Wining and dining Alsace style

We are on our way back to Calais after a six night stay in Selestat. the villages we visited Riqhwihr, Kayersbourg, Bergheim, are where I imagine the artists at disney visited before working on Beauty and the Beast. I haven't ever come across such well kept medieval towns- not a lick of graffitti, yet still very much living towns, none of the saccharine perfection of the renditions of old Europe at Disney World.

We visited Freiburg on the other side of the Rhine on Wed, but it rained that day and I was grumpy, so we didn't stay long. It did have two yarn shops- but with really commercial yarns – nothing that jumped out and shrieked BUY ME I'M ROCK 'N ROLL! Incidentally, what's happening at the wollmeise? All her stuff is on clearance?

The food is rather better suited for winter (choucroute, cream, big hunks of meat) but delicious nonetheless. I will have to start a gym regime as a consequence of the week's indulgences.

We visited three vignerons, the amazing Marcel Deiss, Domaine Engel and of course Trimbach. Alsace is famous for its wines- mostly dry Rieslings and Gewurztraminer, but it also produces yummy Sylvaner, pinot gris and pinot noir (surprisingly good!). Before the prussian invasion, alsatian wines were more reknown and sought after than even some top name bordeaux!

Perhaps mistakenly we went to Marcel Deiss first. He has some basic single varietals, but his single vineyard wines, a blend of regional grapes- are beautifully complex and he is rightly reknown for these. The young chap working there was a little sullen to begin with, but he warmed up and recommended a cool bierstub in one of the nearby villages. A little bit goth but they had a fab selection of beer and were playing the chilli peppers. Good stuff. The wine was fabulous- interesting, with layers of flavour and a crazy long finish. These are created as expressions of terroir, and have can be kept for decades.

We went to domaine Engel next, and whilst the wines were good examples they tasted flat in comparison. We did get a few bottles of the sweet gewurz from engel and their pinot gris-easy every day drinking wine.

Finally we made it to Trimbach. The trimbach family started their winery in 1626, and achieved nationwide recognition when they brought home an award for wine excellence in 1689. Successive generations of Trimbachs have continued the tradition of super dry accurate rieslings. Bit too austere for me, but we did get some pinot gris which was softer and easier to drink, and some lovely dry gewurz. I love those kinds of wines- ones that smell unctuous, honeyed, and feel the same in your mouth, yet are dry. The lady at the winery was a little.. Well robotic. Not quite rude, but def not very friendly either. Didn't keep us from buying wine though. We had a frederic emile riesling 2000 (the better stuff) for dinner last night- and this was gorgeous. Dry. Puckeringly acidic, yet full of honeyed goodness. Really moreish.

We also got some wines from a local wine shop. I intended to get some Jacky Blot's domaine de la taille aux loup chenin blanc – he makes these gorgeous chenin blancs that smell and taste of linden flowers, quince, honey, and are totally dry, but they didn't have them. They did have some Huet vouvray- which got a 19.5 out of 20 by the recently published 2008 edition of Bettane and someone- the best tasters in france, according to the wine shop chap. We got two cases of it- good too since all the cases he had in the shop (about thirty) that morning were all sold, bar three bottles, by the time we returned that afternoon to pick up our wine!

Photo is of the inside of a winestub in Kayersbourg. Wouldn't it be great to have a local like this?

Pitbull update

Ahh it makes sense now. Front page news this morning- an 18 month girl died as a result of a pitbull attack in epernay. So the minister of the interior demands that legislation is brought in to ban them. So stupid. So many tragedies could be averted if, as Yoshimi points out, owners were licensed and they bore responsibility for the dogs actions instead of having the knee jerk reaction of destroying the dog. Symptoms eradicated- but cause? Idiot just gets him/herself another dog- mastiff, rottie, german shepherd… And the banned list grows ever longer.

Will the real Pitbull please stand up?

I did a bit of trawling about pit bulls after yesterday’s case of mistaken identity. It is really sad actually – the whole media frenzy about them has, not surprisingly, left alot of pitbulls in shelters. Pitbulls were banned in Ontario but lucky Neville has made a new home for himself as a POLICEDOG.

