Thursday, April 26, 2012


It did not take me long to get into vacation mode. In fact, my face hurts from smiling so much.
I've been sleeping well, eating very well and not looking at my watch at all...in fact, I still have my watch set for Eastern Standard Time so I know what time it is at Knitwits. I hope the journey through my "50's" and beyond continue to be as fabulous as this 50th Birthday celebration. Thank you Captain John!

Yesterday, we took a seven hour train ride from Prague to Budapest. I knit the entire way, stopping only twice for potty breaks. I had not knit much since arriving in Prague so I eagerly got to work on my Alchemy Silken Straw Color Affection project. With increases at the beginning of each row, I quickly had upwards of 300 stitches per row by the time we got to Budapest.

View of "Pest" from the "Buda" side of the Danube River

Captain John and I instantly feel in love with Budapest.
The architecture is breathtaking, the people are lively and friendly, the streets are safe and easy to navigate, restaurants are plentiful with impeccable service....desserts have been perfected!

Lunch with the Countess of Castle Garden
We are staying at The Castle Garden Hotel, a great little hotel, across the street from Budapest Castle on the "Buda" side of Budapest. The "Pest" side is across the Danube River. It seems that in Europe it is not that uncommon to give yourself a title, so I have dubbed myself "The Countess of Castle Garden."

Today, we took the "Hop On, Hop Off" Tour of Budapest and we only hopped off once...in search of the Gerbaud Cafe that John read about in the Wall Street Journal. The article described the 153 year old cafe that specializes in "Pastry Kremes", a tri-layered, super flaky, cream filled pastry. They must be very good because they were all sold out of the pastry kremes when we arrived at lunchtime.

I think I know where I'm having breakfast tomorrow........

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hello from Prague!

Cesky Krumlov  :D


Prague Castle

Astronomical Clock
Off to Budapest!
Today, we leave Prague from an eight hour train ride to Budapest. I'm looking forward to some quality knitting time and giving my legs a day off. I have enjoyed every minute and every meal in Prague.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Prague Update (Tuesday)

We are staying at a lovely little boutique hotel near the Prague Castle called Dominus Henrici. We love everything about the hotel...except the wi-fi doesn't work in our little suite. I'm using the hotel computer and I am unable to download the pictures from our iphones for you.

Yesterday, we toured Prague Castle.
Today, we are driving to Cesky Krumlov, a little walled town about 3 hours south of Prague. It is supposed to be one of the most picturesque places in the world.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prog Blog - Day 1

Do Birthday Wished get more powerful when you turn....my new age?

Yesterday was my birthday (it was also Ed's Birthday) and we both wished for a safe, successful and happy journey---and first class/business class would be very nice.

Wishes do come true! "Plan A" CVG-JFK, JFK-PRG was an overwhelming success!
Capt'n John picked me (and my ONE bag) up with a single red birthday rose in hand. If was a little bit like a rose ceremony scene from "The Bachelor", but it was a nice touch to start our vacation. From then on...it was first class all the way to Prague.

Capt'n John, Regina and I were able to sleep from the time they cleared away our dinner plates to the time they served breakfast. Capt'n Ed didn't have as much success. I am able to fall into the deepest, most restful sleep on airplanes-in fact, I slept so hard that the hair fairy came and gave me a very interesting doo for my Prague debut.

Prague is six hours ahead of the 41017 zip code, so I think we arrived in Prague on Saturday morning. It was sunny but a little chilly (50-60).

Our hotel is located on the very top of town. Our room was not ready when we arrived, so we took a little stroll through the neighborhood. The cobblestone streets are lined with small restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and bakeries. Every restaurant has a chalkboard with daily specials and here are some of the offerings: Pork Knuckle, Sparrow with Sauerkraut, and Pig Neck. Capt'n John was much more interested in the apple strudel and pastries.
St. Charles Bridge

After a nice nap and shower, we met up with Ed and Regina to see the sights and sounds of the city down the hill. We walked down the hill with a steady stream of people. We knew that the walk back up after a hearty meal would be grueling. We ended up having dinner along the river and under the St. Charles Bridge.

