Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One last dispatch from 2008

I'm writing this from a Starbucks in Texas, because my parents are still on dialup and one whole week without internet access was making me just a leeetle bit crazy.
After passing my exam not quite two weeks ago, I promptly went to sleep, got snowed in by a rogue snowstorm, and headed home to Houston, where temperatures have ranged from the low 30s to the 70s. It is really hard to pack for this kind of weather, but since I haven't worn a coat since I got here, I can't complain too much.
I've very much enjoyed being home for a while. It's always good to catch up with family and friends, and it was sort of reassuring to see that while there's still plenty of clean up from Ike left to do, Houston is well on its way back to something resembling normal. The marina near our house has boats where boats shouldn't be (the parking lot, the median by the road, etc.) and there are plenty of blue tarps dotting the roofs around here, but things look good overall. It's very relaxing to be home. I've been catching up on my sleeping, reading, and knitting, and have been trying out my mom's big Christmas present -- a Kitchen-Aid mixer (I'm a little jealous, but there's no way I could fit one in my apartment's kitchen, so I'm just mixing everything in sight while I'm here instead.)
Christmas was really nice. I am now well-armed with a variety of fun books, as opposed to books for my exams, and am doing my best to read as much as I can before I go back to New York and have to start studying again. I'm supposed to squeeze two exams in this next semester. Blech. I want to try and keep up with making a reading list this year. It may look like I slacked off on the list this year, but actually I just never got much of a chance to read for fun after about August or so.
I've also been knitting like a madwoman, mostly on my dad's socks, which I am determined to finish before I head back east on Saturday. I've currently got one-and-a-half socks and see no reason why I can't finish them before the end of the year.
And since the baby in question has made her appearance, I thought I'd share the baby gift I knit for my friend S's little girl.
Baby gift
That's a Tender Blankie (Thanks Wife, Mom, Knitter for alerting me to this pattern), a baby hat from the first Stitch n' Bitch book, and baby ballet slippers that I made up from a bunch of different baby shoe designs. I'll try and get the details up on Ravelry when I get back to New York. Here's a closeup of the shoes.
Ballet Slippers
I think they turned out pretty well.
Well, I have to leave the coffee shop (and their speedy internet access) to go pick up my mom so we can go do our part to revitalize the economy. I don't expect that I'll get back online much until I get back to New York, so I'll close by wishing everyone a very happy new year. I, for one, will be glad to see the end of 2008.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas to Me!

I passed the exam.

I can't tell you how relieved I was the minute they told me. I didn't know how much stress I was carrying around until it was gone. It feels so nice to be free of it all, just for a day or two. It's a little hard to stop smiling.

I took the written exam on Tuesday and had my oral this afternoon. The written part was every bit as excruciating as I had thought it would be. I thought three hours would be a long time, but it seemed to go by so quickly and before I knew it I was handing in my paper. I managed to churn out 8 double-spaced pages of my (more or less coherent) thoughts on the progression of geographic influences on the design and production of American decorative arts from 1600 to 1900. I stumbled home (through the snow!) ate some dinner and tried (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep.

Today during the oral part, my professors had a few questions about what I'd written, and then we moved on to the slides. They put up pictures of different objects and I had to talk about them. There were a few where I didn't quite get everything (despite my best efforts, I still have no real idea of how clocks work), but I did pretty well on that part overall. And in a stroke of incredible luck, several things that were in the last few books I read ended up being on the exam. I'm so glad I crammed them in. And cramming is what it felt like -- I really did feel like I had run out of room in my brain. I don't know how I'm going to be able to do this two more times.
So we chatted about andirons and quilts and retablos and Louis Comfort Tiffany's dining room, and then it was over!

And luckily for me, the school holiday party was this evening. It's almost like they threw it just for me. I won't lie, it was really, really nice to get congratulated by everyone. This has felt like a pretty lonely endeavor sometimes, so it was nice to have a social event to cap it off.
Now I'm home in my pjs, cup of cocoa in hand, and I just feel so relaxed. Tonight will be the first night in weeks that I haven't gone to bed worrying about this thing. And tomorrow, I'm going to the library to clear all the books for my exam off of my shelf. That will be a very cathartic experience.

