So Long 2010

Oh it's that time of year again.  The time when one year ends, another begins, and everyone decides what they will do in the new year to make them a better, healthier, and generally more stressed out person.  I generally do not make resolutions.  At least not when normal people do.  For me the new year does not bear much significance.  The big new year for me is always August, when the new school year starts and I make decisions about how I'll create a better, healthier, and generally more stressed out routine.  But today I realized something. At least for the foreseeable future I will not be starting another academic year.

Which means 2011 is my first year as a real grownup (provided I write this thesis).  I'll have a masters degree and a fiance, both of which are terrifying, if exciting, concepts.  So in lieu of academically driven resolutions, I'm making a list of knitting goals.  I figure if I am unemployed after graduation I'll have a lot of knitting time on my hands.

1. Enjoy knitting.  If it feels like work, put it down and do something else.  Last year I got burned out because of holiday knitting and didn't pick it up for months because it just didn't feel fun anymore.  We're not going to let that happen again.

2. Knit to flatter.  This was the first year of what I think of as "real knitting."  Looking over my 2010 projects there is only one FO I'm really not pleased with.  I want to continue knitting things that I'm actually proud to say I've knit.

3. Learn more.  I finally transitioned out of "beginner" and I want to continue improving.  I want to try out new techniques (like beading and colorwork) and experiment more with different forms of garment construction.  In that vein I want to continue to knit sweaters, making at least one Amy Herzog sweater using her Fit to Flatter tutorial.

That should be more than enough.  And I have a lot of school yet to get through in the next five months.

See you in 2011!


FO: Christmas Knitting

I know that last year I swore off knitting Christmas presents after I cranked out hats for everyone in my family, but I seem to have forgotten that around the end of October. This year my Christmas knitting required two shawls, three pairs of fingerless mitts, a set of wristers, a hat, and two secret projects that have yet to be completed (oops!)

I made this shawl for my mom (Rav links with more photos). By now I think everyone recognizes Damson. I knit this out of Cascade Heritage Sock and yes, I ran out of yarn. But now I'm glad I had to buy another skein because I have quite a bit left over. I love the way the colors worked up so much I seriously almost kept this for myself.

Chris' mom (my . . . future mother in law? . . . weird) is a huge fan of all things Pittsburgh. I picked up a skein of specially dyed Steelers colored yarn to do the edging of a shawl. I ended up using the Reading Shawl because it has the nice neck shaping to help prevent the shawl from falling off this energetic petite woman.

I knit my brother the Cairn hat for his birthday back in October, so for Christmas I knit for him a matching pair of mitts. For some reason I got it in to my head to make the same mitts in other colors for my dad and Chris. All needing to be knit within a week and a half. Obviously, I lost my mind because as I was working on the second set I started seeing this:

The guys all appear to be pleased, so my craziness appears to have been merited (though they sadly did not get the reference).

My sister presented a bit more of a complex problem. She has already requested a few items that are super patterned, making them difficult to work on during school. But these wristers, knit up in Malabrigo Twist, are the perfect mix of girly and impracticality. My favorite part is the giant bow.

Finally, a few days before Christmas, I decided to knit a hat for my grandfather who would be making an unexpected appearance at the traditional unwrapping.

Jared Flood's Turn a Square. It is super addictive. Gracie even decided to get in on the modeling.


And This is Why We Wear Wool

I hope you all have had a fun and peaceful holiday.  I know we have.  It's been a pretty hopping time here on the east coast.  Now I know that New England is getting a lot more weather than we had here in North Carolina, but in our defense, this is our first white Christmas since the sixties and snow is rare in our area.  So five inches?  That was enough to keep everyone indoors for a few days.

But it was fun.  After a leisurely Christmas morning with seven (SEVEN!) people in the house (all of whom loved their stressed-out handknit gifts) we walked to a nearby golf course to go sledding.  Remember, we don't have a lot of practice sledding.  But my mom bought us three sleds earlier in the week, so my parents, brother, Chris, and I all trudged off to sled down every hill we could find.  We had a blast.  I found one hill that was really good and had a space of flat ground before the pond, so there was enough time to bail out before one ends up in the pond.  Or so we thought.

I hit the hill with no problem the first time.  And then things got ugly.  I went back up for my second run, hit the tracks perfectly . . . and ended up in the pond.  My dad says I was going twice as fast, which I think is why I could not get out of the sled in time.  I honestly don't remember much.  I was in deeper than I could stand (I think my foot touched a barrel that rolled away. At least that's what I'm telling myself it was) and it was freezing cold.  When I finally got out my entire body was soaked from under my arms down (As far as I can tell from the bruising I managed to grab the side as I went in)  On the way back (all uphill for over half a mile) I kept myself distracted by telling mom all about why it was a blessing that I was wearing a wool sweater.  One of my Christmas presents was The Knitter's Book of Wool so I'm sure I'll have a lot of material to draw from when eighty and still telling this story.

