Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Days And Dyeing Yarns

There has been a bit of a binge on yarn-dyeing chez Celtic Memory. Partly the sense of spring in the air - it's been chilly enough these past few days, but nevertheless the sense of things speeding up is unmistakeable. The mistle thrushes are building in a pollarded eucalyptus, the robins are squabbling with the bluetits over the best nest boxes, and the dearest little baby rabbit has appeared in the rose garden.

He's a little bit different this munchkin: if you look closely you can see he has only one ear. There don't seem to be any scars or signs of trauma, so we wonder if he was actually born that way. It doesn't affect his appetite or his joie de vivre and his little sister (who appears briefly from time to time, she's a little shy) plays with him as happily as if he were the handsomest brother any girl could wish for. Which indeed he is.

Well of course he's called Van Gogh. What else could we christen him?

But back to the yarn dyeing. I skeined up two lots of the Rescue Shetland from the Shed in the Woods and one of a rather nice sockweight lambswool I got from Texere Yarns. Used scarlet and yellow (Procion), which blended into orange where they met, and hung them out to dry in the dancing breeze.

Pretty bright, huh? I almost had to put on my sunglasses to look at them. Still, we learn by doing.

Trouble developed, though, when it came to winding up the dried skeins. While the lambswool came through beautifully, the Shetland broke every few yards. I took extra care, not pulling it at all, but it simply separated at these inexplicable weak spots which had certainly not been there before. So regular were these breaks that I wondered if it had been the placing of the yarn against the rim of the dyepot for too long, or perhaps a twist in the skein? At a loss to understand it, and would welcome opinions.

The increased activity could also well have to do with the lull in Sock Madness. Round Two has finished and we are nervously awaiting the onset of Round Three with the release of an entirely unknown pattern. You get into a sort of frantic habit of knitting every second, every moment, and that's hard to break. So you look for other projects, other short-starters, to keep you occupied, instead of worrying, trying to second-guess the organisers of this hugely successful (but hugely stressful) event.
As all those participating will I am sure agree, though, it has been a lovely competition so far with regard to friendliness, helpfulness, general camaraderie among contestants. Even when you know that only so many can go through, everybody is still so positive and nice that it's a totally happy time.

(Just don't ask me to be positive and happy when I'm frantically trying to untangle mistakes at 3 am within the next week or so... )

The slight glitches with the yarn dyeing might have had something to do with it, but it has to be confessed that Celtic Memory yielded at last to Lisa Souza temptation. Well, how could anyone log on to that site and not be seduced, drawn in, scrabbling for her credit card even as she stares in disbelief at the stunning colourways? How I kept to ordering just three I do not know. Here they are:

Elektra -

Can't-elope -

- and Emerald City.

Aren't they unbelievable? Lisa is a pet, and emailed me yesterday to say they'd just been posted. How long do you think they'll take to get here? HOW LONG DO YOU THINK THEY'LL TAKE TO GET HERE? I CAN'T WAIT! WANT THEM NOW!

Peadar came to mow the lawns the other day, and since I was wearing my bright CTH Fall Foliage Glitz socks (trying to see if they will soften a bit with use), I demanded that he admire them. He chuckled, but then, quite out of the blue, told me of a Kate O'Neill who, long ago when he was young, used to come to their farm every year at the same time, to knit socks for the whole family. They would provide the yarn, she would stay for a week or so, being given her bed and board, and would make the socks to measure. Now isn't that a nice bit of local history? And I had no idea! Now that I do, though, I shall ask around a lot more. I knew about tailors who travelled around and made the clothes required in different households each year, but I hadn't known about the socks.

He also mentioned the women who were experts at cutting 'sceallans' or the chunks of potato with the eye, for planting. They too would go from house to house at the right time of year, trading their expertise for bed and board. Isn't there a lot more history out there than we dream of, or than the experts are interested in?

Ignorance was geting irritating, so a short-row toe-up sock was essayed yesterday. Used a leftover ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino as it had good stitch definition and I could see what I was doing. Managed the provisional crochet cast on (thanks Deb, fellow Sock Madness contestant for all the really helpful and clear guidance) and didn't find the short rows too difficult (although picking up two wraps along with a stitch was a little awkward).

