resolutions

Knitting ones, at least.

  1. Knit from stash only (with the exception of one baby cardigan & possibly some smaller design-works-in-development items).
  2. Finish some long-languishing projects: the boy’s blanket (now overdue for his 21st – will get done for his 22nd); the semaphore socks for Mr. Booties (they’ll be for his birthday).
  3. Tidy up my queue on Ravelry – delete things that I really won’t knit any time soon (make sure they’re favourited so I can find them easily again) & resort the list so that items made from stash that I really want are at the top of the queue.
  4. Work on some designs: some new booties, and work on the patterns for Hugs & Kisses / Manly Hugs mitts and socks.
  5. Don’t (mentally) beat myself up if I don’t get everything done that I’ve planned (this one goes for life in general, too!).

As a start, I’ve swatched for my Harvest Moon cardigan.  Of course, my gauge isn’t right, so I’ll need to plan accordingly!

harvest moon cardigan gauge swatch

The Cascade Eco Duo – an alpaca merino blend – is like fairy hair. Or unicorn mane. Or something else out of this world.  I don’t even mind the thought of doing miles of stocking stitch in it.

priorities

Well, they certainly did change a bit in the last few months to a year.  I started a new job, Mr. Booties started a new job, child #1 started a new job and moved, and child #2 quit a job and had some other “learning to be an adult” adventures.

Blogging and knitting definitely suffered as a result.

As far as knitting for this year … I had some grand plans.  Suffice it to say that I’ve scaled those back to manageable levels.  A few baby gifts, a few small things for myself (maybe a cardigan or two) and some gifts for friends in Australia where we’re headed in August for two weeks.  I’ll post separately with an update on projects finished, underway, and planned.

The design front came to a grinding halt too.  Plans for mitts, socks, and some new booties are all on hold.  Hopefully, I’ll have time to work on those through the winter.  I am planning a quick and easy sport-weight scarf to keep me occupied while we’re in Australia.  We’ll see.

Work was wonderful – a very rewarding first year.  The very busy second half of the year was made even busier by the decision to renovate the entire first floor of the library building this summer.  Quite a few projects I had planned were put on the back-burner due to the need to pack, weed, and redistribute furniture in the last month or so of the school year.  I’m looking forward, this summer, to working on some of those projects and to getting workflows and procedures figured out for them.  I do hope next year is a little more settled, but with a newly renovated space, another new librarian coming on board, and my review/evaluation in the fall it will probably just be a different kind of chaos. ;)

work stuff

This is the box with the most pressing stuff in it, packed from my office (which is being demolished) at the end of the year.  The big binder is my new “keep it all in one place” to-do/action list and I hope to get some of the peskier little messes out of the way this summer.

 

paper(less?)

I tried really, really hard in grad school to go paperless.  I played around with various pdf readers to try highlighting and adding notes (Foxit Reader was the best free one I found).  I’ve tried to use my Google calendar and not carry a planner around.  I’ve used Remember the Milk as an electronic to-do list.

I. Fail. At. Paperless.

Apparently, I just can’t live without paper.  I read better when something is printed and in my hand.  I continued to make endless to-do, and other, lists on sticky notes throughout my flirtation with a paperless existence.

My new obsession with organization and paper … DIY Planner.  I love that I can choose custom pages for a planner I create myself!  Using one of these Avery “Mini” binders (5 1/2 by 8 1/2″) from Staples, I just photocopy the calendar pages of my choice on regular letter size paper, cut in half, and hole punch (with a bit of trial and error to get the punches in the right position).  You can also buy little dividers for them and I found quad-ruled graph paper refills too (for some reason I take better notes on graph paper – it must appeal to my ridiculous sense of order …).

This size is what DIY Planner calls “Classic” size pages and there are templates for a million different things including to-do lists, bank registers, diary pages, diy pockets, etc., etc.  I can keep refining how I assemble my planner and I’m not spending a fortune on Day-Timer or Franklin Covey pre-printed pages.

Right now, I’m perfectly happy with my cheery purple plastic Avery binder.  If I get a job sometime soon, I think I’ll treat myself to a nice leather version.  I’ll certainly continue to create my own inserts though.

t-town

houndstooth ribbonIt’s hard to express how saddened I am by the devastation in Tuscaloosa.  For a place I’ve only been to (physically) once, I feel a very strong connection.

My heart goes out to all the UA SLIS people affected … faculty, staff, alumni, students.