Now that I'm temporarily sane again, hopefully I can be a little more present here on this blog, and in the comments of all of yours. Who knows, I might even show off a little knitting in the days to come. (Wouldn't that be a shock!)

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's Alive! (Post-Thanksgiving Edition)

Just a quick note to say that studying for my qualifying exam has not killed me yet. I am alive and mostly well (except for a cold -- the third this fall), and hope to see the light sometime after December 16, which is the date of the big exam (both the written, and, hopefully, the oral). A date that is approaching a little too rapidly for my tastes. I'm taking my first subject field in American Decorative Arts, 1600-1900, which is an area I have been working on for the last eight years. It's not the material itself that is the problem, it's trying to decide which bits are worth remembering that is worrisome. I am encouraged by the fact that very little of the material is new to me, and also by the fact that my bullshitting improvisational skills are pretty considerable.

I don't think I'll be around much until then, but I hope I'll be back with good news. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Did.

We sure did.

I'd love to write something profound, something poignant, something meaningful. But I'm still crying. It's like every Christmas ever rolled into one beautiful night. I know that Obama's no magician -- there's still so much to fix, so much to do. But for the first time in a long time, politically speaking, I feel so hopeful.

Sometimes watching history is wonderful. It was tonight.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thank you Susan B. Anthony!

I headed out to the polling place before work this morning. There was more of a crowd than there was for the primaries, but not that many people overall. I think that there are many immigrants in my neighborhood, so I am not sure how many of them can vote. Still, it felt good to do my civic duty. (Even though I didn't get a sticker. I like the stickers.)

Here in New York we have the old fashioned machines with big levers. I like them much more than the computers we had in Texas. Pulling the lever is fun. (and also, these machines are apparently harder to mess with than the computerized version).

I have always lived in states that go pretty solidly red or blue, so on the national scale, I've never felt much like my vote was all that critical (the local scale is a whole 'nother story, though), but I've always been excited about voting and have voted in all the major and many of the minor elections since. I remember how angry I got in grade school when I learned that women hadn't always been allowed to vote. It seemed (it was) so incredibly unfair. I'd like to think that had I been alive in the nineteen-teens and earlier, I would have been out on the front lines with the suffragists. So for Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Pankhursts, Carrie Chapman Catt, and all those other women (and men) whose names and faces aren't as famous --

thanks for giving me the right to say:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

To tide you over...

Yes, I'm still alive.
No, grad school hasn't beaten me yet, though it's been close.
Yes, I have been sick three times so far this fall.
No, I don't think it's fair either.
Yes, I did get approved to take all my field exams.
No, I haven't freaked out about it (yet.)
Yes, I have created my first exam bibliography.
No, I don't think there's any way I can read all those books by the beginning of December either.
Yes, I had a lovely time when my parents came to visit, even though I had to stay up until 2 a.m. most nights in order to get my work done.
No, that "easy" extra research project I took on isn't done yet, largely because they keep adding more work to it. They also keep adding more pay to the project, so I'm not that upset, though I look forward to being done with the whole thing by the end of the weekend.
Yes, I have been knitting. Not much, but it's been keeping me sane-ish.
No, I'm not going to Rhinebeck (Wahhh!). But while I am sad, my wallet is okay with it. (I also made up for it with a MMMMalabrigo purchase last week)

I'll try to update in more detail soon. But until then, here's something I read today and was utterly charmed by. I'm posting it here because maybe some of you might enjoy it, and also because I know I'll forget all about it otherwise.

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

--Billy Collins

May all your psyches be mumps-free, and have a good weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Catch-up Day

My lack of blogging can be explained by two things.

1. I'm not doing anything interesting
2. All those boring things I'm doing are keeping me terribly busy.

So here's what I've been up to, in a convenient list form.