Hi everyone this is Capt'n John;  My best friend Ed's nose led us to the most wonderful pastry called a "Trdelnik". This wonderful pastry is made of dough rolled on a metal cylinder and baked over a gas flame and when golden brown, this hollow perfection of pastry heaven is rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  Mmmmmm when accompanied by a good cup of coffee it gives you a full days' requirement of vitamins and nutrients according to Capt'n John's definition of good nutrition. They were sooooo good--we had one before and one after dinner! :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prog Blog- Pre-departure

One Suitcase and a Carry-On

It's Friday morning and the journey to Prague begins!
Plan A is to take the flight from CVG (Cincinnati) to JFK, then JFK to PRG (Prague).  Sounds like a good plan...except the four of us are traveling standby using our Employee Travel Benefits. Plan B is CVG to CDG (Paris), CDG to PRG. Plan C is I'll be at the shop later today.

Airline Employee travel benefits are a real perk for airline employees...at least they used to be. These days, the flights are sooo full that it has become more difficult to use the free travel privileges. Getting out of Cincinnati is the toughest part. When you fly "standby" you can go to the gate and after all the ticketed passengers board, you get to board if there are seats available. You can always tell the standbys...we're the ones with our eyeballs glued to the overhead screens watching for our names to appear on the "cleared" list.

When Delta and Northwest Airlines merged, Comair employees took a big hit when it came to standby travel. We used to have seating priority based on our hire dates. After the merger, our priority status plunged as all Delta and former Northwest employees are placed ahead of Comair employees (except on Comair flights). In other words, a Delta employee who was hired yesterday has a higher priority than a Comair employee with 32 years of service like Captain John. That hurts!

The Comair flight to JFK looks fair. There are 7 or 8 seats available and 9 people on the standby list. We are listed 1-4 so it looks good for us to get on! There are 16 seats available (15 in Business Class) for the Prague flight and 11 standbys listed. Wouldn't Business Class to Prague be a great Birthday present?

Thank you all for the birthday wishes and Bon Voyages!
I've packed plenty of yarn! I have Schaeffer Nicole for John's socks, Mochi Plus for an entrelac scarf and my Alchemy Silken Straw Color Affection. That should do me until we return.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Pre-Prog Blog-Part I

Captain John to Junko: How do you spell Prague?
Junko to John: How would you spell it?
John to Junko: Prague sounds like Frog...so, P-R-O-G?
The countdown is officially on and I'm starting to get really excited about the upcoming and much needed vacation! One week before we leave! The plan: Prague and Vienna.

....But, I have to finish the three-day trip that I'm currently on, get my tax returns in the mail, get a mani/pedi, bid for next month, catch up on two weeks worth of shop stuff, get two weeks worth of shop stuff taken care of for while we're gone, and a four-day trip that starts on Monday and finishes the night before we're planning to leave. Yikes! In other words, I have two days off from flying to get my life in order and I think I'm scheduled to work at Knitwits. It is crunch time and time to get serious about getting things on my action plan accomplished.

Captain John and I are hoping to have the time and technology to blog about the trip. Captain John can't spell (that's why it's the Prog Blog) and I can't take a picture worth a dime so we're setting the blog bar very low...our posts might be blurry and full of typos but the adventures of traveling "standby" might be worth it.

It's a good thing that I will be traveling with Captain John and his best friend, Ed, and his wife Regina.
They are seasoned globetrotters and have been researching hotels, points of interest and transportation options for weeks.  I'm a great person to vacation with because I'm up for anything and I'm just happy to be included but please DO NOT put me in charge of any planning or coordination- just tell me where to be and when.
Sluggage Options
For the past two weeks, I have been obsessing about the following things:
  1. Finding a suitcase that weighs nothing but holds everything so I can avoid being "That Person". "That Person" is the one group member who is always struggling with bags and stuff in the TSA Security Line, at the hotel, in the cab, etc. I have 3 candidates lined up in my living room.
  2. Figuring out what to pack? Fleece or flip flops? Boots and a bathing suit?  T-shirts or turtlenecks? Captain John is limiting me to one bag and three pairs of shoes.
  3. And most important...What am I going to knit?
Captain John has been dealing with the following:
  1. Which airport should we fly into to? Amsterdam? Paris? London? Prague? And, which airport to fly out of? CVG-Paris, JFK-Prague, Detroit-Amsterdam? MSP-?
  2. How do the loads look for non-revenue stand-by travel?
  3. How will we get to Prague and beyond? Train, plane, car, bus?
  4. Where will we stay? How long will we stay?
  5. When do we leave? When do we come back?
Clearly, Captain John is the more valuable player of our twosome.

