Five Things Friday

Since I have absolutely zero FO’s and no actual knitting or spinning progress to show you (actually less than what I showed Wednesday since I bit the bullet and frogged back that green sock), I figured I’d share 5 random things that are making me happy today.

1) I’m really intrigued by this Kelbourne Woolens Mystery KAL:

Image copyright Kelbourne Woolens. Click for blog post.

I’m not usually a fan of mystery KALs, and I need another shawl (ok, project) like I need a hole in the head, but I like the the patterns that resulted from the previous two MKALs (here and here) and I’m intrigued by the yarn they’re promoting: The Fibre Company Meadow, a laceweight blend of Merino wool, llama, silk, and linen. Also, hyndrangeas are my favorite flower. I think I’m grasping for excuses here…

2) This recipe for a Paleo rhubarb clafoutis is absolutely scrummy, and super simple to make. Most Paleo-fied desserts are shockingly high in fat and calories, but this one is comparatively easy on the metabolism. You mix eggs, almond milk, almond meal/flour, coconut sugar, and fruit (I’ve used both rhubarb and strawberries) and bake it into a delicious little bread-pudding-like treat. The recipe serves 8, and each serving contains 173 cals, 10g fat, 17 g carbs, 11.5 g sugar, and 6.5 g protein. I occasionally double the serving and have it for breakfast topped with blueberries. Yum!

Photo from FastPaleo.com

3) This article from Cool Green Science delves into the details of why being in nature makes us happy. The isolation of people, especially kids, from nature is something I really worry about as an ecologist/conservationist/Earth-conscious human and I’m stoked that people are doing work to provide hard evidence about why it’s important for us to have regular experiences outside of climate-controlled walls and glass windows. In particular, the article writes “Numerous studies suggest that recent increases in the levels of mental disorders globally are tied to increasing urbanization and people’s decreasing exposure to nature.” Now doesn’t that sound like something we should care about?

4) On that note, I’m going camping this weekend and am ridiculously excited about it! Even though it’ll be chilly at night, I can’t wait to be OUTSIDE, in the WOODS, for multiple days IN A ROW, with actual honest-to-goodness, in-person FRIENDS! (That sentence, right there, is a reminder of how isolated I usually am from friends, the outdoors, and leisure time.)

5) And finally, I leave you with this random photo of my fluff-tastic Darwin, posing in an awfully majestic manner.

My fuzzy little man.

Have a happy weekend, friends!

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WIPWed #91: A Sock and a Book

The title says it all, folks. All I have to show today is a sock and a book. First, the sock.

Camelot Monkies:

0513150955b

These socks were my one-and-only WIP this past week, after finishing my mom’s gift socks. I appear to be on a sock kick, and since socks are my most numerous WIP category, I’m glad of it. I began this pair a few months ago (ok, actually, half a year ago, yikes!) in December. I knit the first leg and heel (pink!) and then let them sit but am now happily plugging away on the second sock (green!). The pattern is Monkey by Cookie A. and the yarn is from the fun Opposites Attract series of colorways by Barking Dog Yarns. I love me some cleverly coordinating skeins of yarn.

0512152328As for my the book, I’ve finished up Outlander (Why didn’t anyone tell me that the 8th book is not the final book?! It just ends! When will there be more?!) and have re-commenced some soul-searching with Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory. I apologize in advance but it appears that my 30th year will be one of Upheaval and Distress unless I sort some things out, and you’ll likely hear about it here because reading, writing, and research are how I deal. This book is filled with essays written by women who earned their PhD’s from 1970 to now and their experiences balancing their careers with their family life. Work-life balance can be a bit of a taboo subject in science, and there isn’t much guidance to How to Be a Scientist beyond how to work in academia as a professor, which has a dismal hiring rate. (Only 8% of PhD students become tenured professors, yikes!) Alternative job options are basically unspoken of and you really need to do a bunch of digging and take some chances to find things out yourself. This book is a great way to ‘meet’ a bunch of women who managed to find career fulfillment along both traditional and atypical paths in science, and raise some kids, to boot. #mynewheroes

That’s all I have for you this week as I have a major deadline and must get back to writing. Hope all is well! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Fear & Gratitude

I’m joining in today for the last week of A Playful Day’s blog challenge: gratitude.

