Tuesday, July 29, 2014

And I'm OFF!

I've been horrendous at posting lately.  I keep meaning to, but things have been hectic around here.
But hectic in a good way. :)  Once school gets back into session, I'm hoping to update the blog with a whole new look, so stay tuned for that!
Scott and I spent some time together at the end of the week before he ran to the Boundary Waters with his brother to do a little paddling!

And when I say "little", I mean that they're doing 125 miles of paddling (plus lots of portages) through the BWCA in 8 days.  They started in Canada and they're going to paddle all the way back to Sawbill in MN, having brother time and drinking whiskey.  As much as I love adventure and my guy, that's one trip I'm okay not being on. :)  I gave him a huge hug before he left, because now I won't see him until after I get back at the end of August!
After our goodbye, I headed to the cities for a weekend with the family!

It was gorgeous out.  You couldn't ask for a nicer weekend.

We spent all of Saturday out on Lake Minnetonka, floating, laughing, snacking, and having a grand old time.

The aunts prepared a feast when we got in, consisting of a giant slab of grilled pork loin, corn-on-the-cob, and enough salads to sink a ship.
Then last night, I packed, cleaned the house a bit, and did one last performance of my tap project down in Canal Park.  It was a gorgeous night out, and for our last performance we garnered quite a crowd!  I think the girls really enjoyed it: I know I did! (Sorry, no pics of that one...)
It was a great way to kind of "end" my summer, since the day after I fly home I head back to school for Duty Days.  I may be cutting it a bit close.  I fly in at 3 in the afternoon Wednesday, and Thursday morning I head to meetings with pretty heavy jet lag.
It'll be fiiiiine! :)
Right now, I'm sipping coffee while looking at my two small bags packed and ready to go by the door.  My phone is getting last-minute charged, and I keep second-guessing some of my clothing choices (bring that sweater?  Do I really need that extra pair of shoes?).
I know you're all dying to know what knitting I'm bringing with to Europe, and due to packability, length of time it'll take to make, and prettiness, this will be coming with me:

Which will hopefully turn in to this:

to become my European Ombre sweater for ME!  (I know, right?  Something for myself??  The Christmas Knitting Gods are going to strike me down for this in late November, I'm sure of it...)  I figured that all the complicated stuff for mittens and whatnot would take up about the same amount of space as a lace-weight cardigan, and since this is my vacation, why shouldn't I knit something for myself? :)
I did download the Blogging app, so I'll hopefully be able to post pictures on here as I go, otherwise you can follow my Instagram for (hopefully) up-to-date pics on where I'm at.
In about an hour, my friend is arriving to bring me to the Duluth Airport, and then I'm off to Europe for three whole weeks!  SUPER excited, and hopefully you'll hear from me soon!
Here's a picture of Albert in his kitty condo to leave you with a smile (since I know it makes me smile):

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heat Wave

It got really really hot a couple of days ago here.
Hot to the point that Albert looked like he was melting, limbs everywhere in the air.
Hot enough that I had to water our plants a few times a day because the soil was so dried up.  I'm going to be harvesting all the kale tomorrow to make some Mushroom and Kale Stroganoff (I've made this recipe before, and it's awesome...), since I won't exactly be around town for a bit.  More on that later. :)
And it's been hot to the point that I didn't even feel like knitting, though I did eek a little out on the Onward shawl.
It's a really easy pattern to follow with pretty yarn, and I'm happy to chug away at it right now before it grows to 400 stitches per row (that'll be fun...) and I don't want to knit with gray.  
I did get a short walk in at the beach with a friend and her puppy yesterday morning, and other than that I've been working to get ready for my TRIP next week!  I leave on Tuesday for my 3-week European vacation, and I couldn't be more excited!  I'll be posting more on my packing and itinerary later this week as I finalize my list of things I'm bringing.  Don't worry- I'll be bringing some knitting with me. ;)
Just before the heat wave hit, I was able to put together a fun little gathering down in Canal Park of dancers.  The first performance of my little experiment dubbed "The Tap Project" was a complete success- enough so that one of my dancers (who performs in front of auditoriums full of people) half-whispered to me afterward, "I didn't know there were going to be so many people!" as tourists and friends stopped to watch.  
It's a lot of fun- I consider myself more of a "director" than a choreographer.  Groups of girls make up their own 8-counts, playing off each other, changing groups, going back and forth, and all together having a grand time!
At the end we all come together for a "Chorus", and finish at the same time with the same final 8-count.  Parents and even the head of my studio came down to cheer the girls on!  We're going to get in at least one more performance before I head off to Europe, and I'm hoping that these girls will do at least a couple more shows on their own.  
Well, here's hoping... :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reggae Fest and FO: Tapestry Mitts

