Monday, September 1, 2014

Five Weeks in Greece, Part IV: Santorini

The Aussie finished editing the photos from Santorini! As I've mentioned here, here and here, this was one of the biggest highlights of the trip. I can look at the photos for hours on end.





Have you ever been to Santorini before? What did you think? Have you been to any other Greek island? The next one I would love to go to is Crete, or Siros. 
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

5 Weeks in Greece, Part III: In Search Of The Little White Dress

Don't forget to check out Part I and Part II of my Greece recaps!

It's no secret that I love the Duchess of Cambridge's style; it's classic, chic and sophisticated. 

And also at times (well, most of the time), waaaaay beyond my budget. There are several blogs I follow that devote themselves to the topic of the Duchess of Cambridge's fashion and where to find what are called RepliKates. Sometimes you can easily get your hands on the items, and sometimes not. 

There was one thing I was definitely on the lookout for after I saw the Duchess of Cambridge wear: a while eyelet dress. 
The dress she wore was from an Australian brand called Zimmerman and it is beautiful. I can definitely imagine myself wearing it, but alas out of my price range. 

After I saw the dress, I went on a mild internet search frenzy (I bet I was not the only one!) in search of a white eyelet dress that I could afford before Greece. 

Then there was this dress from Ann Taylor Loft: 
On the website it looked a little bit more cream as opposed to white and a bit straighter, like a shift. There is waist definition (more like a sheath with a nipped waist) and there was a great price on it, so I purchased it quickly since it was selling out.

I wore this dress several times in Greece - and one of those times was when The Aussie surprised me with dinner reservations to Estiatorio Strofi in Athens, with a view of the Acropolis. It was a really nice evening and the food was amazing.
The food there was amazing: we ordered the fresh anchovies twice, and had stuffed grape leaves in an egg-lemon sauce. The hosue wine was a Moschofilero and it was really refreshing after a hot day walking around Athens and in the National Archeological Museum.
The view wasn't so bad either. 
For our entrée, The Aussie had bacalao (cod) with skordalia, a potato and garlic spread. I had kid goat in parchment paper; they opened the parchment paper for you. Overall the service was excellent.
It was a nice end to a very long week of walking everywhere in Athens and Santorini, and seeing the Acropolis lit up at night was lovely. 
Did you ever go to a restaurant while traveling overseas just for the view? Or go searching for your own replica of what a celebrity or the Duchess of Cambridge wore? Share your experiences in the comments below! 
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Weeks in Greece, Part II

Continuing with the photos from Greece; this is a closeup of the umbrellas installation that I mentioned in the previous post. We were able to get the shots just before the lights turned off at midnight. 
Whenever we travel, we always love to go to the markets. In Italy, we went to the Mercato Central in Florence and Montreal we visited Marché Jean-Talon. This market was just off Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki and didn't disappoint. 
Changing of the guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Syntagma Square, Athens. Watching the evzones change and march in the stylized way they did was mesmerizing. My grandfather was one in the 1940s; my dad had the option of being one, but instead decided to go into the Special Forces (Greek version of the Marines). 
Detail of a fresco from the National Archeological Museum in Athens. If you travel to Greece, check out the hours of the museums, and definitely plan to head into one between 1 and 5pm, which is the hottest time of day and when most of the shops close. 
Sunset at Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, south of Athens. Apparently this is where Aeneas, Theseus' father from the myth of the Minotaur threw himself into the sea when Theseus' ship's sails were black because Theseus forgot to change them. 
We were lucky in that August 10, The Aussie's last night was also the night of the August full moon; every August, the main 55 archeological sites in Greece stay open late and there are performances as the full moon rises. We were even able to get seats in the restaurant at the base of the temple and enjoy the evening. 
Back to Santorini! You can guess that this was my favorite place. Even though it was hot and peak tourist season we definitely enjoyed Oia (more so than Fira/Thira, which is ridiculously touristy); best thing to do is to get there early - there are cafes where you can hang out in and the stores open early. This is the windmill in the sunset photo; we essentially walked the whole town and then some. 
Santorini is famous for the donkeys; we later learned and saw that the donkeys never take people going down the stairs to Ammoudi Bay (Oia) or the Old Port (Fira), and they never do more than 2-3 trips a day. 

The Aussie and I walked down the stairs to Ammoudi Bay in Oia and because it was so hot and the steps slippery and laden with donkey poo (plus we went down in flip-flops, I almost slipped!) I promptly told him that we will be taking the donkeys back up. 

When we did, all the old man had to do was chirp to the donkeys and they were off! It was practically a race to go up the stairs and then there was traffic with another line of donkeys going down the stairs. Overall the trip was hilariously terrifying (because simply at that point, I was ready to give up on almost any kind of transportation, what with all the narrow roads and hairpin turns). The donkeys definitely knew what they were doing, and for 5 Euro, going up the stairs in 5 versus 30 minutes was definitely worth it. 
Sunrise in Imerovigli, where we stayed. We loved staying here; our hotel was on the Old Path between Fira and Oia (which you can see in the background on the left of this picture). 
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Weeks in Greece, Part I

How does one sum up a five week vacation, especially one where you travelled essentially all over the country? 

