Friday, January 31, 2014

Healing Isle Mittens

I'm quite pleased with the results of my latest knitting project: a pair of mittens, modeled after a scene from my novel.

The waves are the only part that I used a pattern for; everything else (including the general mitten shape) were my creation. I'm especially pleased with the turtle and the mountain skyline.

I nearly ran out of yellow, but found another ball of it in my stash. (Hooray stash!) There were so many ends to weave in when all was said and done, but it was worth it. As these are acrylic, they're not the warmest mittens ever, but they will do for now. I've decided that I love making mittens, so it won't be long before I make myself another pair in wool.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Starry, Starry Knitting Bag

My sewing machine has been repaired (for the low, low price of $80, almost three times what I paid for it), and after a little practice, I've gotten it humming along quite well. I haven't sewn since early high school or so, and now that I'm back at it, it's something I've missed.

I recently brought my old sewing kit back from my mom's basement, where most of my childhood is living, and found some great sun-and-moon cloth in it that I was saving for a pillow. I realized it would make a great knitting bag, replacing the old one, which I used for about four years and is now stained and has frayed handles. But I loved the style of that old bag, so I decided to model the new after the old: reversible, with long handles. (Meaning I had no pattern to follow, just an old bag.)

It worked out pretty well.

See where the bag is shiny? It's metallic! The handle fabric was snatched
from between the pillow panels.

Inside cloth came from Stitcher's Crossing and was exactly what I was looking for (metallic again)!

My mistakes were tiny: I ran out of bobbin thread while stitching the top of the bag (the only place where the thread shows, of course), and the inside bag was about a centimeter too big to fit inside perfectly. For my first sewing project in more than 10 years, I can live with that.

Next up: a T-shirt quilt. I foresee a long and happy career for this machine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Penguin Escapades, Part I: A Letter to the Henry Vilas Zoo

Dear Henry Vilas Zoo,

I have made a personal goal in my life to pet a penguin sometime before my next birthday, in October. I'm sure you are all familiar with the drive that comes with a personal goal like that - after all, you did have to save up for a giraffe, and those guys can't be cheap.

Allow me to describe to you in detail why allowing me to pet one of your poofy Antarctic critters is in everyone's best interests. (I would go for four-part harmonies here, but this is not Alice's Restaurant and I am definitely not Arlo Guthrie. Sorry to disappoint.)

1. There's a rumor going around that penguins are not soft creatures - they are actually so sharp and solid that you could cut your hand on their dagger-like feathers. I cannot abide this kind of slander and intend to prove to the world that penguins are less like rocks and more like hot water bottles. This is first-rate journalism, I tell you.

2. Remember the movie Madagascar?

I believe that having watched it makes me Wisconsin's preeminent expert on penguin trickery and subterfuge. Meeting your frigid captives will allow me to properly gauge whether you're likely to have mutiny on your hands in the coming year. If so, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that will keep them docile and comforted.

3. I am a master of camouflage. The penguins won't even suspect there is an outsider in their midst.

Along with the brilliantly convincing points mentioned above, I would be happy to donate an agreed-upon sum to make our arrangement even more mutually beneficial. That's like getting the free thing they throw in for you on TV during infomercials, except a donation is way more exciting than a squeeze bottle or an extra Snuggie. I'd also be glad to detail my penguin petting escapade on my blog in order to promote the zoo and provide you with some free advertising. (In the movies, no one says no to free advertising.)

I eagerly await your delightful response, which is sure to be a resounding yes. After all, no one wants a penguin mutiny. I promise you.

With penguin-loving hugs,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

UFO Sunset

For the life of me, I can't remember why there are little sparkly things on the left side of this shot. The logical answer is they're the Christmas lights, reflecting on the window. But we don't have lights hung in that pattern. Therefore, I have taken a picture of UFOs at sunset, which is a first for me. As far as I know.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Maternity/Paternity Photo Shoot

I've been trying to get back into photography lately. It's always been a hobby, but I did more with it back in high school and college. Part of that means having subjects to photograph, and lucky for me, friends Joe and Kaelin (for whom I made this) agreed to have some pre-baby pictures taken. Also lucky for me, they will soon have a little one who will be an unwilling subject of my attempts at artistry for years to come (until he can walk, anyway). Click to view the larger images.

I don't care how cliche this pose is; it's a good picture.

'Tude. They has it.


They'll be glad this picture is handy when he first asks, "Where did I come from?"

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bouncing Blue Baby Blanket

I made a beautiful baby blanket, and I decided this is how I'm making all my blankets from now on.

I used Tatamy Tweed worsted-weight yarn, which is 40% cotton and 60% acrylic - nice and soft, with a lower likelihood of shrinking. Starting from the corner, I made one central cable and added a new stitch every time I started to get bored. It kept me entertained, let me practice cables, and went pretty quickly on size 8 needles.