Here it is in progress, with the provisional cast on still very much in evidence (yes, you can tell DH was off working, can't you? I am simply not competent with a camera).

and here is the completed toe, ready to gallop up the foot. It is certainly great fun being able to work away, knowing there is no grafting waiting for you at the end, but still I feel the cuff-down is more practical, because you can more easily repair a worn-out toe. Nice to have both options though.

Some of you have courteously enquired after Tasha (more properly, La Princesse Natasha de St. Petersburg II) who appears rather less often than Muffy and Sophie in these pages. Tasha doesn't put herself about much, preferring elegant seclusion, but she does permit the occasional image.

Here she is in her palanquin, at ease and elegantly charming as always.

Muffy the Yarnslayer resents that private palanquin muchly and can't go by without muttering insults. From this picture you will however see that the whites-of-eyes are not confined solely to Muffy. Tasha may be a grande dame, but she's no lilybud when it comes to a scrap.

Must go check again whether the yarn requirements for Round Three of Sockmadness have been posted yet. Who would have thought one contest could capture the imagination and competitive instinct of so many knitters?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sorry For Blackout, Blame Sock Madness!

Been back from the So Cal trip since Wednesday night but there was hardly time to say, 'gosh I feel jetlagged' before Round Two of Sock Madness kicked off with the pattern dropping in my email box at around 9 pm West Cork time.

The anguish over which yarn to use was more frantic than ever; although there had been a lot of fun in the stash hunting side of the trip, good sock yarns weren't all that easy to come by, apart from the Crystal Palace bamboo and cotton. Oh and while I think of it, did you SEE that Crystal Palace actually came onboard and COMMENTED on my eulogistic praise of their product? Yes, they did, really. Go check back to that posting. I'll wait.

Well, pretty nice, yes? You think I should send them a polite note back, saying I wouldn't be at all offended if they dropped off a GREAT BIG BOX of samples on my doorstep? That's what I thought too.

But back to the sock yarn for Round Two. Eventually Socks That Rock Mediumweight in Nodding Violet was the chosen one, and I got started straight away. This was an interesting pattern, involving lots of complex twisted stitches and yarnovers, but once you got the hang of it, it wasn't too difficult. The jetlag was joined by a furious head cold which got gradually worse as the first sock progressed but since there was no hope of sleep with those two banging cheerfully on either side of the Celtic Memory head, the knitting continued.

Most of the night.

Next day, Sock One got photographed against a forsythia bush which had come into bloom especially for our return.

Still wasn't too sure this was the right yarn for this pattern, but persevered.

One of the less happy things about Round Two is that instead of the group dash for the finishing line, the first eight to go through, it was a one-off against one named opponent. This made the whole thing much more stressful, but fortunately everybody really got friendly and supportive and there was no bad feeling at all - which just goes to show that it's the competitors who make a worthwhile contest.

Finished those pesky socks a little after midnight on Friday and DH, who had stayed up specially, the pet, and him exhausted and jetlagged too, took their picture by the woodstove.

It was nice to get them done, but I hated, absolutely hated beating my opponent (who was after all by this time a friend). It didn't seem fair that only one of us could go through. Maybe I shouldn't be in competitions? Maybe we shouldn't have competitions?

How were the dogs, you ask? They were rapturous to see us safely back, and when they were dropped off by the invaluable Eileen who tends them as her own, Muffy hurled herself at us, her face full of joy.

Dogs are marvellous, aren't they? They always give you unconditional love, and are so pleased to see you return, even if it's only from a trip to the shops.

That's Tasha in the background. She never hurries herself for anything, she's far too much of a grande dame.

There have been some interesting topics posted, both on Knitter's Forum and on the Sock Madness site, about uses for leftover sock yarn (I shudder at the lone correspondent who says she dumps them in the garbage!) There are some fascinating suggestions, from entrelac vests to multidirectional scarves, and a really superb design for Crazy Eights Socks which use anything and everything that you have to hand. There was a lovely design too for a Teeny Tiny Sock which would make a wonderful gift for a friend, especially with a little memento tucked inside.
Here's an apt quote from King of the Tinkers by a wonderful children's writer, Patricia Lynch. It's about a poor widow who knitted to make a living, but one day discovered that she hadn't a scrap of wool left. Her son had a brainwave.

When Miheal was quite a little boy he was always making reins with the ends of wool left over. By the time he was too old for such an amusement he had collected a box of pieces and there they were!

