Saturday, April 26, 2008

I like Denton

I’ve been enjoying a few days’ break in Denton, TX. Every time I come here I think, I could really live here. Although my parents live here, I grew up in Central and West Texas and have never lived this far north in the state. But it’s what I call a charming town and because there are 2 major universities (University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University), there is a lot of buzz.

One of the things we always have to do is visit Recycled Books which is probably the finest used book stores I’ve ever found. They’re in the old Wright Opera House building – the link above gives you some info about Recycled and a little history of the Opera House. If you’re ever in the DFW area, I know there’s Half Price Books, but if you loved used books, cds or dvds, it’s definitely worth the drive to Denton for a visit.

Here are a couple of photos of the Old Denton County Courthouse whose predecessor’s bricks were used for the Opera House. I really miss the trees and green, albeit fleeting sometimes, of Texas. Guess I’m just an out and out unashamed to say Texas girl!

I just happened to be in Denton for the Jazz Festival. We went early and didn’t stay too long but it was fun to wander through and, of course, get some kettle corn. We did get to hear a couple of bands and there were several stages throughout the city complex. I have to say the vendors were pretty same old, same old – all beads, pottery and iffy oil paintings (or prints thereof). There were, however, some very skilled jewelry makers and some very skilled potters. Too bad they got lumped in with all the others. Anyway, it was fun to wander through, lovely weather, not too hot or humid, a bit of a breeze. Pretty fine.

And to wrap it up, I had a REAL hamburger (which doesn’t exist as far as I can find in Central Illinois). The Denton County Hamburger House, right on the square. Nice atmosphere – lots of antiques – and comfortable, probably because they weren’t so busy. The hamburgers were great, just what I’d been missing, and real potato french fries. Yummers!!!!

The drag of the trip has been the ongoing battle of the totally inept customer service of the local Best Buy store. My mother had purchased a high price computer from them, paid to have them set it up (they never gave her back her original set up discs) and paid to have the in-home “Geek Squad” service. Back in February, it died. Not only would they not provide the in-home service, they have been messing her around for almost 3 months now. Shameful. She even wrote a letter to the store manager, main customer service and HP detailing the 3 pages of ineptitude, inefficient and total lack of courtesy of their service center. Not one response from any of them. Yesterday she got a call that her computer was ‘ready,’ whatever that would end up being, so I went with her. Now my Mom is perhaps the sweetest, gentlest person on earth. In other words too nice to get any decent service from these people. She wanted to make sure all the programs were loaded this time (they weren’t before) so he said he would ‘check’ for her. (Does that sound like the computer was ready?) Sure enough, the major program were not loaded so he tried to give her the run around (I won’t go into all the details) so I jumped in and told him he’d jolly better figure out how to get them loaded and if he couldn’t maybe his manager could address things at a higher level. Do you believe in miracles? He mysteriously found the disc that “just happened to be there with someone else’s computer” which he was able to use to load the programs. Sigh…. (By the way, just in case you’re wondering, I’m not nearly as sweet and gentle as my Mom.)

We got it home and I had to reconfigure some of the stuff so it worked like she wanted it to but at least she’s got almost everything working again. For how long, I don’t know.

Suffice to say that if you’re ever contemplating buying a new computer, don’t do so at Best Buy if you expect to have any service after the purchase, especially if you don’t know much about computers. Shameful.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I’ve got a couple of things to post about today

One is to say, I’m writing this from the wonderful land of Texas! Home to let my mother spoil me for my birthday!! It was so comforting to see all the Texas license plates and Whataburgers and wild flowers on the side of the road. It’ll always feel like home and for some weird reason I’ve been so homesick lately.

Another is about a dvd and a couple of movies I watched this weekend.

Several months ago, I heard about Portuguese style knitting. Being the lover of any new piece of information, I started poking around to see what I could find about it. There were a couple of videos on YouTube but not great quality. In my research I found a Yahoo Group called knitting with crochet hook. The description talked about knitting with “the amazing needle” and “Portuguese knitting.” Sounded interesting so I joined up and began reading the input of some very creative folks and learned a little bit more. I believe it was on this group that I heard about
Andrea Wong who is a Portuguese lady living in Ohio who does a lot of teaching and teaches how to knit in the Portuguese style with regular needles. Oh yeah, the Portuguese needles, the best I can understand, are pointed at one end and have a crochet-type hook at the other end (please forgive me if this isn’t correct).

On Andrea’s web site she has an instructional dvd as well as the shoulder pin used to help tension the yarn in this style. I ordered the dvd but never had time to watch it until this weekend. What a wonderful resource – every new knitter should have this video. I thought it would just be about the knit/purl stitches for the Portuguese style. It’s so much more than that. She also covers increases, decreases, a variety of cast ons and bind offs. She has different techniques and tips. Wonderful! The explanations she gives are very simple and clear and the video shots of her working the stitches is very clear and she actually repeats the movements enough that you really get a sense of what she’s doing and lets you follow along.

With her instructions, I found it extremely easy to pick up how to work the stitches and how to combine them for ribbing, etc. The purl stitch is the easiest you’ll ever come across. If you have any wrist problems, you definitely want to check this style out because there’s no throwing, there’s not twisting. It’s all done with a flick of the thumb! For anyone who has seen Donna Druchunas’ book, Ethnic Knits, this is very, very similar to the Andean style Donna talks about. Must have been a conquistadorian export. Donna’s got a great bag pattern in her book using the Andean style along with a very cool bind off edging.

I found fascinating (and she’s not paying me to say any of this!!) her demonstration of how easy it is to knit with beads in this style AND how much easier to do color work. She’s actually combined the Portuguese and the Continental styles to make color work a breeze. One strand is tensioned off the pin on your shoulder (or yarn around your neck – although this can be a little uncomfortable unless you’ve got some material under the strand) and is knit in the Portuguese style. The other color is held in the left hand and is worked as for Continental knitting. How clever is that! I’m totally going to use that next time I do my Danish Skrå-Trøyer sweater (ha!!).

Speaking of Danish, let me just mention two movies I saw this weekend that I highly recommend – both great for a good cry:
Danish movie called Kinamand. After a man’s wife leaves him, he begins eating each night at the Chinese Restaurant across the road (on first night he orders a Number 1, second night a Number 2, etc. through the whole movie). It’s through the friendships he makes here that he finds things happening to him and in him that he never could have imagined.

French moved called Sequins. A young girl who’s found herself pregnant, decides to follow her passion – embroidery (but what I know as Tambour embroidery). She begins working with a lady in her village that had at one time worked with the large fashion houses in Paris. Her son has recently been killed in a motorcycle accident and the two of them find reasons for life in their journey together. (Sounds really saccharine, I know but it’s the most succinct way I could think to describe it.)