Jury duty last week was exhausting.  I was picked on Tuesday, and we went right into testimony on Tuesday afternoon.  We heard testimony through Friday around noon, then the jury deliberated until around 7:30 pm on Friday evening.  It was a medical malpractice civil lawsuit, so it was emotionally charged as well as technical in the details.  I have to admit, I was exhausted when the whole thing was finally done.  I came home on Friday night, poured a glass of wine, and watched CSI while knitting and letting my brain ooze out of my ears a little.  It was a really interesting process, but boy am I glad I'm finished.
Scott's brother Andy and Andy's girlfriend Kim came up on Saturday and schlepped Scott and I down to Bayfront for Duluth's annual Reggae and World Music Festival, which ended up being a ton of fun, especially after 4 long days in the courtroom!

Kim is Jamaican, so she was really excited to eat the cultural food she doesn't get very often and see bands that she knew from back home.

I had Ox Tail with rice and beans and cabbage for dinner- so good, and not even too spicy!
Today started with errands- cleaning the apartment and doing a big grocery run- and besides a fun little bit of awesome later (I'll tell more about it next post), it's nice to spend a little time unwinding.  I even got to block one of my projects, and the hot weather today dried it up in no time!  There was enough time during jury deliberation and relaxing time this weekend to finally finish the Tapestry Mitts, and I couldn't be happier with the outcome!

Pattern: Endpaper Mitts by Eunny Jang (link goes to Ravelry page)
Yarn: Regia Angora Merino- gorgeous yarn, and I had a skein in white and a skein in purple (Ecru on the ball band).
Timeframe: June 26th - July 20th

Modifications: Well, the huge one is that I didn't use the colorchart from Eunny Jang's pattern.  Instead, I used the color chart from this project page instead!  Don't get me wrong- I love the original color chart.  I just think this particular pattern will be well-received when opened.

Worst Part: Nothing, really.  Quick project, no big snags, easy-to-follow directions.
Best Part: I love this yarn for colorwork.  It's incredibly soft, and the stitch definition is perfect.  It's not so sharp that you can see every single loop, but it doesn't fuzz together indistinguishably.
I'm hoping that this week (my last week before my big trip!) will see the finish of the Gobstopper Mitts and Sam's Christmas Deer hat, but maybe I'm getting greedy...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A List

It's been a really busy week.
But in a really, really good way.

#1- I went climbing- probably for the last time while she lives in Minnesota- with lady Val!

Val is moving to Boston come August 1st this year, which is really great for her but also really sad.  Luckily, we were able to get together for one last climb out at Palisade Head.  The weather was overcast but warm, which is perfect climbing weather!

Val is a fantastic partner to climb with, and I'm really going to miss her when she goes.  I'll just have to jump on a plane out to Massachusetts to visit her... and possibly go climbing out on the east coast while I'm at it!

#2- I made pesto.  From scratch.  From this awesome recipe.  And then I ate it on pasta for three days straight.  And I don't regret any of it.

It was SO GOOD.  I did make a tiny modification- while doubling the recipe, it called for 6 cloves of garlic.  I may have put 7.  Or 8.  I can't remember.  Things got fuzzy when the food processor was going and things were just flying in on their accord.  And though this is tough for me to admit- it may have been too much garlic.
As in, my first taste of it off the spoon made my eyes water.
But it was SOOO GOOD... so I didn't care. :)

#3- I started yet another knitting project- the Onward Shawl.