But our Christmas excitement did not end there.  The next day Chris and I went for a walk in the snow ostensibly so that I could get some nice snowy pics and take some photos of the scarf my mom finished for me.

Isn't it pretty?  It's my first handknit scarf that anyone has made for me (Brooks Farm Four Play) and it goes with everything!

But evidentially Chris had other ideas.

There are no definitive plans yet (not that this has stopped people from asking).  Though I am in need of ideas for wedding shawls if you have any.

I hope the last week of 2010 is treating you as well as it is treating me!


Christmas Mouse

I've never been able to sleep well on Christmas Eve.  Even as a kid I would doze off and then wake up in the middle of the night to sneak downstairs to look at the tree like a quiet Christmas mouse.  The house is always so peaceful tonight.  Everyone is asleep in their rooms all cozy and tucked away.  It really has to be my favorite night of the year.

Christmas Eve is not a big to-do at our house.  We do lots of wrapping and hanging out (this year one wrapping job that my sister and I took on started with a box and ended with me holding the paper with my mouth so we could secure it properly).  Oh and knitting.  I did lots of knitting this year.  But I finished my grandfather's last minute hat with time to spare.  I was pretty psyched and everyone else was very relieved that the Christmas knitting craziness has passed for the year.

One tradition we never skip is driving around town after dinner to look at Christmas lights.  It's fun to see neighborhood dynamics evolve over the years.  We sing raucously to Christmas music and assign extra points to houses that employ colored lights.  White lights might look more classy but the colored lights are way more fun.  Eventually my dad will spot Santa in the sky, the signal to go  home and put all the kids to bed.

Now everyone is tucked away, waiting for Santa to come fill the stockings.  Normally we'd be up early anxious to have each other open the presents that we bought, but my grandfather is coming this year so we'll have to wait until close to ten.  I suppose the teenagers won't mind the extra hours of sleep.  And we might get some snow! We're just a tad excited.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate, I hope you've retired your knitting, tucked your children in to bed, and settled down for a content and peaceful night.  Merry Christmas!


Santa's Going Home!

You know what the hardest part of knitting is?  Wrapping.  But I'm done now!

All wrapped and ready to take home tomorrow.  I feel like Santa. Ho ho ho!

Now I just need to clean, and pack, and put together knitting for the trip and cast on for one last gift to knit up on the drive.  All in the next two hours before we do Christmas dinner with Chris' parents.

Oh yes.  I'm not crazy at all.


The Importance of G&H

Typing has been difficult as of late.  Yesterday after coming back from a run I was setting up to continue working on my thesis research (read: catch up on Supernatural and knit) when I got tangled in the cord and knocked the computer on to the ground.  A few minutes later the "g" "h" and backspace keys were no longer working.  Do you realize how many words we use in daily language that include those two letters?  A LOT!  That's how many.  So today I took it to Best Buy to the oh so wonderful geek squad . . . who told me the computer would have to be mailed away and would not be returned for at least three weeks.  A few moments of shock later I had packed up my computer and walked out.

Fortunately Chris came in to town today and brought his old desktop keyboard.  So several shuffled stacks of paper and my desk now looks like this:

It lights up!  I'm determined that nothing is going to keep me in a panicked mess for long, no matter how many times I sob on the phone to my mother.  There is way too much to accomplish by May.

Amid all of this I have continued to push through my Christmas knitting.  I try to take breaks when my fingers start to hurt, but I think I can finish before we leave for my parents' house on Thursday.  But I have once again vowed to never, EVER make Christmas presents again.


Every Jack is Very Brave

Today I have a special treat for you guys. Tabitha Grace Smith, of Between the Lines Studios, is publishing her first book illustrated by Mindy Lou Hagan! I already pre-ordered a copy, but she was kind enough to send me a digital copy so that I could tell you guys all about it.

Jack the Kitten is Very Brave is the first of the Machu and Jack book series based on Tabitha's cats. Jack, the title character, is a rambunctious kitten who wants to play pirates with his brother but is afraid to get in the water. He has an excellent imagination, however, and so eventually . . . wait . . . did you really think I was going to spoil the ending for you? Anyway, it is an adorable story about two silly cats and their imaginations.