That is a really difficult task. 

One way to do it is to organize it by city; that would definitely work if only for the fact that The Aussie is editing all the photos piecemeal, with doing his favorites first and leaving the HDR ones for later (here is a pretty good summary of what HDR is, which to The Aussie, it's his New Favorite Thing).  

The alternate plan is to group photos together as they pop up and share them with captions over the course of however long is takes for him to edit the photos. Which is going to be awhile. 

A side project for me is to set up his photography website - there, you can see more, if not all the photos  once he is done with them and should you be so inclined, be able to purchase a copy for yourself to hang in your home or office (shameless pimping, but it's something he does want to develop into a side job). 

If anyone was wondering as to how I was able to Instagram up a storm while I was away, I first unlocked my phone, then got a Greek SIM from Vodafone. They had a really good summer deal and it meant I had 3G data. Hurray! 

If anyone is traveling overseas and has questions about using a smart phone (oh I also suspended my American line, so saved a lot of money there) especially in Europe, drop me a line. 

Anyway, enough of me chatting. Let's get to the photos! 
Thessaloniki at night. The city is located right on the Thermaic Gulf, so there is a long, curved pier that opened recently. The lit umbrellas are part of a light installation. The Aussie got into the fountain to take this shot. The blue building in the background, is our hotel Makedonia Palace.
Heading into Corfu on the ferry. We later drove up to Kassiopi, a village on the NW corner of the island. That was The Aussie's reintroduction into stick-shift driving, and his crash course on how to drive in Greece: facing two-way roads one-lane wide, no traffic lights, hairpin turns, and coach buses on said roads. 
Sunset in Kassiopi. This was a beach a few hundred meters away from our family friend's house,  where we were staying. 
Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage site (if you have a copy of LP Greece, one of the monasteries is on the cover). Very high, very windy, but extremely breathtaking. Thank goodness for the rental - you really need one, or do a tour if you ever want to go here. Once you are up on the road connecting all the monasteries, it's not that bad (simply because as a WH site, it has to be more accessible). 
Sunset in Meteora. The Aussie had a bit of a hard time with his tripod at other sites because in Greece, you need a permit to use one. A UNESCO official asked if he was one while taking these pictures and The Aussie showed his business card indicating that he has a day job. After that, the official was nice about it and let him take the photos with the tripod.
This was taken from our hotel window in Kastraki, the village at the base of Meteora. The whole region is covered with these megaliths. It was a 45-second exposure and it was pitch dark. We stayed at Pyrgos Adrachti for the night and it was lovely. 
Santorini was definitely one of the highlights of the trip - it ties with Meteora simply because it offers different experiences. This part of the trip was just The Aussie and I and so worth it. We stayed at Afroessa Hotel in Imerovigli and was a great find. There will definitely be a devoted Santorini post in and of itself. 
Sunset in Oia. We spent the whole day in Oia and first scouted the location to find "The Sunset Picture" and came back at 5:30PM to stake out our spot. Sunset was at 8:30. People thought The Aussie was a professional photographer and I confirmed it (they were asking me since he was so busy with the camera). 

We noticed two things happen when The Aussie was taking pictures: either other tourists would stand within a foot of him and take photos of what he was taking (about 80% of the time, the camera was on the tripod, and with the big lenses and his remote it seemed to them that this was a Good Shot), or they would back off even more so than usual to let him take the shot (or even shots since HDR photos require anywhere between 3-11 photos for one photo). 

Stay tuned! More photos to come. Let me know what you think of the photos, and if you have any questions about Greece or travelling, ask! I picked up alot of travel tips for Greece and am more than happy to share. 
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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Road to Rhinebeck: An Interview with Laura Aylor

I'm back from Greece with plenty of stories to share, and plenty of knitting-related items to talk about and catch up on while I was gone. 

Before I left, I had the pleasure of chatting with designer Laura Aylor while I was away. Read on for her interview and in the meantime, catch up with prior interviews from BC Yarnings, Skeinny Dipping, and The Clever Clementine plus coupon codes and giveaways!  

How long have you been a knitter and how did you learn?
I learned as a kid - 6 maybe? - and played around with it off and on until a sweater disaster (gauge? what's that?) scarred me and I set it aside for probably 25 years! I had a little learn to knit book when I was little that came with fat wooden needles and some yarn. I still remember the drawing of the little girl on the cover - she had pigtails and freckles :)  I picked up Barbara Walker's Learn to Knit Afghan book at the library one day while waiting for my kids to find books and haven't looked back.

When did you start designing patterns? How did you transition from being a knitter to a knitwear designer?
I wanted to knit an afghan for my daughter out of Kureyon. I scoured every knitting book and website I could find but nothing showed off those long color runs like I wanted. I was flipping through my copy of the Learn to Knit Afghan book, hoping to find something I could adapt and her short-row stripes block caught my eye. 

