Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cold Spell

It's getting close to transition time.
Yesterday my hair was sticking to the back of my neck, heavy on my shoulder bones when I do anything more than sit still. Two small blond strands curl at my temples, disobeying the linear fall of the rest of my hair. All I could do was lay on the cool wood planks in the living room, sipping margaritas and dreaming of breezes and snow.
This morning, light barely peeked through misty clouds, and a cold breeze snuck in my wide open window trying to freeze me under polka-dotted cotton sheets. Hot coffee felt good instead of overheating me. My jeans were stiff when I tried to pull them up over my hips, unfamiliar and heavy on my calves. My feet feel trapped and stifled when I put on cotton socks for the first time in months. I drank my coffee by the open window, glad for the chill and the breeze that cooled the tip of my nose.
The sudden change instigates tendrils of urgency. Projects loom up that need to be done for fall, welcome and unwelcome. Fall means my exams- studying, stress, six hours of writing and an hour and a half of defense. Hopefully triumph and a celebration with wine and good food after.
Fall also means Fall birthday knitting and the start of Christmas knitting projects. Roommates roll their eyes as my pile of yarn gets higher on my craft table, and templates for sewing projects begin to be tacked to the wall. I bend over the design for a quilt made of old tshirts from high school band, college climbing competitions, and family vacations. I have to make sure I don't drip cream cheese dip from my apple slices on the knitting for a birthday present- white, sparkly, and so soft I want to fall asleep nestled next to it. You're going to like this one- the silver will highlight that happy love glow I see so often in your eyes.
Tomorrow is a new month, and I can't help but to be impatient for it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back and Forth

Sometimes I feel like I'm being pulled in two different directions.
On one side, I have my need for learning- the academic life. Degrees and honors and papers and books lined up like soldiers on my shelf, properly highlighted and notated and indexed. Late nights in a dark library, researching obscure subjects that only feed my hunger for knowledge more. My brain is like a sponge, soaking up all the information as it connects to more information. Then taking all that and translating it to students- THIS is why you should learn this! THIS is why this is important! The fire behind my desire to LEARN MORE is hotter than the jalapenos that you forgot to take out of my burrito last night. I put on thin heels and a blouse straight out of a Gilmore Girls episode to stand in front of a room and explain analysis. Keeping a supply of red pens on hand for correcting is important, lined up nicely next to a rainbow of post-its and color-coordinated folder system.
Then there's the other me.
Biking barefoot down to the lake because I can't miss the sunset in favor of shoes, then staying on the beach to talk to you and wait for the stars to come up. Days at the cliff turn into a week, then two, and I forget the passwords to my computer and replace them in my head with the names and ratings of the routes that I'm climbing. My sleeping bag is more comfortable than my bed, and it takes me a minute to remember how many days since my last shower. Carrying less than 30 pounds on my back feels odd, like I'm forgetting something. Dancing in the rain is my greatest form of happiness. We eat peanut butter straight out of the jar, and are confused by people in RVs watching their Direct TV instead of trying to spot colors in a campfire. I fall asleep at the close of a day more from sheer exhaustion than because it's dark out.
I hope that I can reconcile these two sides of me. Sometimes they don't get along. Brother and sister stuck in the car together for too long. That's the hardest- when I want to study, but the sun and rock beckon me outside. Or I'm training inside on a gross day and know I should be studying.
But they're both part of me, so for now they'll just have to compromise a little.

Friday, August 26, 2011

FO: Abrazo for a Cajun Bride

I'm very excited to check a special project off my to-do list- a wedding gift for a very special Cajun lady who is getting married in November!
Pattern: Abrazo Shawl by Susanna IC
Yarn: Ella Rae Lace Merino in colorway 3- or Rainforest Fern Green, as I like to call it. :)
Needles: Size 8, on circulars
Modifications: None!
Timeframe: I started this somewhere in South Dakota on my way out to Yosemite in early July, finished August 22nd (plenty of time for her wedding- weird!)
Worst Part: When one row would take half an hour to complete... or when I accidentally knocked a whole jar of beads all over the passenger side of the car... or when I got one yarn-over wrong and it took me over 200 stitches to figure it out...
Best Part: Loving this pattern so much that I was always excited to work on it, despite the bad stuff! I'm hoping the real best part will be being able to present it to Aimee if I can get down to Louisiana for her wedding in November!
This is one of those patterns that despite the fiddly-ness of the lace, it was a great experience to (finally) do well on a lace pattern (for once- remember the spring shawl? Ugh. I do). Even when I spent so long on each row, it didn't seem to matter because I was so psyched to see the final product. This gives me great hope for attempting another lace shawl project.
I still have a lot of gift knitting to go with birthdays and especially Christmas looming on the horizon, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to make a fancy lace shawl for myself with this one as practice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It's been a really crazy weekend full of ups and downs. I got to see one of my old friends from high school get married in a truly beautiful ceremony at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis,
have a great day relaxing with the girls before a bachelorette party that included lots of games, presents, and cookies shaped like penises, and an amazing show of Oklahoma! at the Bloomington Civic Theater, with my amazing lovely friend Larissa as one of the dancers. Though full, it was a lot of fun and did me good after working so much and family medical worries.
The fog was literally rolling in off the lake today, reflecting on my mood as the air filled with a damp chill and on and off rain. Despite the rain and the gloom, I managed to finish and block something I'm very excited about in my living room!
The Abrazo Shawl for my friend Aimee from Louisiana is finished and drying. I love how it looks, how it feels, and especially the colors. I'm really happy that I put the small purple beads on- they look so pretty surrounding the leaves!
Hopefully I'll be able to get out for a photo shoot soon with this- that means it'll have to dry up a little around here first. It'll be nice to see the sun again- even a little sun adds some cheer when things are gloomy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

