Sunday, December 31, 2006

Catching Up With Swatchy

Dear Knittah,

I'm sorry Swatchy hasn't written much recently. It's my fault, really... sometimes I've been busy, sometimes I've been lazy, but mostly I've been busy being lazy.

On December 23, Swatchy and I went to the Manitoba Legislature:
(You may have noticed these photos sitting in the stream, all lonely and un-blogged.)

A friend of mine does photography as a slightly serious hobby, and wanted to practice setting up shots at the Manitoba Legislature, a traditional place people take wedding photos. She has a wedding she's photographing there next week, and wanted to see how the lighting worked, and also select some nice sites for photos. The following photos of me and Swatchy were taken with my camera, which doesn't do so well in low light at a distance where the flash is useless, but will give you an idea of our day. Swatchy and I were there to act as subjects for the photos, since it's easier to get a feel for the scale and lighting that way. Since I wasn't really actually posing, I brought along my spinning so I could finish up my toque.

Here we are framed by an arch, sitting on a bench:

Aparently this room is good for dancing photos:
It's completely round, with a hole in the ceiling, and a dome several floors above that. It echoes *really* strangely when you're exactly in the center!

This one has a nice setup, if M can tweak the lighting in photoshop:
(Her camera came out brighter, but very yellow from the electric lights.)

The Leg was decorated pretty for the season:

Here's my friend, M:

I thought this was a cute Swatchy shot:

Here we are out front:

Big columns!

This is a view of Winnipeg from the front steps of the Leg:

Anyway... Swatchy and I are now in Montreal. You'd probably have no problem keepin up with us here... we mostly sleep, nap, snuggle, and sleep some more. I don't know *how* I can sleep so much and still feel tired! Yesterday I finally got that "I've slept too much" feeling, so we went to the fine arts museum:
Montreal Fine Arts Museum

Here's Swatchy with an interesting sculpture outside:
Swatchy & Sculpture

This is one of my favourite paintings there:
Shadow Bunny
The father is making a shadow-bunny on the wall. What a happy family moment! Well, I took *tons* of photos... I'll post a selection of them on my regular blog after I'm done writing here.

Swatchy and I send you and your family best wishes for the New Year! Give Nori and Swatchgrrl a hug from us. :)


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Regarding China

I was never that interested in China, until Celeste and I became good friends. I knew the basics of Chinese history, sort of. I had seen movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Raise the Red Lantern, and I found the culture and social customs portrayed to be intriguing. But I've always been more of a European history gal.

Now that I know Celeste and Daniel, I have a personal interest in China and in learning more about it. I want to have a mental map of the country, so that when Celeste says "Chengdu" I know where it is without lugging out the atlas. I want to understand the complex history of China, good and bad. I want to know the details of social customs, past and present, so I can understand where Daniel comes from. I want to see the country and the people that Celeste loves so much.

Will I ever get there? I don't know. I thought travel to China would be hard, but reading Celeste's posts, I worry that it may be impossible. A first class plane ticket may not be enough. What will I eat? How will I get around? Are buildings wheelchair accessible? Would it even be possible for me to travel to Daniel's home village? I think not. When Celeste and Daniel move back there permanently, how will I ever visit her?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reporting from Sanya

The three of us have been in Sanya, Hainan for about 6 days now. We've explored the local area, visiting several beaches, a smaller island, and some hot springs. Hainan Island is pretty big - it took 3.5 hours to drive from Haikou in the north to Sanya in the south - so we've really only been able to see a very small part. Most of the island is farm land, undeveloped, or military. Of course, my own interests would lead us to spend some time in the country, seeing more of the farming life in this area, but ever since our original plan of staying at a be and breakfast proved to be a delusion, we've been in heavily developed areas like Sanya and Wu Long Bay.

Today poor Daniel came down with a fever, so it's been a rest day. I went back to Da Dong Bay (the beach pretty much across the street from the hotel) and walked the beach and swam, then strolled in and out of the many tourist shops here. Finally, I got some "coconut rice" - sticky rice cooked in coconut meat - and came back to the hotel.

To answer some of the questions that came up, the weather here has been very nice. Until yesterday, we'd only had sunny days. The locals are dressing in long pants and sweaters, because it's "only" between about 60 and 80 degrees. To us, though, it's been very comfortable.