I love this yarn, too. There are little flecks of color scattered throughout, so while the main blanket is in blue, there is also yellow and red and green in there. When the little one is old enough to get lost in little details, I imagine this being a delight for him.

The border is a simple single-chain crochet. I had planned to incorporate the dark grey into the blanket more, but after one row of it, I saw that it was far too dark. I like it as part of the border, though.

The light blue corner has a special purpose: once Joe and Kaelin are ready to announce the wee one's name, I'm going to embroider his initials there. (It's totally not because I ran out of the teal yarn. Nope.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Glory of the Kayak

Warning: Mild blasphemy ahead. Though I maintain that God likes a good laugh.

At the other end of our not-too-long apartment building, in the window of a dwelling we've never seen from within, stood a yellow kayak.

The lights in this window were always on. A yellow substance was always there, leaning against the window and backlit in all its glory, a glowing blob of wonder for all on the street to see.

Dear Kayak, we did not know what you were at first. You were formless and unfamiliar. But in time, we recognized your shape and magnificence.

We began to say hello to it every night when we came home as we pulled in the driveway. Cries of "Hello, Kayak" and "Oh my God, there it is!" echoed through the car. We were in awe of its golden splendor and its eternal watchfulness on the brief road below.

One day, it was gone. A stark white wall was all that shone in that window up above.

We were shocked. Had the kayak left us for other climes, more worthy subjects? Was it out performing water-based miracles in turbulent rivers?

Days passed. We began to wonder if it would ever return. Had our Kayak abandoned us? But we kept our faith, and we were rewarded. One day, in the parking lot, there appeared an SUV. Atop it, held tightly by the bungee cords of love and hope, was the yellow kayak.

There was much rejoicing. And after a day or two of intense meditation atop the vehicle, the kayak resumed its rightful place in the window - albeit in a different corner of the room.

Kayak, by your light, we know we've come home.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Frozen Sky

This morning, it is -15F. The wind chill is -35. I am focused on more important things at the moment, and creativity through language (at least, as crafted by me) seems unimportant, trivial. I've been fighting some kind of illness for about a week. My month-old nephew is in the hospital. Smaller things, like the apartment still being a mess from Christmas, add to the distractedness. 

I'm going to be somewhat idiotic and brave the cold today. So you get sunsets. They're filler, but they're good filler. Stay warm, everyone.

Friday, January 3, 2014


From the bedroom as he's getting ready, I hear Spousal Unit yell, "Mah mouth is bleedin', Bert!" This makes me smile.

Allow me to explain.

A few nights ago, we watched It's a Wonderful Life. I had hot buttered rum for the first time, which I loved (needs more butter). At the end of the movie, George first realizes that he's back in his own reality when he notices his mouth is bleeding, and Jimmy Stewart is such a delightful actor that Spousal Unit couldn't help wanting to imitate the way he said that line.

That line epitomizes the feel of the whole movie, in some ways. George is happy to know his mouth is bleeding because he knows he's living the life he's supposed to be; in the midst of it all, he's once again surrounded by the blessings and troubles that make up his own life, and he knows the blessings outweigh the troubles.

That's a great movie for when you're fighting depression. Even when I'm not depressed, that movie makes me cry because it's so relatable. Hearing Spousal Unit yell, "Mah mouth is bleedin'!" makes me think not only of the movie, but also of the weird little blessings in my own life.

I sit here in front of my light therapy box, and I'm grateful that my depression is mild enough to treat at home, without medication.

Our apartment is a mess. I'm grateful that we're able to afford all the useless but delightful things strewn about, grateful for the pile of post-Christmas cardboard that needs to go out.

The patio windows are absolutely filthy, and I can't do anything about it about it because they're frozen shut. But I'm grateful to be sheltered from the -11 temperatures outside.

We have so many freakin' plants, and I'm tired of watering them all. But they're all representative of great things: planters for Spousal Unit and I after being hired from our temp jobs. Gifts from family. And the twigs sticking out of planters on the deck, buried in snow because I couldn't clear them away in time, mean that spring really will come again. It always has.

And there will always be sunrises.

P.S. Spousal Unit says he thinks the light is helping. I think it is, too.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Out With the Old (which was wonderful)

In December, I had not one, but two Christmases ...

Baked dozens and dozens of cookies ...

Visited my wonderful grandparents ...

And other family ...

Got to meet my nephew ...

... And watched my sister graduate.

It was a lovely way to end the year. I have high expectations for 2014, which is going to beat the pants off of 2013 - and if it doesn't, I will beat the pants off of 2014.
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