Archive for ‘Needlework’

November 22, 2015

Summer reminiscence

Evidently, I don’t blog anymore. Only three posts this year! My excuse is the large amount of scientific writing I’ve been doing lately. When you remove the ability to be quippy and do nothing but voice your own opinions without forethought or justification, it turns out I’m a fairly terrible writer. Soooo, when I finish staring at my computer screen for hours trying to form words into cohesive thought, I am simply in no mood to do any other writing…at all…ever again. The unintended benefit is I now have a tremendous amount to fill you in on. Shall we begin?

The 42nd Annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

It was on May 2nd and 3rd this year, and it still surprises me that after attending this festival for the last four years, I can still find new and interesting things.

20150502_142941I found some gorgeous handmade glass circular knitting needles by Michael and Sheila Ernst Glass. I was assured by the artist that they absolutely won’t, say, break while I’m knitting and impale me through the hand. They were a little pricey (not that I wouldn’t realistically spend that much on needles if I were being truthful with myself) but still stunning.

I learned a new skill from woodworker Stephen Willette who makes beautiful fiber art tools. Now normally I can’t have anything to do with artisans like these; my boys would simply not tolerate exposed balls of yarn in expertly crafted wooden bowls to go undestroyed. But I bought this lovely lucet and learned how to make a lucet braid. <– That link, by the way, will take you to a YouTube video with a good tutorial…and bitchin’ soundtrack. This is a technique that apparently dates back to the Vikings and the resultant cording can be used to make just about anything: jewelry, potholders, rugs, things like that. I’ve decided, once I get the hang of making the braid more uniform, to begin with some cute neon friendship bracelets and I’ve also found just the yarn for it:

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And speaking of neon, I am absolutely thrilled that vibrant, rich colors are back in vogue. I, and my skin tone, simply cannot do pastels, and white clothing is just impractical. That is when I discovered Neighborhood Fiber Co., a local, small batch hand-dyed yarn company that makes some of the brightest, most colorful yarns I’ve found. I got their exquisite Penthouse Silk Fingering. Yarn colors are named after neighborhoods in DC and Baltimore.

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Traveling in the name of science

I attended a couple scientific conferences this summer (a.k.a Nerdfests according to the Greek) which gave me the opportunity to do some traveling for free. Well, for me at least. And of course I had to do lots of science-y things, but there was time to spare to take a look at my surroundings, and I saw some amazing things.

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This is the lobby area of the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO. Clearly a converted railroad station from a grander era, at night they have a subtle light show of changing color on the roof. It was an unexpected pleasure since while I don’t know much about the Midwestern town outside of the Judy Garland film, I hadn’t had high hopes.

The intensive scientific workshop I was attending in Dubrovnik, Croatia coincided with their Summer Festival celebrating music and art. This meant that in between didactic lectures and dipping into the cool, blue Adriatic, I was able to attend an open air chamber quartet performance held in an old abbey and hear La Traviata sung in the streets. Yeah, it was an okay time. The festival opened with a fireworks ceremony, and we found a tremendous spot to view it from:

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And finally, a real, bonafide vacation

In September, I got the opportunity to visit the Greek’s homeland of Cyprus. Well…he was actually born in Maryland. His family is from Cyprus, a Greek isle in the Mediterranean invaded by Turkey in 1974 forcing his family to flee to the States. So, it was both homecoming and vacation. The resort town his family actually lived in is still on the occupied side and I’ve got to say, seeing most of the city abandoned and crumbling and, ironically, unoccupied, cordoned off in a “forbidden zone”, was truly haunting. Aside from that though, it was a happy and exciting trip, and I think I’ll conclude this post with some of my favorite photos from it.

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Lunatics cliff diving from off the top of the sea caves near Cavo Greko

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IMG_1273 20150918_093430  It isn’t all warm, sandy beaches and clear, blue water. There were also forests and mountains that actually got pretty chilly. Our jaunts there were pretty much the only time my aggressively endothermic partner was truly comfortable.