I hadn't even thought about taking a picture of me and Hugz, so that little reminder will direct the next pics! I'm usually behind the camera... and it hasn't been as easy to take Hugz around as I'd expected. I'm always very cautious about carrying around my backpack because it can be snatched so easily, and my other bag is only big enough for the camera. When we both want to go swimming, we have to find a beach locker in which to place our stuff. The other complication is that the explanation isn't always smooth about what I'm doing with this doll. I had one woman think I was giving it to her, and it was embarrassing for both of us when I had to take Hugz back!

Anyway, It's been a really interesting exercise to carry Hugz around. I always have thoughts of friends when traveling, but having this part of my good friend has really kept her and this awful illness front and center in my mind. As I mentioned before, traveling in China is not the easiest thing... I think every day of Knittah, of whether or not one day she'll be able to travel here without the restrictions of CFIDS, and if not, what kind of special arrangements we'll put in place in order for it to be possible for her to visit me!

Ok, on to the pictures:

Hugz at Da Dong Bay beach, Sanya

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Chairs for Hire

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Swatchy Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore
Three guesses how many shells my husband bought.

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Zao Cha - Early Tea
Zao Cha is the Mandarin word for dim sum, and this is what we've had for breakfast every day since arriving... of course there are different selections that just what you see here.

Believe it or not, I think Chinese pumpkin is one of my top 5 favorite foods! You see it here in pumpkin pancakes. And then again in pumpkin congee. You don't see it hiding beneath the meat, but it's there!

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A taste of Chinese knitting This boy was sitting near us on the bus on the way to Ya Long Bay. His sweater is knit so delicately, and is trimmed with lace. Sorry - I couldn't resist a big pic of this one. You have to see all those lovely eyelets.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Traveling to China and Haikou, Hainan

Driving to the airport on Saturday - Swatchy navigates for Daniel.

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A typical crowd in the receiving area for flight arrivals at Beijing International Airport.

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We went out to eat at a local restaurant during our layover in Beijing. These waitresses are so typical, I had to get a shot of them. The slang term for waitress is Xiao Mei, or Little Sister. I've never seen a waiter in China. Men typically carry the food from the kitchen, and women serve at the table.

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Our first full day in China, we drove around Haikou's Guomei District with Sun and his wife Flora. Construction abounds! New high rise apartment buildings are everywhere you look.

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Here are Hugz and Flora, checking out the view.

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The lobby of our Haikou hotel... Christmas in China? Really?

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Daniel can't resist a snack from this street vendor selling Sichuan food... I can. I've never been able to bring myself to eat from one of these carts.

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Well. do you like the pictures larger or smaller? Just let me know and I'll post accordingly. :o)
Next post: snacks, seashells, and sandy beaches in Sanya!

DaJiaMen Hao - Hello Everybody!

Hi to Knittah and the rest of you!

Boy, the first thing I have to do is to observe that travel here in China is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of body. Travelling with Swatchy is a constant reminder of my dear friend Knittah, and I am always thinking about what this trip would be like for her. It is NOISY, and involves constant negotiation, long lines, and much physical activity.

OK, we're having some issues with uploading photos here... I think our hotel room computer is too slow... I'll have to work out the kinks later.

So, Swatchy Hugz (whose Chinese name is "wawa"), Daniel and I have been in Sanya now for a day. Time is passing so quickly, with all of the moving around we've been doing. We arrived in Haikou, Hainan on Monday morning at 1am local time, stayed there for a day, then headed to Sanya, Hainan on the 19th. Yeah, that was kind of a fiasco. A friend had made a reservation in a "bed and breakfast" which turned out to be more of a hostel or a shabby inn than anything else. After checking in there, then wandering through all of the hotels close by, we finally found a place - an actual hotel - across the street. Daniel managed to smooth talk his way into a discount, so the room that should have been 288RMB ended up being just 188RMB. (The exhange rate is 1usd:7.88rmb.) You have to make a special request here for a "big bed" or you'll get 2 twins in a room, so part of the challenge was finding a place that still had "big bed" rooms available... the tourist season kicks off this weekend for Christmas and continues through Chinese New Year, so it's already pretty busy here.

