Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in Greenport

Thanks to the kindness of my friend Barbara, Peter rode the magnificent Mackinac, a Tennessee Walking horse, in our local Memorial Day parade.  He's been up to the farm to take riding lessons a few times and felt ready to brave the crowds. 

Here he is coming:
and going:

Barbara's husband Ron lent Pete his cowboy hat and helped saddle up Mac and his brother Star.

Barbara rode Star.  (Star is Clara's soul mate.  Barbara's been kind enough to teach Clara how to ride, too.)
Here are some other scene's of Memorial Day in Greenport -- small town life at its best! 

Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sad News for Rug Hookers

My best and most favorite rug hooking tool -- besides my hands -- is my Townsend cutter.  To call it the Cadillac of cutters is not enough -- it is the Ferrari, the Astin Martin, the Lamborgini, the Rolls Royce, of cutters.  I own several Frasers, Bliss' and Rigbys, have tried the Bolivar and the Honeydoo, but nothing compares to the Townsend.  The ease of changing the heads and the length of the long cutter heads which cut twice as much fabric as the other cutters, is phenomenal.  The blades cut by pressure and never need to be sharpened and Townsend's service is impeccable.  I love my cutter.  So I am saddened by the news that Bob Townsend, the owner of the company, passed away in February.  I am also saddened to hear that the company is closing its doors on June 17, 2010.

A quick call to Townsend on Monday confirmed that they had stopped manufacturing more than a week ago, and they were all out of cutters and cutter heads.  Word travels fast in the rug hooking community, and most of the major sellers of Townsend products are out of stock.  I expect there will be some wild auctions on ebay if someone lists a Townsend item.  I am wishing I had bought a few more cutter heads -- I only have three sizes right now.

There is some good news -- I read online that someone who is both an engineer and a rug hooker is negotiating to buy the company.  I hope it works out -- she'll have me for a customer, for sure.

I send my sincerest condolences to Mr. Townsend's family, along with many thanks for an innovative and fine piece of machinery.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Congratulations Clara!


My brilliant and beautiful daughter Clara graduated from Skidmore College on Saturday.  The 658 students in the 99th graduating class marched into the Saratoga Performing Arts Center  accompanied by the Schenectady Pipe Band.  Three people received honorary degrees and eloquently addressed the audience: Sir Clive Gillinson, director of Carnegie Hall, Gwen Ifill of PBS, and Gregory Williams, author of Life on the Color Line.

Our weekend was filled with food and friends and family and was a whole lot of fun.  We helped Clara pack up and clean and headed for home on Sunday afternoon.  I'll miss my regular visits to Saratoga Springs, but I'm happy to know that I will have Clara at home for awhile before she heads off for her next adventure.

Congratulations, Clara!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hallockville Fleece & Fiber Fair

Long Island Fleece and Fiber Fair

Saturday, May 22, 10 AM to 5 PM

6038 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY


Click here to read more about it: Hallockville


I wish I could attend this event at Hallockville this weekend, but Clara is graduating on the same day!  The Peconic Ruggers will be there, and will give a formal demonstration at 2 pm in the Chicanowitz House.  They'll have frames and hooks available so you can try your hand at rug hooking.

Ebay Listings

I listed some patterns and wool in our eBay shop today if anyone is interested.  Barb has some nice hand-dyed wool up for sale, too.  Click here: The Paisley Studio

Happy Birthday, Paula! -- just one day late.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

We went to Dublin because it was such a good deal -- airfare and hotel with a free full Irish breakfast.  Who knew that the breakfast alone would be worth the entire cost of the trip? I have been a foodie for a long time -- I even catered out of our apartment in Brooklyn back in the 80s -- but I never associated Ireland with any kind of special cuisine.  Okay, so colcannon is delicious, but really, what other food are the Irish famous for?  Now I know!

Before we even left, Ann decided we would make our expedition a scone-tasting trip.  We started in the car on the way to the airport with scones she bought at Espresso in Sag Harbor.  Rumor has it that they buy their scone batter from Aldo here in Greenport, who makes THE VERY BEST SCONES IN THE UNIVERSE!  Aldo's scones are buttery and flaky, not sweet and doughy like many American scones.  They are loaded with raisins and toasted pecans and I love them -- which is why I have a rule that I can only buy and eat them when someone special comes to town, otherwise I would have to be buried in a double-wide trailer.  Anyway -- back to the story -- the scones Ann brought for the car ride to JFK were quite delicious.  We ate scones everywhere we went in Ireland: at the hotel, at Avoca, at a farmer's market in Blackwater.  They were all good.

