imposing than I had imagined. Here is a pic of the wall near the Badaling Gate.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped along the highway so we could get out and take pictures of the Bird's Nest, the Beijing National Stadium. It must have been a popular place to stop -- since there was someone there selling kites.

That evening we had a dinner of Peking Duck at the Beijing Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. The dinner was underwhelming after all the excellent food we had in China.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

China - Day 12

Saturday, July 25
Beijing

Saturday started out with a visit to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. This being a Saturday, there were large crowds there. In Tiananmen Square, people were lined up to visit Mao's mausoleum. The mausoleum is large with a gold yellow colored roof (which color, in previous times, had been reserved for the emperor).

(We tried to figure out where the student stood in front of a tank quite a few years back. And there was a wide street next to the square. .... Our tour guide didn't volunteer the info.)

Others, like us, were on their way to visit the Forbidden City. The first pic is a portrait of Mao hanging over the Tiananmen Gate entrance to the Imperial Palace grounds. We went through this gate and then the Meridian Gate, the southern entrance to the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City is huge (178 acres -- .6 miles long by .47 miles wide). It took us a couple of hours to go from the southern entrance to the northern one. And we didn't look at even half the buildings there. In the background is the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

Here is one of the thrones inside the grounds -- in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, I think. It was the most popular of the sights there.

We also visited the Hall of Mental Cultivation, the Imperial Telephone Bureau, and the Imperial Garden among other sights there.

After lunch, we went to the Summer Palace. This picture of the palace was taken from Kunming Lake, which was created in order to get enough earth to create the hill on which the palace sits.

In the evening, we attended a show at the Beijing Night Theater. It included fabulous costumes, dancing, and acrobatic performances.

Monday, August 31, 2009

China - Day 11

Friday, July 24
Beijing

Friday morning we took a flight from Xi'an to Beijing. So, we had only half a day's worth of sightseeing in Beijing this day. We stayed at the Peninsula Hotel.

There are areas in Beijing, like the one in the picture, that are modern. Most of what we saw there was ancient. The picture was taken from the bus.

The streets aren't as crowded here as in other cities we visited. Beijing liked the alternate days for cars being on the streets (that it had for the Olympics) so much that it instituted it permanently.

Our first stop was the bell and drum towers near the old entrance to the Inner City. This is a picture of the old gate (Zhengyangmen, but now called Qianmen) to the Inner City, as taken from inside the Bell Tower. This was the first time in our trip that it was rainy.

Then we took a pedicab tour of a nearby hudong. Here is a view of one of the streets in the hudong. This neighborhood is one that is going to be kept as is instead of making way for high-rises.

While there, we also visited a "typical" resident at her home. She was retired, had formerly worked at the tourist bureau, and had visited many countries in Europe and several states in the US. She was also an Obama fan.

Friday, August 28, 2009

China - Day 10

Thursday, July 24
Xi'an

Our first stop on our tour of Xi'an was the Great Wild Goose Pagoda. There is much more on the grounds than just the pagoda. There are several Buddhist temples and a small cemetery.

As we neared the temple grounds, we saw a street cleaner truck and commented among ourselves how nice it was that the truck was playing some soothing Chinese music. Later in the trip, we saw another one that was playing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" -- much, much better than "beep, beep, beep".

Next we went to a jade showroom where we saw how jade is carved and the many colors jade comes in. One could buy anything from jewelry to large statues to (our favorite) globes - with oceans and countries in different colors of jade.

Then we went to look at the city wall (which is enormous), one of the few remaining intact city walls in China. It's surrounded by a moat which is now a park.

Xi'an and the surrounding area have a long history. The Northern Silk Road began at Xi'an. Xi'an is on the Wei River, which is a tributary of the Huang He or Yellow River, called the cradle of Chinese civilization.

After that we went to eat lunch at a dumpling restaurant inside the city walls. The dumplings were shaped in the form of the type of meat/vegetable that they contained -- chicken-shaped for chicken, etc.

The drum tower (pictured) is near the restaurant). There is also a matching bell tower nearby. In ancient times, the drum was beaten at dusk to mark the end of the day, the time the city gates would close. The bell was rung at dawn to mark the opening of the gates.