I chose BRAVE as one of my ‘words for the year’  for 2015 because I have a tendency to get caught up in fear when there are big, unknowable things looming ahead. I’m great in a crisis or when face-to-face with a challenge, but it’s worry about the future, about things I can’t control, or (worse!) decisions that I can control but have yet to make, that wear me down. I was once described by my grad school advisor as ‘a swirling vortex of negativity’ when I was in such a mood and I hate to say it, but he wasn’t wrong.

New project says, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Click for Rav page.

In an attempt to escape such a vortex, I remind myself that I should be thankful for this fear because it means I have something worth losing. Fear is not often associated with gratitude, but the kind of fear I’m talking about is the kind that one is lucky to have. I am not fearing hunger, danger, or imminent death. I’m fearing the abundance of choice, the luxury of different paths ahead, and the beautiful, many-faceted burden of love. Thus, I intend to face the coming months with gratitude, courage, and perhaps just a little less caution so that my life is ruled by joy and acceptance (so hard to do) instead of fear.

WIPWed #89: Doing Some Good | Woolen Diversions

If you’ve seen today’s blog post on Knitty, you may have already read this:

It seemed like a good time to remind you that the lovely ladies of Mason Dixon Knitting raise funds all year round for The Mercy Corps, an international relief and development organization. Buy any of their three blanekt patterns: Mitered Crosses, Cornerstone and A Light in the Window, and all proceeds will be donated. Organizations have been struggling to get on the ground in Nepal to assist; The Mercy Corps were already there when the earthquake struck. There were 90 workers in the country, and cash donations are what they need to be most productive and helpful.

If you can, do a little good today. I thought this was a wonderful ideas so I purchased the Mitered Crosses blanket pattern and made a cash donation directly to The Mercy Corps, as well. Here’s a list of other verified relief organizations and an interesting article on why sending money is so much more helpful than sending goods or hopping on a plane yourself.

Now, onto this week’s knitting.

Mom’s Flocked Socks:

WIPWed #89: Doing Good | Woolen Diversions

Miss Babs Yummy 3-ply, colorway Autumn Forest. Click for project page.

This yarn was purchased for me by my mom on a trip to Tennessee with the request that I knit her some socks. I’d never worked with Miss Babs Yummy 3-ply before, but I really like it and envision more of it in my future… my beloved Socks that Rock might have a little competition! It’s a nice, substantial sportweight that’s knitting up into a pleasing fabric on 2.50 mm needles. I knit the leg of the first sock in 2013 on Kollage square needles 2.75 mm that I realized I hated working with, so the pair languished. I began working on the second sock just a few days ago in my much-preferred Karbonz DPNs and got similar enough stitch gauge that I decided to ignore the differences in needle size and not frog back the first leg (hey, I’m on a deadline). My row gauge was different, however, so I had to work an extra repeat on one of the legs to get them to seem the same length visually, but unless someone sits and counts the stitches, nobody will be the wiser. Perfection, who needs it? I like progress way better and my Mother’s Day deadline seems a reasonable goal at this point.

#MegaSAL Magrat:

WIPWed #89: Doing Some Good | Woolen Diversions

Nest fiber studios superwash Merino, colorway Magrat.

I’m limping along on my main spindle project. I’ve really only taken this little guy out for social spinning. However, my turtle-speed-progress did not deter me from impulsively acquiring more Nest fiber as soon as I realized she was having an update.

Nest fiber Falkland, one-of-a-kind colorway.

Nest fiber Falkland, one-of-a-kind colorway.

I mean, that stuff is gorgeous, and her prep is wonderful. How could I resist?

MalMarch Nube:

Malabrigo merino Nube, colorway Persia.

Malabrigo merino Nube, colorway Persia.

I’ve spun up the third bobbin of my MalMarch spinning project and have just one more ounce of fiber to card and spin. I have to admit, I’m a little disconcerted about the different volume of singles on each of these bobbins. They are supposedly the same weight of fiber, all carded into rolags similarly. I have no idea why the middle one (the first that I spun) is so full in comparison to the other two. I suspect plying will require a bit of bobbin finagling.