We arrived in Dublin at 8 am, way before check-in, but the extremely nice people at the Burlington gave us our rooms and our first full Irish breakfast.  The dining area was lovely -- very Art Nouveau with lots of swirly wood and crisp white linens.  The breakfast had its own room. Long tables lined three walls and two smaller tables, for juice, fresh fruit, jams and honey, sat in the middle.  We started with bowls of macerated fruit -- mixed berries and mixed citrus -- yogurt and a variety of cereals.  Then came the real Irish oatmeal, cold cuts and cheeses, Irish black and white sausage, breakfast link sausages, streaky bacon, regular bacon (what we call Canadian Bacon), grilled tomatoes, roasted potatoes, poached eggs with spinach, scrambled eggs, beans, croissants, danish pastries, and -- of course -- scones, both whole wheat and white.  And I can't forget the Irish butter.  What is it that makes Irish butter so good?  At the table, our waitress had coffee and tea and real cream waiting for us, along with fresh toast.

We were faced with this feast every morning, and we ate a lot -- so much that we never had to have lunch.  But we did have dinner, and we discovered the joy -- yes, joy -- of fish and chips.

Chip shops are to Great Britain and Ireland what McDonald's is to the United States -- they are everywhere, and all the natives have their personal favorite.  Our first tasting was at the hotel itself, in the Bellini bar -- the most hideous room I have seen in a long time.  But we were hungry and I ordered my first, but not last, platter of fish and chips and mushy peas.  (Love the mushy peas.  They sell them in cans in the grocery stores.)   Everything was hot and crispy -- except the mushy peas which were actually pureed.  Yummy.

Our second night brought us to Monart, the second best spa in the world according to Forbes Magazine.  (Ann, who works all sorts of magic all the time, found this incredible place.)  We dined in their Garden Lounge and Thiery, a dapper Frenchman dressed in black, waited on us.  We shared some Irish mussels and a duck spring roll, then all ordered something different -- I had chicken, Paula had mushroom risotto, Pete pasta with seafood, and Ann had tempura cod.  We asked for extra plates and each put a portion of our meal on each of the plates which we passed around the table clockwise so everyone had some of everything.  (Sounds confusing but it worked really well.  I think it was Ann's idea -- she is one smart cookie, that girl.)  Ann's tempura cod was actually just a fancy riff on fish and chips, and even came with a lovely molded ring of fresh and dried peas with sauteed red onions.


The next night we asked the guy at the desk for his recommendation for good fish and chips and traditional Irish music.  Pete wanted a real Irish pub experience.  He sent us to Beshoff's for dinner and to Gogarty's pub in Temple Bar for the pub and music.  Well, he hit the nail on the head with Beshoff's, an inexpensive but clean neighborhood chip shop, but he really missed the mark with Gogarty's.  What a zoo!  Temple Bar is like Times Square -- tourist-oriented and overcrowded.  Monday was a bank holiday, so the bar was overflowing with drunken people.  The owners had hired Russian bouncers who were all over six feet tall, dressed completely in black, and wore CIA type microphones on their lapels so they could talk to each other.  We high-tailed it out of there, stopped in a small hotel for another recommendation and ended up at O'Neill's pub, where we drank Guinness and Smithwick's, listened to live Irish music,  and conversed with a lovely couple named Lance and Carol from England who were celebrating Carol's 50th birthday.

We went back to O'Neill's the next night --our last-- for dinner.  The food at O'Neill's is remarkable in its plenitude.  They serve lots of Irish favorites -- beef and Guinness stew, Irish stew, salmon, and, of course, fish and chips.  The fish and chips are cooked to order, so it came piping hot but not drained, but that didn't stop me.  The chips weren't quite as good as the fish, but I have to say: if you are on a budget in Dublin, this is the place to eat.  One plate could serve three people.

We're not eating full Irish breakfasts anymore, but  we are planning a Dublin night soon. We'll watch the movie version of Ulysses if Netflix has it, and drink Guinness.  I may even try to make fish and chips, since I obviously didn't eat enough of it when I was there.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Johnstown Castle, County Wexford

 We arrived at Johnstown Castle late in the day and it was mighty chilly, so we didn't see all the grounds.  What we did see was lovely.  They were designed and planted in the 1830s by architect Daniel Robertson.  They must have been spectacular back then!  The variety of trees -- including redwoods, magnolias, cedars and dogwoods -- was remarkable.  I fell in love with a very strange tree, pictured below.  If you know what it is, please email me.  I've looked and looked, but can't figure out what it is and where it came from.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The World of James Joyce