FO: Stockholm Scarf

Earlier this week I sat down with some sun and some coffee and finished up a present for one of the fall brides I'm knitting for.
The result is a beautiful, light, squishy cowl that I'm excited to give her today!
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Fresco in a beautiful dark red
Needles: size 10
Made For: Sarah- she's getting married Sept 24th, and I'm playing the violin music for the wedding!
Timeline: August 2nd through August 18th
Modifications: None, though next time I'll cast on 252 stitches instead of 256
Worst Part: Probably realizing after I got back from my trip that I had to crank this out... fast!
Best Part: Easily the yarn. SOOOOO squishy, so light, so soft and beautiful. Easily going to buy this again. I wish there was more yardage per skein (expensive) but it's so worth it.
I'm definitely going to use this yarn again, and I'm excited to give this to the bride!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vivian- so close...

I woke up this morning with the whole day ahead of me to get things done, and after a run, a breakfast burrito, and some cleaning, I sat down with the ghost of Christmas past to finally do the last knitting parts of a project that should have been done eons ago- the Vivian sweater!
I ended up having to leave for Yosemite before I could sew the top of the hood together, so today I grafted that, sewed the underarms together, and put it in a nice hot bath to soak:
before I set it out in the sun for some blocking!
I am ridiculously excited that this project is so close to being done- last touches are going to include a zipper and a ribbon on the inside before I can finally get some pictures and call this one good. It's been awhile, too- I started this thing last year at the beginning of May. I knit most of it before fall even arrived, but it kept getting put off for other things (birthday presents, Christmas presents, etc). I finally get to be a teeny bit selfish and finally finish up something just for me!
The rest of this afternoon, I'll be cleaning, organizing, purging lots and lots of stuff, and as a treat I plan on going to go see the new movie "The Help" with a friend. It's a good girl's night movie, and I've been racing through the book the last couple days in the hopes (dashed) that I'll finish it (won't) before the movie tonight. It'll still be a good time. :)
Now here's hoping I'll find a nice zipper to match that sweater as I sort through my craft stuff... hmmm...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Confident on Laceration

A really nice day on Thursday meant one thing for me- heading up the shore to my old haunt Palisade Head for a beautiful day of climbing!
I felt really ambitious that day, and decided to lead one of my favorite climbs up the shore- a crack climb called Laceration Hand Jam. It's a great 5.10b that heads up a sharp granite crack- super bitey, but super solid. I was lucky enough to have for company a friend that's practicing professional climbing photography for a trip next summer willing to hang out and take pictures of my climb!
It was a great climb, and the hardest lead that I've done so far. Crack climbing is weird for grading difficulty, because often how hard it is depends on your hand and finger size. Some of my guy climbing partners can cruise up wide hand cracks that I have to chicken wing because my hands are small, while at the same time I cruise up thin hand crack that are wide fingers for them. Laceration is perfect for my hand size, and I got on it without really any worry of falling because I knew that I could do it.
It felt amazing to do so well on a climb that would have had my knees quaking before my Yosemite trip. But being on the really big stuff all day every day has increased my confidence tenfold, which boosts my ability level. It's amazing the change in my climbing when I learned how to breath, focus, relax, and let the moves flow while trusting my ability to climb sure and confident.
I might not look entirely happy in the pics (apparently I need to work on smiling while climbing!) but doing this climb on lead makes me more confident for the next climb down the road, as well as helping me relax and be more confident and in the moment for everyday, too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


