Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Don't Know Why

Part of the draw something every day series:

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Look Who's Here!

Yes, It's the confusing Spring Warblers!!!

Or maybe they're vireos?

  am confused!!  Is this really all the same species of birds? Where are the cape May warblers and the black and whites and everyone else.

I know I saw a yellow rump out there, but I only seem to be able to photograph these guys!

I love the chattering sound as they feed on the evergreen blossoms.

Whatever they are they are cute and very active!

I'm hoping will get more variety in a couple of days.

In the mean time, though, I'm happy!! It means Spring is really here!


The expert says Tennessee Warblers:

Looks right to me (This image from Wikipedia)

Monday, 10 May 2010

What Dogs Do When They're Bored

I've had my suspicions for  a while, but today I caught them in the act!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Update on Possum Shawl

Since I want a long triangular shawl and my pattern is a shorter oval, I am left to having to modify the pattern.  Here is what I have done so far (Not my favorite) but I think the long lines will be on the shoulder and thus not too obvious, I am getting ready to go back to figurals in the next few rounds.

And just for good measure, here is the new dog:

I'm glad I was able to get a picture without all the bulldog slobber all over him!

Prelude to Dalian

Despite our adventures in Beijing, I still decided to go to the library after dinner. Books have always been a reassuring object to me. Horace Mann wisely said, "A room without books is like a house without windows." Since we were in a floating house with relatively few windows, I opted for the room with books, besides the exotic paintings on the faux conservatory(-style) ceiling felt so decadent, so how could I resist?  What better place to read a play by Wilde or an essay by Shaw! Of course I didn't do that, I knitted, but still I imagined reading Pygmalion as I tried to correct for the 3rd time the mistakes I had made the day before on my green possum wool shawl.

Since it was March 17, the ship had celebrated St. Patrick's day while we were in Beijing, but they greeted us at dinner with this decor. (I went by and photographed it after the fact.)

The morning of the next day we got up and went to breakfast  before heading out into Dalian. Look at these marvelous socks knitted by one of our breakfast colleagues!

Dalian was already visible from the patio outside the Panorama room, but we had not yet arrived.

This meant we could enjoy watching the ship glide into port while we ate our breakfast.

It was a beautiful sunny day and Dalian seemed clean and cheery after the oldness and grime of Beijing.

The skyline was modern and enticing.

Of course there were some familiar Beijing sights too. (Yes, I know I am obsessed - call it a baby boom "duck and cover" generational thing.)

As we dined, we watched the seabirds and the barges passing by and then drank the last of our pretend coffee before heading to our rooms to prepare for disembarking.

Natalie (my roommate) and I were excited, we had signed up for an excursion with a visit to a "typical" Chinese family.

This would be my first excursion organized by the ship and I was excited to see what I  had been missing.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Secret's of Mel's Beijing Plan (Updated)

I just got word from Richard about how brilliant Mel's plans were for making sure the knitters got back on board! Here is how Richard explained it to me:

"Mel and I were on high NORO (a type of Japanese yarn for those not familiar with the full wittiness of Richard's parole) alert and she immediately stayed at one of the gangplanks and told all the uniformed staff that the ship must wait for the missing busload of ladies. I returned to our balcony which had a dull view of the dock as it was getting dark. With our walkie--talkies blaring we looked very serious but I could not make out who was approaching the ship.

I took a high ISO photos of the area and under high mag saw Wendy's beret and Natalie's full hair...

 Then I saw Amy's leather jacket and ....

(huff, quick shallow breathing, sweaty palms) in seconds we knew you all made it back. Hooray!
We also had plan B: I was to suffer a seizure near the gangplank which would stop the ship from leaving port. "

Amy, another member of our group adds, "

Richard['s] photos are priceless!!! Reminded me of those last moments -- stuffing a bunch of bills in our bus driver's hand, jumping off the bus, sprinting across the pier to the end of the gangplank, and jabbering in Mandarin to the Chinese guard that the group was following right behind me and to not let the ship leave until I counted off all 16 members of the group onto the ship. What a memorable night!
There are those who might accuse me of exaggerating, but see, it just ain't so!!!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

An Exciting Afternoon.

After the Forbidden City and a little bag shopping from a street vendor, we piled back into the bus and headed towards the famous Beijing Silk Market for lunch. On the way of course there were many things to see out the bus windows. This was a gigantic billboard. (Click on any image to enlarge it!)

 I have no idea what all these wires are for, but it is just a small portion of a larger mess of wires on a pole that caught my eye because of the shapes.

The Silk Market had multiple floors of shopping with every imaginable kind of souvenir and a fairly famous Duck Restaurant too.

We were there primarily for the famous Peking Duck (well, and for shopping too -although with such limited time it was going to have to be some pretty serious speed shopping.)

The meal was an extravaganza (of course) served family style in the inimitable Chinese way.

Ample quantities of food were artfully, organized onto a lazy susan in the center of the table,

...while the chef stood nearby and carved the much awaited duck.

This fish was one of my favorites. We actually got it in Shanghai again - it is a kind of deep fried sweet and sour fish always served complete with head and tail.

The duck, however, was the real star attraction and we enjoyed the beauty and delicacy of all the dishes, but savored the duck with its pancakes, moo shu (hoisin) sauce and onions.

The meal was colorful and tasty and actually held the attention of even the most avid shopaholics!

But not for long!! Soon it was off to the Silk Market. We had been warned that we had very limited time and we dare not be late in returning to the bus because we had a long ride ahead of us back to Tianjin and the Chinese traffic could be terrible. These turned out to be words to the wise!

