WIPWed #99: Spinning Through

Tour de Fleece is in full swing and I’m doing what I can to participate. I was away celebrating our first wedding anniversary when it began, but I did take my spindle and some fiber to at least make a start. We got back stupidly late Monday night (more like early Tuesday AM) so yesterday was all about catching up with life, but I did manage to get a couple of ounces spun up on my wheel, as well. Needless to say, my knitting progress has slowed with all this spinning going on, but I’m not complaining. Spinning is quite soothing, despite the old wrist injury that I aggravated by using the grip of death on a crazy carnival ride the Fiasco made me do. (Yeah, I blame him for my wrist pain. That’s what marriage is for!)

TdF Merino Mind Bullets:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets. Click for handspun page.

This spin is going to take a good long while, but I’m loving it. That Subterranean Woodworks Turkish spindle is one of my absolute favorites. The weight is perfect, the color makes me happy, and it’s a zippy little spinner.

TdF BFL/Silk Singles:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes. Click for handspun page.

I spun one braid of these singles before TdF began (left bobbin), but got a decent 2 oz spun last night while I watched more Vampire Diaries (still obsessed!) and made a few batches of lotion bars (Lavender EO has been restocked and a new scent, Smoky Patchouli, has been added to the shop). Fingers crossed that I can speed through the final 2 oz tonight.

Rotted Days:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Actually using my handspun! Click for project page.

Spending 9 hours in the car over the long weekend lead me to resurrect my handspun Dotted Rays shawl. I’m at the point where the short rows take much longer to get through, so there isn’t as much flipping back and forth and I’ve settled into a nice rhythm with it. I’ve nearly finished my first skein of handspun and desperately need to switch to a larger cable so the shawl won’t look like a pile of mush in photos.

That’s all I’ve really worked on this week. I’m currently in between books right now, although I’m listening to a really good one (Birthmarked by C.M. O’Brien). It’s about a young girl who is a midwife in a post-climate-change society and there is some kind of drama starting between the ‘advanced’ people who live within the walls of the city, and everyone else on the outside. Not deep into it yet but it’s intriguing so far.

And just for fun, here are some pics from our trip to Maine:

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

(And congrats to Alexis of CobCottageCraft, the winner of the Myra cowl pattern from my review post and giveaway. Keep an eye out for my e-mail!)

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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.

The Best Gifts Are Handmade

Last week, the Fiasco and I drove up to Boston to spend New Year’s Eve with a couple of our closest friends and their adorable toddler. (My apologies for the lack of photos, she’s seriously the cutest thing.) We had what has turned into our typical, relaxed NYE celebration: yummy food, some champagne, knitting, board games, and barely staying awake long enough to watch the ball drop (all the while wondering who the heck all those newfangled pop stars are). This year, though, we were also surprised with a wonderful gift.

03-IMG_2174A whole group of our friends coordinated to knit us this gorgeous blanket as a wedding present. They each contributed a few squares, even ones who learned to knit in the past but don’t regularly do it anymore, and sent them to Bridgit for sewing up.

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I adore the pattern and color palette they chose. Apparently, I made the choice of pattern easy by gushing about the Vivid blanket designed by tincanknits right around the time that my friends were coming up with this secret plan.

01-IMG_2170As you can see, the colors of yarn they used (Vally Yarns Colrain) coordinate perfectly with our couch and the tencel in the blend gives the fabric a lovely sheen. The project took a bit longer than they had expected and I can only imagine all the plotting and scheming that went on behind my back! I was wondering why everybody’s knitting production appeared to have halted. Whenever I asked them what they were working on I got such vague responses as “Oh, that alpaca sweater still” or “Some baby stuff” or “School’s been so busy I’ve barely knit at all” etc.

Dudes, we totally love it.

We love it so, so much. I don’t know if we can ever properly thank them. Handmade gifts are the best, as are our friends, and we’ll think of them every time we snuggle up under this blanket, and I love that.

What’s the best handmade gift you’ve ever given or received?