1. My parents are fine, and they just got their power back yesterday. Seabrook is still pretty much a mess, but things are slowly getting back to normal.

2. I've just about finalized my field exam subjects and examiners, and I now I'm worrying about creating my bibilographies. Two of the exams I'm taking are new fields, so there aren't existing bibiliographies to work off of. Why do I always have to make things so complicated?

3. I've bitten off too much to chew with research projects this month. I've got a bunch of catalog entries due on the first, and a freelance job due on the 5th. I suppose it will all get done in time, but I don't expect to enjoy it.

4. My parents are coming to visit. This means I have to clean. Really clean. At least it's giving me the kick I need to make a few improvements around here.

5. I work until 5 most days, either in the library or in the exhibitions department. By the time I get home, I am exhausted. I haven't done much in the way of cooking lately, and I've eaten an unbelievable amount of frozen pizza. I did manage to make chili today. It seemed like a good way to celebrate the beginning of fall. But now I'm REALLY tired, and I still have to get my laundry ready, take out the trash, and do the dinner dishes. And then I need to work on one of my reports. And I want to watch Heroes, and I would have liked to get some knitting done too.
There are simply not enough hours in the day.

6. I'd keep making list items, but then I'll never get anything done. So I will leave you with one of my favorite songs right now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

After the storm

Well, my parents and brother made it through the storm okay at his place. They don't have water or power as of 3 p.m Eastern time, but neither does most of the rest of Houston. Not much damage in his neighborhood, so hopefully the power will be on soon.
As for home, reports are that my suburb did okay*, with water from the lake not getting more than a few houses beyond the shore. Lots of wind and tree damage though. It's the trees I'm worried about -- we have two huge live oak trees in the front yard and one of them has been dying, which means it might not have been strong enough to withstand the storm. Irony of ironies, my parents had their roof replaced last month.
The AP has a picture of the state highway near us with a sofa and a boat in the middle of the road. Things appear to have been much worse for the areas right near the bay** -- apparently the local Dairy Queen was pretty much submerged, as was T-Bone Tom's, home to some truly excellent BBQ.
My best friend (she's in Arizona) and I have been calling each other, commiserating about whatever news we can get off the net. At least it's something to do. I'm also cleaning my own apartment, which is sublimating my feelings of helplessness quite nicely.

*And can I just say thank God for the internet? Between the websites of the Houston Chronicle and the sites of some of the t.v. stations, as well as streaming radio, I've been able to keep up wiht the news, see photos of my area, and, through a forum, read reports from as close as a few streets away from my parents' home. It's probably kept me from going even crazier.

**Though Galveston got off easier than expected, thanks to an "only" 12-15 foot storm surge, apparently as many as 40% of the local population didn't evacuate. Then, of course, they started calling emergency services late on Friday night, at which point nobody could go in to rescue them because it was too dangerous. While my heart goes out to those too poor or sick to evacuate (and there were buses off of the island well into Friday afternoon, so one would hope there weren't too many of those), many of the people who stayed seemed to be nothing more than stubborn. I hope they don't have to pay too high a price for it all. One man in particular made me want to reach through my computer screen and strangle him myself. He said he was staying because "if it isn't your time, you'll be fine." Well buddy, I sure hope it wasn't your time. Seriously, I'm a bit of a fatalist myself, but come on. If I thought the hurricane was out to get me, I certainly wouldn't make it so easy for old Ike.

Edited to add: Heard from a family friend who works for the city and is in our neighborhood -- the trees and the house are still standing. It's nice to find something to be happy about. I just wish that everyone could have a home to come back to.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Not what I wanted my 100th post to be about

If you can spare a few thoughts and prayers today, please direct them towards Houston and Galveston, Texas. My parents were smack in the center of the mandatory evacuation zone for Hurricane Ike (we're about 20 min. from Galveston and our town, a suburb of Houston, is on the bay), but have made it safely to my brother's house. He lives across the city (Houston's a big town, so that's about an hour away) and they should all be safe there.