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The Greek talks nuts.

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But let’s not forget about those sunny beaches and crystal blue water…

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I know. I’m jealous of myself right now.

January 4, 2015

I’ll be homemade for Christmas

So, apparently, I haven’t written a post since July!  Now normally I would claim busy student and then proceed to gripe about how demanding and important my life is.  But I’m afraid this time I can only admit neglect.  For I have finally found that the rigorous and unforgiving workload has finally begun to bear fruit: in a desperate bid for survival, I actually became a highly enduring and efficient worker, almost without even noticing.  Therefore, when these latest holidays rolled around, I found myself able to finish all I’d intended, even while making it more involved [pats self on back].  (This might seem somewhat pompous and self-aggrandizing if you don’t know me.  But trust me, these moments when things just work out happen so rarely that these small victories  simply must be celebrated.)

First, I managed to get all my Christmas cards out on time…ugh, except for one (!) because it required the Greek’s personalization. <– Not my fault.  These are my favorite, simple and charming and hand pressed on heavy card stock from Steel Petal Press; I buy them every year:

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Aaaannnddddd I got to use my new Scottish sealing wax  that I found last Renn Faire.  I originally wrote about finding my antique wax seal 2 years ago, but the accompanying wax I bought with it just sucked all the fun out of it.  It felt like I was melting cheap crayons, and the seal looked like shit.  I literally choked a little when the Renn Faire vendor told me the price, $22 for a single 4-inch stick!  But he told me it was a traditional sealing wax, made in a much higher quality than you normally find, and guaranteed me 30-40 seals per stick.  I bought it in a lovely metallic green color and have no complaints.  It’s sold by K Dopita Studio online; you have to call a number to place an order, which is adorable.

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I made a pair of scarves for my sister and my mom…and in sufficient time to get pictures no less.  My Ravelry profile has frustratingly stagnated at 5 projects for years because I can never finish something in a calm and timely enough manner to remember to take a picture.  I know, I know, a tragedy of narcissistic proportions.  I’m glad you agree.  Little Jack absolutely insisted on being in the photos…as you can see from the defeated expression on his face.

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The Greek was a tremendously busy boy this holiday.  After many years of pleading on my part, a summer trip to the Maine woods (bien sûr!) finally convinced him to grow a full and luxurious beard, which, when you’re a Greek, takes about an afternoon of effort.  Unfortunately, beards are itchy, so he set about finding a solution.  With a lot of internet research and a little bit of experimentation, he made himself a beard balm.  Seriously, it’s so shiny and silky now that his face looks like a black panther!  And since facial hair is de rigueur right now, he was able to make beard balms for nearly every male he knows as Christmas presents this year.  And with essentially only a few modifications to that recipe (a little less beeswax, a little more essential oils, and some time spent in a standing mixer), he was also able to make jars of whipped body butter for the females.  For a first effort that came down to the wire time-wise (no lie, we were spooning them into their containers on Christmas Eve morning), they turned out wonderfully.  What am I saying, they were fabulous, period.

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And since I always cite my sources: This is where he got his balm recipe.  This is where he got his butter recipe.  And this is where he got the recipe for the scent (it’s Fall Foliage).

IMG_1129Finally, I always conclude each holiday post with my New Year’s drink.  New Year’s is my favorite alcohol holiday since it’s one of the few occasions where you give yourself permission to drink bubbles all night and worry about the headache later.  (Side note: Evidently, it’s the bubbles that amplify the effects of the otherwise typical alcohol hangover and are responsible for the so-called “champagne headache”…although apparently you don’t get it with REAL Champagne [insert derisive snort].  It has to do with the quality of the wine used or the way the grapes are pressed or something, blah, blah.  Mostly it’s a fantastic way to sound snobbish.) This year, it’s Gruet Brut.  Unfortunately, I was uncommonly popular this year and actually had plans, and I don’t think we ever popped my sparkling wine that night.  Don’t worry about me though…PLENTY of others to be had and I poured myself into bed (i.e. the sofa) at just before 4AM.  Jesus, is that really how I intend to end a post?  Well, I have nothing else to say sooooo yes.  Yes, it is.  Ah, well.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ALL!

