I’ve been absent.

I’ve thought so many times about blogging, but this is the first time I’ve even logged into WordPress in months.

I’ve done a lot of knitting over the last few months. The most recent things I’ve completed are in the widget to the side, but I’m going to share some others.

Elephant

Elephant bib

First up is a crocheted elephant bib, which I made for Cousin P for her baby shower on Jan. 14. She actually had her baby yesterday (hooray!) and all reports say that their little girl is happy and healthy, and mom and dad are settling in. I saw a picture, and it is a darn cute baby. Cousin P has the nursery all decorated in owls, and I’m kinda in love. The baby may get a handknit owl or two. We’ll see.

One of my other cousins, Cousin D, is expecting twins within the next month or so. (Cousin D is a cousin to me and Cousin P; they were born about two months apart. How strange that they are having babies so close together!) Cousin D also has a little boy who just turned 5, and he is a handful. I’m looking to make Evelyn Evelyn and Elephant Elephant for the twins (a boy and a girl), and then a little something for the 5-year-old. I don’t want him to feel left out, and with twin babies coming, I think he’s going to get a shock.

Summer flies

Summer flies in winter

Next up is this funky green shawl. It was knit in a worsted weight, and I thought it would be way quicker than it was. Turns out knitting a picot bind-off for a bajillion stitches takes awhile.

I think I’m going to send this to a friend’s mom. She is very nice and has made me feel welcome to the various family functions I’ve attended. She’s always admired my handknits, so I thought she might like one of her own. She even gave me some of her first handspun, which I think is pretty awesome. She’s a pro at spinning now, and has come up with some really lovely yarns. I think she spins on her wheel 2 hours a day, or something ridiculous like that.

Earth and Sky

Earth and Sky

Lastly, Earth and Sky. I joined the Westknits KAL for this one; it was released as a mystery shawl through last August. It took me a little longer to get it done, because I procrastinate sometimes. (I mean, look at how often I update the blog. Seriously.) I’m really happy with the color combinations – they’re all yarns I’ve had in my stash. The variegated one has been in my stash since my very first go at knitting; I think it’s the first yarn that came from an actual yarn store instead of a big box craft store.

I ended up giving it to my future sister-in-law for Christmas, and I think she enjoyed it. It’s very soft and squishy. I may need to make another.

Ok, we’ll call that good for now. Look, ma! I blogged!

Stash.

you know what I mean.

I was listening to the latest episode of Cast On the yesterday (ok, so I’m a little behind. It was put out more than a month ago), and Brenda mentioned her annual airing of the stash. I like that. For a couple of years I did the “Flash Your Stash”, an April 1 tradition in the knitting community. (Ok, I’m not sure if it’s still a tradition as I haven’t participated for a while, but it was popular a couple of years ago.) Essentially, you take pictures of your whole stash, and then you share them. In 2006, knit and tonic had an excellent photo of herself luxuriating with favorite stash in a bathtub. Fantastic.

I haven’t flashed my stash for a few years, and I think it’s time to do so. I have very few photographs of the yarn that’s stashed on Ravelry, and I really have no excuse for that other than laziness. I don’t think I have all of my stash catalogued, either – some of the newer yarns I’ve gotten (like from last weekend’s Heartland Fiberpalooza) aren’t in my Ravelry stash, and neither are some random selections for one reason or another. So I think I might shoot for that in April: air and flash the stash, and update my Ravelry catalogue. It’s a good opportunity to organize my yarn, at the very least. Since I have it squirreled away in various places in the house (the closet, a trunk, the entertainment center, an old-school suitcase … ), this would probably be a very good idea.

To get nice photos, I may try to make a lightbox with items from around the house. I might use this tutorial, or perhaps this one. I don’t have the fancy camera flashes the author of the first tutorial has, so I’ll have to adapt that, but I think I can do it. I’ll just have to keep the cats out of the box – a harder task than you might think.

Burgy

Burgy, Queen of Yarn

Burgy likes to nest in pretty much any container she fancies. I’ve seen her in the yarn bucket, a laundry basket and a small letter-size basket. She’s a nut.

I will probably have to upgrade my Flickr account to pro status again, if I’ll be uploading a bunch of photos. I’m thinking a close-up of the fiber and then a whole-skein shot, so two per each stashed item … this will take a while.

Adventures in driving

I joined a couple of friends on a road trip to Minnesota this past weekend. We took the looong way there, too. Generally if I want to go to the Twin Cities, I’ll just drive north for about 5 hours. This time, though, I drove east to the Quad Cities area. Then we drove north up the eastern side of Iowa, dropped off a dog with her, er, “grandparents”, and trekked back west to the interstate — the very same one I’d usually take directly north. I think the trip took about 7 hours from the Quad Cities to the Twin Cities. Lots of car knitting time for me.

We got a chance to get rush tickets for La bohéme at the Minnesota Opera (the Ordway — so pretty!) on Friday, and we really enjoyed the show. One of the performers was a classmate of ours in undergrad, and it was really fantastic to see him perform in a professional show. (We decided that he was third male, which is a pretty sizable part. He got his own aria and everything.)

Mario hats

Bandbabe and Aramad were happy to model the hats.

Generally we just spent the rest of the weekend hanging out, drinking champagne, and catching up. I also got to give the above hats (Chain Chomp and Goomba) to their intended recipients, and I think they really liked them. Bandbabe and Aramad were more than happy to model them for me before I gave them away. I’m really happy with how the knitting turned out on them both.

Meanwhile I’m knitting hard on Glimfeather, and I really hope I can manage to finish it by the end of the month. That’s not very far from now, and I’m officially halfway through the rows. I’ve got a new 47-inch circular needle, which is really excellent. The stitches were getting really crowded on the other, which was 32 inches or something like that. I should probably take another photo now that I can actually give an idea of the size, since the stitches can be all spread out at the moment.

That’s all for now; I’ve got knitting to do.

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.

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