Exactly Like That

You know when people say something “feels like being hit by a truck?” Well, that’s exactly how our post-honeymoon life has felt, especially since we were literally hit by a moving truck our first morning back in Rhode Island. Not fun, guys. Thankfully we were moving slowly and nobody was hurt but filing police reports and dealing with insurance claims is not a particularly pleasant way to transition back into ‘real life’.

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The Fiasco inspecting the (hopefully) minor damage.

Blargghhh. In other news, our Costa Rican honeymoon was fabulous. It was truly incredible. Neither of us had ever been on an international trip before so it was extra exciting, full of adventure, and a real learning experience. Maybe that’s not what most people want for their honeymoon (relaxing, sunny, and decadent comes more often to mind) but it was perfect for us.

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View of the Central Valley.

There were lovely mountain views.

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A gorgeous plant.

There was incredible plant life of all shapes, sizes, and forms.

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Typical Costa Rican casada.

There was lots of delicious food.

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Adorable snuggly sloth.

There was an abundance of amazing wildlife.

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A glimpse of the Caribbean Sea.

And there was just a bit of sunny splashing in the Caribbean Sea (it was the rainy season, so sunny days were unfortunately rare).

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Honeymoon selfie!

The morning we were leaving I cried, I just didn’t want to go. The country is beautiful, the people were so friendly, and each day brought something new and wonderful into our lives. Now that I’m home, I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by all the little stressors that seem to be piling up around us. I’m trying to get back into the groove of things, to appreciate how much our cats missed us (lots of kitty snuggles), to prepare for upcoming Sweet Sheep shows, to take stock and prioritize, and to figure out how to best relate our adventures. I think I’ll replace my typical Inspiration Saturday posts for the next few weeks with posts about each of the three parts of our trip, to spread things out a bit and more quickly resume normal knitting and spinning-related blogging in the meantime. How does that sound?

I hope you all have been well! I’ll be playing blog catch-up for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back in touch with the creative world again. This summer has passed by like a speeding train which means that fall is just around the corner, which always brings with it lots of knitterly goodness, so who wouldn’t be excited about that? I’m doing my best to take things one thing at a time and remember what they say in Costa Rica: pura vida (pure life)!

FOFri #30: The Things We Do For Friends

I had the hardest time figuring out what to make for gifts for my bridesmaids. My initial thought was shawls, but, well, there were 6 of them and even though I got engaged waaaaaay back in 2011 and therefore theoretically could have knit 6 shawls in that timeframe, I didn’t know how long our engagement was going to be but I did know that my fortitude for non-selfish gift knitting tends to be limited, so it was not likely to happen.

Copyright Eskimimi. Click for pattern page.

Then I saw this cute little coin purse and thought oooh! I could make this bigger, get a fancier purse frame, and make little clutches! The thought of all that linen stitch was a little daunting, so I figured I could perhaps make squares on my Zoom Loom and make patchwork bags. Then I hurt my wrist back in March and using the loom was a little too painful.

Copyright kateclysm. Click for pattern page.

So then, I was thinking I’d maybe make these cute little bangle bags, which would still require sewing a lining onto the back of knitted fabric (which worried me) but at least wouldn’t involve sewing into a purse frame. But still, I wasn’t totally thrilled by the idea and didn’t really know where to get the bangles.

Copyright Lion Brand Yarn. Click for pattern page.

I finally stumbled across this quilted lattice jewlery frame, and knew this would be perfect! Since I had already ordered purse frames I went back and forth debating for a while. It was a difficult debate since most of the people I usually consult for knitting advice were in the bridal party! I had to rely on my friend Jeremie, who was not particularly interested in either purses or jewelry frames. I kept coming back to the frames, though, and decided to go for them.

IMG_6701I finally started knitting them at the end of May, and finished them up in the first week of July. So, I had to knit one of these each week. I used my swatch to determine how many to cast on to fit in an 8×10 frame. It’s a good idea to underestimate how many stitches you need as your yarn will likely stretch and you want the fabric to be taught. I used a totally luscious yarn for this: BMFA Marine Silk Sport, colorway Oceana.