July 18, 2014

Festivals and finals

IMG_1050So, the last couple months were hell (See: “The world didn’t end“).  Not only did I have my qualifying exam but an additional gauntlet of scholarly tasks leading up to it.  But it wasn’t all bad.  I made time to do a couple fun things in the early summer (You know, before the soul-sucking malaise of the weeks just before the qual wouldn’t permit me time to properly eat or bathe.  Did I have to make things so hard on myself?  Absolutely not.  But I did, and the bitterness remains.).

Anyhoo, this included some lovely festivals.  (I’m kind of a dork; if this is news to you, you haven’t been paying attention.)   As always, I attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at the beginning of May.  But this time, I thought, instead of posting the same old photos I do each year, I’d introduce you to some of the new things I discovered this time around…

 

 

Firstly, there was Melissa Jean: an online store based in Marcellus, New York that specializes in handmade porcelain buttons.  I know, I know: buttons are not technically a new, amazing discovery.  But you see, I’m a relatively new knitter and very much still learning, so most of the time my money’s spent on buying the basics.  However, I am increasingly finding, to my delight, that as my skill set expands, I am able to accumulate more advanced accoutrements.  And not to be overdramatic (read: to be as dramatic as possible), my realization at that moment at the festival that I may be ready for buttons was, in a word, revolutionary.  So, my partner-in-crime Sarah and I giddily snatched up as many buttons as we could hold, the ones by Melissa Jean being, by far, the most charming.

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Now, this next finding was a true novelty.  The booth for Loop the online fiber store had all kinds of unique textiles to look at.  They had these spun skeins of batting in an array of vibrant colors that dispensed from the center, which makes the unspun fiber far more workable.  And perhaps it’s just me and my laughably pitiful spinning skills (I suck), but that is a definite plus with how tricky roving is to work with.  They also a bunch of other funky fibers, like these cords of unspun fiber tied together with string; the especially interesting ones had chunky beading or even Treasure trolls woven in (these things, for the young folks).

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And speaking of spinning, we also had the opportunity to get a tutorial from a lovely lady at The Spanish Peacock.  She showed us how to use these supported spindles that come with these lovely, divotted wooden bowls for spinning on a surface.  An attractive option to the clumsiness of a drop spindle or the seemingly impossible difficulty of a Turkish spindle.  I was especially taken with a deep blue one (pictured below), and I very much had to resist the urge to immediately possess it.  In a dear-God-I-think-I-may-actually-die-if-I-don’t-buy-this kind of way.  I just had to keep reminding myself that the grace and deftness with which she spun the thread is not included with the purchase of the spindle, and, with regard to spinning, I suck…hard.

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Ah, another successful festival in the books…without the same well-worn assemblage of photos… Okay, fine, one baby alpaca photo.  It’s tradition!  Her name is Wanda.

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February 19, 2014

Small personal victories no one else cares about…

…That I have rudely posted publicly despite prior knowledge of everyone’s indifference.

I suppose I should start at the beginning…

Every year, my household experiences a momentous and joyous time.  Christmas?  Hardly.  Summer?  Not quite.  It’s the time each year when we cash in our rewards points on our two credit cards for Amazon.com gift cards and buy a bunch of the items we’d been accumulating in our wish lists.  I work hard for this privilege!  To anticipate and propitiate any solicitude on the part of concerned readers, let me assure you that this is not “Confessions of a Shopaholic”.  The Greek and I dutifully pay off our credit cards at the end of each month.  But I am also feverishly obssessive about paying for everything possible WITH our credit cards, to the point where all our other expenses combined equal less than half of our credit card bill, and the Greek has been scolded many a time for daring to pay for groceries with his debit card.