I've been looking at pictures of my neighborhood online, and the flooding from the storm surge alone is already pretty bad with most of the roads under a good amount of water. The storm hasn't even hit yet. It's hard to tell these days, because "gloom and doom" seems to be the default setting for the weathermen, but they are predicting that Galveston will be a direct hit -- which the island can't necessarily take -- and then the storm should head up towards Houston and to the northwest, which will pretty much take it through our neighborhood, darn it.

Things shouldn't be as bad as Katrina -- though the storm is as big, it isn't as strong, and there are apparently fewer people who couldn't evacuate. Unlike many of the hard hit areas of New Orleans, most people in the Houston/Galveston area have cars, so they have been able to get out, and people are more careful now than they used to be. There are always a stubborn few though. It's funny how they always manage to get shown on tv or the papers. I never know what to think of them. Part of me wants them to quit being a hero and get the heck away, and part of me knows how hard it would be to leave, not knowing what might happen while you were away.

It's so hard to be up here. Not that there's anything I could do if I was back home with my family. And I'm certainly glad I don't have to sit through the storm tonight. It's hard to worry by yourself, though. Aside from my concern about family, friends, and neighbors, I am rather selfishly worried about my home -- the physical building, I mean. Which makes me feel terrible, that I should care about that right now. But still.

I hope everything will be okay. We'll know in the morning, I guess.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Like Any Other Day

I haven't been able to get good reception on my clock radio lately, and with no cable, I don't watch much television. I don't read the newspaper, though I usually check the New York Times and a few other news sites during my coffee break at work (shh... don't tell) and again when I get home. So with such little exposure to the media, it was pretty easy to forget what today was.

Well, almost.

Today was gloomy, promising rain that hasn't come yet, but earlier this week the sky was bright and blue and cloudless. Just like that day, seven years ago. A co-worker remarked that this kind of early fall weather is almost spoiled for her now, and everyone else in the office who had been in the city then agreed.

I stay away from the financial district and lower Manhattan. Not consciously, really. It's just I generally have very little reason to be down there. But I go down there sometimes, and when I see that giant scar in the ground, or that hole in the sky where those two icons used to be, I remember. And I feel a little sick.

All that death and destruction. All those lives lost. All those people who were minding their own business, just going to work. Who thought that day was just another day.

I wasn't in New York on September 11, 2001. I was in Delaware, getting ready for a meeting with my thesis advisor. I remember hearing the reports on NPR. One plane hit. Everyone thought it was a mistake, an accident. I took a shower. When I came out, everything was different. The second plane. The Pentagon. The crash in Pennsylvania. I drove to school. Didn't know what else to do. We were all in shock, I think, trying to be normal. People who knew people who worked in New York tried to call their friends and family, just to check in. A few hours into the day they closed the museum campus, "for security." We all thought that was funny, in the way that things can be funny and sad and horrible at the same time. I drove home (I remember the streets seemed oddly empty) and turned on the tv, watched for as long as I could stand, and then curled up into a little ball in bed and cried.

I had been to New York City for the first time earlier that year. I loved it immediately. But my love was a tourist's love, a reader and movie watcher's love. I loved the magic the city promised, I loved all the history it held, but I knew very little about what living there was really like. I loved the idea of New York, and dreamed that maybe I could live there one day. I didn't know the practicalities, the challenges of the daily grind, the gritty but often wonderful reality. I know a little more now, one year into my tenure in the Bronx. Though I can never really know what it was like in the City that day, knowing life in New York as I do now, I can barely begin to imagine. But even the city I love is different than the New York that existed before 9/11. Shaped in innumerable ways by a tragedy too terrible to contemplate. I wonder how the city I have come to know would be different now, if things had been different.

Seven years is a very long time. But sometimes it isn't very long at all.

