Archive for March, 2011

So, are you one of those people who think a spa weekend is the height of luxury? Call me crazy, but I just can’t warm up to the idea of being naked, save for a towel, anywhere but my own bathroom.  In fact, being so clad in a ‘public local’ is one of my worst nightmares.  I’m also not keen on having my shoulders, or anything else, massaged by a complete stranger.  I’m not a prude; I’m an Episcopalian. No, my idea of frivolous luxury has very little to do with being naked.  My dream of relaxation and rejuvenation involves gathering with some fabulous women for a weekend away from rules and responsibilities and immersing myself in knitting nirvana.  I am talking about a knitting retreat.
It begins when I pack my bag, which I fill with my favorite clothes. The retreat is held in February, so I always bring warm clothes.  The Bed and Breakfast we stay in, The Inn at Mitchell House, is very old.  How old?  A Revolutionary War General stayed there.  You know, during the Revolutionary War.  The house has been added on to, and in case you are wondering, the plumbing has been nicely updated.  Still, it is a large old house and it can be a tad chilly on the Eastern Shore in February.  Many attendees wear or bring items to wear which they have knitted over the years.  This is often good for you ego, as ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ are often exchanged.  Think knitting fashion show.

My roommate and I arrive near 5:00 on Friday evening.  The wine has been uncorked, and the cheese and crackers are waiting.  Jim and Tracy Stone, the hosts of the Inn, greet us – as do their exuberant golden retrievers.

There are two large adjoining drawing rooms with fireplaces and a myriad of couches, chairs and a wonderful old grandfather clock.  This is where we will spend most of the weekend.  We put our suitcases upstairs in our room, a gigantic space with a lovely queen sized canopy bed, a spinning wheel and fireplace.  We then take our knitting bag downstairs and begin to socialize with our fellow “Inn- mates.”
Around 7 pm we gather in the dining room for a dinner which Tracy has prepared especially for us, a wonderful extra for the weekend.  Tracy is an excellent cook and the chicken stew in a bread bowl and garden salad are flavorful and filling.  There are homemade brownies, coffee and tea back in the drawing rooms, and we settle in for a relaxing evening of knitting and catching up with one another.
What I love about the knitting retreat is that in real life you must find opportunities to fit knitting into your schedule, where-as, on the retreat, there are endless opportunities to knit and nothing else to fit in.  Okay, there is one meal you have to arrange for yourself:  lunch on Saturday. Which you may or may not even be hungry for after the amazing breakfast Tracy prepares for you Saturday morning.  (Her Frittatas are fabulous.)  But, say you do get a hankering for a light nosh-, there are some quaint towns nearby, where you can satisfy your palate.  Chestertown and Rock Hall are both short drives away, where you can indulge in a little retail therapy and snag a great lunch.

Or, you can just hang out at the Inn, graze on the cornucopia of ever-present snacks and save your appetite for a truly spectacular dinner later.  There are no carpooling duties, no vacuuming, no dusting, no laundry, no dishes, nothing but knitting. I get giddy just thinking about it.

Betty and Liz offer opportunities to learn new skills each day. Or, you can just bring along your current project, or last year’s project that never got completed because, (fill in your excuse here.)  Imagine a dozen women bringing their various projects in all stages of progress. It’s hard not to get inspired by the wide variety of color, fiber choices, patterns and projects. And lest you think these are silent knitters- well, let me dispel that thought right now.  These women are fascinating, creative, intelligent, informed gems of all things interesting.  Politics?  Yeah, we go there.  Books, movies, world events, you never know what might get discussed, what you might learn, what you might share, where the conversation might take you. Fair warning! Beware of working on intricate knitting patterns and engaging in lively discussions. Many a lace pattern has gone awry during these spirited discussions.
It seems to me that sometimes we can forget how great women can be for one another.  So often we are in competition with each other for so many things.  Not that there might not be some competition on the retreat. But it’s all in good fun.  Miss Super-fast Knitter just might get that retreat project completed way before anyone else. To which I say, “You go girl!”

Dinner Saturday night this year was arranged by Betty and Liz at a nearby friend’s house.  Our meal was prepared by a very talented gentleman – a surgeon by day who enjoys a turn as a guest chef in and around Chestertown, as his schedule permits.  He and his wife have recently remodeled their home, and the kitchen reminded me of something you might see on a very fancy cooking show.  The meal began with an appetizer of thin-crust pizza with shrimp. Then there was salad, and THEN a mouth-watering meal of manicotti in a light marinara sauce.  The manicotti was made with crepes rather than traditional pasta and, it absolutely melted in your mouth.  The meal was one of the best I have ever eaten, and the atmosphere and warmth of the home and the hosts was the highlight of the weekend for me.  We returned to the Inn full, satisfied and ready to relax and knit some more in front of the fire.
The next morning we were treated to yet another awesome breakfast by Tracy. Belgian Waffles, fresh fruit and bacon. It was served to us by her husband Jim, who has a great smile, and a knack for showing up just when you need your coffee cup filled.  Honestly, I feel like a princess on these weekends.  After breakfast, it’s back to the drawing room and more knitting.  Before we know it, that grandfather clock strikes noon and it is time to pack up and return to the real world.  And while it may be a little sad to be leaving all this delightful luxury, behind I have been knitting just enough to think that maybe, just maybe, I could work some knitting time into my everyday schedule.

Dana Deichmann

Read Full Post »