It is June.

Remember that time I promised photos of stash? Yeah, that’s not going to happen for a while. I didn’t get to it in April, and I head to the northlands for Dorian next Thursday. My next chance at a good yarn stash organization is looking like August. August! (Or maybe I should do it in small chunks …)

Speaking of yarny things, I made a swan. This one’s crocheted. I made it for the May Charms class for the House Cup on Ravelry – the challenge was to “craft something that represents a link between two people or locations”. I chose the swan to represent my great-grandmother Valerie. She always had a lot of swan figurines around the house, and even a few of those swan-shaped planters out on the patio.

Swan

Gustava the Swan

I recently decided to make an ancestral altar, having heard a few folks talk about them on a couple of different podcasts. I thought something handmade would be a nice addition to it. So far I’ve got the swan and a watch that belonged to my grandfather, who died last August. It’s not a very big start – I don’t even have any photos yet. Well, ok I have a few on my computer, but I’d like to print them out and put them in a nice frame or something.

Right now I’m really getting into Dorian/summer camp/escape from work mode. I’ve been thinking about door decorations, and decided there may be an “incognito” theme. And by incognito, I mean mustaches. Bandwagon? Yup. I’ll totally get on the mustache bandwagon. (Who am I kidding? I already am. I bought this shirt on Woot a few weeks ago. Handlebar mustache! I love puns.)

I probably won’t get another post out before camp – although if I really want to ignore work on my birthday next Monday maybe I’ll post then. Either way, hopefully I can get myself together and have another one this month.

Then, now, and points in between

Are you looking for me? I am here! I am Turkish Delight man!

The above quote? True story. Five years ago (and how it can possibly be so long is beyond me) I was part of a study abroad group leaving Ephesus. I wish I had the means to return. It was a truly magical trip.

Celsus

Celsus Library, Ephesus

The Celsus Library photo is one of my favorites. Such a beautiful building it must have been, back in its heyday.

But back to the present. Or rather, the more recent past.

My hands are warmer now.

Colorful woolly wrist warmers: nice in the cold.

I’ve been steadily knitting and crocheting for the House Cup. In January I knit a pair of wrist warmers (among other fun items). They’re really very lovely, and I wore them every day for quite a while – sometimes with mittens when it was extra cold. (We’ve had a very cold, snowy winter. Not that we should be surprised by such things in Iowa, but still.)

I also participated in the Ravelympics again this year. I knit another pair of socks, and a fun mustachioed cowl, which I sent off to a friend. I’m pretty proud of the socks, which are Beatrix by Monkey Toes. I just don’t have quite the right pair of shoes to wear them with – the design is all along the back, as you can see here.

These would be great for clogs...

Beatrix socks for the Ravelympics.

I’m really happy with them; I knit them toe up, so they fit smashingly. I like being able to try them on as I go.

And the present: I’m knitting on Glimfeather, which is a phenomenally huge shawl. I think I’m about 1/3 through, and I’m pretty sure it’s madness to expect to get it completed by month’s end. But if I continue, knitting at a rate of roughly 5 rows a day, I think I’ll make it. (Five rows sounds like a pittance, but the cabled sides take around 20 minutes each and will only get longer. I think the wrong side rows are 15 minutes or so. That’s a solid couple of hours a day just on this project.) I’m also working on two other shawls, which are much, much smaller. One’s about 40% completed and the other is, well yet to be cast on.

Hopefully my fingers won’t fall off. But I’ve got my iPod queued up with a lot of great music, podcasts and audio books, so it’s not like I’m just knitting. Filling the brain with knowledge, too. Cheers to that!

Persephone’s downfall

I went grocery shopping this evening with my mom, before we picked up pizza (at which point we had a verysmall snowball fight with the cashier because he’s a family friend). As we walked through the produce section, the pomegranates caught my eye, and I recalled a post at Tokyo Terrace earlier this month featuring pomegranate seeds in a cocktail. While I’ve put myself on vocally healthy things – nixing any alcoholic content – until after tomorrow’s cantata performance (gulp!) I thought I could tackle a pom. When we got back I did a quick Google check for the best way to seed a pomegranate, and found some very helpful videos on YouTube. Behold!

pomnomnom

Pomegranates: surprisingly easy to seed.