After lunch, we drove out to the Terracotta Museum where Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a united China, had statues constructed of his army -- an estimated 8,000 soldiers plus quite a few horses and also court officials and entertainers. His tomb lies nearby, undisturbed. Construction began in 246 BC. The picture shows part of the largest excavated pit.

Then, in the evening, we went to a performance celebrating the Tang Dynasty. Costumes were based on paintings and carvings from that time. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

China - Day 9

Wednesday, July 23
Eclipse Day
Wuhan


This was the big day ... the main reason for our trip to China ... a solar eclipse. It was one of the longer eclipses in quite a few years (5 1/2 minutes of totality where we were located).

Early in the morning buses took the group to Wuhan Bioengineering Institute, where we would hopefully be able to watch the total solar eclipse. The earliest group arrived at the site before sunrise in order to be able to get their cameras set up properly. The cameras were designed and programed to follow the sun through the sky. Others, like me, had low-tech cameras. There were professional and amateur astronomers in our group as well as people who just like solar eclipses.

Astronaut Alvin Drew joined our group on the day of the eclipse, just for the eclipse. In the background are a few others in the group plus some people who just came out to the area.

Some terminology: First contact is when the disk of the moon first touches the disk of the sun. Second contact is when the disk of the moon first completely covers the disk of the sun. Third contact is when the disk of the moon last covers the disk of the sun. Fourth contact is when the disk of the moon last touches the disk of the sun. The length of totality is the length of time from 2nd contact to 3rd contact. Baily's beads and the final Baily's bead, a diamond ring, are often seen at 2nd contact and 3rd contact.

It's safe to look in the direction of the sun between 2nd and 3rd contact. Special glasses, eclipse glasses, like that being held by Alvin Drew, are needed to look in the direction of the sun otherwise.

Here is a link to a National Geographic article on the eclipse. And here is a link to a summary of the eclipse with pics written by Glenn Schneider, a member of our tour group and a professional astronomer.

The wind was still except for a rush of wind 20 to 30 minutes before 2nd contact and another one 20 to 30 minutes after 3rd contact. Unfortunately, there was a partial cloud cover. We could see only the last minute and a half of the eclipse.

Here is a picture I took just after 3rd contact (through one of the special eclipse glasses). The moon is covering the most of lower part of the sun and a cloud is covering part of the top.

After the eclipse, we ate at the university and then traveled back to Wuhan. We saw rice paddies on the way. Before boarding a plane for Xi'an, we visited the Rock and Bonsai Museum in Wuhan. Here is a picture of some carvings of different rocks and crystals displayed in the museum. -- It's not food in the picture. It's carvings in the shape of food as served Lazy Susan style.

RIP

It's strange when the reality of death finally hits. It hit me when the emergency vet's office called this morning to say that our cat's ashes had arrived and were available for pickup.

Our cat died on early Monday morning. She was 18 years old and had been suffering from a slow-growing tumor in her nasal cavity for a year and a half. Here is a pic just before we took her to the vet to be put to sleep.

We thought she was going to die in June of this year. In fact, the DD and DS1 flew in to say good-bye to her before she passed away. (DS2 lives nearby.) She recovered and was back to her old self until this past Sunday when she suffered a sudden relapse of the worst of her previous symptoms.

A dear friend of ours gave us the cat and her littermate while we were living in Ohio. She drove all the way from NC with the cats (who were just kittens then). They quickly became part of the family. They went with us when we moved to Sweden and then England and finally back to the US. The cats even understood some Swedish.

Her littermate is still alive and active and living with us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

China - Day 8

Tuesday, July 21
Chongqing

Our last stop on the cruise ship was Chongqing (Chungking), a busy commerce center. Chongqing has a registered population of over 30 million. However, the urban population is "only" 5 million plus. The registered population includes people living in rural areas around Chongqing. Also, just because a person is registered as living in a certain place, it doesn't mean s/he actually lives there. S/he may be living and working elsewhere in the country. The first pic is a view of the city from the cruise ship.