It's always weird to come back from a big trip. My family did month-long vacations every single summer from when I could remember all the way through high school, with the shortest being three weeks in Europe every other summer when I was in high school. I'm used to being on long vacations- having no cell phones, limited or no access to a computer, and the only contact I have with the outside world being the postcards I send (though I tend to send a lot of those!). Coming back to the "real world" always feels mildly discombobulating- going from non-stop adventure to being cramped in a car for four days straight to a 60-hour work week made me mildly spaced out for a week. Over the weekend I had a little bit of time to finally completely unpack, get my stinky clothes in the laundry, go through my gear, and even clean out my closet (it really needed it). With that done, I can concentrate on studying for my final Master's exams- 6 hours of writing and an hour and a half of verbal defense of my answers- and looking for teaching jobs.
Oh, and planning my next climbing trip. ;)
When I left for Yosemite I had high aspirations for my knitting. I brought four- count them, four- large projects with, hoping I would finish at least three of them. Instead, I reached the halfway mark for all of them.
The Abrazo shawl is probably one of the most tedious and time-consuming knits I've ever done. I worked on this only on the drive, because I needed to have beads at the ready to put on every other row.
Despite every single row taking a full half hour to knit (with about 50 beads a row having to go on, plus keeping track of the lace in over 300 stitches), I loved working on it. I've been lovingly calling it the "Amoeba", as it has really no rhyme or reason yet- just a pile of pretty yarn and beads. It doesn't have the instant satisfaction of fair isle, but I'm so excited to see how it turns out that I couldn't put it down. With trading off, I would get 4-5 hours in on it in the car, and with over 300 stitches per row and 26 rows of beading a lace, I was happy to finish the entire lace portion before we pulled in to Duluth. All that's left is a bunch of stockinette short rows, so it should be a pretty easy finish (compared to the first half- uffda!).
I brought the Alice mittens in hopes of finishing them, but only was able to have the attention span to finish the first mitten.
Because there are a gift, I wanted to keep the white yarn nice and white, so I would only work on these in the car after washing my hands thoroughly (you have no idea how dirty climbers get...). I need to finish these by early September for my adviser, so I'm casting on for the second one soon.
My other two projects were the Autumn Leaves wrap and my Yosemite Fruit Loop socks. I'm literally 14 rows away from being at the halfway knitting mark for the Autumn Leaves wrap, and I'm already past the cuff on the Fruit Loop socks. I'm not worried about timing on these, as the shawl has to be finished by Christmas and the socks hopefully in the next month here (travel knitting!).
I figured getting half way on all my knitting projects is something to say. Right when I got back I checked the calender and realized that the wedding of a friend was coming up right away in September as well, and her shower was even closer, so I got working on the Stockholm Scarf for her.
It's also just about halfway done, and a few hardcore knitting shifts at work will (hopefully) get this puppy done.
I think I would have gotten more projects finished if I had brought less, but halfway is pretty good in my book when I have so many going. :) Plus making friends on the trip has added to my knitting list, mostly as "thank yous" for crashing in their house. :)
Today I'm FINALLY going to go see Harry Potter 7 Part II, before relaxing, climbing, and more studying. Tomorrow a trip climbing up the shore, then back to work.
And more planning for my next trip... ;)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Final Days in Yosemite

My long silence on my adventures is due mostly in part to many days in the car on the long drive from the west coast back to Minnesota. I'm back in my home state, trying not to feel too discombobulated as I jump right back into work and sift through the stinky piles of synthetic clothes, camping and climbing gear.
The last few days in Yosemite were amazing. After Cathedral Peak, we decided to tackle the tallest dome in Tuolumne Meadows- Fairview Dome. We got up before the sun to be first in line on the Regular Route- a 12-pitch, 1000 ft. 5.9 that was one of the most popular routes in the Meadows. It was a full day of climbing, with hand cracks slippery with water running in them making it hard to get great jams for the first part of the morning.
It eased up as we got higher, and at the top we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the entire higher Sierra area, including all the domes we climbed so far on our trip. The next day, we planned on doing a link-up of a couple routes we really wanted to do- one in particular was On the Lamb, a 500 ft horizontal hand crack- but the creaking of our bodies reminded us that rest days were important too. :) Instead, we headed down to Yosemite Valley for one last hurrah on the beautiful granite.
We climbed Bishop's Terrace at Church Bowl, where I was excited to get in some "Extreme Knitting" before we finally said good bye and headed out of the park for the last time (THIS summer, at least!!).
The view before heading into the tunnel as we left the valley was beautiful, and made it easy to vow to be back soon to tackle more and harder routes, walls, and challenges next time!
I made sure to get a picture next to the entrance sign wearing the sweater my Mom bought there in 1990 for the Centennial Anniversary of the Park- they were there when I was 5 years old, and over 20 years later I was back with her same sweatshirt! :)
We stopped at the Mariposa Grove to take a look at some of the crazy and beautiful Sequoia trees growing there,
making sure to measure against them with our height and arm span. :)
We drove the rest of the way to the ocean, and spent a day with new and old friends at the Santa Cruz pier, watching sea lions and running in and out of the ocean. Made a couple quick stops at University of California Santa Cruz and Berkeley to check them out for potential school options before heading out.
The trip was everything I hoped for and wanted it to be- a chance to relax, a chance to be with friends and make new ones, and a chance to push myself in every way possible. And in the most basic way, a chance for me to relax and just spend a month being happy. Things rush by so quickly, and it's important to remember what truly makes you happy- and go out and do it! :)
You should see my climbing tick list for next year... uff-da... ;)
Next post- trip knitting status!