The long and short of it is this: Cut off the stem end and the end opposite, providing you with a flat surface. Score the sides in quarters. Get a bowl of water large enough for your hands and the pomegranate, and take the quarters apart, removing the seeds. The seeds will sink, the fleshy membrane will float, and life is good. Skim the top to get rid of the membrane, then strain the water away. So easy, and I didn’t cut myself, which is always a bonus.

A glass of cranberry ginger ale and cran-raspberry juice with a small handful of pom seeds is so refreshing. The carbonation from the ginger ale will cause the seeds to float, which is a nice visual treat. How Persephone only ate six seeds is beyond me.

The House Cup has been going very well; I’ve just finished my fourth term in Ravenclaw. Our Quidditch team, Rosetta Stone, ended up taking seventh place out of 25 teams, which is darn awesome. We had fun making hats and such for the Shriners Burn Center in Boston, and one teammate spun some lovely yarn in team colors (sand and lapis lazuli).

Nachaq cowl

Hiding Mr Voldy – in style!

One of my favorite assignments from last month was for Defense Against the Dark Arts. “This month, we’ll be exploring Quirinus Quirrell. Please reflect on how you would react and compensate if Voldemort were grafted onto the back of your head.” (Isn’t that a fantastic assignment?) I knit a lace cowl, Nachaq. It comes up over the head, too. I’m a fan of the pattern, though it seemed to take forever to knit. I think that’s just because it was in laceweight.

I also got my best friend bandbabe to join the House Cup, which should be fun. She’s been crocheting up a storm – she’s gotten quite a few things done already. She’s also been on Ravelry for less than a month and she’s so addicted. I’ve created a monster.

We had a blizzard this week – there’s now a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground. We got 16 inches of snow between Tuesday and Wednesday, and then the temperatures were frigid. (One night the wind chill was forecast to be 25-30 below!) Winter is no fun. I don’t know why on earth I still live in Iowa. I don’t really like snow. It looks nice at first, but then it gets slushy and gross, turns grey with road grime, and makes me fall down because I am not very graceful. Yuck.

That’s all I can muster for now – I’ll catch ya on the flip side!

The Magicians and other ramblings

I’ve been attempting this 52 books in 52 weeks thing. Thus far, I’m not sure where I stand. I’ve lost track a little bit, though I’m updating my Goodreads list as I write this post. The most recent book I’ve finished (aside from re-reading non-Twilight vampirevampyre drivel) is The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I was very hesitant about this book. It was compelling to listen to (audiobooks are my friend when I knit), but I found myself frustrated with the protagonist, Quentin Coldwater. I find myself agreeing with Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom:

My major personal difficulty with the book boiled down to this: Quentin Coldwater is not very likable. He’s selfish and apathetic, never happy with what he has, even when what he has is exactly what he originally thought he wanted. He’s the personification of the-grass-is-always-greener. I never doubted him as a character — he seemed very real to me — but I didn’t like him. But I’m not sure if I was supposedto like him. If this was a book about Magic in the Real World, it stands to reason that the hero wouldn’t just not be heroic — he wouldn’t be a hero. And, ultimately, I didn’t see him as one. He was just a protagonist. Which, really, made sense.

As I said on my Goodreads review of the book, Quentin frustrated me. I found myself frequently wanting to reach through my iPod and shake him. It wasn’t a horrible book – there were parts I certainly enjoyed, and I gave it three stars on Goodreads. The parallels between Fillory and Narnia kind of hurt my head. In the end, I’m still not certain whether I enjoyed it or not.

Otherwise, I’ve been knitting for the House Cup. This weekend I participated in the International Date Line challenge representing my Quidditch team, Team Rosetta Stone.

Three hats in two days isnt so bad.

Three hats in two days isn't so bad.