And as far as reading goes, I sped through the rest of An Echo in the Bone and am now on the final book of the Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (goodness, I love these melodramatic titles). I’m also perusing I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was and a somewhat shallow straight-talk style book on pregnancy (The Girlfriend’s Guide) NOT because I’m pregnant (attn: friends and family, I’m NOT) but because I’m trying to get a better idea on what to expect physically and mentally and where in my career path having kids might fit best. I’m also spending lots of time on the Kelly Blue Book website looking at cars because my 1998 Dodge Neon has required $2,000 worth of work in the last 6 months alone and it broke down again, so I’m losing patience with its recurring (expensive) issues.

THERE’S NOTHING I LIKE BETTER THAN THINKING ABOUT A ZILLION BIG DECISIONS AT ONCE. /sarcasm

Venting, at least, does some good. 🙂 As does tapping into the hive mind: what’s your favorite cheap, reliable, compact sedan make/model that’s fairly easy to find used?

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch-Along Wednesday.

Decluttering Like A Boss

I tackled my most difficult #KonMarie decluttering session yet over the weekend. It was, in fact, the whole reason I started cleaning stuff up in the first place: my knitting WIPs and notions. I keep most of my knitting needles, notions, and assorted paraphernalia in 2 small plastic drawers and a basket, all of which were crammed tight and overflowing.

All of my WIPs are kept — honestly, all over the place, but theoretically organized in another set of plastic drawers. I had them sorted by year started (which was super depressing) but then shuffled things around into three categories: socks, shawls, and ‘other’ (encompassing mitts, cowls, scarves, a blanket, etc.). And most importantly, I ruthlessly frogged things that no longer sparked joy.

frogged

Which means I spent many, many minutes ripping back, untangling, and winding yarn back up but man it was worth it. You might be thinking, “Oh my, how can she handle ripping back 5 partially-finished pairs of socks?!” Have no fear, I still have 12 sock WIPs hibernating and 2 that I’m actively working on. I do not lack for sock projects. But at least now I know where they all are, what state they’re in, and where the heck all my needles were hiding. (I will soon be destashing a bunch of needles because I apparently just bought more when I couldn’t find some… woops. My yarn destash is still ongoing.)

I have to admit, decluttering feels really good, and it’s helped me re-focus my knitting efforts. I picked up an old sock WIP that had just one leg done that I’d like to finish by Mother’s Day (one of my Second Quarter goals), and I’m already at the heel on both socks. Turns out, socks are super speedy when you actually work on them. WHO KNEW?!

Speaking of actually working on projects, check out my top 5 ways to procrasti-knit over on Stef’s blog!

She Lives!

It was touch-and-go for a while there (not really, mind you, I’m exaggerating for effect) but I think I might just live. Basically, as soon as my back stopped feeling like there was a hot poker between my ribs, I was plagued by the worst sore throat I’ve had in years. This was followed by a sinus infection of epic proportions, which conveniently (SARCASM!) coincided with a road trip to help my mom recover from a surgery over the long weekend.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

Nest Superwash Merino, colorway Magrat.

I returned home snot-nosed, hoarse-voiced, congested, and emotionally drained… and proceeded to not sleep at all, for an entire night. I laid there staring up at the ceiling straight through to the dawn. I managed to sleep for a few hours this morning, however, and have begun to feel somewhat more human. My mom is recovering well, and despite all that it was a nice visit home, so things are looking up. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of nice fiber-y packages waiting in the mail when I returned, either. (If you don’t wish to be spoiled for the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Sock Club colorway, look away now!)

Pictured above is the one precious bump of Nest Superwash Merino fiber in the Magrat colorway that I managed to grab for the Discworld Mega-SAL being held on Ravelry. I intend to begin spinning it just as soon as I can finish my Malabrigo Nube spin. And pictured below might just be my favorite skein of sock yarn… possibly ever.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Gran’s Kitchen.