I can feel your eyes judging.  Yes, my yarn drawer is starting to get rather stuffed full, and yes, my ravelry page now has 6 WIP.  But I needed to start this because it's Christmas knitting, and we all know that starting a Christmas project in July is pertinent to Christmas knitting success.  Especially since I plan on doing one more full pattern repeat than called for, to make sure that this project is huge and gorgeous and worthy of the recipient.
So I'm being safe and starting it early enough that there are no excuses come December 24th at 11 pm with extra wine and chocolate and too much holly jolly.
Even though I really don't need another thing to knit, especially since my days are now full.
Why, you might ask?

#4- I was picked to serve on a jury.

I'm actually kind of excited to see how this whole process goes down, especially after being on my High School's Mock Trial team for 5 years, including being a captain my senior year (yes, I was indeed that cool).  Only two things stand in the way of making this whole jury experience fairly enjoyable.
a) No knitting in the courtroom.  These courtroom types have no idea what happens when a part of me can't move.  I will be bouncing off the walls now for 4 days with nothing for my hands to do.  I may have to tap my toes under my seat to make up for it.

oh, and the worst... the absolute worst...

b) No coffee in the courtroom.

Words cannot express my anguish at this time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Waiting for Duty

I spent most of my week with no plans, waiting to be called in for Jury Duty.
That didn't mean I didn't get to have fun, though!
About 4-5 years ago, my grad school friend Sara got married while I was on a climbing trip.  I wrote in her card (mailed from, I believe, Wyoming) that I "owed her a climb".  On Wednesday, after she contacted me and I found out I didn't have jury duty for the day, she decided she wanted to cash in on that climb!

It was waaaaaay too gorgeous to stay indoors, so I took a completely brand-new climber out to Shovel Point at Tettagouche State Park!

She was a little freaked about going over the edge the first time, but did a fantastic job on her first ever time out (real) rock climbing! :)  She got up a couple of climbs, enjoying the amazing views that Shovel offers.  One of the cool reasons to climb out there is that the climber lowers in from the top, and you climb directly over Lake Superior.  Pretty sweet, if you ask me. :)
I managed to even squeak in a couple of climbs, and we finished the day at Betty's Pies.

French Banana Creme = AWESOME.
The rest of the week has been a weird mixture of not actually planning anything, but trying to get a lot done when I find out my day is free.  I was able to spend a lot of time finishing the syllabus for both Comp I and Comp II next semester, and spent most of this morning finalizing the basic schedule for Comp I.

I think I went through 4 drafts before finally typing it in and printing it off to look for errors and where I need to change things.  I'm adding back in a Professional Writing Unit, which meant a fair amount of juggling.  While I love changing my Units and assignments around, it requires a fair amount of work- changing reading assignments, worksheets, homework, etc.  It's really cool though, and as a teacher it keeps me on my toes and lets me plan my classes exactly how I want them!
I've also been able to get down to the gym a couple of times to climb.  The weather has been spotty at times, including today.  Plus, as much as I prefer roped climbing over bouldering, I know that a few good sessions of bouldering at the gym is good for me.  Bleh.  :)

I'm trying to read more climbing lit, such as Maximum Climbing for mental strength and Freedom of the Hills to brush up on my technical skills.  It's sometimes difficult to read them, though- they make me just want to get out and climb, and I end up down at the climbing gym!
I also finished the first of the Tapestry Mitts, and promptly cast on for the second!

I love love LOVE how these are turning out!  I'm very loosely following the pattern for the Endpaper Mitts, though I'm using a different fair isle pattern that another knitter posted online.  I know I've been putting off all the Christmas Deer knitting I've been doing, but it's nice to have such immediate satisfaction with a project as gorgeous as this one.
This weekend- climbing with the ladies at Palisade tomorrow, and possible house and apartment hunting on Sunday.
Then Monday... back to calling and waiting...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Rainy 4th

Hidey Ho, all!  I was going to post yesterday, but the onslaught of 90 degree weather made me a useless blob on the floor of my apartment (especially after the unfortunate decision to do hot yoga in the morning and a 4 1/2 mile run- super super bad idea).  Today is much better- a breeze is coming through the front window, I'm 2 cups of coffee deep, and I'm motivated to get some school stuff, chores, and writing done today!