IMG_6702The frame requires a little work before you attach the knitting. We (I say we, since the FiascoHubs helped) used the matting from the frame as a base, then cut out quilt batting to the same size and plain fabric about an inch larger. Then you make a little batting sandwich and use double-sided tape to fold the fabric over and secure it to the back of the matting.

IMG_6703Finally, you do the utterly unthinkable and take a stapler to your silky, luxurious knitted fabric. You carefully staple all around the edges of the piece to secure the knitted fabric to the fabric backing. Not gonna lie, this part was painful.

IMG_6709But the results were so worth it! I love how these little frames turned out and I know at least one of my friends is already using hers. I didn’t want to just give these frames, however, so I also made some earrings to go with it (no, I don’t know what came over me).

IMG_6694These things came out better than I had expected and were surprisingly easy to make! Here is the super helpful tutorial I followed. I was so encouraged by my success with these earrings that I decided to make my own wedding jewelry.

I looked at a few wire jewelry photos for inspiration but basically just winged these designs and am really thrilled with how they came out. I love the little pop of color they added to my wedding ensemble, too. That’s the last of my crazy wedding crafting! I’m making one more frame for myself right now but then it’s back to knitting whatever-the-heck I want! Have you ever surprised yourself with your own crafting abilities or been suddenly struck by the desire to make something that you couldn’t quite explain?

Check out more FOs at Tamis Amis.

Wedding Whirlwind

Thank you so much for all of your well wishes! Our wedding weekend was absolutely fantastic. It was certainly busy and a little bit stressful at times (so much to keep track of!) but we had a ton of help from our incredible families and friends and everything worked out even more wonderfully than I had hoped.

Our (amazing!) photographer won’t get most of our photos back until next month but she sent a little preview to tide us over and I thought you all would appreciate this one, especially:

alicia+rich_preview_07Oh yeah, that’s a bride knitting a sock. I just couldn’t resist. Even though nothing very ‘big’ was DIY (we didn’t cater the thing ourselves, for example) crafting still played an important role in the day.

alicia+rich_preview_12Here’s where we sealed the deal with a kiss! Note, if you will, the crocheted doily under the unity candle (thanks, Mom!) and the presence of the previously-featured, handmade, hula hoop ribbon thing.

alicia+rich_preview_16Here you can kinda see the jewelry I made for myself: necklace, earrings, and bracelet. I decided to make jewelry for myself since I made a bunch of earrings as part of my bridesmaids’ gifts, but I’ll talk more about those later this week on FO Friday since they also involved some knitting!

IMG_6764We kept our table decorations simple with basic table runners, some color-coordinated votive candles, and beribboned mason jars full of glass gems and flowers. The Fiasco (or should I say, my new husband!) wrote, printed, and hand-cut Mad Libs for each table, as well!

IMG_6753 I did not actually make anything on this table, but other people did! One of my best and oldest friends crocheted amazing bride and groom horseshoe crabs as a shower gift, which obviously had to make a wedding appearance. (The Fiasco and I met when I hired him as an assistant for my horseshoe crab research.) Our adorable little horseshoe crab cake toppers and the polka-dot paper garland were handmade and came from shops on Etsy.

IMG_6735Our biggest DIY project was putting together all of the flowers for the bouquets and centerpieces. I ordered wholesale flowers from Blooms By The Box and then we trimmed, hydrated, and arranged them under the guidance of my aunt (who fortuitously had taken a flower-arranging class at some point in her past), and with the help of my cousin (both pictured above) and the rest of my bridesmaids. Even though the arrangements were fairly straightforward (blue hydrangeas, mini green hydrangeas, white roses, green carnations, ferns, baby’s breath) it was no small task to put everything together. However, the flowers came out absolutely beautifully and I loved them a stupid amount.