The widow laughed.

'They're too small, Miheal avic. What could I make with them at all?'

But she was running her fingers through the heap, pulling out the longest pieces and winding them as they came, red, blue, black, yellow, white, green, brown. At last she had the biggest ball of wool Miheal had ever seen, and she began to knit...

The story of the pullover of many colours, and the adventures it got Miheal into, make an enchanting tale of rural Ireland. I love the story, and especially I love the idea of his mother making good use of all the scraps.

And now to the stash. The loot, the results of the trip. I had to photograph these myself, as DH was off working, so you'll have to make do.

There are all sorts here. In the middle at the top is some extortionately expensive Great Adirondack fluffy stuff, and to its left, some very gracious Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, destined for elegant Austrian-style long socks. There is Crystal Palace of course, both bamboo/cotton and bamboo/wool, some tofu yarn (or is it soy, I forget), and several unusual confections from the Border Leather Corporation.

Will I try a closeup?

Look, if there is something you really want to see better, let me know and I'll get DH on to the job. OK?

Now I wasn't idle on the outward trip either. I finally finished those cabled socks made from the hand dyed yarn sent by the lovely Ms. Knitingale. I was so bored by the later stages of the flight (almost ten hours) that I even grafted the toes backwards, using a crochet hook which I had, as opposed to the more normal needle, which I obviously didn't.

Here they are, on my spinning wheel. Mad about them, and wearing them right now, as I type.

I have to say I am a complete convert to the Magic Loop system of sock knitting. I had to revert to wooden dpns for the homeward flight and couldn't get on with them at all. They were longer than I was used to, too, and I kept getting tangled up. No, a nice long circular is wonderful, and makes for much faster knitting. Now if I could just find the way to do two socks at once on one circular, I'd be made up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Farewell to SoCal, We Leave For The Yarnless Isles

All good things come to an end. We fly out tonight (a little commuter hopper to LA, which I hope can manage our bags) and then onward to London and Shannon (don't ask, they said it was less expensive that way). It will be hard to leave the blue skies and palm trees of SoCal but at home the primroses and violets will be waiting, while the bluebells will be getting ready for their debut.
It's been a lovely trip. DH is well pleased with his pictures -

like this song sparrow doing what it does best,

and spectacular blossoms displayed with careless ease by roadside trees.

One of our last LYS hunts was to Chula Vista and the Border Leather Corporation, a hint again given very kindly by Pacalaga.

Doesn't look like much from the outside, but just wait till you get inside.

They have a wonderland of yarns from South American hand-dyed to Karabella (yes, Karabella!) and everything in between. I ran from aisle to aisle and tried not to hyperventilate while this lovely lady chuckled and offered suggestions.
(They only got into yarns in a big way lately, but found that they would be charged huge amounts to change their name, so that's why they still go by the Leather name.)

No really good sock yarns right then, while I was there, but I succumbed to temptation on the Karabella side of course, and also some spectacular confections from elsewhere which are already packed away so you will have to wait until I get home for a big Overall Loot Haul Pic. She not only gave me a 20% discount because I was on my way home but also a big plaid shopping bag to pack it all in. She was a darling and so was her daughter (who handles the credit cards because Mom distrusts such new-fangled notions). You have got to go visit this place.

One more trip to La Jolla today, both for Knitting in La Jolla and to feel that sea breeze while we watch the seal pups frolicking on the beach. And then it's time for airports and security checks and all that hassle. Must try to find some 0 size dpns or a wooden circular in that gauge so I can continue on Mad Cow Socks Mk II. My next posting will be from West Cork. Hasta la vista! Here are two farewell pictures -

- the classic

and the less predictable. He has a nice eye, this DH of mine.
Until we meet again, slan agus beannacht libh go leir.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Spinning in Balboa Park, Knitting in Bonita

That was a lovely day yesterday. Cool and grey the weather was, quite a restful change, and we headed for Balboa Park in San Diego to meet a blog friend, Vicki. Gosh, Balboa is breathtaking - its amazing museums, that gigantic outdoor organ (which was sending waves and washes of music across the whole park), the walkways, the trees and flowers - what a resource to have on your doorstep. Parking was another matter, on a busy Sunday, but we managed it eventually by loitering with intent in one lot until someone moved out. Then we made straight for the International Houses - these lovely little individual buildings ranged in a circle, each one showcasing the culture of a different country. You could tell which one was Ireland because it had a huge tricolor outside.
And there was Vicki!