We maintain only high interest cards (higher interest rates=higher rewards), and I go to exceedingly long lengths to ensure that we maximize our rewards points like, for example, buying things online by navigating to them via my bank’s website as opposed to buying them when I saw them in person at the Target two hours ago because, when you buy these items from Target.com, you get four bonus points per dollar instead of the standard one.  If that explanation confused you, congratulations, you’re sane.  Unfortunately, you’re also not fully taking advantage of what a dash of crazy could gain you earnings-wise, and this blogger has more than her fair share of crazy.  Not to mention a heaping helping of that punctilious and pernickety personality type that allows one to devote precious hours of her time to pecuniary pursuits.

This particular saga all began back in (oh holy hell!) 2011!  I knew it was a while ago, but really Lisa? Really??  Anyways, back in 2011, I bought a coffeemaker, a sewing machine, a leaf blower (for the Greek naturally- me no likey the yard work), a yoga towel, a tape measure, a pie pan, a loaf pan, and some books of knitting patterns for the extremely reasonable price of $ 7.84!  Now, why did I buy a sewing machine?  Well, I’d always wanted to learn and expand my needlework talents…and also it was essentially free.  But because of this, it also didn’t feel especially urgent that I make use of my new purchase.  And so it sat…for (evidently!) two and a half years…collecting dust…until this weekend when, for reasons unknown even to me, I randomly decided to bust it out and give it a try.  I set it up and got it working using only the manual…either because I’m brilliant or using a sewing machine is exceedingly easy; I suspect it’s the latter.  And upon making several rows of different types of practice stitches in a spare bit of fabric, I proceeded to laugh gleefully and maniacally alone in my basement like a serial killer.  Next steps: more practice, find project!

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My setup

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My skills

I finally did something I’d been meaning to do for a long time, unsurprisingly eliciting thoughts of why I didn’t get around to doing such a fun and easy task sooner.  And I also managed to earn some giggles from the Greek, who had been dogging me tirelessly about the fact that I hadn’t used my machine yet and who, being Greek, is somewhat fuzzy, by remarking that I had, both metaphorically and literally, gotten a monkey off my back.  All-in-all, it was a fairly accomplished weekend.

August 29, 2013

Business is booming! I really should start charging people…

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Attention everyone, I am now a successful businesswoman!  I have all the makings of a lucrative cat toy business: since my last post, virtually everyone I know who owns a cat (and even a bunny owner!) has requested my simple, homemade toys for their furry brood. <— Demand!  And now, I have the supply to meet it!  The toys really are quite quick and easy to make, taking only a couple hours max.  So, I devoted a few 2-hour periods last weekend to generating a pretty good stash (the eager, playful kitties of dear friends and family is an exceptional motivator!).  Unfortunately, I have neglected to charge for my coveted playthings; ’tis the flaw in my grand plan.  Ah, profit…I knew I was forgetting something in my business model.

Sadly, employee theft is still an issue: quality control has no self-restraint…

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Disclaimer to friends and family: So help me, if any of you read this and try to pay me, let me just say I will be terribly hurt and offended.  It’s my blog post angle, you guys!  Really, for aiding me in getting rid of the extra junk yarn taking up valuable storage space in the house, I’m pretty sure The Greek will offer to pay you.

August 13, 2013

The Misadventures of Spots and Stripes, Part Five: My tedious pastime finally has purpose!

Finally, the moment has come: my needlework hobby has merged with my other great obsession, my boys.  As sometimes happens, particularly if, like me, you are still a beginner knitter, you miscalculate how much yarn you’ll need for a project and end up with a lot of scrap yarn.  For this, you need to have a fair collection of projects that allow you to use up those spare skeins.  In my case, that most definitely now includes “Crocheted balls” by Purl Bee (see also “The beekeeper’s quilt”).  Because despite making many, many gifts for loved ones that were warmly received and appreciated, my craft has just now only truly felt useful and utilitarian as I watched my little guys try to tear my crocheted creations apart.  I have an illness.