The colorway for the March shipment of the RSC is soooooooooooooo up my alley, I adore it. I love the minty aqua, the gentle gray, the streaks of white. Those soft, soothing, breath-of-fresh-air hues are just what I’m craving at the moment. I don’t love either of the patterns that came with this shipment, however, so I’m on the hunt for the perfect pattern for this skein. It has a rather short, stripey color sequence that is prone to pooling, so the pattern will need some bold lines and/or good overall texture to show up well. I’ve narrowed it down to 4 ideas:

  1. Quartzonite by Rose Hiver – An all-over textured lace that angles the fabric in different ways, which would make thin stripes look all cool and wavy.
  2. Louche by Hunter Hammersen – Twisted stitched interspersed with wide swaths of stockinette that should hold up nicely to variegation.
  3. Smokestack Socks by Tanis Lavallee – A nice texture/cable combo with strong vertical lines that should show up well through striping or pooling.
  4. Leyburn Socks by MintyFresh – Slipped stitches create a fun effect in variegated yarns and since someone is already making a pair, I know it’ll look pretty good.

Which would you make?

P.S. I wanted to say a general THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who participated in the product survey for Sweet Sheep! I received 91 responses and some really great feedback, I’m looking forward to many happy hours of analyzing and scheming. The winners of the giveaway have all been notified by e-mail (check your inboxes) but I’ll also say congrats here to Valerie, Victoria, Lisa, Sweta, Stephanie, Annie, Shelley, Erica, Christina, and Kathy! Your input is much appreciated. And to everyone who participated, please remember that your coupon codes are valid through the end of May!

Discworld Has Lost Its Greatest Wizard

If you’re a fan of the Discworld series, you may have already heard that its author, Terry Pratchett, has passed away.

Photo from Terry Pratchett’s facebook page. Click for link.

I do not know how, but I do know that he was developing early-onset Azheimer’s which must have been hell for a writer with such a brilliant, witty, and creative mind. I first discovered the genre of comedic/satiric/sci-fi/fantasy through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (who also died far too young). I was sad that there wasn’t more of his work to read, and then I discovered Terry Pratchett’s writing, and was thrilled. It was similar to Adams’ work in that it was hilarious, but it was even more satirical, witty, and fantastical than I could have hoped. Not to mention abundant: there are aver 40 books in the series, which means I could live in that zany world as long as I wanted. It isn’t up to date with the newest books, but this reading guide will get you started in understanding which books correspond to which general group of characters in plot order. My favorites are the books involving Death and the witches. I read the books in order of publication, beginning with The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, but either way you approach the series (in publication order or by character group) will work.

Magrat colorway. Photo copyright Jennifer of Nest Fiber. Click for website.

Just the other day, Jillian’s posted on the KnittyBlog about a Discworld-themed MegaSAL (spin-along) that’s happening right now on Ravelry. Six amazing dyers have created Discworld-themed colorways for the SAL, which will run from from April 1 – June 30. Yesterday I was able to grab my first ever braid of Nest fiber, dyed in the Magrat colorway, inspired by one of the witches in the series. Come visit the Ravelry group for details about joining in and for a thread full of info and chatter about Terry’s amazing books. The timing of his death in the middle of this fiber-y celebration of his work is really powerful, and I know what I’ll be thinking about as I spin along.

In the words of the beautifully personified Death, “THERE IS NO JUSTICE, THERE IS JUST US.”

So long, Terry, and thanks for all your words.

Pura Vida! Part 3

Some of you might remember that a while back I was using my usual Inspiration Saturday post time to recap my honeymoon in Costa Rica. Since I  just read an article about how elderly people’s biggest regret is not traveling more, especially when young, I’m feeling nostalgic. Plus, the trip was over 6 months ago, so I should finish re-capping it before I forget! (To refresh, you can view Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip by following the links. Hover over the photos below to read captions and you can click on them to enlarge, if you’d like.)

So we’ll begin again during our time in Cahuita, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. We spent a sunny day hiking through Cahuita National Park and enjoying the beach, which I spoke about last time. We saw so much wildlife, it was incredible. You didn’t even need to go with a guide to see a decent variety of animals. I’m sure we would’ve noticed more if we had hired a guide, but my main objective was to see some monkeys, and oh boy, did we.

