Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Animals We Saw in Jamaica

One of our side trips was to the Black River where we rode on a pontoon boat. David took this first photo of an egret. These egrets seemed larger than the ones in Minnesota, but for all I know, it's a Minnesota egret wintering in Jamaica. Who knows? There were also several nestlings but none of our photos of them turned out.

This next is a fresh-water crocodile. I hadn't been aware they lived in Jamaica until our horseback ride at the Rhodes Hall Plantation, northeast of Negril. This photo is of a croc on the Black River. The tour guide was able to reach his hand under the croc's chin and lift it up. I suspect they keep the crocodiles well fed so they won't nibble on tour guide "finger food." Look at those teeth!

This peacock is located at Rhodes Hall. I didn't even try to get it to spread its tail (you tai chi types should understand that statement).

Paz is a donkey at the Appleton Rum Factory. (That's a fun link. Cruise around to look at all the chances to win a trip to Jamaica.) They used to use donkeys to turn the sugar cane squisher (I have no idea what its real name should be). They'd have two donkeys walking in an endless circle while the cane was fed into the squisher and cane juice would come out the other end.

At the end of the factory tour, we came to another cane squisher. Guess who volunteered to be a donkey! The cane juice was sweet but otherwise had little flavor.

This is one of two kittens at the LTU pub, just south of where we were staying. LTU served, of all things, veiner schnitzel, which David said was quite good. Anyway, neither of these kitties was tame but would come up to you if you had food in your hand. Then they would bat at your hand to try to make you drop the food (only one claw came out when I wouldn't drop my bite of lobster). I suspect the cats are kept for catching mice and other vermin. Must be doing a great job. I didn't see any vermin.

There was another horseback riding place just below YS Falls. I'll put more photos from our trip to YS Falls later. You already saw one if you checked out my Christmas day entry.

And to end the list, this is a gecko. Years ago, when we were in Jamaica, the resort had many of these little guys. I got used to seeing them hanging on the walls in the bathroom. They would eat the little bugs that came in. This is the only gecko I saw this trip. And there were a lot of little, teeny, tiny, itty-bitty ant-looking bugs. They were light in color and maybe a millimeter long. I tried to invite this fellow in, but he didn't seem interested.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

From YS Falls.

(No, that's not me.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Serious Chicken" - in Jamaica

These pictures are for my son Ben, especially, and the others who went to Jamaica with us in 1986.

Back then Ben and I were in Jamaica one week before the rest of our friends arrived. While out walking we came across a fellow with a 55-gallon drum who had converted it into a grill. His only menu choice was grilled chicken. He'd take a large piece of foil, put a couple pieces of white bread on it, pour catchup and some hot sauce on the bread, and place the chicken, which he'd literally hacked up with a cleaver, on top of the bread.

While there waiting for him to finish our dinners, a "rasta mon" on his bicycle came along and, in pattoi (I think he figured we wouldn't understand him), asked the man at the grill if we, the poor unsuspecting tourists from America, knew that chicken had only just been scraped off the road. From then on, Ben and I referred to it as the Road-Kill Chicken place. The chicken was very, very tasty, by the way.

On this trip, David and I discovered, located in roughly the same spot, Serious Chicken.

(Dave took this photo and the last two.)

While we were waiting for our food, I asked Felix if he was the same fellow who'd been cooking chicken along side the road all those years ago. He said "yes" and showed me a photo of him with his cooker back then. It's the same cooker, retired now, out by his sign in front of the little restaurant.

David ordered the conch soup and said it was delicious.

I ordered the chicken and it was also very good.

Actually, we ate there for dinner earlier in the week. I don't recall what David order, maybe the Jerk chicken. I ordered the lobster, which was a whole lobster, maybe 8-10 inches long, cut in two in lengthwise along the back, and grilled. It was very good but I couldn't be sure what parts of it I was eating so I was glad it was dark out.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Security System

The resort where we stayed in Negril, Jamaica, uses dogs for security. Twenty-one years ago, they were German Shephards. Now there are two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and a Mongrel of some sort.

Ridgebacks are identified by the well-defined ridge of hair growing backward toward their heads. They are quite large dogs, weighing 80-90 pounds and standing 25-27 inches tall.

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This is Sugar, or, as the Jamaicans who worked there pronounced it, Sugah. We were told she was pregnant but it is too early for us to see. She is the youngest of the three dogs and the most playful and most alert. When someone comes onto the property that she hasn't been introduced to, she stands tall and makes a couple hearty barks of warning. Then she loses interest and lies down. I do not want to think what she might do if she didn't want you to be there.

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This fellow is Tensing. He's actually a couple inches shorter than Sugah and more laid back than she is. I guess he figures if she's going to be vigilant, he doesn't need to be.