The pattern is originally intended to make stuffed balls for human children, so some adjustments had to be made to accommodate my feline children.  First, really only the extra small ball is the appropriate size.  Second, I don’t do the embroidery: for starters, that seems like an awful lot of effort for something that will swiftly be torn apart and drooled all over, and also, and this is my imploration to you if you decide to give these a try, the thread could be ripped out and eaten which would be dangerous to diminutive digestive systems.  Thirdly, I used yarn to make fringe for a few of the toys so they can be tossed excitedly and chased, which they were…repeatedly.  Finally, I folded some loose catnip into the filling…because duh!

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Some interesting observations:

  • What is normally a pretty tame avocation becomes kind of a high-stress occupation when you put catnip inside of your crocheted project and then try to finish it with two glassy-eyed feline junkies (whose pupils are so dilated they just look like black discs) staring apprehensively at you inches from your work.
  • When photographing the boys for this post, it was remarkably hard to keep them in frame when their blood-lust was surging and they were high out of their minds on kitty weed.  With that in mind, I did manage to snap a few hilarious action shots, which I will share with you now:

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Otis just wanted to rub against it…and salivate all over it.  So, so, so much drool!  But little Jack went freakin’ ballistic…

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Next for the boys: little sweaters!  Where the joy of the completed project completely shifts in the other direction…I am so going to enjoy that day!

June 11, 2013

Summer knittin’

IMG_0743I acknowledge that it is both bizarre and somehow befitting (given the inherent kookiness of knitters) that the start of summer is marked for me by the annual Maryland Wool Festival.  Because nothing says summer quite like a thick, knitted sweater.  This May, I had my dear friend Sarah as company…and a game plan.  Last year, if you’ll recall, I made my first trip there and found myself so inundated with vendors and choices that I was too overwhelmed to purchase anything and left shamefully empty-handed.  An unacceptable outcome that I vowed not to repeat again.  This year, I’d resolved to have ideas of the types of yarn I was looking for and a selection of projects for which I needed to buy yarn beforehand.  Happily because of this*, history did not repeat itself, and I left this festival with armloads of goodies!  Sarah turned out to be an impressively naughty influence, and the two of us bounced from one side of the festival to the other like heroin junkies after our next fix.  Dazzled by bright colors and on a yarn-induced adrenaline rush**, I think we basically bought up all the teal and turquoise yarn on site.

(*= “Happily”, of course, refers only to me personally on this front, and it was in fact a decidedly unhappy ending for the Greek, my pocketbook, and the dearth of storage spaces in our home)

(**= Yes, for some, not necessarily those with the dotage or disposition of a little old lady, yarn really gets us going.  Believe it and let it go.)

This time around, I seemed to pay the most attention to the animals when it came to where I pointed my camera lens.  That may also be attributable to Sarah, from whom the shrillest of squeals could be heard and who was very nearly brought to tears by a trio of extremely good-natured Angora rabbits (shown below).

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If you’re exclaiming to yourself right now, “Wow, that is a poofy creature!”, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that photos like this exist for this animal, making the specimens we were seeing in person, whose eyes I could not successfully locate, essentially bald by comparison.

I also learned of the proper way to hold a rabbit: facing towards you with all four paws on your chest and stomach.  Well, there are, in actuality, a few ways to hold a rabbit (get a load of these achingly adorable instructions!), but the main idea is that you secure their legs.  Get this, hold them facing outward with their back paws free, and they have ability to break their own spines if they kick their back paws into the open air (or rather, they lack the ability to not break their backs with the force of their own kicking).  Not robust creatures, rabbits!

Some more furry friends…

Notice the double pairs of horns on these two!  I’ve never seen that before!

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Objecting ungulates abound!

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Cashmere goats

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The vendor was holding a 10-day-old newborn who was still nursing and thus would nibble on his collar.  Beyond adorable!