I've never felt so popular in my life: people calling out to me and offering me all manner of exotic wares (for a price, Ugarte, for a price!)  I've never had to shop so fast either, but I knew I dare not be the last little duckling onto the junk. (In the story that Captain Kangaroo read out loud about Ping, the last duckling back onto the junk got slapped on the behind.)

Most of us were good little ducklings, but alas our own Ping got distracted by the beauty of the world and so the rest of us waited and waited and waited.  Our guides were worried and still no sign of our errant member, so off went Beijing Lily and the bus driver to comb the silk market for bodies.  

And still no Ping! So we waited some more.  

Finally with the guides and bus driver coming back, Lily Chin our fearless leader announced that that was it, we would simply have to leave.  Since our tour was not an official Princess Cruise Line Tour, we could not depend on them to hold the ship for us and with the traffic we could just barely make it if we left right away. 

But lo and behold just as the bus driver scrambled back into his seat, whom should we see straggling through the crowd, but our lost little duckling! With everyone on board we headed out. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like the bus driver was driving just a little bit faster than usual and maybe even a little faster than the speed limit.  

Things appeared to be under control, so we turned to sightseeing again. We passed by this famous burnt out building.

The traffic in Beijing was not too bad, so we all heaved an over-confident sigh of relief as we left the city and headed through the countryside towards Tianjin.

There were still sights to be seen, like this huge flea market on the banks of the river.

I guess I still wasn't quite shopped out, because I was already mentally picking out a couple of dresses as we drove by.

The road out of the city was starting to get crowded, but our driver battled on passing fruit and tricycles and loads of various workers and their wares.

We also passed any number of these on our way back.

Here's a nice shot of the Beijing smog too.

And here's another...

And believe it our not, I missed a few.

Unfortunately when we reached Tianjin our peaceful trip ended. The bus wandered listlessly in the dusk and it suddenly became evident that the driver actually had no real idea about how to get to the port. In an isolated area we suddenly pulled over and our guide Beijing Lily jumped out of the bus.  I thought she must be heading home rather than making the journey to the ship and back.  Then we noticed that she had climbed into a taxi and the bus was following along (well sort of.)

We passed a sign that said the port was one direction and our bus driver promptly went the other. (Of course Tianjin is a port town with many many docks, but we had no idea which one was ours, nor it seemed did the bus driver.) Just when it seemed like Beijing Lil and the taxi driver had it figured out, the middle part of our massive highway headed towards one of those "Your vehicle must be under the height of this bar to continue" signs.  Rush hour was in full swing and guess what!?  We were taller than the bar only 50 feet ahead! The taxi driver ahead of us did what any confused sixteen year old in driving school would have done! He honked his horn and turned around and headed the wrong way into the traffic away from the bar! (I'm serious!!!) He pulled over on the side of the road as the bus driver BACKED UP on the crowded highway and somehow maneuvered through several lanes of traffic to join up with the taxi.  As the clock ticked on, the experts huddled and then we were off again heading back the other direction, back through the traffic, back through the city. People were starting to sweat. The bus driver got increasingly more heroic as the sun started to sink on the west side of Tianjin.  Soon we were hemmed in by traffic, but our driver didn't care, he simply pulled out into the on-coming traffic across the yellow lane and honked his horn to let people know what they could already see!

We raced what seemed willy nilly, turning around, racing the other direction, horn honking as we sped around other drivers, ran red lights and broke every rule of the road.

It got dark and the ship's departure time was approaching. Lily Chin called the ship to try and get them to hold departure for us. After several calls, no one was promising anything. I'm sure I heard audible praying from the back of the bus.  We sailed on, but so did the time. And then it was time for desperate measures, so finally we did what we should have done in the first place. We brought in the heavy artillery - we called MEL!!  Mel was on top of it instantly. She promised to investigate and in the mean time she would send Richard out to lie on the gang plank to keep the ship from departing.  

Our hearts skipped a beat. Off to the right, we could see the water now and knew we must be close, but still no ships and no sign of our port! The bus driver took a side road that was curvy and seemed less than promising. He sped down it, driving much of the way in the left lane horn blasting! It got darker and darker and the road seemed to go on forever!

And then... there it was! We could see the ship. It was time for the ship to leave, but we were just about there!! We imagined we could see Richard hanging off the half-raised edge of the gang plank. The bus driver turned and burned rubber as he pulled up before the terminal. We grabbed our stuff, raced to the still extended gangplank and heaved a huge communal sigh of relief when we place our feet on the slightly swaying ship. Never did sea legs feel SO good! We were only a few minutes later than actual sailing time and we could even still make dinner!  I dumped my trophies onto the bed and headed for the dinning room, noticing subconsciously that the ship was still not moving.

It was Italian night in the dining room and our serving people were all dressed like gondoliers. You could almost imagine Wipa  standing on the Piazza singing Volare.

We noticed there was a very slight turn out in the dining room that evening.  After tying a nearby diner to the table and engaging in a little interrogation, we learned that two other excursion groups had not yet arrived and that the ship was being held.  

And we had sweated out all that good salt for nothing!!! I felt cheap as film noir dame! Beijing had had its way with more than just us and we now knew that instead of worrying about coming on time we should have just hung back and enjoyed the ride! What else could we do, but sit down and enjoy another really good meal!

It was the most exciting day of the cruise and luckily we all had mementoes to help us remember it by.

I had my 3$ shawls of cashmere and the pearl I had gotten for my Mom at the silk market.  

And then there was a little bit of yarn too. It had been a VERY good day, one not to be outdone nor easily forgotten!