If you've made it all the way to the end of my rambling, and if you can stand to read one more thing about that day, from someone who was there, and who can say it far better than I, I highly recommend this. The first two links in her essay will tell you all about Sars and her search for Don, if you need a little background. If by some chance Don sounds at all familiar to you, please let her know.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

I spent my Labor Day the way I've spent much of the past few days -- asleep or knitting. I came down with a summer cold last week and have been unsucessfully fighting it off ever since. I had to miss a cookout because of this darn cold, and I hate missing the opportunity to eat a charred meat product.

But at least there was knitting! Since the Summer of Socks knitalong ended today, I rushed along and finished my Oriel Lace socks.


They're from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, and I made them in Dream in Color Smooshy (color: Lunar Zazzle), which is my new yarn crush.

And there's been baby knitting, too! Inspired by Wife, Mom, Knitter, I am working on Wendy Bernard's Tender Blankie for a friend who is expecting. I'm using up various colors of Caron Simply Soft in an attempt to knit from the stash. I didn't have enough yarn to do the blanket in one color -- so voila! Stripes!

Tender Blankie

I'm part way into square 3 right now. This is a really easy and fun knit and I will definitely keep it in mind for future baby knitting needs.

Also, like every other knitter on the planet, I am making a baby surprise jacket from the pattern (well, it's really more of a guideline) by Elizabeth Zimmermann. I've been wanting to make one for a while, and the recent spate of babies has provided me with a good excuse. Thursday I went to my LYS after work to buy the pattern and look at yarn. In what I can only assume was some karmically earned serendipity, they were having a BSJ knitalong that very night. So I also bought some needles and sat down and got started. I'm glad I did, because while the knitting isn't hard, the pattern is very brief, and assumes that you know to do certain things that other patterns would normally spell out for you. I'm glad I had someone to walk me through the beginning and to point out a few quirks in the pattern language. I don't have a picture yet, mainly because it doesn't look like much right now, but I promise to show you it soon. I am using a worsted weight yarn, and I'm afraid the jacket is going to be pretty big, but the nice thing about babies is that they grow, so it will fit eventually I guess.

In other news, school starts tomorrow. I don't have any classes to take this semester and will be mainly working on my exams this year. I am a little nervous about how this will work, since I don't do well without deadlines. Even though there's no class for me tomorrow, I still will be showing up bright and early since I'm going to be working in the library. I even get to man the reference desk for a while. Exciting!

And finally, before I sign off to go get my stuff together for the morning, here's a cat photo.

07_09_08 057

Minnie says, "I have a Ph.D. in napping."

Monday, August 25, 2008


There will be knitting updates as soon as I can rouse myself to take pictures. But until then, how about a meme? I got this one from Dr. Wende.

Favorite food to crunch: Popcorn. With salt, but butter's optional.

Favorite comfort food: Mashed potatoes and gravy. No contest, hands down, my favorite comfort food, and a definite contender for favorite food ever.

Favorite picnic lunch: When we used to take family road trips when I was a kid, my parents would pack a cooler so we could eat at rest stops along the way. Our big treat was Underwood meat spreads, a canned food that we rarely got at home. It also came in deviled ham and roast beef varieties, but the deviled chicken was our (my brother and me) favorite. Spread on bread with Miracle Whip, mustard, and a slice of cheese, the sandwich meant that vacation was underway. Half the fun was eating it at a rest stop picnic table, with paper towels for napkins and chips or cold pork n' beans as a side. Somehow I don't think it would taste as good eaten at home. I'm also not so sure it would taste good now that I'm an adult. But at least I have the memory.

Favorite food scene in movie: The sequence in the first Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the "Chocolate Room" (this is the part where Gene Wilder sings "Pure Imagination"). I'm not a big fan of the movie as an adult, but I used to dream about being set loose in that room when I was a little kid. All that candy! That river of chocolate! Those little edible buttercup teacups....

Favorite food lyrics: "And when I promised my hand / He promised me back / Snow Cherries from France." I don't know what French Snow Cherries are, but don't they sound wonderful? This is one of my favorite Tori Amos songs, all about love and wandering boys, and promises kept and broken. It sounds like the beginnings of a fairy tale, or a grand adventure story.