As you have probably guessed, this is a children's story. The book itself runs 42 pages of text and the official rating is 3-7 years, but I, a 22 year old child, absolutely loved it. The illustrations are fun and the story is sweet without falling into that sickening rhyming thing some kid's books enjoy. It reminds me a lot of the Sesame Street books I had when I was little (The Monster at the End of This Book, anyone?).

If you would like to order a copy for yourself (and why wouldn't you?), go to Create Space. They do both domestic (US) and international orders. As a bonus, Tabitha has graciously offered a 10% off code if you order from Create Space! Just enter D9A8XUZU at check out. You can also become a fan of the book on Facebook. Tabitha runs a lot of give aways and promotions that you won't want to miss out on.

As for me, I'm going to go play pirate in the rain.


Triangular Finances

Today I did something I always feel apprehensive doing -- I took a financial leap of faith.  I'm a planner.  I like to know what I'm doing and where I'm going.  There's a lot of room for spontaneity when I get my work done, but there is no room for spontaneity in my finances.  But today I went to school an hour early and cancelled my loan for the spring semester.  Of course I have to take my car in for repairs tomorrow, but I have enough saved up that I should be able to afford it.  We'll see.  I don't think people realize how badly in debt students unwittingly go, but I'll save my rant about the allocation of aid money for another day.  In any case, between my scholarship and paycheck I decided to risk it.

When I got to the office, the councilor I worked with complemented me on my mitts.  When I mentioned that I knit them she got very excited.  Evidentially she and another woman in the office both knit, so when we were done she dragged me down to her coworkers office to show her my mitts and the hat and scarf I was wearing.  It totally made my day.  I'm not sure even my family has been so excited about my knitwear.

I was so bundled up today because the temperature has finally dropped into the twenties.  With the wind, it's been quite a biting cold.  So today I adopted a fashion trend I have seen a lot lately but have never really thought I would like.  The triangle scarf.

This is my Wonder Shawl that I wore to our end of semester party in May.  I usually don't directly match my hats and scarves, but for some reason when I put on my Top Model Hat I decided to give it a try.  I actually tried this for the first time last week and found it to be quite to my liking.  I think it's the hair cut.

In any case, I now find myself a little obsessed with the triangle scarf or small shawl look.  But I only have the one shawl.  Now I'm looking at Stephen West's stuff with new eyes.  I always thought his stuff looked nice, but never felt any particular attachment to them.  But now!  Now I am falling down the rabbit hole.  As soon as Christmas knitting is complete I have a feeling I will be spending a little too much on patterns and knitting up my sock yarn.


The Return

Sorry for long silence. The week before Thanksgiving my computer decided to make my life a living hell and short out the fan. Right in the middle of the most stressful part of the semester. Guess that's what I get for naming my computer after a Dollhouse character.

Here's a few photos of what life's been like and all the craziness you should be glad you've missed out on:

Grading, grading, and more grading. Boy am I glad that's done for the semester.

Malabrigo stress breaks,

Amid late nights spent buried under piles of research (yes, that's Princess Diaries. I was looking at using it for an example in my paper but unfortunately it didn't suit the subject matter)

Thanks to comps, I wasn't able to go home for Thanksgiving. But my family came here instead. One of the advantages of living here in a sprawling metropolis? We got to cut an hour off the travel time for Black Friday, a day in which we go buy one or two things and then marvel at the crazy hordes of people. My sister really wanted that giant makeup kit for $15.

No pictures of Thanksgiving food, we ate too fast, but this is my favorite way to use up the leftovers.

Friday was a day of support for young girls everywhere who might feel outcast because of their geek love. This was done in honor of Katie, a now famous first-grader, who was made fun of by the boys because she loves Star Wars. The outpouring of support has been quite impressive to people who are not part of the female geek community. Unfortunately far too many women and girls feel the need to hide their love of Star Wars, BSG, comics, etc. I hope that this story helps continue to change the way people view women and the geek community.

Me? I just can't hide my geek pride, any day of the year. This is actually the tank from the new Boba Fett sleep set over at Her Universe. I turned it into a party outfit because I truly do have a "Boba Fett-ish"

It's the start of the Christmas season! Wednesday I indulged in one of my favorite traditions -- peppermint chocolate ice cream. This isn't the peppermint flavored ice cream you get at the store. Instead I buy the individually wrapped peppermints and crush them over vanilla ice cream. Add some fudge (or chocolate sauce if you have it handy) and it's Christmas in a bowl!

This little terror looks so innocent. . . . Until he drug out my yarn and tangled it all up and down the staircase. . . .