I came up with a plan to adapt it for the Kureyon, knit up a square, and knew I was on to something! Lizard Ridge was the result. It was so cool and so much fun that I submitted it to knitty thinking that it would be my one and only design. I had no idea what lay ahead!

From where do you draw inspiration when designing patterns? Going through your patterns on Ravelry, I noticed that the majority of the patterns you design are very geometric and modular.
Anything and everything - architecture, colors, a photograph, pretty yarn, something I want to knit/wear but can't find. Sometimes I have no idea what goes on in my head that leads to a particular idea. I always have a plan when I sit down to design something, but it's rarely a straight line process and very often I end up at a different place that I intended. 
Exit 0 (Photo copyright Laura Aylor)
I've learned not to fight that too much. A lot of times one design leads to the next - I'll use a stitch pattern or technique and think of other ways to use it in a different design. There's lots of thinking time when you're knitting :)  I dislike both seaming and grafting pretty intensely, so I guess that explains the modularity. 

Recently Ravelry has created a feature for pattern designers called “bundles.” You have one in your designer’s page called Summer Knits. How do you think “bundles” help display your patterns on Ravelry?
I think it's a good way to help a prospective customer zero in on what they're looking for. Now that I have a fairly large number of patterns, if someone wants something specific, say a sweater or an accessory, it cuts down on the number of patterns they have to wade through. I still have a lot of work to do in this department - knowing I wanted to have a summer sale was the incentive to set that first bundle up. I didn't want to just start bundling without a purpose but over the next few months I should have it sorted out. 

Your mid-century collection has a very distinctive look, based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural aesthetic. What was the impetus behind creating those patterns? (Note: as an aside, I definitely see Wright’s influence in the city block shawl).
I know I wanted to do a rectangular shawl and must have had a brainstorm to use the lines and square corners Mr. Wright was famous for as a springboard. Because garter row gauge is normally double the stitch gauge, it is very easy to create geometric shapes with increases and decreases, and using a slipped stitch edge on garter makes it very simple to pick up stitches and go off in a different direction. (And avoid seams!)

Any interesting stories behind the creation of the patterns? Which one is your favorite, and the most popular one? What were some of the trickiest techniques that you had to use in designing the patterns?
City Block Shawl (Photo copyright Laura Aylor) 
Well, the City Block shawl was designed in Paint on a slow day at work using just the stock colors. Then I had to figure out how to make it and which colors of tosh merino light came the closest, which greatly enhanced my stash. Lizard Ridge is definitely my most popular pattern - it's been out the longest and it's free :) My favorite is almost always the one I just finished writing up, so right now it's my new Ashore hoodie.
Ashore Hoodie (Photo copyright Laura Aylor)
Tricky techniques? Barbara Walker's top-down seamless simultaneous set-in sleeves. Her instructions are very ‘pithy’ and I had to sit down with yarn and needles and just DO it to figure it out. Then I had to make some adjustments – I think sweaters are expected to fit much better these days. Or maybe it’s just that the styles have changed so much since the 70s.

Right now, knitting is more popular than ever and this is expanding to dyeing and other fiber arts as well. What tips and advice would you have to any budding knitwear designer?
Give yourself a solid base - knit everything, read everything. 
Begin as you mean to go on - by which I mean act like a professional. (But don’t take yourself too seriously!)
Don’t let criticism get you down – use it to improve your work.
Pay attention to details. Little things matter.
Do your homework – Ravelry is great for researching what’s out there and seeing how designers you admire run their businesses.
And make sure you’re having fun! I love every part of this! (Well, except the modeling part…)

What have been some of the most rewarding things you have experienced by being a knitwear designer?
Seeing FOs from my patterns out and about, having someone tell me how much they liked making one of my designs, getting to meet lots of amazing people when I do a trunk show or teach a class, having an idea and being able to make it a reality. I love my job :)

Any yarn companies and designers that you love?
Yarn companies (I’m going to pretend you mean Big Companies and not even attempt to name the indies I love for fear of missing one!) It's no secret that I love madelinetosh :)

Designers – that’s a hard one. I haven’t had time to knit anyone else’s stuff for a couple of years now. I love Alice Starmore’s work, and hope to finish my mash-up of St. Brigid and Barbara Walker’s technique some day. Oh, and Elsebeth Lavold. Her cable work is amazing and I was so excited to meet her at a workshop that she did. I have multiple books by both designers and find them very inspiring.

What other fiber and textile crafts do you enjoy in addition to knitting?
I used to quilt and have a few unfinished and unstarted ones that I hope to get back to some day, but right now all I want to do is knit!

Thanks to Laura, we have two patterns to giveaway! One lucky winner will receive two patterns of her choice from Laura's collection. In the comments below, answer the following question: which patterns would you pick? Please remember to provide your Ravelry ID, so I can communicate with the winner. The giveaway will close on October 1. 

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