I’m sure you’ll hear lots more about the wedding than you will ever want to know, but I think for now I’ll leave off with one of my absolute favorite preview shots that makes the entire day feel like a fairy tale (and makes us look like we can actually dance):

alicia+rich_preview_14Squeeeeeee!

 

 

IS #76: This Guy

On this day — our wedding day — my inspiration can really only come from one source: my Fiasco.

yarn 075If there’s a sweeter, kinder, more giving man out there — I haven’t met him.

renfaire 005He’s inappropriate and hilarious and consistently keeps me on my toes.

He’s great with kids and amazing with my entire family.

yarn 062He loves to cook and clean (thank goodness!) and really does the lion’s share of the work around the house.

IMG_5641He’s creative, brilliant, and enthusiastic about everything he does.

2009_June 047And he’s equally enthusiastic about everything I do — from horseshoe crab surveys to fiber festivals and Sweet Sheep vending shows — he supports me in anything and everything I dream up.

IMG_6368I am incredibly lucky to have met this man and am proud to make him my husband!

(P.S. If you’re the type that likes to peek at wedding photos, feel free to search the #morandi2014 hashtag on Instagram or check out our Wedding Party app site where people can upload photos as the day progresses.)

WIPWed #59: Wedding In Progress

The wedding itself is not in progress at this moment, but the preparation for it certainly is! The Fiasco and I have been busy busy bees lately. Thank goodness he’s a teacher and has free time to run errands all over town while I’ve been working. Our evenings, late nights, and weekends have been overflowing with tasks but many of them have been creative so it’s been a good time.

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ALL THE RIBBONS!

I essentially bought out the entire blue/green ribbon section of Michael’s to turn this mess:

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White duct tape around a hula hoop + ribbons =

Into this gorgeous thing:

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AWESOME!

The aptly-named “hula hoop ribbon thing” is going to serve as a backdrop during our ceremony and will reside behind the sweetheart table at the reception. It’s the one and only Pinterest-inspired wedding craft that I actually accomplished. That shawl I dreamt about? Never happened. I totally gave up on my Something Blue purse. But I was bound and determined to make this ribbon thing and I’m really glad I did!

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Also, jewelry?

I also decided, in a fit of randomness, that I’d really like to make my own wedding jewelry. (I think we made one too many trips to Michael’s and I became infected with some sort of craft all the things bug.) The bracelet was a breeze, I’m going to tackle the earrings and necklace tonight. We’ll see how it goes!

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Cotton tahkli from hipstrings. Click for Etsy shop.

As is my wont, stressful busy days with no time to knit or spin lead directly to some stash and tool enhancement. I am excited to try this little cotton tahkli from hipstrings. It’s made of acrylic and carbon fiber and is very lightweight and supposed to spin very quickly. Since I enjoy my Tibetan and Russian supported spindles so much, I figured it was time to branch out into cotton spinning and see how it goes. I’ll give this baby a whirl next week.

I hope you all are having wonderful weeks! Check out some actual knitting WIPs at Tamis Amis.

WIPWed #58: Lonely Blog Edition

Dear Blog,

I miss you, it’s been too long. I get a little twitchy when I don’t spend enough time with you, and I’ve really been feeling it lately. According to the archives, I typically blog 11 – 16 times a month… and here we are, approaching the last week of June, and I’ve only posted a measly 5 times!

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Rockin’ it at Relay for Life.

In my defense, dear blog, I have been a tad busy lately. Work has been crrrrrrrrrazy and the weekends have been even crazier. Last Friday night’s Relay for Life was a great event, I’m so thankful to everyone who donated to the cause. I ended up raising $390, which substantially added to my workplace’s team total of $1,570! While it was great, it was also wicked cold  and quite difficult to stay awake and walking throughout the night. But I did, and I’m happy to have contributed to a worthy fight. The Fiasco and I followed up the event by sleeping most of Saturday and then seeing The Fault In Our Stars. Cancer, cancer, everywhere. It was an emotionally exhausting but genuinely moving weekend, let me tell you.