For so long I'd been getting these friendly interesting comments on my postings, and now Vicki In So Cal was there in person! She was spinning yarn and talking to visitors and doing a great job for the House of Ireland. Several passers-by wanted to buy some of her work - especially a beautiful handknitted sweater in natural wool shades of browns and creams - but she wouldn't. 'If I charged what it took in time, they couldn't afford it,' she said wisely, 'and there is too much of myself in every single thing I make.'

She showed off her lace patterned socks too, for Richard's questing camera lens, despite being rather shy of photographers, and even found time to ask after Muffy the Yarnslayer. Muffy, you're famous in So Cal, how cool is that for a small belligerent Pekingese? (No, Muffy's not too good on the Internet, but Tasha will bring up the page for her and spell the hard words so she'll be able to read this.

Vicki got into this spinning at Ireland House by taking Irish language classes there! She wanted to be able to speak Gaelic (she has both Irish and Scottish blood) so just upped and learned. Go Vicki! She has the lilt perfectly. And then she decided she wanted to give something back, hence the display spinning at these special days.

She gave me the most wonderful souvenir of our meeting - a whole skein of alpaca, spun by herself from fibre sent to her by a friend in Arizona (we should all have such friends in Arizona).

Vicki, dear Vicki, I will make something very special with that yarn, something I can wear and think of you. And there will be a surprise lucky bag on its way from Ireland rather soon. I'm so so very glad we met and hugged and talked.

Richard was thirsting for the open spaces and the mudflats and the estuaries so we headed south of San D to Bonita where he wanted to check out the birdlife. And I checked out Bonita Knitting Store!

where they were having a Sunday afternoon session, sitting around eating cookies and chatting over their knitting. That lady on the far right is Tania Marshall, sock guru and teacher extraordinaire, while I think that's Lakia Meaden waving on the far left (sorry if it isn't you, Lakia, but I love those Aran socks you're making). Owner Susan Schlesinger wasn't there that afternoon (she has to take some time off for her family), but you never know I might get back down there before we leave.
I had a really nice relaxing time with these girls, talking about everything and anything. Tania sorted out my toe-up-sock worries quickly and competently (wouldn't I love to take one of her classes) and I was overjoyed to find she hated Figure of 8 cast on too. I'm not alone, yay!
We talked and laughed and I bought some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool and some more Crystal Palace bamboo cotton, and some more needles (if I don't use them, I know a Little Yarn Shop in the West that will), and when Lakia had to close up at 5, we sat outside and talked and knitted some more, until Richard came back.

Here's Tania heading off to her car. Next time she teaches on a knitting cruise, I'm going to BE there! She's so calm and helpful that I'm sure I would never feel like tearing my work apart or hurling it into a corner for Muffy to work on... or would I? Maybe she just has a better temperament than me (Tania, not Muffy. Muffy has serious problems with her knitting.)

Oh and while I remember, they put your purchases in lovely big see-through bags at Bonita Knitting, so you can go on using these for ever. Nice people.
Today is our second last day - we fly out at 6 tomorrow evening - so some serious mopping up of LYSs and bookstores needs to be done. Last chance to stock up for the next round of Sock Madness - I'm teamed with Jean of Golden Purl, and we're already getting excited about it. 'Twill be a different story next Thursday night/Friday morning when the panic sets in!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Now The Serious Stash Hunting Starts

It was rather nice to leave the stifling heat of the desert (getting up over 100 in Borrego Springs) and head for the cooler hills, although the stark beauty of that dry landscape will remain in the memory. How do birds survive with so little?

This house finch obviously had good colour sense, choosing blossoms which toned well with his waistcoat.

And even in the driest sandy areas by a roadway full of fast-moving trucks, wildlife was thriving.

As we climbed into the hills, the sheer unrelenting pitilessness of the badlands was frightening in its beauty, and DH kept stopping to try and capture it.

Here, for the first time, the very first time, a snatched shot of the elusive Photographer Photographed! It isn't something he is too keen on, preferring to be the one who does the stalking, so make the most of it, there isn't likely to be another!
Julian, up at 4,000 feet, is a cool and lovely place, and we stayed a quiet night there, delaying in the morning to pay our respects at Mom's Pie Shop where Michelle was in full St. Patrick's Day regalia.