James Joyce is arguably Ireland's most famous author, and tributes to him and his amazing but not very accessible novel Ulysses can be found all over Dublin.  He even worked at the Dublin Woollen Mills (featured in yesterday's post) for a while.  This plaque is embedded in the sidewalk outside the National Library.
Joyce was the reason for our trip to Dublin in the first place.  Paula is reading Ulysses in a class, which is why Dublin was on her mind.  So on Sunday, Ann, Paula and I took an excursion on the DART to the James Joyce Museum in Sandycove while Pete went off to the Museum of Decorative Arts.  The museum is housed in a Martello tower overlooking the Irish Sea.  Joyce only lived in the tower for six nights, but it became immortalized in Ulysses.
Sandycove is a nice seaside town with rocky shores, lovely vistas, and lots of dogs that the residents do not clean up after.  (If you walk from the train station, watch where you step!)  There's a beach right at the foot of the tower called Forty Four, famous for the fact that residents swim there all year round!  We stopped in our tracks, jaws dropped, when we saw a group of people changing from swimsuits to street clothes in public; their skin as red as cooked lobsters!
The living space in the tower is quite small, so it is easy to understand why Joyce fled less than a week after moving in.  I climbed the very narrow, steep stairs to the roof.  The day was gray and damp and very Ireland.

The museum contains lots of Joyce's personal items, including a needlepoint vest made by his grandmother, a tie given to him by Samuel Beckett, and many portraits of the writer.
We spent some time in the gift shop, chatting with a lovely woman named Antoinette, who very kindly called us a cab back to the station.  I have copies of Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses here at home, but I bought a book of Joyce's poetry, which I had never read.  Paula found some treasures to take back to her Ulysses classmates.   We toured the Irish Writer's Museum the next day, which gave us some insight into Joyce's very difficult masterpiece and was a great way to wind up our trip.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Irish Wool

I wouldn't be a dyed-in-the-wool rug hooker if I didn't hunt down some wool in Ireland.  I googled "wool" before we left and, for the most part,  came up with places to buy yarn. I did find Dublin Woollen Mills (I love that they spell it with two "l"s)  near the Ha'penny Bridge, and it was our first stop after we checked into the Burlington Hotel on Friday morning.

It was a quirky store -- creaky wooden floors and a mixture of fabric, kilts, sweaters, trims, and acrylic yarns.  It reminded me of Horwitz Brother's in downtown New Haven, where my sister Patty would take me to pick out kettle cloth she'd make into dresses for me.  I did find some woolen yardage that I liked:  two tweedy pieces and a heathered pumpkin.  (You can never have enough pumpkin wool, in my opinion.)  It's all washed and fulled and ready for hooking.

We looked around for more fabric stores, and kept our eyes open for a great yarn shop.  We went to Hickey's, which had great oil cloth for sale -- Ann bought a piece to use as a tablecloth -- but really lousy yarn. 

On our excursion south last Sunday (was it really only a week ago?), we passed a sign that said "Avoca Handweavers."  Great!  We thought we would find someone sitting at a loom, weaving freshly spun wool from the sheep we saw grazing the pastures above the highway.  Not.  Avoca is a fabulous store and restaurant, full of color and light and good things to eat.  (Avoca does still weave their own wool in a tiny town south of Dublin in the Vale of Avoca -- you can read about their 280 year history on their website.)  I loved the scarves on the spools and the candy colored throws.

We did find vestiges of other woolen shops in Dublin.  The Blarney Woollen Mill is now occupied by a pharmacy.

Here's a reference to hooked rugs in a book about handcrafts that was way too heavy to schlep home.  Don't you love all the names the Brits have for rag rugs?

Thank you, Ann, Paula and Pete for indulging my appetite for wool.  I couldn't have asked for better traveling companions!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Irish Spring

We went to Dublin for a long weekend!  In late March, my friend Paula mentioned a great deal on Travel Zoo -- airfare, hotel and free full Irish breakfast.  What a deal!  So she, her daughter Ann, Pete and I took off for Ireland last Thursday.  We returned on Tuesday, after waiting for the ash from Eyjafjallajokull to blow away.

Ireland has a rich cultural history and we saturated ourselves with it.  We saw Michael Gambon in a Beckett play at the Gate Theater, toured the Writer's Museum, climbed Joyce's tower by the seaside, saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College, wandered through the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery, had a pint and fish and chips at O'Neill's pub while listening to traditional Irish music, toured Kilmainham Gaol, shopped Grafton Street and Temple Bar, drove south to the seaside town of Wexford where walked the grounds of Johnstown Castle, then had dinner in the second best spa in the world -- Monart, in Enniscorthy. 
More on our travels soon!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Here's a Hint

Here's a clue to where we spent our long weekend.  More later -- I have to mow the lawn before the neighbors mow me down!