After such a long day, we were happy to spend the evening doing one of the popular things here in Hainan: getting a massage... again involving shopping around. The first place we went to wanted to charge 168RMB for an hour, and then we ended up paying 30RMB for an hour at another, nicer, place down the road. They have so many kinds of massage: Chinese medicine, Japanese, Russian, aromatherapy and plenty of others I couldn't understand. They even have what they call spa treatments: wooden tubs that you soak in with milk, seaweed and other concoctions. We did simple Chinese massages that were very nice - and we got to be in a private room side-by-side.

Today was our first day to relax, and for the most part, we did just that. We walked the few blocks to the beach (very nice beach - this one is called "Da Dong Hai" - and is a little bay framed with mountains beyond the city of Sanya).

Actually, it's about 6pm now, I guess, and we've got to go get something for dinner. I'll be back as soon as I can with more about the sun, sand, street peddlers, and delicious treats of Sanya! Until then, be well and know I'm thinking of you!


ETA: Here's a little video of the hotel room & view to whet your appetite:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Feet on Ground


After 26 hours of travel, Celeste reports that she has arrived safely in China (along with her husband and Swatchy Hugz). She took this picture of Swatchy Hugz when they arrived at the hotel at 2 am local time, just before putting their heads to the pillows.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Swatchy Hugz sez "bai-bai-le!"

Dear Knittah,

I know you are usually addressed by the Swatch-family-travellers, but tonight you're gonna hear from ME! He's napping in preparation for all the traveling.

Swatchy Hugz has been settling in and we've been getting to know each other. He's already proven to be quite outgoing, so I'm sure he'll do just fine in his travels to foreign lands. He was a big hit with by hubby Daniel and my sister. He begged to come to work with me today, but he's really quite an inquisitive and active character and I had so much work to get done, so I had to veto his petition.

Tonight I spent the evening packing (and re-packing) and deciding how much yarn I can possibly pack without sacrificing my blessed warmth in Chengdu. It turns out that the temps in Hainan, our first destination, have been in the upper 60s and 70s, so it seems it's not going to be as hot as I'd expected. His sweater might just be appropriate!

Anyway I wanted to say a hearty bai-bai from both of us. We're sure going to miss you, and expect to find you in much better shape when we return.

Love you!
Celeste & Hugz

Zai Jian

Swatchy Hugz leaves for China tomorrow! Sadly, I have no bon voyage picture of him riding in Celeste's knitting bag. They are bound for Hainan (ten days on the beach!) and then Chengdu. Zai Jian!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Dear Nori,

Noricum said I had enough time to write a short post before we start running errands today.

On Friday we went downtown to The Bay (a Canadian department store with lots of history... it's older than Canada!) to see the giant gingerbread house. Here I am hanging out with Hansel:
Gingerbread House at The Bay
Goldilocks was inside with the porridge (actually dry rolled oats... I guess they didn't want porridge going moldy):
Gingerbread House at The Bay
Goldilocks seemed to be dressed awfully fancy for wandering around in the woods!

Here I am pretending the witch (from Hansel and Gretel) is cooking me up for dinner:
Gingerbread House at The Bay
Luckily I'm just a little morsel, so she decided to let me go. ;) (Just kidding! There were no wicked witches around.)

And, just to squeak in one more photo, here I am at the back of the house:
Gingerbread House at The Bay

Noricum and I are making our own gingerbread houses. We'll post photos once they're done. :)


Meet Swatchy Hugz


Introducing: Swatchy Hugz

Swatchy Hugz stands 8 inches tall (not including his hair) and has a hug span of 7 inches. He is knit in stockinette from Patons Grace, Trekking XXL and Classic Elite Premiere. His hair is i-cord Spice Cabinet from Black Bunny Fibers. Hugz wears a separate sweater knit in Alpaca Silk from Blue Sky Alpacas. He is the first Swatchy™ to have a wardrobe!

Swatchy Hugz is travelling to China with Knittah's friend, Celeste.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One Last Thing

Dear Swatchy,

I'm sorry about your surgery, but at least Noricum takes good care of you. Feel better soon. Visit another yarn store - that always helps!

Anyway, I forgot to tell you that while I was in VA for Thanksgiving, I caught up with Swatchy C at Eliza's house.
She had just gotten back from the Middle East. Between you and me, I think she lost a few pounds. Maybe she caught a stomach bug over there. Anyway, she had a good time and will be posting some pictures of her trip soon.

Here we are on Eliza's new rug, which she brought home on the plane in a duffel bag!
Isn't it pretty? And it feels like velvet.