And here is a photo of a pit bull:

I think if you ignored the head and imagined a fairy sprinkled shrinking dust all over it then I can just about see Deuce being a pit bull. But the nose. I think one of a pugs most distinctive traits (besides their snorting snurfling sounds) is the lack of snout.

And i found some some great positive press about them – straight from wikipedia (with footnotes so not made up!)

-Often pit bulls have been reported to “adopt” other species of animals (such as kittens or squirrels), which some attribute to the breed nickname, “nanny dog”.[66] It is more widely accepted that the breed nickname, “nanny dog” comes from Pit Bull type dogs innate love and tolerance of children. Though, no dog should ever be trusted alone with children.

-A rescued pit bull called Popsicle is a United States Customs dog, and is famous for sniffing out one of the biggest cocaine busts in history. [67]

-In February 2007 a pit bull named “Chief” rescued his family of humans from a spitting cobra by dashing in front of the attacking snake and taking the deadly bite himself. Chief subdued the snake but died of the venom 30 minutes later. [69]

-In April 2007, columnist John Canzano of The Oregonian newspaper wrote a favorable piece on Hollywood, the pit bull that formerly belonged to NBA player Qyntel Woods. [70] Hollywood, renamed Stella, was adopted by a loving owner and reformed from a fighting dog to a lap dog.

Demon hound of Colmar

Alsace is just beautiful. Everywhere we turn are medieval and renaissance buildings lovingly kept. I keep expecting to turn a corner and see Hansel and Gretel skipping down the cobblestone road such is the old world atmosphere of these towns. Spent today in Colmar. The photo is of the Little Venice quarter- originally home to the fisherman of the town. Colmar is also home to the creator of the statue of liberty- auguste batholdi.

We spent the whole day wandering around. We have been getting strange reactions to Deuce- we get some who coo over him, but more often than not we would get wary stares and people hugging their children closer to them. Then finally some woman started to follow us and twitter on without regard to the fact we weren't stopping or actually engaging. I was curious though – she was telling us about the recent news and banning of the dogs (here she pointed at deuce). I was puzzled- was france banning pugs? Then she said the word 'pitbull' and the penny dropped. She thought deuce was a pitbull. So must have many others Sheesh. I said twice, clearly, in French, that he was a 'carlin' (pug) and NOT a pitbull. I think she was embarrassed and beated a swift retreat. But honestly, it really annoyed me. Firstly because she clearly had no idea what a pitbull looked like. Secondly, this is irresponsible media here- tell people all about dangers of some dog, without any clarity on what those dangerous dogs actually look like. Anyone who knows pugs knows they are about as dangerous as a sponge cake. And lastly, the whole 'they are demon dogs' attitude. Dogs do have inherent characteristics due to generations of selective breeding, eg chasing instinct, but training and socialisation play a huge part too in behaviour. I should have yelled "kill kill deuce!" And pointed at the lady. She would have seen how effective a killing machine he is. He would have looked at me all confused and then flopped on his back for a belly rub. All she might have been in danger of was some stinky wet deuce kisses.

Supplier Profile No.1

I had never touched a skein of her yarn before, yet having seen the beautiful colourings on Knitty I knew I had to have some. And I was not disappointed when I finally laid my greedy hands on a couple skeins! Gorgeous subtle colours and a firm and springy hand. Today’s Supplier Profile is about a talented Canadian husband and wife team. They started their farm business over 10 years ago as a small operation producing sheep and lambs as well as wool yarns and custom knitting kits. After their kids grew up and left home the sheep also went off to new pastures. The couple still have their farm after which the yarn is named. The Mrs. creates the colour combinations and has a real eye for colour which truly shines through in the scrumptious hand dyed yarns, both solid and variegated. A real joy to behold.

IMG00105.jpg

Can you guess who these talented Canadians are? 🙂

David & I are off tomorrow to Alsace for a week – will try to post but if I don’t get a chance enjoy your week!