From this distance there doesn’t seem to be too much to do to help tangibly other than to donate money, so that’s what I’ll do.  Apart from an initial cash donation, I’m planning on donating the proceeds of all my pattern sales from now until August 6 (graduation for the spring semester has been postponed until then).  You can buy patterns directly from Ravelry if you’re a member, or you can buy them from my individual booties pattern pages here at the handknit librarian.

In true librarian fashion, resources for help and information are offered in typically well-organized ways:

T-Town Never Down t-shirt

T-Town Never Down t-shirt

The University of Alabama has suspended all classes and activities, cancelled finals and postponed May graduation until the summer ceremony on August 6.  Professors seem to be going out of their way to ensure that no student is penalized in any way by the catastrophic events of April 27.

carolinas part 2

What would a vacation be without some knitting?  Yes, I’ll admit it, I packed my knitting before anything else.  Knowing that I’d have six or seven days in the car was a good motivation!

Project 1: finish Zach’s basic ribbed socks.  This pattern from Drops has been translated really badly, so I just used my basic cuff-down sock pattern-fu and figured it out for myself.  The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll (mine is old enough to still be called Essential) in Carbon Twist.  Nice to knit with, soft in the hand, but it splits very easily.  Also, the skeins must be really out of whack as I knit one whole sock (with a bit left over) from one skein, but only got to the beginning of the toe on the second sock.  Grrr.  I hate being unable to finish something as planned!  Luckily, I have heaps of this yarn as I bought it to do the edging on both the kids’ sock-yarn blankets. Now, all I have to do is find it in the house somewhere.  ;)

zach's easy ribbed socks

Project 2: TATU (Try-a-toe-up) socks.  I’ve done toe-up socks before, but I was looking for a good, easy, fairly vanilla pattern for toe-ups and this one certainly fits the bill.  It’s also written for sport-weight yarn on US 3s so they really moved along.  They just need the ends woven in and a quick wash and they’re done (for me)!

tatu easy toe-up socks

Project 3: Riley.  My god-daughter will be visiting the US from Australia in April/May with her husband and daughter (my great-god-daughter ;)) and we’ll be catching up with them in either Boston or NYC, work schedules permitting.  I’d like to have something summery but not too light-weight for the baby (Tabitha) to wear as necessary while here, but to grow into for the Australian spring and summer.  I recently made a baby kimono and hat from this cotton/microfiber blend and I loved the finished garment in terms of drape, texture and usability.  I’m knitting a pattern from Nashua Handknits and am going out on a limb a little bit in terms of size.  If I’ve done the knitting maths correctly (and there could always be a first time ;)), knitting the 12-month size with this yarn and US size 5 needles should result in an 18-month-ish size.  Fingers crossed!

Riley baby cardigan in progress

Riley baby cardigan in progress

Project 4: Custom Zooming. Several months ago, I experimented with a pattern (Zoom) to make a cotton cover for the Swiffer sweeper.  I’m pretty sick of throwing away endless pieces of paper (Swiffer cloths – both wet and dry) so I’d like to find a more sustainable solution.  I played around with the pattern and customized it to fit our particular Swiffer.  It works pretty well on dry floors and really well wet (although I’m yet to find an easy and mess-free way to get it wet enough but “wrung-out” enough for mopping floors).

zoom swiffer cover

Luna with Zoom

Project 5: Dishcloth.  Have I, perhaps, been on another planet?  Growing up, I was oblivious of the whole knitted dishcloth phenomenon.  Maybe we didn’t have it in Australia? (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong?)  Anyway, I’ll admit to being a Sugar’n Cream snob for many years …  now you can call me a convert!  Between the Swiffer Zooms and my newly discovered obsession for knitting dishcloths in the car … beware A.C. Moore!  I tried out my first ever dishcloth today, and I’m in love.   I can totally see putting out a new one of these every day and washing them in the weekly old towels/rags/zoom/dishcloth hot+bleach wash (we have one of the old Maytag Neptune front loaders with the inherent mold problems, and I’m always looking for an excuse to run a hot wash with bleach!).

dishcloth

First ever dishcloth

dishcloths

I'm hooked!

The vacation was a complete knitting success, especially as we finished our trip staying in a B&B where the host(ess) was a knitter and we compared knitting war stories over breakfast.

granola

granola

I struggle to eat breakfast in the morning.

In my teens, I rarely ate breakfast in the morning, with no apparent adverse effects. Through my twenties I had a job which provided a hot breakfast most days (sometimes flights were just too short for all the crew to eat).  In my thirties, I was lucky enough to work part-time, in the afternoons, so I had somewhat leisurely mornings after I got the kids off to school. More recently, I’ve had a job which starts at 7:00am.  This is really a decidedly uncivilized hour and it’s all I can do to manage a cup of coffee before I leave the house at 6:40.