(My friend Jesse sizing up a chill 5.10 for warmup)
My weekend was pretty full of 4th festivities- I started it off by a day of climbing at Sandstone Quarry with some awesome people.  I didn't get on anything crazy hard; it mostly felt good just to get outside and climb in the sunshine again!  Sandstone has an entirely new set of problems that were bolted last fall as a part the Minnesota Climber Association's efforts to clean up the park and work with the city to buy more land.  There's a bunch of new climbs and even some hard open projects that hopefully I'll work on before I head overseas and possibly send this fall! (Hopefully... maybe... perhaps...)
Scott and I headed up north for the weekend of the 4th, and enjoyed the festivities put on by his hometown of Tofte!

(Scott's little cousin and my awesome friend Kim and I enjoying the Fish Fry and booths outside the Tofte Fire Department!)

(Scott's Dad's side all pose with significant others during the evening barbacue)
The only mildly unfortunate side was the next day- Scott and I were planning on taking his little cousins out climbing (much to the chagrin of their parents), but then this hit:

which made the decision for the rest of the day- most of the family left, and the rest of us all snuggled in for the evening with a movie and a bottle of wine.  Scott and his brother took the time to plan this year's crazy Boundary Waters trek:

Notice the crazy amount of maps laid out of the BWCA?  They're thinking of doing 120 miles in 8 days- starting way up in Canada and paddling all the way back to Sawbill in MN.  Holy goodness.  I suppose one of the reasons I like him is because he's a little crazy like that... :)
We headed back to Duluth on Sunday morning, and this drive was a little different than others...

Maeby was howling so much in her kennel that Scott decided to let her out, and she enjoyed over half of the drive down looking out the window and wandering between his lap and down by his feet!  I was a little nervous to let her out while I was driving, but she was incredibly well-behaved, and stopped yowling once she could see where she was going!  It was really cute to see her in Scott's lap with her paws on the window and looking curiously out. :)
I worked more on the Pangolin Cowl and the Tapestry Mitts over the weekend, but not enough progress was made to warrant any pictures.  Hopefully the two of those will finish quickly- I have SOOOO many projects going and ideas in my head that I need to finish the projects I'm working on before starting others!  (And I HAVE to be good about that, or I'm going to have like 9 WIP just floating around... ooooh boy...)
Onward for today- lots of things to do!  I'm on call for Jury Duty this week (blurgh) so I'm trying to get as much done on the days I'm not called in as possible.  The nice thing is that if I am called in, I have plenty of knitting to work on while waiting around the court house.  Then we'll see some real progress on these projects... :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Books Goal: Halfway Finished!

I'm at the halfway point of my reading goal for the year!  I wanted to read 40 books by the end of 2014, and I'm at the 20-books point.

One of the best outcomes of this goal so far has been a re-introduction to my local library.  When I get sucked in to a book, I generally blast through 200-300 pg books in a couple of days, so getting it from the library vs. buying it is a must both for my pocketbook and my already stuffed bookshelves.
If you're not interested in getting some book recommendations, feel free to skip the rest of this post, otherwise here are a few of my favorite books so far this year (in no particular order):


"The Godfather" by Mario Puzo
I haven't seen the movie, but this dark and intense narrative was a lot of fun to read.  It was my first book of 2014, finished on the plane ride back from visiting my parents in Florida.  I haven't seen any of the movies yet, which is another reason why I think I enjoyed it so much.  Who doesn't like Italian Gangsters? :)  It was long enough to last an entire trip, but enough happened in the book that I stayed interested.  The only downside of this book is trying to track down the movie now... you'd think someone would own even the VHS of it...