I’m pretty sure I could watch capuchin monkeys cavorting through branches all the live-long day. They are pretty incredible, so nimble and quick-fingered, and seeing them out and about is so different than seeing them behind a fence or glass at the zoo. For reals. Howler monkeys, on the other hand, are quite intimidating. We came across a few that were having some sort of turf war and the sounds they made were just… impossible to describe. They made my reptile brain go “Quick! Run! They don’t want us here! Retreat! Retreat!”, I kid you not. I am not generally afraid of animals, and I knew they were howling at each other and probably hadn’t even noticed us, but every nerve in my body wanted to run. Let’s just say, those suckers are aptly named. This video gives you a little taste, but it really doesn’t compare to standing underneath a troop of these guys.

Our last structured outing of our time in Cahuita was to a cacao plantation, Cacao Trails (I think… the web description is a bit different than what we experienced). At first, it was kind of miserable: just the guide and the Fiasco and me, sludging through mud (so much mud) surrounded by mosquitos. However, our guide was fascinating, and taught us a ton about cacao farming and its history. He was of Afro-Caribbean descent, mixed with a few of the native tribes of the area, spoke several ancient languages and had a wealth of knowledge to share about the region’s tribal history, in addition to chocolate-making. Costa Rican plantations use a higher quality variety (vs. quantity) of Theobroma cacao, which flowers continuously throughout the year so each tree will have fruits in different stages of ripeness. Fruits are large and football-shaped, and seem like something out of an alien movie when cracked open. The seeds (or nuts) are covered with a white, sweet, mucus-like coating, that people (and animals) like to suck on, then spit out, spreading cacao. Growing and harvesting cacao is remarkably similar to coffee: the fruits are hand-picked, the seeds/nuts are fermented for several days (which removes the sticky coating) and then dried in the sun for a few weeks, which involves constant stirring. To make chocolate, the nuts are roasted, then ground. We made chocolate using a semi-traditional method in which the ground nuts were mixed with cane sugar, evaporated milk, powdered milk, and water and kneaded by hand until it formed a kind of dough that was sliced into pieces and then wrapped in banana leaves. Kneading it was crazy, so much oil came out as the nuts themselves are comprised of 50% cocoa butter. Apparently, in commercial chocolate all the cocoa butter is actually removed for use in cosmetics, and then palm oil is added back in to provide the fat for chocolate bars (which is worse for both our health and the environment, as palm farming is quite damaging and the fat is less healthy than cocoa butter). And, in case you were wondering, white chocolate does not contain any cacao at all, but is made of cocoa butter mixed with sugar and milk. Our guide rubbed the liquified cocoa butter all over his skin, as he said it was a natural mosquito repellent. Being in no position to argue, we did the same since at the very least we’d have ridiculously soft skin (cocoa butter is a key ingredient in my Sweet Sheep lotion bars) and we’d smell delicious to boot. As you can see, I could go on and on about what I learned on this 2 hour tour, it was really fascinating.

The rest of our time in Cahuita was spent riding the most rickety bicycles I’d ever seen (no photographic evidence, thankfully), eating delicious food (the Fiasco had some jerk chicken that made him sweat bullets), drinking yummy drinks, and walking the beach with the friendly neighborhood stray whom we dubbed Sweatheart. The final leg of our trip was the complete opposite of our laid-back, small-town experience in Cahuita: we stayed at a super-touristy but super-luxurious resort back in the mountainous region in the middle of the country. I’m really glad we had this more ‘authentic’ experience on the Caribbean coast, since even the tourist attractions were low-key and run by local people and in truth, I think we shared some of our favorite moments during this portion of the trip. But we wanted to end our honeymoon with a once-in-a-lifetime extravagant experience… and we certainly did, but that’s for next time.

On Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose, lately. As in, ‘What is the purpose of [insert activity here]?’ This question is often tied closely with a second, ‘Why am I spending my time on [activity]?’ I’m finding that I am at my most unsettled when the answer to the first is ‘I don’t know’ and the answer to the second is ‘Because I am supposed to.’ Eventually, this leads to ‘Is this what I want to do with my life?’ which is often followed up by, ‘Ack, I don’t know! No! Ack!’