Best food smell memory: The smell of my grandma's caramel pecan rolls. She used to make a pan every time she came to visit. The smell of the yeasty dough, of the caramelized sugar, of the melty butter you spread on before you eat them -- they remind me of her, and how much she loved sweets and baking and sharing food with her family. I attempted them by myself for the first time last Christmas. They smelled just right.

Favorite summer snack: Strawberries. Sure you can get them all year now, but they're best (and cheapest) in the summer, and I try to eat as many as I can before they're gone.

Food that reminds me of the ocean: Fried soft-shell crabs on a roll, preferably eaten at the West Haven beaches.

Favorite winter snack: Eggnog. I've had some killer homemade versions, but I like my dad's the best. He gets Pennsylvania Dutch brand and doctors it up a bit.

Most likely to eat for lunch: Last year it was soup from the Soup Stop. This year it will probably be burritos from the Burrito Box (what is it with lunch places and alliteration?). Or whatever else is near school and relatively inexpensive.

Least likely to eat for lunch: Something I brought from home. Despite my best intentions, I am terrible at packing lunches. I always mean to do it the night before but then I forget and don't have time in the morning and run off to work with a bottle of water and some crackers or something.

Makes me gag: Raw cucumber. (but not pickles!)

Food tradition I love: My mom's Christmas morning egg sandwiches. They're a homemade version of Egg McMuffins and it wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Food tradition I loathe: I hate black-eyed peas and I don't care if it's good luck to eat them on New Year's. They're terrible.

Favorite wild foods: I'm a child of the suburbs. Food comes from the grocery store.

Favorite medicinal food: Chicken soup, especially Vietnamese chicken soup. It's good for what ails you.

Food that reflects my heritage: I'd love to name some classic German dishes, but they really aren't foods that got eaten much in my family (with the exception of German potato salad). My culinary heritage is good old Midwestern-type casserole food, preferably incorporating a can of Campbell's cream of something-or-other soup.

Food most like me: Burritos. They're packed with interesting stuff. ;)

Favorite raw food smell: Limes. They smell fresh and clean and like summer and the beach and refreshing drinks and maybe even key lime pie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I came, I translated, I kicked some butt!

Summer internship: over, except for a few last details (whew!)
Library job: restarted, and they'd like me back for the fall (yay!)
German: learned, sort of (arrgh!)
German reading exam: passed (hooray!)
Next step on the road to Ph.D.: proposing my qualifying exams (aack!)

Sorry to have dropped of the interwebs like that. Things got a little crazy once I realized how little time I had before the German exam. But it is over and I have passed (thank goodness) and now I'm right where I should be on the degree schedule. I just got the email with the results - I was a bit afraid to look in case the news wasn't good. I still can't believe I passed. I've reread the email several times just to make sure.

The exam was hard. I got the paper and looked at the page full of German and freaked out a little (ok, a lot). It seemed to take me forever just to get through the title and I started to panic a little. I just kept going, though, and things got easier and I got faster, and by the end of the three hours I had made it through the whole passage. By the end, I felt like I more-or-less had the basic idea of all the sentences down, but I just didn't know if it would be finely tuned enough to pass muster. The German instructor was rumored to be very tough, so I just didn't know. I spent the evening making chocolate chip cookies to console myself, just in case. Now they can be cookies of celebration, instead!

I'm off to enjoy myself for a day. For once, there's very little hanging over my head. Tomorrow it's back to work and back to figuring out what to do about those qualifying exams, but I'm just going to enjoy the day today. Auf wiedersehen!

Friday, August 01, 2008

...And I'm thirsty

I have a little problem with contemporary art. Namely, most of it is crappy. So when I learned that this week's intern field trip was to P.S.1, The Museum of Modern Art's contemporary art space, I was a little less than thrilled. I was even less thrilled when I went to the website the night before to see what was up. Finnish art? Now I have nothing against Finland. I'm sure the Finns are a delightful people, what with their reindeers and lovely sweaters, and um, other stuff. But what kind of art was going to be there?