This is one great lady; she lives here in Julian with her two daughters, bakes for all the fundraising local events and still finds time to laugh while running Mom's Bakery. She has a great fund of family history anecdotes: her great grandmother came across from South Dakota in the 1920s when almost everyone there had died of the flu epidemic. Great Gran just lit out and trekked across to California, where she determinedly opened a beauty salon in San Diego. Go it, great-gran! I told Michelle she should write all this down without delay - are you listening, Michelle?

Here she is again with her hardworking team. You can't see it in this picture but the lad in the middle has even painted his shoes green in honour of the day.
Just outside town we found Mountain Beadworks

which was doing good business this fine St. Patrick's morning

and where smiling owner Patty Strong showed me the most fascinating things you could do with knitting needles, wire and beads.
You probably know plenty already about this particular branch of knitting, but I haven't got round to trying it yet. She had all the supplies, all the beads - oh Lord, did she have the beads, too many kinds for keeping a sane head - and was demonstrating to a customer a great idea with the old spool technique - although she did warn me that it was a beast to do and you needed a spool with a really wide central hole (found a good plastic one with the required dimensions later on in a branch of Michaels).

What I loved about Mountain Beadworks (apart from the lovely old-fashioned atmosphere and friendly welcome from both owners and dog) was that they gave their opening hours as '10-ish to 5-ish' but also had an Emergency Bead number for after hours! I'll be back.

Across country through Escondido and on to the coast at Encinitas, to visit Black Sheep a LYS highly recommended by Pacalaga (thanks Carrie!) Now this was a real treasurehouse -

That glamorous lady on her knees is owner Karen Henderson, and Christy McCartney is trying to decide on which skein of Prism to bankrupt herself for. Yes, they have all the stunning Prism yarns and colours, plus all the other gorgeous brands.

Karen had some great stories too - one she had heard about her grandmother's time, during one of the World Wars, in England, when all the women knitting at the cinema were told to move to the back because the noise their metal needles were making was drowning out the sound of the film! Isn't that a great bit of folk history? More, more, Karen, please! Publish a little book to sell at the shop. I loved the idea that it was OK for women to knit in public then, because of the war effort - you'd get a few looks in the UK now if you knitted at the cinema I can tell you.

Huh? Oh yes, perhaps a few skeins were bought. One or two unconsidered balls of yarn. Hardly anything, honest. Well - oh look, I'll photograph the loot later when it brightens up (a bit cool and cloudy this morning in San D) and let you see it. Didn't spend that much really. Well it's holiday time, isn't it? Been working very hard. Entitled. And DH was elsewhere, happily browsing computer shops, so I had to do something, didn't I?
Today we go look at places around San D, some for DH to feed his birding addiction and some for me too (Bonita Knitting anyone? Open on a Sunday, love a shop that does that). And this afternoon, to Balboa Park to meet Vicki, a friendly commenter on this blog, who will be spinning in House of Ireland there. Yay, reality meeting another friend from cyberspace!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Quick! Where Can I Get Transparent Footwear?

This is just a quick note, gang, sent from Mom's Pie House in Julian, while tucking away some apple pie with ice cream to fortify us for the trip back to San D (via the coast, can't miss Black Sheep in Encinitas and maybe the knit-in in Del Mar this afternoon).

Does anyone know where I might find see-through wellies or some kind of transparent footwear? I know they exist for kids, but surely someone does them for sock fiends too?

Answers before Tuesday PLEASE because that's when we head back to the damp greenness of Ireland.

Will post tonight again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Now I Can't Stop Knitting Socks!

Mad Cow was the right title for the famous first round of Sock Madness - that first pair may be finished, but I simply can’t stop knitting. Now on the second pair, this time in shades of hot pink, very suitable for the sweltering weather out here in the deserts of So Cal.
The intensity of marathons like this does tend to take us novices by surprise. You might say loud and clear that you’re in it just for the fun, for meeting others, for getting unique and one-off new patterns, but once the thing gets under way, you find yourself knitting frantically as if nothing else in the world counted (and it doesn’t right then, believe me, it doesn’t). I knitted on the hoof -

I knitted while watching baby seal pups on the beach...