On Purpose | Woolen Diversions

Spinning helps.

I’m incredibly internally motivated and when that motivation fizzles for one reason or another (usually outside of my control), I am not a happy camper. I struggle. I overanalyze. I go quickly from ‘Well, that was pointless’ to ‘OMG, WHAT IS THE POINT OF IT ALL?!?!!?!’ I hate feeling like I’m wasting my time and I am not the most patient person. When I get something in my head, I want to go go go and anything standing in my way becomes painfully mundane. It’s even worse when the thing I want to go go go do is not possible for a while, because then I feel aimless. Without purpose. Without a specific goal to guide me or an overarching aim on the horizon, I feel like I have no idea how to best use my time, and boy, oh boy, does that stress me out.

On Purpose | Woolen Diversions

New self-imposed deadlines for the win.

I’m not unhappy, there’s nothing wrong, I just… lack purpose right now, and that unsettles me badly. There’s no pressing deadline, life is just kind of in limbo, and I’m struggling to get ok with that. I expect this feeling is why some people take to religion so strongly, as it must be nice to believe that someone out there has a plan, but I am not a faith-having person.

Our back patio is filling up.

I suspect part of this bleakness is due to cabin fever. We’ve been snowed in for weeks and the monotony of home-to-car-to-work-to-car-to-home would get to anyone, eventually. I miss the sun and walks in the woods and I sadly do not have the constitution to go hiking in 15 degree weather just for fun. (For a specific purpose, though, I could do it. Cue the need to find a job in the field.) In lieu of racking up credit card debt to fly somewhere warmer, I’ve been trying to brainstorm other ways to alleviate this ennui, such as  volunteering with the local Nature Conservancy chapter and giving meditation the old college try. (Anybody have advice on where to start re:meditation?) And in true knitter fashion, I’ve self-imposed a gift knitting deadline just to try to keep me on my toes.

Are you someone who needs A Purpose (capitalized, of course) to feel content? How do you deal when your purpose is altered, unclear, or put off for a bit?

Mending

Turns out that three straight weekends of excitement and good times catches up with a girl. The Fiasco had a wretched cold over the weekend (and somehow managed to throw me a kick-ass birthday celebration despite it) and I’m feeling a tad worn down today myself. I ended up taking a partial sick day and sleeping through yet another snow storm.

Despite the need for recovery, there’s no denying that I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful time. We rented a house so a bunch of out-of-town friends could visit and have enough space to sleep. We ordered some Thai stir fry and noodles and the Fiasco grilled a ton of chicken and cooked up several dipping sauces. We had snacks, delicious cocktails, and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. There was knitting and board games, as well as brunch and a little shopping at the local yarn store, The Mermaid’s Purl. Nary a word was spoken about football and that’s exactly how I like to spend my superbowl weekend.

I picked up a gorgeous braid of Merino fiber by sweetgeorgia yarns (called ‘Sugar Shack’) and Katy knit me a pair of beautiful wristwarmers. I’ve been complaining about how cold my office is and how I needed a new pair and she totally delivered. I love to wear these under my sweaters as they really help keep the heat in while my hands are up on the keyboard without getting in the way (no finger restrictions). She used the karkom wristwarmers pattern (with several alterations) and Madelinetosh DK (in ‘Nebula’) and they’re perfect.

Mending | Woolen Diversions

Oh, darn.

After the Fiasco and I both blew holes in our socks over the weekend, I knew it was time to finally face the darning pile. I think I have about a dozen pairs in there that need repair… and man, I’m not fast at it. It took me 45 min to mend each hole last night, but I was also distracted by TV. I think mending all the socks will be my goal this week, as I’m really tired of wearing the same two or three pairs over and over, while the rest sit in sad-holey-limbo. Plus, the more I fix now, the fewer holes we’ll wear in the remaining pairs with overuse… right? (Sigh…)

I hope your week is beginning restfully!