I was doing okay with a Kashi granola bar, and, occasionally, a piece of fruit mid-morning, but felt I wasn’t getting a really good breakfast.  A month or so ago, reading a discussion forum post on Ravelry, I stumbled across a recipe for homemade granola.  This is what we called muesli when I was growing up and it was eaten exclusively with milk, like cereal.  The posters on the discussion thread were offering suggestions like eating it with yogurt and fruit ….

Epiphany!  I played around with the granola recipe until I had something that I liked and that was super-easy to make.

I’m not a huge flavoured yogurt fan, but I don’t particularly care for plain yogurt either. I’ve now developed a method for a fool-proof, time-(mostly)insensitive, no-need-for-refrigeration, healthy breakfast:

  • Use a 2 cup, sealable container
  • Add 1/4 cup (or so) of frozen fruit (blackberries are my favourite and freeze extremely well)
  • Add 1 cup plain yogurt (don’t use non-fat – it has an icky texture imho)
  • Pack 1/2 cup homemade granola separately in a sealed container
  • When time allows, add granola to just stirred yogurt and fruit and mix well
  • Looks pretty awful – tastes great!

Granola recipe:

  • 2 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups mixed nuts & seeds (sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, etc.)
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup raisins & chopped dried fruit
  • Warm honey & vanilla in 1 cup pyrex jug in microwave for 1 minute.
  • Mix all dry ingredients (except the raisins & dried fruit) in a large bowl.
  • Add the warmed honey/vanilla mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Spread mixture over a rimmed, nonstick baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 mins at 300F.
  • Remove from oven and add raisins & dried fruit.
  • Cool and store in a sealed container in the fridge.

I started out being able to make this about once every two to three weeks, but then The Boy found it in the fridge.  Now I make it at least once a week.  ;)

carolinas part 1

So, to put it rather crassly, we went retirement town shopping in the Carolinas (and Tennessee).  We’re nowhere near ready to retire yet – at least, I’m not – but it’s looking like the right time to buy something.  The plan is to buy a small house in or near a nice town/small city and install my parents as caretaker-tenants.  We wanted to look at several towns, cities, and areas I’d determined in advance.  We were concentrating on the north central and northwest of North Carolina, the far eastern corner of Tennessee, then the western part of South Carolina.  Criteria included such things as proximity to arts, culture, medical care, shopping, restaurants, a major airport, weather (summer and winter) etc.  Oh, yeah, and “Where’s the local public library?”  ;)

Of course, I spent a massive amount of time researching this.  I found a wiki with icons you can use in Google Maps’ “My Maps” feature.  I had entirely too much fun plotting destinations and adding points of interest in my map of the Carolinas.

We covered about 2,400 miles in 6 days.  About 1,600 of that was driving to and from our starting and ending points, so we did about 800 miles over the other 4 days.  Destination/accommodation/food impressions:

  1. Roanoke, VA: wasn’t initially on the list as we just stayed here overnight to break our trip down, but it looks like a small city having a cool revitalization going on.  We had a fantastic dinner at the Horizon Bar & Grill. We weren’t so thrilled with our accommodation.  From the road, using Expedia, I booked us into the Hotel Roanoke, a Hilton Doubletree property.  We need to make four stays a year at a Hilton hotel (some convoluted membership requirement with Hilton Honors), so we thought “what the heck – let’s stay at a nice hotel …”  Nice looking hotel, but but it was noisy, the TV remote didn’t work, the phone only worked intermittently (and not in the middle of the night with a drunken idiot shouting outside our door, grrr) and the shower was like trying to get clean under a dribbling faucet.  George thought I was having some kind of mental breakdown in there and came to investigate my hysterical laughter.  The air-conditioning sounded like a 747 taking off, so woke us up every time it came on, and then there was the water dripping out of the vent …  NOT recommended!
  2. Statesville, NC: nice little town, but a little too quiet and too small for our tastes.  We stayed in a lovely B&B, The Kerr House, with great and informative hosts Pam & John Algiere.  We actually ended up having (an unplanned but nice) dinner with them as we were all at the same restaurant, Pellegrino’s Trattoria and they invited us to sit with them.  We would definitely stay at this B&B again if we were in the area.  It was clean, comfortable and breakfast was great!
  3. Davidson, NC: Lovely little college town, but a little too small for us.  Very green (in all senses of the word) and very tidy (possibly *too* tidy … vague Stepford Wives overtones to me).
  4. Assorted towns and small cities in Tennessee (including Kingsport, Bristol, and Johnson Ciy): very pretty, but a little one-dimensional for our tastes.  Getting to this area included the most hair-raising drive we’ve ever done: 24+ miles of mountain switchbacks with a grand total of about 24 feet of guardrail protecting the unwary from plummeting to their deaths.  Mountain City, TN to Bristol, TN through the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachians on Route 34/421.  Not for the faint-hearted (or those with motion sickness).  We stayed in Rogersville at the Hale Springs Inn.  It should have been one of the highlights of our trip (it was the most expensive place we stayed).  While absolutely beautiful, the unsettling experience of staying in an unstaffed inn overnight without having been given an after-hours number (The Shining, anyone?), having to track down the source of a loud alarm in the middle of the night (an alarm clock in a room on another floor, as we discovered eventually), and no-one showing up in the morning to do breakfast (we left without breakfast after waiting around 45 minutes waiting to see if someone would show up) spoiled the stay entirely.  NOT recommended.  Management’s offer of a free couples massage in the in-house spa on our next visit to make up for service failure is not adequate and I will be making sure to (fairly but honestly) review our stay everywhere I can.
  5. Asheville, NC: I think I’m in love.  I’d live here in a heartbeat.  Asheville has everything we’re looking for and more.  This was our favourite place from the whole trip.
  6. Hendersonville, NC: a definite second-place contender.  George describes this lovely little town just south of Asheville as “Asheville for old people.”  I loved this place and it definitely warrants another look.
  7. Greenville, SC: we liked this a lot, but not as much as Hendersonville and Asheville.  Stayed in a nice B&B, Pettigru Place.  George thought downtown was a little too tidy – “a little Disney Worldish.”  I am discovering that we like a little vibrancy and maybe even a little grit in our “dream” retirement destination.
  8. Anderson, SC: Lovely town which probably has everything we could want but we think it would be way too hot for way too long in the summer.  Unfortunate – I had high hopes for this one.
  9. Columbia, SC: never really on the list as it was just a convenient place to stay.  It’s also not going to be on the list as it’s reputed to be the hottest place in South Carolina.  A pity really, as we really liked it!  We stayed at a fantastic boutique hotel/inn: The Inn at Claussen’s.  It’s in a renovated bakery and was the perfect combination of relatively cheap and very comfortable.  We had a really fantastic meal right next door at Mr. Friendly’s.
  10. Rock Hill, SC: we stopped here for a great lunch (at Citizen Corners).  Proximity to Charlotte (see point #11) make this worth a second look.
  11. Matthews/Charlotte, NC: This was really only going to be a convenient last port of call before tackling the drive home, but we ended up really liking it and are giving the Charlotte area some serious consideration.  Our stay at 803 Elizabeth Lane B&B was one of the cheapest, most low-key, and most pleasant of the whole trip.  We’ll definitely stay there again.  The hosts, Martha and Will, were perfect and George was completely reinvigorated by roaming around their fabulous 5-acre gardens and yard and talking gardening and climate with Will.  Martha volunteers at the local public library and knits!  :)  We had possibly the best meal of the trip at Sante, tucked away in the main street of historic downtown Matthews.

So, much food for thought.  We are relieved to have found several areas that we really like and are looking forward to making another trip to see them in more detail.  On to further research!

welcome luna

Meet Luna:

luna the catShe’s petite, affectionate, playful, and a tiny bit aggressive (we’re working on that).

luna and phoebeShe came from the Connecticut Cat Connection.  Nice people – lots of lovely cats.  Go get one!

She had apparently never seen stairs before.  Oh, and she loves lavender …

lavender lunaShe also loves to stretch out to full length on your outstretched legs.

lap lunaDouble bonus!  I finally have a cat that will sit in my lap, and because she does this facing away from me, I can still knit!

the calm …

… before the (next) storm.

icicle and back yard

The soundtrack to this picture (taken yesterday before the snow started falling again) is people in the neighbourhood frantically raking and shoveling off their roofs* before the next foot or more arrives and the Sisyphean snow removal starts all over again.

Yarn, if you get enough of it, can totally act as house insulation, helping to cool your house in summer and hold in heat during the winter. It’s almost irresponsible, in the face of global climate change, not to have a stash of yarn. — Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot), Knitting Rules!, 2006

*”Roofs” must be American English.  I would have put “rooves,” but WordPress spellcheck didn’t like it.  I’m valiantly ignoring the fact that it doesn’t like “neighbourhood” either.