Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cop Out

I haven't gotten around to taking any pictures of finished projects lately and I'm going on another trip tomorrow so I won't be around for a bit, but I wanted to share some additional pictures I took of my Autumn Arbor Stole a while back and never posted here (I'm put them up on Ravelry, though.)

This shawl has now found a new home with the mother of one of my good friends, and I hope she likes it!

And because I can't help myself, here are some bird photos.  Baby Blue Jays!  They're a little hard to see, but there were three of them and they were oh so adorable.  I couldn't stay long, though, because the parents were doing that thing where they divebomb your head.  Very unwelcoming, but an effective trick.

See you when I get back!  (I finished and blocked my Boneyard a while back.  Photographic evidence when it's not too hot to go outside to take pictures.  That may be in October.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Positive - Repost

I've gotten a few messages from readers saying that they can't access my most recent entry, so I'm re-posting it with the hope that it will now be viewable by everyone.  Maybe this will also fix the formatting issue.

 Now that I'm back in Pittburgh and all is well, I realize that I should have been focusing on the positive aspects of my trip rather than everything that didn't go so well.

My trip home, though longer than planned, allowed me to spend some quality time with my family.  Here we are celebrating Mother's Day/a sister's birthday/a brother's birthday/a niece's birthday (with a family this big, you sorta have to share the party.)

See?  Quality.  (Blurry quality, but clearly we're all entertained by something.  From the looks of it, my brother's boyfriend is telling a great story.)

And my trip to Wisconsin to visit a friend at my undergrad, although also longer than planned, allowed me to catch up with old friends, chat with my clarinet professor, talk to friends traveling to Bali this summer, attend a choir concert, an orchestra concert, a phenomenal recital by Ali Amr on the Qanun (there's a sound clip of him playing and singing on the first link), a lecture by a visiting ethnomusicologist on the relationship between music, nature, and liminality (and about how musicians are the most powerful and dangerous people on the planet), AND I was able to attend two gamelan rehearsals and see the beautiful new set that they just got.

I really don't think it could have been a better trip.  So, although I did let frustration get the better of me by the end (and really, given the circumstances, I think it was understandable.  I mean, it did add an additional 11 hours of driving to my plan...), lots of good happened.

But really (and this is an aside because we're focusing on the positive and not the negative right now), it was so totally frustrating to get back to Pittsburgh and then lose my power that night due to a thunderstorm AND... (and I'm woozy just writing this...) AND finding a wool m*%h in my living room.  And let me tell you, I massacred the hell out of that thing and didn't feel even the smallest ounce of remorse.  Nope, I am a moth-killing Samurai.

I haven't seen any more of them in this apartment, but the scare did lead me to better stash management.  Before, I just had yarn everywhere.  Really, everywhere.  I sort of liked it that way, too.  You know, going into the cupboard to get the cereal in the morning and, oh, what's this?  Hidden malabrigo?  Jackpot!  And then, you know, you open the desk drawer to get a stamp and the sock yarn just leaps out at you.  It's like an Easter egg hunt every day, except you didn't know you were looking for anything.  It's like the stash is so excited that you're home that it rushes out to greet you.  It's like...

It's like I don't bother putting my yarn away and simply throw it wherever is most convenient at the time (which only half explains how I found yarn under the bathroom sink the other day.  When is it "most convenient" to put yarn away in the bathroom?  I must have been comparing it to my eyes in the mirror and then just plopped it on the ground or something.  And yes, I know it's weird for a guy (a colorblind guy, no less) to compare yarn to his eyes.  Don't tell me you don't do weird things with your yarn, too.)

Wow, this digression just keeps going.  Anyway, as I was saying, I found a wool moth not really near any of my yarn, which is sort of impressive considering that yarn is everywhere, and I squashed the thing and fled to Target ASAP to buy a trunk-full of plastic bins and then I began sorting.

I didn't know I had that much yarn.  I know it's not a lot compared to some stashes (and you know who you are), but still, I was surprised.  (Maybe that's why I hide it throughout my apartment - so I don't feel like I have an excessive amount of it.  Putting it all together like this makes me looks a bit unreasonable.)

