Thursday, July 27, 2006

BCN Ch. 2: Windows and Doors

I never really liked windows and doors until I went to Europe. The windows and doors there are outstanding. I don't know whether I like them because of their metaphoric quality, or because they are simply beautiful.

If the eyes are windows to the soul, are windows and doors the "eyes" to culture?? When I longingly look at the windows and doors of Barcelona, am I seeking an understanding of what it is like to live in and belong to a large European city? Am I metaphorically putting myself into the apartment, building or store by photographing the beauty? Do I want to go inside the building, or am I content to stay, admiringly, outside?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'd like to invite you to admire a few windows and doors of Barcelona with me.
This photo is from a chocolate store called "Xocoa". The style is "modernista". I don't know if the stained glasswork is old or new--but made to look old. If you ever visit Barcelona, check out one of the Xocoa stores and purchase some of their Jamaican Pepper Chocolate--made with pepper!!
I don't recall what building this is from, but the entry is pretty forboding and powerful! Wouldn't you love to wave to the throngs below from the window above the door?? Dressed in a lace mantilla and fluttering a fan??
Another chocolate/pastry shop!! Modernista style mosaic and stained glass. How can you not stop in to purchase some decadent pastry, or some chocolate to sooth your soul???
I'd love to live in this apartment building, if only to walk through these inner doors every day.
This window overlooks the back of the Boqueria market. Not a very scintillating view. But, at least, the apartment can catch some air on occasion, even if laden with smells from the fish stands. In the morning, you can drape your blankets over the railing to air out. Or, maybe, that is a beach towel on the left. Many, many years ago I was a student in Switzerland for a summer and rented a room from a single woman. Every morning, I carefully made my bed. One morning my landlady chastised me for making my bed so quickly in the morning, and covering up the night vapors. These Americans, she exclaimed, don't have any manners or good sense. Everyone knows, she continued, that one must hang the bedding out the window every morning, to air, for good health!!
Not many apartments in Barcelona have clothes dryers. Many windows sport clotheslines.
Sometimes its the stucco between the windows that is appealing. How I would love to have decorated stucco next to my bedroom window!! Wouldn't the decorations ensure sweet dreams??
Arriving home to Wisconsin, however, we found this view out of our bedroom window. A fierce thunderstorm knocked down many trees. This one fell onto the roof of our garage, and our patio. Luckily, neither the roof nor my gas grill (hidden under the brances) were injured. Getting rid of the huge tree top has been quite challenging. Hubby is not good with a chain saw, but we have hired a young man who not only has a chain saw but is a forester. We may need to hire someone with a truck and "cherrypicker" as well!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Violets by the River Shawl and Barcelona, Revisited--Chapter 1

Unfortunately, I didn't keep up with my posts while in Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France. But, I did keep up with my knitting!! In a previous post I explained that while living in Barcelona during 2004-05 I made myself a Violets by the River Shawl, designed by Hazel Carter in honor of the State of Wisconsin, my home state. I made the shawl in Barcelona, while sipping coffee, beer, wine, "cava", etc., sitting in the park near our apartment. I loved every stitch of that shawl because, although I adored Barcelona, I longed for my home state.
Then, disaster struck. I lovingly blocked and used the shawl here in the U.S. And I lost it!!! So, I resolved to re-make the shawl while visiting Barcelona this summer.

Above is proof that I worked on the shawl in Barcelona. The photo shows the shawl at a sidewalk cafe, a Palestinian cuisine cafe in Barcelona.

And, here is the shawl evesdropping on a couple enjoying a little conversation at the cafe. I didn't catch what they were saying, but I'm sure the shawl did!

And, here is the shawl with my tabouli, cafe con leche and water, quietly sitting in the background while I focused my attention on food for the body, rather than food for the soul.

We had a great time in Barcelona and Paris, as you may have gathered from my picture-less posts. Over the next few days, I will post some photos of Barcelona and the growing shawl as well as some photos from Paris.

First, however, let me add to your list of yarn shops that you will definitely want to visit if you ever get to Barcelona. One of the knitting group members from Barcelona Knits just opened a new shop called Persones Llanes on, get this, the Plaza de Lana (or, Wool/Yarn Place)!!! How cool is that??? And, here is a photo of the little shop that is soon to be overflowing with yarn and classes.

Lilacs by the River Shawl and Barcelona, Revisited

Unfortunately, I didn't keep up with my posts while in Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France. But, I did keep up with my knitting!! In a previous post

Saturday, July 15, 2006

What I've Done

I found a list of 150 things to do in life (althought I don't really want to do ALL of them) on the Knitting Doctor's blog. You can find it at
At any rate, I thought it was fun. Here are the things I've done: 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 38, 39, 42, 47, 52, 53, 59, 62, 63, 64, 65, 72 (twice), 75 (once), 77, 82 (local), 88, 90, 91, 94, 96, 99 (Provence), 101, 102, 113 (little finger in a curling accident), 114 (lived in Africa), 116, 118, 125, 128, 130 (at age 54), 134, 135, 138, 144, 146, 148 (shaved my daughter's head).