"Annihilation" by Jeff Vandermeer
This book is the first in a trilogy, and it's one of the more intriguing books I've read this year.  I've been on a big post-apocalyptic kick for awhile now, and at least half of the ones I've read of the genre are pretty formulaic (or even just bad).  This one is completely different- it takes place in the future United States, but  it's pretty vague on a lot of the details about the outside world.  It instead focuses on "Area X" and a team of women that are venturing in to record data about the previous failed expeditions and the reason that Area X is quarantined.  It does a great job telling the story while keeping the reader in the dark about a lot of pertinent information.  The moment I finished it, I jumped online to put my name on the list for the second book, which apparently tells the story from a completely different perspective, and I'm pretty excited for it to come in.
If you like post-apocalyptic fiction, definitely give this one a shot.  It's completely different than anything I've read so far- in a good way. :)

"Child 44" by Tom Rob Smith
When the Olympic games took place in Russia, I sought out a fiction book written about the country.  This is one of two I got through, and definitely worth the read.  Despite the fact that it was 480 pages, I slammed through it in less than a week.  It's fast-paced, letting the reader see Russia behind the iron curtain while weaving in a horrific murder investigation in the process.  The descriptions of Stalin's Russia are unnerving, chilling, and really make you wonder how much if it is true to fact.  Of the murder-mystery books I've read so far, this is by far one of my favorite.


"The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance" by Laurie Garrett
After watching the movie Contagion, I did a little research on disease outbreaks and the unnerving truths of our vulnerability to plagues.  This book was at the top of every "to read" list about the topic, so I grabbed this 750-page behemoth from the library.  And it. was. AMAZING.  I was completely sucked in to the history of plagues and outbreaks, from Yellow Fever to Lassa to the upcoming possibility of super germs that defeat our modern antibiotics.  While it's not exactly a great topic to discuss with others all the time (Scott got very sick of hearing about the "disease of the day" that I would be excited to share with him), it's fascinating nonetheless.  If you're even mildly curious about the subject, READ IT.

"From the Dragon's Mouth: Ten True Stories that Unveil the Real China" by Ana Fuentes
This was another book that was triggered by the Olympic games back in February.  I realized that I didn't know a whole lot about China, and when this book showed up on the "New Arrival" shelf at the library, I thought it would be an intriguing introduction to a country that I really don't know much about.  The short-story format is the perfect way to show ten completely different facets of China- it had everything from a teenage social blogger to a migrant work living in a basement in Beijing.  Comparing one story to the next is part of the genius of this book, and Fuentes tells it in such an informative yet captivating manner that you're never bored.

"Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosch
I've read Allie Brosch's online comics before, and her simple drawings coupled with hilarious life situations have had me in tears before from laughing so hard (this story in particular had me barely breathing I was laughing so hard).  When she finally came out with a book, I was please to see that it contained some of my favorite comics as well as a whole bunch of brand new stories.  She does great telling funny stories alongside of tackling hard issues, like her own fight with depression.  All the stories are illustrated, and I had a great night reading through them.

Halfway through.
If you have any suggestions for me, let me know in the comments below!  Otherwise I'm plowing onward... :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

FO: Starfish Keychain

So, I know I was supposed to keep going on one of my (4) projects that are (almost) done.
I know that.
Unfortunately, it's easy to get sidetracked with other, prettier yarn and brand new projects.
Like starting these Tapestry Mitts.

I mean, I didn't mean to start them... but I already had the yarn, and it was flipping Angora Merino wool, so can you really blame me for casting on and knitting over half of the first mitt in the last two days?
And then I realized that I'm going up to Tofte for the 4th of July, where I'll see my good friend Kim, who requested a starfish keychain for her brand new set of keys (and car) the last time we were together.
So why not crank one out in a few hours with some tasty Three Irish Girls yarn (the very same extra yarn I'm using for the Gobstopper mitts)?
No big deal... ;)

Pattern: Sea Star from Hansi Singh's book Amigurumi Knits (link goes to Ravelry page)
Yarn: Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock in colorway "Everlasting Gobstopper"
Needle: size 2 bamboo DPN
Timeframe: The afternoon of June 29th- about 4-5 episodes of "The Office"

Mods: Besides knitting the pattern in much smaller needles and yarn than asked for, nothing.
Worst Part: Picking up all the stitches to connect the bottom of the starfish to the top.  Just the worst.
Best Part: The colors!
I think I (may) have all my wandering out of my system.  I think I can go back to the other projects and start to finish them up.
I do feel a tad bit guilty about completely ignoring them.
And even if I don't hold myself accountable...

I know that cats can see me and judge me for casting on when they know I have other projects.
Because if they don't hold me accountable, no one will... ;)