I inspected every single skein AND sorted through all my partial balls, scraps, and swatches and found nothing.  No signs of the little evil pests.  Now all of my yarn is neatly contained by weight in plastic bins (except Malabrigo, Cascade 220, and Knit Picks Palette.  Those all got their own large bins.  I love them too much to make them share.)  where hopefully the nothingness will continue.

Ok, so now that I feel like that boy in fifth grade who had lice and no one talked to him for three years (really, it was just one moth, I swear.  Please don't shun me.  I'm so embarrassed...), let's continue the good by talking about how it's good to be back.

It's good to be back because I love the woods here.  Really.  I'm thinking about digging out a little den for myself and covering the entrance with branches and vines so that you can't find it and then just living there for the rest of my life eating berries and seeds from the nearby trees while the chipmunks frolic on by.  Yep, that's what I'm going to do, but I'm not going to tell you where because then you might try to stop me.

The woods and birds go hand in hand and I have to say, I am always so excited to see new birds!  I haven't been in Pittsburgh long enough to get used to seeing birds we don't have in Minnesota, and every day is so wonderful to me!  I'm afraid a lot of the migrating birds have already passed through while I was gone, but I ran across a very dear little baby Robin and we had a bit of a chat.

He only knew one word, though, "Mommy", and I got sick of hearing it, so I left.  I also never tire of seeing the little Tufted Titmouses (Titmice?), and today I even saw both a male and a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak!  That was a first time for me and I almost fell into a stream out of excitement.  I then spent some quality time with my good friend, Mr. Mallard.

We hung out for a good 45 minutes today.  I was practicing my "be so still that you disappear" moves and he was just talking away about his day.  I think he was a little lonely and just wanted someone to talk to because, MAN, did he have a lot to say.  He's quite a handsome fella, too, isn't he?  I mean, check out that tail!

He even showed me his wing patch.

Yeah, we're besties.  But uh, between you and me, the dude's gotta work on his drooling issue...  That may explain why there was no Mrs. Mallard in his life.

Then there are the plants.  In all honesty, I'm not really a plant person.  I'm always too busy chasing the animals, but I came across these flowers today and couldn't take my eyes off 'em!

I had no idea what they were, but they were so iridescent!  I thought at first that the petals were just wet or covered with a fine powder like butterfly wings, but really they're just super glossy.  I loved them.

My camera pretty much sucked at taking pictures of them, so these ones are from my iPhone (and also suck, but I digress).  When I got home I looked up what they might be and found this website all about wildflowers in Western PA and after searching around for a while I've decided that they are Swamp Buttercups.  Who knew?!  (Well, I bet some of you did.)  I don't think I've ever seen a Buttercup before and I was thrilled!  Yep.  Easily amused.  That's me.

And one of the best things about the woods is that they make a great backdrop for knitting photos!

When I was in Wisconsin I had to stop in at my favorite LYS and say hello to the owner.  After catching up I did a bit of shopping, but I decided that I could only buy yarns that I had never seen and/or worked with before (although that rule was sort of made after-the-fact to justify my purchases).

I bought a skein of Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton, though clearly this skein isn't dyed.

I've never knit with cotton before (oh, except one dish cloth four years ago) and this stuff isn't super stiff or dense like other cottons.  I'll probably make a hand towel or a face cloth or something.  I know white was probably the worst choice, but I couldn't convince myself to pick any other color.

Then I got a skein of a Noro yarn that I had never heard of or seen before.  It's Kogarashi which, according to one Raveler, means "cold wintry wind which blows the last leaves from the trees."  Very poetic.  And very beautiful.

It's 51% silk and 49% wool and I love it because it's not well blended and there are clumps of silk and chunks of wool and there's even bits of silk thread and stuff spun into it.  I'm really excited to use it.

The last yarn I saw I knew had to be mine.  It's really bulky and squooshy (it is too a word) and it will make an awesome cowl that will match my coat perfectly.

The yarn is called "Ushya", which means "soft" in Quechua and it's put out by Mirasol.  98% merino and it's not actually plied, but it's essentially knit up into i-cord.

So there you have it - the positive.  Is there any positive in your life today?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Letters From Home

These past few weeks have been quite... well... unexpected.