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And here's Bella. She's the oldest of the three and mostly mutt, I think. Sugah often tries to get Bella to play and Bella doesn't seem interested. 90 percent of the time, Bella can be found on the patio in front of the office with the other dogs, but lying in the shade.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

The bridge has no handrail and is 20 feet above the water. It's a popular place for people to jump from. This was taken from our balcony.

The hammocks are a lovely place to relax, nap, knit, watch the dolphins.

Hibiscus in the predominant flower at this resort. They are what we find in our room every day on the bed when the maid is done.

This is our shower, located below the Pillar House.

This is the view from the loo.

Sock, gorillapod, and iPod.

Horseback riding by the sea and in it.

Peacock does not spread its tail.

Sock progress Tuesday afternoon.

Sunset Tuesday.

Sock progress Wednesday noon.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Sock's Eye View of the Carribean

Full blogging will happen after we get back. While we have internet here, it is relatively weak. Fortunately, there is a somewhat comfortable couch outside the resort office where I can sit and feel the breeze, listen to loud music emanating from across the street, and type.

On Saturday afternoon, my sock was quite small.

By Sunday evening it had grown considerably and was deserving of a refreshing drink of Red Stripe, the local lager.

I've turned the heel on my sock but not taken a photo of it. Suffice it to say, I've snorkeled, I've eaten yummy food (lobster on the first day, snapper last night), napped a little, knit a lot. We're planning to dinner at a place called Rock House this evening.

The water feels like it's around 82 degrees. Cool when you first get in, but easy to get used to. Because it is salt water, I float like a fishing bobber. There are a lot of pretty fish in that water. The contact lenses are working fine.

Well, that's all for today. Stay tuned for further adventures of april and David. We're going horseback riding tomorrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eat your hearts out, folks

This is the view out the sea-facing door on our deck, the Middle Pillar house.

And this is the lovely group of blossoms arranged on a bath towel on the bed.

Remember, you can click on these photos to see a larger view.

That's all for today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BLOG used to mean something else

I find it interesting that I BLOG. I know it means weblog but it used to mean something else. Like now, while I'm fighting off the effects of a cold, just 3 days from getting on a plane to fly to Jamaica. BLOG is the word I would say back in the 1900s.

We used a few other strange acronyms. IGAS meant "I Give A Sh#$" and was usually said in a bland sort of way.

BLOG is how I got up this morning after essentially no sleep last night. I took a sudafed. I don't know if it kept me awake. It kept me breathing. That's important. But today was the tai chi demonstration for my Sifu's boss: the US Government. Someone from Washington DC was in town and the Colonel decided to have "events" in her honor. So we spent an hour demonstrating what we do at the school. Dave, Warren, Sifu, and I had a great deal of fun. Sifu performed all the forms: cane, fan, 40-form, sword, broadsword (saber), 2-person form, applications. She's amazing, which is why I have stayed with her for 14+ years.

I'm busy planning what to take to Jamaica. I'm knitting an alpaca and sparkles scarf. It may end up with the sparkles on the ends and plain "Ruby" in the middle. Ruby is the animal it came from. I'm also bringing socks, er, not socks but sock stuff. I have one and a half pair already done to take along. Unfortunately, it is going to be a bit loose. I used US3 needles for the first completed pair and they are too big. Panda bamboo and cotton does not, repeat, not shrink, no matter how hard I try.

So I'm waiting for my Jimmy Beans Wool order to arrive. The tracking says UPS will get it to me tomorrow, Thursday. We leave at Oh Dark Thirty Saturday, so I should be fine. I ordered a couple 40" US2 circular needles to do the magic loop sock knitting trick. It'll be my first but I have a book in case I forget due to lack of sleep or something.

Watch this blog for vacation posts. If we have a decent internet connection, that is. I'll try to get one photo up Sunday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yarn Cafe and Baklava

A couple months ago, Betty e-mailed me with information on how to get a $50 gift certificate for $25 at the Yarn Cafe in Maple Grove. She, Ann, and I decided to go for it and today, the day after Thanksgiving, we visited the shop. There were a lot of ladies there and gobs of gorgeous yarn. My eye kept being drawing in different directions. Wherever I looked was a dizzying sea of color and texture. Once I steadied myself, I realized I'd already paid for my purchases and all I had to do was take it to the counter. I settled on some sock yarn.
Ann's eyes landed on an amazing felted jacket. The first one we looked at was in an off white and just lovely. There was a tourquoise one as well as a small child's jacket. Betty enabled Ann quite nicely. It was fun watching them going from wool yarn to mohair and back again finding enough skeins of compatible colors. Ann settled on medium gray wool and a mixed pastel mohair. It will be lovely.
The Yarn Cafe also serves food and we all had their chicken noodle soup, which I thought was quite good, if a bit salty. And we had half sandwiches to go with the soup. Clever idea, yarn and a cafe.

