Last week I had a conference in Milwaukee to attend. Things had been a little hectic leading up to it and, come Thursday evening, I suddenly realized I hadn’t bought a plane ticket. Oy! Two days before you’re supposed to leave isn’t the best time to realize you still need transportation, because that $325 ticket two months ago has more than doubled in price. No dice. I could drive, but the thought of an 11+ hour drive just felt exhausting — if not on the way there, definitely on the way back. Trying to decide between the lesser of two evils, I suddenly realized there was a third option: Amtrak. With a station only 30 minutes away, I found I could book a three-leg round trip for the same price of that original plane ticket I never got around to buying. A 20 hour trip with a couple 2 – 3 hr layovers is longer than I usually like to travel, but the price was right and I was ready for an adventure. All aboard!

Let me tell you, that train ride was fabulous. On my way there I worked on my presentation, read a book, and knit — and on the way back? I knit and knit and knit some more. I was able to finish two projects completely, and get the third one almost to completion. What a glorious feeling! The trip was incredibly relaxing — I was out of the office, out of the house, couldn’t do anything for anyone except for me. (Hooray!) I had plenty of legroom, a comfortable seat, a huge window to took out, a reading light that actually could be aimed where I needed it, a table that moved where I wanted it; and, the trifecta of a tech geek: wifi, plugs, and coffee. Yessssssssss. So much more comfortable than a packed flight, and I could get up, move around, have food in the dining car, work in the lounge car, or sit in my seat, almost fully reclined, with headphones in my ears and a movie on the laptop. Pure heaven.

I gotta say, I’m so impressed with Amtrak. You’d be surprised how many people take the train cross country, and I can see why. It might take longer than air, but it’s a helluva lot more relaxing, and definitely easier on the  psyche. I’m reinvigorated by the thought of how many places I can get to just with a 30 minute drive from my home. It seems to me that, with gas at these prices, any trips in a 6 hour radius is really better left to Amtrak.

Training couldn’t get any easier.

I love the holidays. We don’t travel like other families do, and I am secretly glad for this. TheCop put his foot down years ago when our daughter was born and he couldn’t handle loading up our small car with baby stuff, holiday stuff, packing stuff, a new baby and an under-slept, over-caffeinated wife just so we could drive to a location where he then couldn’t relax for a week. Instead, we stay home and create our own family traditions. This made great sense with each new kid added to the mix. It’s probably one of the few things TheCop has ever put his foot down about and with which I wordlessly went along.

That doesn’t mean company isn’t welcome to visit. On the contrary; I love cooking for lots of people, and holidays are one of the few times I get to do the June Cleaver domestic kitchen goddess thing (just don’t look at the rest of the house). This year my sister TheProgrammer came for Thanksgiving, bringing her newly minted fiance with her. These are two of my favorite people in the world. We have a lovely time together and I cannot refuse her anything. When I went out to stay with her when she had hip surgery a couple of years ago, she wanted to learn to knit, and I came prepared. She can cast on like nobody’s business but, by the third row, her stitches are so tight she literally cannot get her needle through the stitch. It’s practically a gift, that, because now I feel sorry for her. While I was there I made her a cropped red cardigan and, for her birthday, I introduced her to one of Portland’s lovely yarn stores, Knit Purl, and had her pick out Noro that I would transform into the classic striped Noro scarf.

You get the idea.

So during a few hours on Thanksgiving where I wasn’t cooking, we went downstairs and I let my sister shop in my yarnporn stash for her next project. I wasn’t terribly worried about her wanting something I didn’t want to give her — she fell in love with a new fibre or color every third skein. (I told you we were related.) But then I started showing her some finished objects, and that was the beginning of my downfall. She wanted to see my cream tweedish jacket I had been working on that she’d heard so much about. That was my first mistake. She loved it and now wants one of her own. Hmmm. Well, okay, but let’s redirect her to smaller projects that can be easily finished, shall we?  I thought she might like a hat next, so I brought out several for her to try on.

That was my second mistake.

She tried on my Rose Brown (Rose Red but in, well, brown) and fell in love with it. Totally, absolutely, completely in love with it. Cool! Because I happen to have another skein of ultra alpaca and can match it exactly. And then came the words a knitter dreads:

“Oh, so can I have this one then?”

What the what!??!? My second project ever! And then the horror of it all: I heard myself say, “Sure.”

What the what!??!?

And then I realized why knitters are the way we are. Our finished objects are nice, and beautiful, and finished, but they are so much better when they’re given with love. And that, ladies and gentle knitters, is why we find ourselves up at all hours trying to finish holiday WIPs as the hours draw us closer to those gift exchanges we’re not quite yet ready for, our knitting traveling everywhere with us, just trying to manage a few rows here and there. I think it’s why we do what we do. Even when we don’t realize we’re doing it. It’s all about the love.

Tis the season.