The task was to use 200 yards of yarn crafting something for the charity your Quidditch team had chosen. We’re doing hats for a cancer center. That smallest hat used about 70 yards of yarn, I’m guessing. Of my two competitors, one was knitting on an illusion baby blanket (with stars!) and the other was designing a cabled earflap hat. I’ve just seen both of them, and they are fantastic. (Especially that hat. I’m definitely going to donate money for the pattern!)

I also turned in my Herbology assignment today: the Spiderweb Tam. (The homework was to identify garden pests and helpers.) I wanted to keep naughty little Billywigs away from a bouquet of flowers I got from a friend for making sure her house wasn’t burning down. (Long story.)

Channeling spiders for this months Herbology assignment.

Channeling spiders for this month's Herbology assignment.

I’m very happy with it, although at the largest point the stitch count was a whopping 216. Yikes!

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Books and yarn are my friends

Again I am remiss in posting. And I had such good intentions! Case in point: I’ve started a new book challenge for myself, called 52 books in 52 weeks. I had hoped to post about each book as I finish, though as you can see, that hasn’t happened. I started on August 9. My initial inspiration comes from Sassenach, whose posts I’ve been catching when she updates on Plurk.

I added a widget-y thing in the sidebar to show my bookshelf on GoodReads, where I’m keeping track. I’m actually ahead right now, which is something. I almost feel as though I shouldn’t include re-reads, but there are some books I really love to read: the entire Harry Potter series, anything Neil Gaiman, and The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (which I got hooked on in high school, and I don’t know why. It’s a fascinating book about ebola).

The morning light hit this lovely spider web on my porch just right.

The morning light hit this lovely spider web just right.

As far as knitting goes, the House Cup on Ravelry has opened for the fall term, which means I’ve been working on lots of assignments. I finished my first assignment, “something to keep someone warm” for Potions, two days ago. It’s a test knit of a pattern that should be coming out in the next week or two, called Witch Warmers. The full pattern includes armwarmers, legwarmers and a neckwarmer, the latter of which I submitted for class. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Otherwise, I’ve just gotten my hair cut today by a fantastic stylist. I walked in the door, and Dewey said, “I know exactly what you need.” And he did, and it’s an excellent cut. It’s not shaggy any more, it has shape, and it’s a bit on the sassy side. I was in such a good mood after that I bought new shoes at Chez Target next door: a pair of Mossimo Odell flats. (I only wish they’d had the bronze in my size, but it’s difficult to find size 11 for women sometimes.)

Good times.

Evil shrubberies and Transfiguration

Clark Tower is a familiar sight (and site) to residents of Madison County. I drove up to the tower last Saturday with my lunch, with the intention of taking in some fresh air and just having time to mellow. From the top, one can see quite a distance, though the view is mostly trees.

Clark Tower in spring

Clark Tower in Spring

But on this particular trip to the tower I noticed something else, something more formidable.

The bridal wreath.

Bridal wreath at the tower

Bridal Wreath at the Tower

Sure, it seems innocuous. Someone told me today that the flowers smell nice. When I get near any bridal wreath, I can’t smell the flowers. I smell some strange musky odor, and then I can’t breathe. There are at least four houses on my block that have this evil shrubbery; one is even right next to the sidewalk. I have to hold my breath when I walk by (and I do walk by often, as that house is halfway between mine and my parents’) and hope the wind doesn’t blow the pollen my way. It’s an absolutely horrific plant. My dad just told me last week that he is sensitive to bridal wreath as well. And here I thought I hadn’t inherited any bloody allergies!

In other news, I applied and was approved to knit a Transfiguration OWL for the the house cup. My assignment is to practice Vanishing and Conjuring charms on my stash: Vanish at least 750 yards of stash yarn and Conjure finished objects.

Transfiguration OWL: ready to start

Transfiguration OWL: at the ready!

I think I’m ready to start knitting my lace scarves — I might even get wild and add beads to one. (And you know, just after I submitted my OWL application, I saw a really beautiful shawl that I might even have enough yarn for. There’s always next time.)