Houdini

We sat for Max last night as Kat had to go to Finland for business- spent the night at Kat’s by the river. Nice vibe down there, very chilled. Kat came back today and we had dinner at the pub by the river again – Deuce performed his Houdini trick and managed to unclip his harness. We were chatting and looked over to see a little black pug, naked (no harness or collar) trotting away. Thank goodness he isn’t a runner! No idea how he managed to free himself of his harness – no opposable thumbs and all!

Emms – the sock is Monkey (ahhh I so need to knit these) with a bullseye heel. I will ask pinkacrylique how she did it. It is beautiful, no?

Jenny – yes! You should learn to knit. Like B says – it’s the new Rock & Roll! And what better way to learn than for a good cause!

Since 2003, every year knitters up and down the country we have been making little woolly hats for Innocent smoothies to raise funds for Age Concern to support older people in the winter months. Almost 25,000 older people died of cold-related illnesses last winter, so, for a limited period only, these dinky little woolly hats will sit on the top of innocent smoothie bottles in Sainsbury’s and for each hat-wearing smoothie sold, innocent and Sainsbury’s will donate 50p to Age Concern. Year by year we have been receiving more and more hats and last year we were overwhelmed when 230,000 came flooding in. This equated to £115,000 to help keep older people warm when it’s cold outside. So my dears – shall we start to knit? Read more here.

Make over piccies, as promised. I only have a before for the living room and the kitchen counter – but have afters for the bedroom and bathroom. Can you spot the difference? Better yet – can you spot IKEA? 🙂

Living Room Before & After

Dining Before (see above) & After

Kitchen Before & After

Bathroom After

Bedroom After

Deuce – as always!!

Piccies

Lmizzle! Welcome back! 🙂

Welcome backs to B&Paul from Canadada, Blueadt from fossil hunting and knitting galore, to Emms back from hanging out in Oslo and being super cool.

Some photos for you:

Firstly of my gorgeous sockapalooza socks. I didn’t do them at all justice. They truly are beautiful and also fit perfectly. See?

Like a glove. Er… sock.

And the neat-o Bullseye heel. I will have to ask Pinkacrylique to show me how!

And some gratuitous shots of Deuce – his latest is standing up on his hind legs trying to see what’s on the table:


He can smell the cheese, but can’t quite see it.


Looking naughty.


Just a bit too short my friend.

Busy bees (but not like Emperor Commodus in Gladiator)

Wow times flies. Friday night david made a lovely dinner (lemon sole on pureed peas and bacon) then I met had some pampering and had a facial at Kat’s spa. David met me later and we went out for a drink at Trailer Happiness.

Saturday David and I ran around like crazy monkeys doing errands. We are determined to sell the flat and want it looking its best. Saturday we looked for cusions (ah yes, the soft touches..) but couldn’t find any we liked. We pilgrimaged to TK Maxx in Hammersmith – interesting place. We’d been looking at these blankets for the bed at Habitat. £200!! TK Maxx – lovely brown and cream (ok polyester, not silk, but it’s still shiny!). £50. Next stop Homebase. Nice Calanthea plant to satisfy both the stager and the fengshui lady, little bonzai and some paint. Sunday I had a lovely afternoon hanging out with B and Melissa and the little muffin. She was great, very helpful carrying around our shopping. She is good at running and giggling! Made friends with neighbouring kids and alarmed a woman who thought we might be tormenting her by putting her shoes on the wrong feet. She didn’t seem convinced when we said Sophia put them on herself that way… Amazingly Sophia remembered Deuce and said as soon as she saw me – goggie!

Monday back to work, went to John Lewis in the evening and FINALLY found some cushions to tart up the sofa and the bed (also to match the tk maxx bargain blanket). We then traipsed up to Ikea in the later evenign (seeing as they close at midnight) to get some much needed lighting and four dining chairs. The place does look very nice now, decluttered, and more homey. Deuce and David are bonding – just now David put him over his lap for a little snuggle!

Had another viewing today – an 18 year old chap whose dad wants to buy him a flat near his college. Lucky guy.