After we were sure there wasn't anything more we just couldn't live without, we drove to the house of a lovely woman named Pat who taught us how to make baklava. She had already purchased all the ingredients for us. The nuts were ground and seasoned before we arrived. Philo dough is extremely thin and you have to work quickly before it gets dry and crumbly.

The first thing we had to do was layer 15 sheets of philo dough in the pan, painting each with clarified butter, using paint brushes. Then we layered the ground nuts (not quite powdered) with more philo and more nuts, etc. When we were finished with the nuts, we layered the rest of the philo sheets and butter until we were out of philo. We cut them into triangles and poured the rest of the butter over the tops.
Then we waited for them to bake in the oven. A little wine helped the wait.

When they were nearly done, we created the sugar syrup, flavored with honey, lemon, orange, and a cinnamon stick which we poured over the finished baklava. Yum.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

SPEBSQSA, Inc. or Barbershop Harmony Society

SPEBSQSA stood for Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. But it's more than quartets. It's much more.

Betty and I spent the weekend in beautiful Rochester, MN, attending the Land O' Lakes 2007 District Fall Convention and Contest of the Barbershop Harmony Society . She and I have been attending spring and fall contests for over 10 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. It's our regular twice-a-year getaway.

I wasn't able to take any photos during the contest. There are copyright issues and it's really important not to do anything to distract contestants while they are singing.

Friday night there were 22 quartets competing. The top 10 came back Saturday night for the final contest to earn the right to go to the international competition which will be held in Nashville next summer.

Saturday during the day 17 choruses competed for the same honor: competing at International.

Friday evening's contest was followed by the ADC (Association District Quartet Champions) show. Every year, quartets are invited to perform on a 5-year anniversary. This year 1967-1997 quartets appeared plus the 2005 and 2006 district champions. I took a few photos during this show. It's hard to get good color and they move around a lot so bear with the fuzzy yellowy colors.

This first photo is of Downstate Express, 2004 Seniors Champion and 1982 District Champions. Here their bass singer, Gary Rogness, wears a "tiger" face complete with fur while singing "Hold that Tiger" and all the while complaining loudly that it's a "stoopid" song. It is a favorite among those who've heard them and funny to all.

The Happiness Emporium were International Champions in 1975. They have a wide range of music, from comedy to gospel.

Jackpot won District in 1997.

Voices Only won the District Championship last year, 2006. Young, energetic, friendly. Great performers.

And for those of you who have read my blog because I knit, here's a photo of my Panda Cotton (and Bamboo) sock (Fall Herbs colorway). The pattern is Perriwinkle. They are a little loose so I need to see what I can do to make them smaller. The label says machine wash in cool so maybe warmer water will shrink them up a bit.

The last photo is my newest project, Monkey Socks, made of Knit Picks Felici Superwash Wool, Hummingbird colorway. I've started them with #3 needles but since I did the previous socks on #3 I'm thinking I ought to frog back and use #2 needles to make them fit better. Can't decide yet. It's time for bed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Alpaca Farm Tour 2007

Every fall the Alpaca farmers in Minnesota put on a farm tour that can cover a LOT of miles. Betty, Ann, and I drove north first, then west of the Cities.
The first 3 photos are at the same farm. There was a little yarn here but I was saving my purchase for "Ruby" yarn from Hollyhock farm.

These boys are guarding their flock. The owners were not home. I'd especially wanted to visit this farm as they were very friendly people and we'd found some lovely specialty alpaca yarn that had been spun with some sparkly stuff. But nobody was home. I was glad the dogs were tied.

This barn had lots of yarn, some of it even almost the right color of brown like Ruby. But still I waited. You see, if you buy yarn or roving from the same animal, it will always match.

Gramps looked cute greating everyone from his bench.

This black and white face intrigued me.

This is Ricky. He is a very inquisitive and friendly animal. He seemed to want to sniff everyone who came into his barn. His nose and mouth are very soft. I watched children feeding dandelions to the alpaca and they were very gentle as they took the leaves. Ricky even let me scratch his neck.

When I grow up, I'd like a Ricky.

By the way, Hollyhock Farm had sold Ruby. They had photos of her with her brand new baby. They did not have any yarn from her. Neither Ann, Betty, nor I came home with any new purchases. That has to be a first. But we all know our stashes are pretty healthy at the moment.

We finished with dinner at Texas Roadhouse on Main Street in Coon Rapids. Thanks for driving, Betty.