My short jaunt to Minnesota began as planned.  I arrived and spent several days with my little nephews.

Finn, the cute one that will put anything in his mouth at least once
Darby, the cute one who is too busy digging for treasure to look at the camera
and Xander, the cute one who has so much energy you don't want to see what the blurry pictures look like (that's another nephew in the background, Josh.  Really, they're everywhere.  He's the one too busy being a teenager to show emotion and would kill me if I called him cute.)

When I wasn't pretending to be a babysitter (and I really was pretending.  I fully admit to sitting on the couch and letting them run amok unsupervised for most of the day), I attended my brother's final high school theater production and my little sister's circus show.

Here's a video of her if you want to see.  She's the one on the right:

(Um... that's my first time trying to embed a video.  I'm assuming it doesn't work right.  Let me know.  Here's a link to the YouTube thingamajig.)

Where was I?  Oh dear, this is becoming random.  Let's move on to works in progress.

Tina asked to see a close up of my handspun from my last post and, um, Tina?  You're going to be disappointed.  Here's the best I could get.  It's a 2-ply merino.

The color is about as accurate as a drunk man playing darts blindfolded, as is the focus.  I haven't knit on this one in weeks which is a shame because clearly I'm almost done (not much yarn left) and it's going to be so freaking awesome when it's finished.

I've also been ignoring a vest that I started at the beginning of March.  It's the Latvian Vest by Kieran Foley published in Knitty and I'm using Knit Picks Palette.  (No reason to use expensive yarn on my first full-sized colorwork project, right?  I mean, it could end up being a total disaster.)

Oh, and I'm also knitting another vest out of that Manos that I showed you in my last post and the back is almost done, but now I'm ignoring that, too.  And the pictures I took sucked.  You'll have to wait to see that.

Anyway, my plans that were going so wonderfully at the beginning of this trip have been totally derailed and I'm BACK in Minnesota again instead of in Pittsburgh, where, had my plans been executed without a hitch, I would have been a week ago.  Instead of re-telling my tale, I shall just copy and paste an email (excessively edited) I just wrote to a friend whining about my recent adventures:

Dear friend,

The story begins when I went home to Minnesota on May 6.  I was only going to stay until the 13th, at which time I was going to drive to Appleton, WI for a few days and then head back to Pittsburgh.  Well, the 13th being a Friday and the superstitious bringer of bad luck,  my car needed some repairs and the shop had no openings on Friday, so I had to stay in Minnesota until Monday and change around my plans for going to Wisconsin.  My car went into the shop on Monday and then after figuring things out with my Wisconsing friend, I left for WI on Wednesday with the plan that I would stay there for only a day and then leave for Pittsburgh on Friday the 20th.

Well, that didn't go so well.  Several circumstanced kept me in Appleton longer than expected and soon it was clear that I wouldn't be leaving until Sunday morning.  I got up in the morning, went out for breakfast with my old clarinet professor, and then hit the road around noon.

When I stopped to get gas, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had forgotten something.  Something important like my clarinets or my computer or something.  I double-checked that I had everything, but didn't feel reassured.  I casually glanced over at my apartment keys and... GASP!...  they were gone!  My apartment keys were nowhere to be found!  I searched all my bags, the pockets of all my pants, everywhere in the car, and I couldn't find them.  I made some calls and finally, after giving up hope, I was overcome by that awful feeling.   That terrible feeling like you're going to throw up and pass out and cry and your vision starts to blur around the edges.  You know the one?  It was at that moment that I knew where my keys were.  I could visualize them perfectly in my mind.  But it couldn't be... no.  It just couldn't be.

I made a quick phone call, described what all four keys looked like, what kind of keychain they were on, I even described the little ripped brown tag that's hanging on for dear life and I was met with a confident, "Yep.  They're here."

...my apartment keys were at my parents' house in Minnesota!