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And some dyed cashmere roving from his stand (Gorgeous!)…

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Some old friends…

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If you don’t recognize these skinny-necked guys, perhaps it was the angle with which I took last year’s photo of them…

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And, of course, the stash:

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I guess I should get knitting or something…

March 18, 2013

If I make enough things for my Mom, she might finally start using them…

In a previous post, I wrote about how I had knitted and crocheted some potholders for my Mom last Mother’s Day.  Although I had griped at the time about the deceptively named “One-Hour Potholders” taking far longer than an hour for me to complete, I literally spent only days working on them before wrapping them up and sending them on their merry way.  I also made them from a washable cotton yarn.  And yet, despite the fact that they were painfully simple, finished inside of a week, and made to get dirty, my mother had refused to use them lest she sully them.  Elevated to a status absurdly far beyond their actual value, there they sat in her kitchen, pristine and untouched.  Today she claims that they do now get used…for things that don’t spill (yet still require the use of a potholder)…I suppose, cookies?  Anyhow, in the meantime, I thought I might rectify this situation by making her even more things.  Flooding the market, so to speak, so she would be forced to either use them or dedicate more and more of the space in her 1-bedroom apartment to her shrine of my beginner knitting efforts.  With that in mind, this year I began by crocheting her a trio of cotton washcloths for her long-since-past February birthday.  I was also able to tuck a couple of the tiny, scented guest soaps I bought (and have been holding on to for years because I am neither a B-n-B nor Martha Stewart) in with the gift communicating further, I hope, my desire that she actually utilize these things I have made for her.  Your move, Mother.

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I’d also like to note that I made a quick decision to toss a half dozen Rice Krispie treats in with her gift at the last minute.  I had extra marshmallows that were going to go to waste, having bought an entire large bag and having used only four- for the mushroom stems of my holiday yule log.  So, I sent the Greek out for Rice Krispies and took, I don’t know, a whopping 10 minutes to assemble the 3 ingredients and cut them into squares.  Fast forward a couple hours to the birthday dinner and my mother squealing with delight at receiving them, a dessert composed mostly of air and requiring about 0.8 minutes of labor and 14¢ per square, proving definitively that the less time and money you devote to a gift, the more my Mom will absolutely swoon over it.

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January 6, 2013

Synopsis: Holidays 2012

First and foremost, I’d like to note that I am finished with that evil, wretched, awful class!!!!  Me=winner.  Or survivor?  Either way, I’m done.

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This actually occurred, by the way, around Thanksgiving, and I am just getting around to announcing it now.  These things will happen when you’ve shackled yourself to a university that decides, for the first semester of the first year, they will teach you graduate level knowledge in a college style format (i.e. four hours of lecture a day, five days a week).  Also, they make you learn the whole shebang in the beginning; not just your intended field, but everything you never wanted to know about cell biology.  This is where young people have the advantage: they still have the dog-like obedience of youth towards authority figures.   That and the capacity to stay up all night studying and drinking coffee without having to use words like “irregular”.  By the time you’re my age, your brain has simply decided that it’s not going to do things it doesn’t want to do just because some grown-up told it to, which made for difficult learning when brain found topics uninteresting.

And now, on to the holidays…a topic I finally got to consider once I finished the semester at the beginning of December only to realize to my horror that it was barreling down on me, and I hadn’t done a single thing to prepare for it!