I know this list of numbers is meaningless to you and hard to correlate with the list on another site. However, it does serve to encourage all of us to count the number of things we have done in life that are interesting, bizarre, a little dangerous, a little out of the ordinary, a reflection of our desire to share or give, etc. Make your own list--or check out the one at the Knitting Doctor's blog, and add your own personal accomplishments of which you are proud.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I am writing this in Barcelona Spain! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to Senator Herbert Kohl's office who arranged for an appointment at the Chicago passport office on the Monday morning after our passport fiasco!! By 4:00 p.m. Maddie had her new passport in hand. On Wednesday we were on an airplane to Barcelona! Thank you from the bottom of our pocketbooks to the airlines which put us on a later flight--with no additional charge!!
Maddie and I arrived in BCN tired but grateful! Ready to speak Spanish and ready to drink coffee in our favorite spots.

Being in another country always makes me feel as if I am in a suspended state of being. I don't recall any dates, I don't know what day of the week it is and I tend to treat the money as if it is a type of play, Monopoly-like money. Of course, reality keeps on trucking and I am the one who is lost in space, so to speak. Forgive me if I no longer remember what dates we arrived or did something exciting.

Barcelona hasn't changed much since our year here (2004-05). We stepped back into the routines, into knowing which subways to catch and remembering that everything closes from 2-5 p.m.

One great change is that the knitting group for which I was a founding member (one of two members!!) has grown rapidly. There are about 20 or more people who come on a rotating basis, depending on availability, to a Starbucks on Monday evenings. My good friend, Betty at continues to be the energetic leader of this group. My friend Jennifer has opened a new yarn shop called Personnes Llanas (it's Catalan and I'm not sure of the spelling)! And the group has expanded in both numbers and languages--including Catalan, Spanish, French and English speakers. And one man!! (Jennifer's husband).

Unfortunately, I can't seem to load photos into this post, because I am using an Apple computer I think. So, I can't show you the wonderful photos I've taken of my progress on the new Violets by the River Shawl I've been making here in Barcelona. Take my word for it, I have lovingly recreated nearly 2/3 of the shawl in many cafes of the city, on the airplane to Paris and back and in Paris cafe's as well. I have not seen any other person knit in public and I have received a number of stares, particularly when I hold the shawl up to photograph it in some interesting setting. Now I know how the Yarn Harlot feels when she photographs her socks. Maybe American and Canadians have come to grips with the knitting fever, but the Europeans seem to think that knitting is a very private activity, one that is done in public by only the most crass and low-class women. Now, I walked aroung the Pigalle area of Montmartre and I saw some pretty crass and low-class women "selling their wares", and I don't think I looked quite so crass with my knitting in my lap, but some of the stares I received implied otherwise!

Several bloggers have commented on La Droguerie in Paris as a marvelous yarn shop. But, no one told me that the air in the shop is charged with addictive substances and breathing it makes you want to spend inordinate amounts of money--NO SELF-CONTROL POSSIBLE!!!! Did any of you every read the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem in high school, about the land of the Kubla Khan, that is a wonder palace of delights, written while high on opium??. Coleridge must have been a yarn-a-holic who stepped into La Droguerie!! Unfortunately, my pleas to the management to permit me to take photos were met with a polite but firm, "That is impossible." I even asked twice. I even asked after spending more than 200 Euros!! No, that was impossible!! Let me just tempt you by saying that the place is stacked from floor to ceiling, on hooks, in drawers, in glass jars and under glass topped antique display cases with yarns, buttons, ribbons, beads and every delight that an addicted knitter, beader, button hound or ribbon stasher could imagine--and then more. Hundreds, nay thousands, of spools of embroidered, plain, velvet, beaded, crinoline, imported and imagined ribbon from around the world. Millions upon millions of beads in glass jars--untouchable glass jars--on narrow and tall shelves and under display glass. If you like a bead, they have it in every color and size. Buttons--buttons to die for. Every color and every size in every model. Buttons created from stacks of buttons. Buttons of every substance. And yarn--hanging in loose skeins--to touch and admire--in colors and in natural states--in wool, bamboo, silk, linen, cotton and combinations. NO acrylic!!

And knitted items hanging from the ceiling, from the walls and every other cevice not filled with the above mentioned opiates. Each knitted item cuter, more stylish, more awe inspiring than the next.

Are you still brreathing??? Well, the shopping is quite an experience for an American. Someone will help you, someone who can guide your selection. Someone who will tell you that the patterns for their displayed items are not for sale. That is, you have to buy the yarn, to get the pattern. So, you don't know how many meters, kilometers or grams of yarn you need for the item you want to knit. You just tell the nice lady that you want to make that cardigan, the one up there on the right, in this color in your size. She goes and gets the yarn and the pattern. And comes back with the skeins in a bag with the pattern. Then you find out how much yarn you have. She gives you a little slip of paper with some french heiroglyphics on it. You take the paper to the man in the little wood cage in the middle of the store. He is the only person who handles money--or credit cards.

Oh wait, you forgot the buttons. Each model has about 20-30 dollars of buttons on it, it seems. The clerks will bring out the drawer of little tiny compartments with alll the varieties and colors of the model you desire. You sort through the hundreds of buttons of each type, size and color to find the ones you want. Perfection counts!!

I left the shop with yarn for four sweaters--bamboo, linen, cotton and silk--as I recall. I had no more time to go to Le Bon Marche to find less expensive yarn, nor to visit any other yarn shop. I also had no money left.....

We escaped Paris just in time to miss the crush of Bastille Day celebrations and to keep me out of more yarn shops.

More later.....