Socktopus is still swimming along nicely. Tissue paper and bags are in the works, tags and cards coming from my designer, and the coders are doing a nice job (I think!). At least they are nice to me, so I assume they are doing a good job. I found an amazing stitch marker supplier – man you are going to love these! Another one which I think is just the sweetest of sweet. Got some Goknit bags… eek! I have a few things I need getting done before DD and I go off to Alsace on Saturday… at least now the flat is less a tip and looking pretty ace. More storage for my yarns!

Check out updates at http://www.socktopus.co.uk

28 Day Countdown!!

The Countdown Begins!! I thought given we have 28 Days to Launch that it is only fitting I should give you more detail on the new store. First things first – let me introduce you to Socktopus! Socktopus will burst into the world, loud and proud, on the 15 September (so long as I continue to appease the Imps of Technology and the website passes all its tests). Socktopus will showcase cottage artisans, and specialise in artisan yarns and top end knitting tools.

Socktopus

I’m really excited about our stock list – some of it will be familiar to you, but most you won’t have seen before in the UK, and some you won’t have seen before at all. It’s all about the stash – ultra covetable beautiful items that will make you giggle and smile, and LOVE LOVE LOVE using. Socktopus actively seeks out those creative gems amongst us – otherwise ordinary people, SAHMs (stay at home moms), students, farmers – whose love of colour and beauty inspires them to create extraordinary things. As Launch Day nears, I’ll post taster profiles of my suppliers and their lurvely products to whet your appetites… so stay tuned.

I also promised more details about a PARTY! So here they are:

We will be throwing a “Socktopus: To Infinity and Beyond!” Launch Party on Friday 14th September in Notting Hill, London from 7pm. You will be able to indulge in a bit of retail therapy at the Launch, as we will have some of our fab stock on offer at special Launch prices, and if you are lucky, you might win one of the 8 Socktopus: To Infinity and Beyond! door prizes!

I hear you asking – “Prizes? How do you win a prize?” Oooh my dears, there are more than just the door prizes to be won… so read on and follow these 3 easy steps:

One: All you need to do is copy the questionnaire below into an email, complete it and send it back to me at socktopusATmacDOTcom (replace AT with @ and DOT with . ). I have just one fabulous Socktopus Launch Prize up for grabs. I haven’t decided what yet – a skein of not yet seen in the UK yarn? Gorgeous exclusive stitch markers? DPNs not available here? ahh the choices… I’ll let you know in due course. Your name will then be put into the Socktopus Launch Prize draw and the winner announced on the 14 September at the Launch Party. If you win, but couldn’t make it (or don’t live remotely near London), we’ll toast you and I’ll post you your prize.

TWO: If you indicated in your questionnaire that you want to come to the Launch Party, I will put your name down on the invite list and send you an invitation in return at the end of August. Please note that the invites are limited as there are only so many people that can fit into the venue. Best bet is to get your questionnaire in early if you want to be assured of an invite.

THREE: We have 8 To Infinity and Beyond! door prizes to be won by attendees at the Launch Party. All you need to do is RSVP with me once you receive your invite and join us at the Party and your name will be put into the draw.

QUESTIONNAIRE
:

1. What are your favorite yarns to knit with?

2. What brand of needles do you use the most?

3. What size needles do you use the most?

4. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

5. What inspires you?

6. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?

7. Whose patterns do you use for knitting? Your own, from the internet, from designers?

8. What magazines, online forums, online mags do you read? Which one is your favourite?

9. What knitting/fibre/crocheting magazine do you subscribe to?

10. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

11. Do you own a yarn digital scale? If not, why not?

12. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? List them all!

13. Are there any new techniques you’d like to learn?

14. Would you like to attend the Socktopus: To Infinity and Beyond! Launch Party? If so, what is your email address?

15. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what’s your ID?

16. Would you like to receive an email newsletter from Socktopus and occasional updates on new items and events? If so, what email address would you like it sent to?

17. Do you have a blog? If so what is the url?

18. What swaps, sock clubs do you participate/belong to? Any in particular you covet or would highly recommend?

19. Any knitting/crochet/spinning related clubs you would like to see but haven’t?

20. Anything you’d love to see in an online store but haven’t? (Services, products, etc)

Good luck! 🙂