I’m happy to report, my table runner made it onto the Thanksgiving table this year.  Knitted by me for my aunt and uncle last Christmas, I finally acknowledged I had made it too narrow when I had already spent too long on it to start over.  So, I have decided to start spreading the rumor that this was intentional in order for it to be utilitarian.  Most people simply have a table runner; they now have a table runner AND a scarf long enough for them both to wear at the same time.  See?  Versatility!  You’re welcome, relatives!  Some autumn-colored daylillies complement it nicely…

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I had unprecedented baking success this year!  Nearly everything turned out just perfectly except for one pumpkin pie that mysteriously collapsed in the center like a soufflé, the latest victim of the custard killer that is my crappy oven.  Nothing will set properly in that damn thing!  I also made a pair of pecan pies, one of my specialties for which I receive scads of unwarranted praise considering that I use the recipe from the Karo syrup website and there are about three ingredients total.  Nevertheless, this year I found a way to make it at least a little my own.  Inspired by my first pie that used the last of the crumbled pecans in a bag, I decided to coarsely chop the pecans before adding them to my filling.  This is math even I understand: chopped nuts=more nutty surface area to be candied.  And while it is highly unlikely this wasn’t previously thought of by a thousand bakers before me, I thought of it independently and shall take credit for it.  Apple tart tatin, part deux, was also delicious.

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This year, I also took my first shot at a yule log.  Named after the large log burnt in the hearth on the evening of the Yule festival, a religious celebration of the Germanic tribes that then became the Christian celebration of Christmas (that’s right, kids: Christmas used to be a pagan holiday!), it is now a jelly roll cake made to look like a log.  The flavors were spot on, but the log was a little droopy. Perhaps my log actually better represents the giant, heavily decomposed logs one would find in the primordial forests of Northern Europe where Yuletide was once celebrated or perhaps I just wasn’t aggressive enough when I was rolling up the cake, afraid that I was forcing too much mousse out of the cake, and need to roll the log more tightly next time.  Either way, it’s not bad for my first try.  The recipe is here.  I used extra virgin olive oil instead of hazelnut oil, a deep cookie sheet instead of a jelly roll pan, and mini marshmallows and Hershey’s Kisses instead of the meringue mushrooms in the recipe.  Improvisation is the key to being a truly good baker, folks!  Some of the best cooks I know have old or few kitchen supplies and teeny, tiny kitchens.

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And miraculously, I got everything accomplished…with improbable pluck and panache!  Although admittedly, some of my international relatives may have still not received their Christmas cards :(.  And acknowledgement must be paid to the Greek who really stepped up to the plate this year and did the majority of the nightly ritual of wrapping gifts for the holiday visit with family the following day.  This includes his gift to me, beautifully made himself, my reward as the evident victor of a ludicrous argument we’ve been having the past few years in which he no longer thinks he needs to wrap my gifts and I, um, disagree, culminating in me returning his gift to me last Christmas because, I reasoned, we have all joint funds; if he doesn’t find some way to make it special, I might as well have bought it myself!  When you’ve been together as long as we have, you have to start finding more creative ways to spice things up.  But isn’t it lovely?  Worth it.

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UntitledAnd now to conclude this post, I think I shall do what I did last year: have a glass of wine and reflect on 2012 and my goals for 2013.  This year, I had a glass of Rondel Brut Cava sparkling wine: dry, tasty, and $7 a bottle!  A fortunate discovery during an especially high concentration of gatherings this past summer that required economical bubbles.  Sadly, my first goal of the new year was last year’s as well: while I AM in graduate school, I was unsuccessful in getting into a coveted PhD program and instead applied to the Masters program.  So, I’ll be giving the doctorate a go again.  I also hope to see a revival in the things I enjoy doing and yet haven’t been doing a lot of lately; unfortunately, my goal of last year, in addition to being incomplete, kind of left me no time for doing anything else.  Perhaps this explains why I happily volunteered to do so much holiday baking despite having less places to go this year and was able to approach it with such zeal despite the academic ass-kicking that left me so exhausted.  Finally, I want, as I want each year, to try new things: not always a successful thing (see: gardening and mountain biking) but a necessary one I think.  Happy holidays, all!  And a Happy New Year!