That's all from me for now. On Saturday, I'm off to Costa Rica!

Love, McSwatchy

Monday, December 04, 2006

Preventative Heart Surgery

Dear Knittah,

Before you get worried, I want to tell you I'm all right, I came through the procedure with flying colours, and I'm back to feeling like new again. My heartstrings had been weakening, so Noricum took preventative measures and gave me a bypass heartstring surgery. My heart is now nice and secure, and I feel great.


PS: Here's two photos of me post-op, one at the operating table, and one of me enjoying the scenery out of my hospital window. I do not need to be kept overnight, since I'll have Noricum to observe me.

Heart Surgery U of M

This Weekend

Dear Knittah,

You would have had fun with us this weekend, if only you could have been here! On Saturday, H, Noricum and I went to Ram Wools, which was having an open house... with all yarn 15% off! Here's the view from the front door, to give you an idea of the size:
Ram Wools Ram Wools
The first photo is looking in from the door straight back, and the second photo looks to the right. So, to get the full size, multiply these two photos together. ;)

It was funny... H and Noricum were overcome by yarn fumes, and so didn't remember to take any photos until we were out in the car and about to leave the parking lot. Noricum ran back in, and took those first two photos. When she got back to the car, H asked if she had gotten a photo of me with the sheep... and so she had to go back in again:
Ram Wools
Then, when she was about to leave the store, the staff asked if she had a photo of the clearance aisle, which she had to back again for:
Ram Wools
Mmmm! Would you look at all that clearance yarn!

Well, finally H and Noricum were done, and we went home to assess the damage. Noricum made it out with some lovely yarn to make her brother a squid toque:
But H bought an avalanche:
(H doesn't knit, but she and Noricum have a deal where she supplies yarn, and Noricum returns it as knitted items. The both think they have the better end of the deal!)

On Sunday, Noricum was so overwhelmed by all the new yarn she barely knew what to knit. (She also discovered that she probably doesn't have the right dpns for the toques.) She actually sat through an entire movie without knitting! She did recover enough by dinner time to work on Durrow, her sweater in progress. We had dinner with a bunch of local knitters who were getting together for a holiday celebration:
Christmas/Holiday Dinner
and I made a new friend:
My New Friend
I forgot to ask for his contact information, though, so I don't know when I'll see him next.


Naked Cowboy

Naked Cowboy

Dear Nori,

J told me about some web pages with info on the Naked Cowboy. His own page is at, and he has a wikipedia page too. He has his story in a *lot* of detail, but Noricum needs her computer to do work. (She's letting me borrow it for some quick posts.)

I've e-mailed my photos to him for his gallery, and included my story.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Time Square

Dear Nori,

I've been bad, and haven't written as promptly as I should have. Today I'm going to try to catch up a bit.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Noricum took me to Times Square in New York. A friend of hers wanted to see photos of David Blaine who was doing a stunt near there, and she thought I might enjoy seeing Times Square too. It sure is a brightly lit place!
Times Square Times Square

When we spotted the "Charmin Bathrooms" that J had been reading about, we decided we had to test them out!
Oooo! The Naked Cowboy was there too!
Naked Cowboy Naked Cowboy
The Naked Cowboy has been at Times Square for years (according to J), but he's currently helping to promote Charmin. (Normally his underwear is patriotic.)

There was plenty of toilet paper in the stalls:
In fact, there were several people there making sure each stall was cleaned between every use. Noricum's opinion is that the "less is more" slogan really is true for Charmin. :) And yep, they really do have the hokey dance floor with employees and others dancing:

David Blaine was a block away from Times Square, but a Charmin employee was able to tell us where to find him:
David Blaine David Blaine
He wasn't doing anything exciting when we were there, just dangling and spinning slowly. It couldn't have been too comfortable... there was a cold drizzle coming down. (Which changed to cold rain for a brief time later.)

On the way home we stopped at the green market at Union Square to check out the Morehouse Merino booth:
Morehouse Merino Morehouse Merino
Mmmm! Soft yarn! Noricum wants to make something with their yarn, but needs to decide what first.

We also spotted these tent booths at Union Square:
Union Square Christmas Market
which turned out to be a Christmas Market! Noricum took me back after Thanksgiving when they were open, but we had so much fun looking at stuff that we forgot to take photos.

Well, this is getting to be a long letter, so I'll continue with my backlog in a separate letter.