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Movie-going fortification.

I used the movie as an excuse to begin a new pair of socks. I obviously needed something completely plain that I could knit in the dark! (Obviously.) I’ve yet to successfully finish a plain pair of socks. I’m going to try to let the yarn do the talking on this pair and just do a bit of ribbing at the cuff and stockinette the rest of the way through. I’m using a new-to-me base, Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Fingering Superwash in the Royal colorway. I love the weight and feel of this yarn. I’m excited to have some non-Merino socks and I’m hoping that the longer-stapled BFL will hold up better to wear.

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Secret knitting.

Primarily, though, I’ve been rather monogamously knitting on a secret project. I absolutely detest not being honest with you, dear blog, but I cannot disclose the details of this project for another couple of weeks. My apologies.

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Centerpieces in the making!

However, I can disclose some pretty little wedding details! Seeing as the Big Day (* eye roll *) is now just 11 days away, we’re in full-on Wedding Prep mode here at chez Woolen Diversions. The rest of the weekend consisted of shopping at Michael’s, JoAnn’s, and the Dollar Tree like it was our job. So many errands… so many ribbons! Imagine the above mason jars filled with flowers and surrounded by votive candles and you’ll have a sense of our centerpieces.

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Favors in the making!

And the Fiasco just spent the better part of the last hour or so stickering 140 favors. Poor guy. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg of things we still need to get done. Little by little, though, we’re chipping away at the list.

So my dear blog, I hope I’ve made a solid case for why I’ve been neglecting you lately. Perhaps the coincidence of multiple deadlines with the wedding (WHY MUST EVERYTHING HAPPEN IN JULY?!?!) is not a good excuse, but is is certainly a logical explanation of my absence. Believe you me, I am eagerly awaiting the day when I can resume our typical relationship. And also maybe enjoy some of this summer that seems to be flying by so swiftly… Sigh.

Your ever-faithful servant,

Alicia

Steamrolling

I’ve been steamrolling my way through these last few weeks, man. June has been passing in mere blinks of the eye. Lots and lots of late nights at the office, lots and lots of evenings, weekends, and should-be-sleeping hours spent on wedding-related activities. My to-do lists are rather impressively long and detailed at the moment, which is saying something if you know me.

weddingThat’s the handy-dandy and unabashedly intense Wedding Countdown on the DJ’s itinerary-planning website. I find it hilarious that most of our vendors require we fill out very long, detailed questionnaires planning very second of the day… except for the reception banquet manager, who basically said “Meh, those schedules never work out. It’ll all be fine, we’ll chat the week before.” WHAT?! The person I’m gonna hand over the biggest stack of cash to appears to be by far the least concerned about the details of the day. I’ve decided I love her for it, since those itinerary questionnaires are a major pain in the ass. Should the cake cutting be at 9pm or 9:30pm? How long do we really need for those pictures? What the eff is a dollar dance? OH GOD, I JUST DON’T KNOW??!?!1!!DFSJKGHKLCKF’;ASDLCVMKF. While we’re at it, should the jordan almonds be spring green, pale green, or mint? And how many do we need again? AAAAAAAHHHHHH. No more decisions, please.

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Spinning for sanity! Click for project page.

Sigh. In 15 days, all of this will be over, and I’m sure I’ll feel a mix of emotions, not the least of which will be relief. I’ll be sad the wedding is over but happy to have time to myself again. You know, for the important things, like knitting and spinning (obviously). I’ll also be thrilled to finally be married to my Fiasco and eagerly awaiting our Costa Rican honeymoon (which is sounding quite amazing at this particular moment). But first — I’ll be here, bleary-eyed and up too late, planning this one big, momentous, family-and-friend-filled weekend, one step at a time.

(Speaking of steps, I’m walking in the Relay for Life tomorrow err… tonight. There’s still time to donate if you’d like to support my mom and me and help raise funds for the American Cancer Society. I would really appreciate it!)