Our first stop was the zoo. The weather was so hot (around 100F) that the pandas weren't going to be let out after noon. Lan Xing, in the picture, had to be lured out of the shelter with an apple by a zoo employee. Another zoo employee lured Liang Liang (who lives in a separate area) out to pose for photographs, again using an apple. So, we got to see 2 pandas at the zoo.

Then we went to another part of the zoo for an exhibition on painting. The artist (in black) painted the entire painting during the course of the lecture. There were other paintings for sale there including ones done on Banyan leaves.

Afterward, we visited a local food market. There was quite a variety of products, including live eels (not in the picture) and lotus. Lotus is surprisingly good.

Finally, we went to look at the main square which is dominated by the Great Hall of the People.

After that we boarded a plane to fly to Wuhan, which in on the Yangtze river downriver from Yichang but inland from Shanghai and Nanjing. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Riverside in Wuhan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

China - Day 7

Monday, July 20
Fengdu

Still traveling up the Yangtze River, we took an excursion to a ghost city, Fengdu. It isn't a ghost town in the western sense. Rather, it's a place souls go after the body dies (evidently, the only one in China). There a person is judged for what s/he did in life and then given the appropriate punishment.

The first pic is an embodiment of excessive drunkenness -- one of several statues showing positive and negative traits.

The next pic is of a pagoda.

According to our guide, this area was one of the few religious places untouched by the Cultural Revolution. It has both Taoist and Buddhist influences.

The last pic is of masks sold near the entrance to Fengdu. They are masks of some of the "demons" who punish evil doers.

After we returned to the ship, we went to a talk on pearls. It was surprising how many pearls one can get from a single oyster. There were talks the previous days, as well. We attended a talk on Chinese embroidery (which consists mainly of satin stitches but with different thicknesses of silk yarn to produce amazing pictures) and another on bottle painting (in which lead crystal is shaped into a bottle - or other shape - and then painted on the inside). There was also a talk organized by our tour group on the upcoming eclipse and previous eclipses.

Monday, August 24, 2009

China - Day 6

Sunday, July 19
Shen Nong Stream and Baidicheng
Wu and Qutang Gorges

After breakfast, we went on an excursion to Shen Nong Stream, a tributary of the Yangtze. We went on a tourist ferry boat to the mouth of the stream and then boarded small boats to travel up the stream. The scenery was breathtaking -- even though what had been a fast-moving stream had become a lazy river because of the Three Gorges Dam.

After returning to the ship, we went a little further upriver. Here is a miscellaneous picture of the Yangtze, with a small fishing boat in the river and farmland on the shore. We also saw quite a few barges on the river, some carrying coal, one carrying new cars, some carrying other goods. We saw fields and fields of corn throughout our travels in China. Our tour guide said that winter wheat and rice are also widely grown. We didn't see any wheat, but we did see rice paddies later in the tour and also fields of soybeans.

We went through two of the three gorges this day, Wu Gorge and Qutang Gorge. Qutang Gorge is the most interesting and beautiful. Here is the exit/entrance to Qutang Gorge - taken from upriver. (A similar picture is on the back of the 5 Yuan note.)

In the afternoon, we took an optional tour to Baidicheng or City of the White Emperor. The city is now on an island due to the river level rising because of the dam. Several people decided to pay to be carried up to the top of the island to tour the buildings there. Most decided to walk.

The "city" was where the first emperor of the Kingdom of Shu, Liu Bei, died. It is also famous for the poets who have visited and lived there because of the beauty of the place. The entrance to the Qutang Gorge can be easily seen.

Finally, here is a pic of our guide there and a dragon where I evidently doomed my children. I was busy looking at the interesting sights and missed the guide's talk about the dragon. My DD said I was supposed to touch the dragon for good luck for my children. However, she neglected to tell me I was supposed to touch the dragon with my right hand. Well, I touched it with my left hand. My DD said "wrong hand", and so I quickly took my hand off the dragon and touched it with my right hand. Then while my DD was explaining to me how I had doomed her and her brothers, I leaned on the figure with my left hand. (I hope it was just a tale.)