I had no choice but to turn around and drive back.  I was finally, a week later than planned, on my way back to Pittsburgh and the fates threw one last, cruel twist.  After driving through the first severe thunderstorm, I got a call from my mother.  "It looks like there are some pretty nasty storms heading your way.  Tornadoes and everything.  Be careful!"  Well, three storms later, watching cows crowd under the trees and deer run for their lives I was finally reunited with my keys and here I sit, ready to scream at the top of my lungs while cursing the universe for this cruel joke.  I am more stressed and anxiety-ridden than ever before.  I fear that Brittany has died and shriveled up under her heat lamp because her water dried up two weeks ago, or maybe her lamp burnt out and she froze to death.  Maybe my mailbox is overflowing, or there are boxes waiting outside my apartment door (if they haven't already been stolen).  Maybe the ant infestation I so primitively dealt with using a lint roller before I left has returned while the moldy tofu I forgot to get rid of in my fridge continues its slow evolution into a sentient being.  I haven't played my clarinet in a week and it's very possible that someone has broken into my apartment and stolen all of my valuables and... I'M STILL IN MINNESOTA!!!!!!!!!!!

There, I feel better now.  Let's look at some flowers and pretend all is right with the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


My semester is over.  Done.  Finito.  I have a vast, expansive summer ahead of me and dude - I couldn't be more excited.  Grad school's hard.  Don't get me wrong, I loved everything about it, but man!  That was a lot of work.  I think the most exciting thing about this summer, though, is that I'm still very excited about the clarinet.

You may remember that last year after I graduated I flew halfway around the world just to get away from my clarinet.  I learned a new language and explored a new musical tradition unlike anything I had known before to get away from the clarinet.  This summer, however, I have big plans for me and the practice room.  A whole list of plans: music to learn, techniques to perfect, orchestral excerpts to tackle...  I'm not burnt out, which is a fantastic feeling (and probably even more fantastic for my future.)

I also have big plans for my knitting.  Sweaters, scarves, mittens, hats, vests, socks... the list goes on.  (Don't you love that time of year when you can make all these plans and actually believe you will have the time in which to do them?)  I'm not making definite plans for myself, though, because stressing about knitting is stupid.  I'm going to just do what I want.  Except for, you know, those projects that I actually need to do.  (Tom's afghan, anyone?)

I was waiting for the rain to stop so I could go out and photograph some of my projects for you, but I finally gave up and dragged myself out to the park in the rainy, 43F weather and had a fantastic time.

Everything was so... ALIVE!  It was gorgeous, and I tried not to mind the rain.  There were new things popping up everywhere.

I think this rain is going to make for a very beautiful Spring and Summer.

I'm almost done with a Boneyard Shawl I'm knitting out of my own handspun.  I finished the spinning a few weeks ago and cast on before I had a chance to photograph the finished yarn.  You all know what yarn looks like, though.

I've always given my handspun away, so this is my first time actually knitting with it.  I love the way this scarf is turning out and I can't wait to wear it.  Only a few more rows left!

The day I was finished with my semester I hopped in my car and drove straight home.  Imagine how surprised I was to find myself instead at the yarn shop!  Really, my subconscious is powerful.  As I was getting out of the car, I even said to myself that I wasn't going to buy anything.  I just wanted to "look around."  Who does that?  Who goes to a yarn shop to "just look"?  It's not like I don't already know what they sell there.

But then I stumbled upon the sale yarn and couldn't resist.

Manos Del Uruguay Wool Clasica in "Putty", with "Chestnut" and "Umber" contrast colors to make this vest.  I already started it and I'm loving this yarn.

As I climbed into bed last night I thought, or rather my subconscious suggested, "I'm gonna love that sweater."  It turns out my subconscious envisions the vest with sleeves.  I wish it would have spoken up when I was buying this yarn in the first place.  What do you all think?  Sleeves?  No sleeves?  I don't know what I would wear it with as a vest, but at the same time, I want a vest (at least consciously.)

I'm heading to my first knit night at the yarn shop tonight and it's possible they may still have some left of that main color on the shelves.  I'll let you know what my subconscious decides.

P.S.: I'm driving 16 hours to Minnesota tomorrow, and then 5 hours to Wisconsin on Sunday, and then 5 hours back to Minnesota again on Sunday and then I promise to reply to all of those comments and emails in my inbox.  Promise.  Also, my computer screen is doing something and it looks expensive.  I'm hoping it will fix itself and not continue to get worse until it no longer works.