I'm off to audition my suitcase options to see who performs best in terms of ease of packing, ease of wheeling and the "Clean and Jerk" test (the ease of pick up, lift up to waist and then lift over head drill).


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ode to Elmore-Pisgah

Ballband Dishcloth from Peaches & Creme label

I grew up with hand knit dishcloths and I've never been able to use anything else in the kitchen. There is something really special about the toothyness and absorbency of an all cotton, hand knit washrag. I loved the way the yarn would tighten up with washing and the colors would fade with time. My mom would knit an endless supply of "Cast on 4, knit 2 YO, knit to end" Peaches & Creme dishcloths. They have showed up in my Christmas Stockings for as long as I could remember. They were always welcomed gifts for friends and family. In fact, I had never knit my own dishcloth until just a few years ago.
Easy Knit Washrag

The love of hand knit dishcloths is shared by all of the Knitwits staff. We call them "Spa Cloths", it makes them sound just a little more special. Some of us (Sheryl) even have special knitting needles for creating their spa cloths. When we started carrying Elmore-Pisgah Peaches & Creme, we also launched a Dishcloth Club called Peaches & Creme Sundays. We would choose patterns that taught different skills and techniques and we would gather around the round table in our wobbly chairs every other Sunday afternoon. It is through Dishcloth Club that many of our loyal Knitwits honed their knitting skills and made lifelong friends.

Peaches & Creme Sundays
Elmore-Pisgah WAS one of our favorite yarn vendors at Knitwits. Since 1920, they were the manufacturers and distributors of our beloved Peaches & Creme, the ultimate cotton dishcloth yarn. Their warehouse was located in Old Fort, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville and right down the road from Janet's parents. We liked chatting with Flo and the other good folks who answered our calls, we liked picking up the our orders ourselves and we loved buying yarn that was made in the USA! There was something really special about the timeless appeal of Elmore-Pisgah Peaches & Creme.

Last year, we called Flo to place a little order and a teary Flo answered and announced that they were closing their doors at the end of the week- a Canadian company called Spin Rite bought the Peaches & Creme name. It was a classic case of "If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em out." We were heartbroken and angry--and we vowed to never buy the Canadian version of the yarn that put Flo and our other Pisgah friend out of work! Our little order turned into a very large order and we hoarded the soon to be gone yarn!

We have been searching for a suitable Peaches & Creme replacement for almost a year. Nothing felt right. It was like trying to find a replacement for your favorite pair of jeans. We had a hard time finding a suitable dishcloth yarn substitute--too expensive, too much yardage, too unAmerican or wrong "put up" (we want "ready to knit" without winding.

Last week, the newest issue of Creative Knitting Magazine arrived. As usual, we tore open the box and started leafing through the magazine. Janet and I found the dishcloth patterns at the same time and we both said, "Hey, those are cute. Wonder what yarn they used." The answer: Sassy Skeins!

Since 1995, the two talented women of Sassy Skeins in Key West, Florida have produced the Key West Karibbean Kotton Kollection, 36 great shades of 100% mercerized high quality, colorfast cotton yarn. We gave the ladies of Sassy Skeins a call and we liked what they had to say. The Key West Kollection met all of our dishcloth yarn criteria and we ordered a handful of colors (the ones they used in the magazine, to be exact). A few days later, the yarn arrived and it exceeded all of our expectations!

I took 2 balls of lime on my last trip and I crocheted a little bobbled clutch. I really enjoyed crocheting with the yarn. It is a braided yarn with a lovely sheen and it is easier on the hands than our Peaches & Creme.
Love the Sassy Skeins Key West Kotton Kollection

We still have a limit supply of "the Original" Peaches & Creme skeins. It will be a sad day when our supply is depleted. I don't think we will ever be able to "replace" Flo and our beloved Peaches & Creme but we welcome the addition of Sassy Skeins and the Key West Kollection with great enthusiasm!

Here's my mom's Favorite Dishcloth Pattern:

Cast on 4 stitches.
Row 1 - Knit across.
Row 2 and all rows until you have 33 or 39 stitches on the needle) - Knit 2, yo, knit across.
Next row will begin decreasing.
Knit 1, knit 2tog, yo, knit 2tog, knit across - you will have 32 or 38 stitches
Repeat previous row until 4 stitches remain on needle.
Knit across.
Bind off.
Weave in ends.
Repeat 1,000,000 times.