I knitted talking to those lovely girls having a SnB in the La Jolla cafe...

And each evening when we arrived at a new motel room, it wasn’t a shower or a rest or even dinner that occupied my mind, but GETTING ON WITH THOSE SOCKS.

In between, we did drive through some absolutely stunning scenery, the total opposite to that which I see around my home in Ireland, which is what travelling is all about, isn’t it? The contrast to lush green dampness was breathtaking.

This is coming through the hills down to Borrego Springs, an oasis in the dry desert where we paused awhile, wandered through wild canyons looking for roadrunners. Richard has a particular quest in mind on all trips, which is getting the perfect picture of this elusive bird. Ok, ok, so for you, if you live in So Cal, it isn’t elusive, it comes round to the back door for breakfast, does little dances on the lawn, even takes the kids to playschool and brings back the groceries when you’re busy for all I know, but for us it has always been maddeningly absent. We didn’t find it at Borrego Springs, although, since I’d finished one sock by then (knitting whilst your DH is driving is quite doable, I found to my surprise, especially on one long circular which lessens the chance of tiny breakable dpns dropped underneath your feet), we were able to photograph it in a really nice National Geographic-type setting.

As Seen On Flickr: first ever captured image of The Desert Sock.

When you’re used to grass growing seven inches every time you turn your back, and having to hack down brambles every day to get at the pond, the sparse vegetation of the desert is something of a shock, but all the more striking in its beauty for that.

We were headed down to Richard’s special destination, a place he has always wanted to visit, The Salton Sea. This amazing freak of nature, formed, as I recall, when the Colorado burst its banks and took a new route for itself back in the 1920s, is a vast salty sea in the desert which naturally attracts millions of birds on the flyway north and south in the migration season. Over the years it also attracted thousands of visitors, flocking to enjoy endless sunshine and sea, and built up quite a tourist industry with marinas, RV parks, the lot.

Only trouble is... industry came too, and with it pollution. Now the Salton Sea is - well, how does one put this nicely - a huge simmering dark brown mass of stinking putrid liquid. Dead fish bob in the wavelets until they decompose enough to sink and add to the thickening layer of goo. And the smell - well, suffice it to say that I can still get a waft of it in the car, from the dust, the sand, whatever got into the vehicle, a full 50 miles away in El Centro on the Mexican border.

It has a strange eerie beauty, and the birds are certainly here in great numbers - white-faced ibises, egrets, herons, gulls, white pelicans, all floating in great skeins (Skeins? Skeins? Should I wind them up? Have I gone five minutes without knitting?) across the glittering sky - but it is difficult to concentrate on holding the binoculars steady when your olafactory senses are being assailed by a 30-megaton strength of hydrogen sulphide.

The Mad Cow socks got finished, finally, down here in El Centro late on Tuesday night, and were duly photographed outside the Best Western, next to a cooling fountain amid pansies (that hadn’t been dead-headed in weeks, poor things, I did as many of them as I could to show I cared).

Nice and calming - but this is what the situation really looked like as I tried to balance on one foot, putting my shoes back on, as we dashed to get the image on to the computer and on to Flickr to qualify for the second round. Whew, this SockMadness is doing incredible things on my computer learning curve, never mind the short-row heels!

We’ve been driving up and down to Salton Sea since then, taking deep breaths of clean air before getting within scenting distance and gasping with relief when we leave again, Richard scanning for that elusive roadrunner while I knit compulsively on Mad Cow Mark II socks. When these are finished I’ll be able to swap them around with the blue ones, wearing one of each colour on each foot which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Show you a picture when they’re further on.

And that pesky bird? Well, eventually -

What a crackeroo. Worth waiting for. This one was so full of testosterone and territory guarding that he was scurrying round his stony boundaries and leaping up on every post to make sure no rivals were within reach.

Today we head back through the Borrego Desert and up towards Palm Springs so Richard can check out the Living Desert Wildlife Park (yeah, more roadrunners!) Then back around on the eve of St. Patrick's Day to a particular favourite place of mine, Julian up in the hills. Julian is cool and full of trees and the temperature drops sharply at night. Plus they are famous for apple pies and have a great secondhand bookshop. AND on Saturday morning my absolute favourite cafe there will be handing out green hats and shamrocks. Onward The Mad Cow Socks Take Two!