November 19, 2012

Replenishment

As I had mentioned in my previous post forever ago, you might be seeing a lot less of me in the next few months.  This is because, as with all other entering UMB grad students, I would be taking something called The Core Course.  And it has proven to be all that I thought it would be: it is both tedious and simultaneously terrifying.  It has consumed all my time and energy and soul.  I am so physically, mentally, and emotionally spent, and yet I find myself with still another month to go.  But there comes a point (or many) in every grad student’s life where she hits a wall.  Where fear turns to ambivalence.  Where my brain has literally begun to hurt from overuse, and I worry that I may be giving myself a tumor despite several hours of lectures a day reminding me that this is not scientifically possible even though, as it has been reiterated to me many times, there are always exceptions in science (and it seems I am responsible for learning ALL of those exceptions!).  Where the presence right now of a chainsaw-wielding psychopath in my living room would be met with nothing more than an apathetic “m’eh”.  And apparently, for me, that time is nigh!

 <— Leatherface          Me (bored) —> 

So, since my wall has not corresponded with the end of this course as I had planned and because I do still need to pass it, I have decided to take a weekend (or a day this weekend) and replenish my soul.  And I decided this shall include a brief blurb on my blog, before WordPress discontinues it for inactivity.

Now, what does your typical overworked, underpaid hippie/nerd do with her day of rest?  It begins with yoga class, which starts at 11:00am yet I barely make it there on time…because my day actually began with beginning it WAY later than they make me most days now.  I find my inner balance and expel negative energy, something that has become a desperately needed respite right now.  Then it’s coffee and lazy brunch with the Greek and tons of fresh fruit; today this involves the two of us going through the accumulating piles of our respective catalogs that have arrived in the mail when we were too busy to read them.  For the Greek: Pottery Barn, Franklin Covey, and REI.  For me: Athleta and Knit Picks.  I dog-ear pages as if I’m going to go back and buy these things…in a world where my desire for nice things is treated as currency by everyone else.  We both thumb through Consumer Reports (a.k.a. my Bible)…because in the same make-believe world where we fake-buy things, we want to be conscientious consumers.  Then I completely nerd out, and my late afternoon is spent starting a new knitting project and watching Tosca on PBS (the combination of knitting, public television, and Italian opera (in my fuzzy slippers) causes the Greek to call me Grandma for the remainder of the afternoon).  And yes, I’ve finally started a new knitting project!  And now I have a helper:

As evening approaches, I find those previously dog-eared pages and buy everything I marked, because screw you student loan debt.  I will not allow the fact that I have no foreseeable income drag me back to my college days of Ramen and Sweet Tarts.  I’m a grown-up, dammit!  Why? Because fuck you, that’s why!!

For dinner, vegetarian Indian food and sustainably sourced wine, naturally.  Not for the Greek, though.  He has goat curry and a Coke because, well, goat and sugar drinks is perfectly appropriate and almost a requirement if you’re a Greek American man-child.  This is the man for whom I must buy an annual ice cream cake for his birthday and who, after my obligatory single piece on the day of, will eat the entire thing himself over the course of a week with, I kid you not, a scoop of ice cream on the side.  Seriously, ice cream cake à la mode!

The night was spent with the Greek watching bad TV, mostly Japanese-inspired game shows and wild police videos (<– man-child), and me reading until I drifted off to sleep.  Because I have joined my first book club.  An unofficial one, really, but a book club all the same.  Upon the departure of one of my dearest girlfriends back to her Northeastern roots, my circle of close women decided to keep in touch via the internets with a monthly video chat, with only mild delays due to my technical issues.  I am not good with the technology…how I intend to make a career in the sciences is anyone’s guess.  And we decided why not start a casual book club while we’re at it.  We’re reasonably young, verbally gifted, well-informed intelligentsia; surely we can read one book a month and come up with valuable things to say about it.  And let’s be honest, the only way I was going to keep such a commitment is if I can do so from the comfort of my sectional sofa, in my sweatpants, whilst swilling wine.

Sadly now, the weekend has ended, but I am happy to report the heavy bleakness has, I think, gone with it.  That was what I needed: a whole lot of glorious nothing.  I think I shall make it after all.

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