Well, I'm pleased to say that I was totally wrong. I saw some totally awesome art today. Here's a link to the exhibit. You can see detail pictures of many of the coolest things there. There were four things I thought were especially cool. For the design aficianados among you, there was the Futuro Lounge, which is a version of futuristic plastic pre-fab housing from the 1960s. It was refitted as a space to watch installation videos. It was hard to imagine the place functioning as a home, but it would have made a thouroughly awesome bar.
If you go to the page I linked above and look at the rotating images at the top, you'll notice a rabbit standing in front of a pool of water. The picture doesn't do this one justice. The room was dark, lit from above with all the light shining into a round pool of water. It looked like moonlight and was cold and beautiful. The rabbit was standing on its hind legs with its front paws on the edge of the pool, and if you were standing across from it, it seemed to be looking directly at you. It was so beautiful I didn't want to stop looking at it, but there was almost something sinister about it all.
Also sinister, VERY sinister, was an installation by an artist named Markus Copper. Called Kursk, it was set in a small room off a quiet stairwell in a corner of the museum. It was dark when you walked in, and before you were several rows of large black old-timey diving suits hanging from the ceiling. Creepy enough, in its way. But then they started to move. Lights went on and off in their helmets, their arms (holding giant wrenches) started to move up and down. The whole thing was accompanied by banging noises and wooshing sounds. It was terrifying. Turns out it's an homage to a group of Russian sailors who were trapped deep under the sea in a nuclear submarine and all died. With the added background knowledge, the whole thing was even more disturbing. I don't know what it must have been like for those poor men, but if it was anything like that room, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. This one will be with me for a while. (The photo on the website is nothing like the actual room -- not nearly as dark and grim.)
There were other great things, like clothing made out of feathers and natural seeds and grasses, movie projects, more rabbit art, but I want to leave on a high note after that last thing there, so I'll mention the thing that I was most excited by. The Complaints Choir. I had seen a few of these videos on youtube before, but was pleasantly surprised to see that there were many more playing in one of the rooms in the exhibit. I guess the originators of the project were Finnish? If you haven't heard about this project, basically they go to different cities, get a group of volunteers together, and then write and sing songs based on things the people complain about. It's really awesome. The version from Helsinki, though not in English, is beautiful (there are subtitles). I especially liked this one, from Birmingham, England. The refrain is particularly catchy. I've been humming it all day.

So I'm glad I got proven wrong about contemporary art, and had a lovely and educational day despite myself. I like it when that happens. So go watch the complaints video, because for the moment, there are no complaints here. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The knitting

Oh, the knitting.

I've been feeling very lazy lately. I think it's partly in reaction to work, where there is far too much to do, so that when I'm home I don't want to do anything. It's sort of my passive-agressive way of having free time, except the only person I'm annoying is myself. But since I get annoyed when my friends don't update their blogs (how dare they go have lives instead of writing about them!), I thought I should update mine, just in case anyone feels that way about me. I assure you, when I'm not writing here, I am not out having fun. I'm probably just sacked out in the living room watching tv and trying not to melt into my armchair.

So. Here's a picture of the finished summer socks by Wendyknits. Please ignore my large and pasty legs. It is hard to take a picture of your feet while you're wearing socks. Especially when it's hot outside.

Also, here's a picture of the sock-in-progress:
It's the Oriel pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. I'm now all the way up to the leg, so I guess I should take a new picture, huh?? I'm very pleased with this sock. First of all, the yarn (Dream in Color Smooshy in Lunar Zazzle) is WONDERFUL! It is indeed very smooshy. I love the color and it's knitting up into a fabric that I think will be very comfy to wear. Secondly, this is the sock on which I finally learned how to pick up stitches. Just like my old foe the matress stitch, picking up stitches has always been an ordeal for me. With the matress stitch, I had to watch someone do it before it all clicked. This time, I looked at the instructions in the book and suddenly the light went on. Usually the picking-up stiches part of a sock involves a lot of swearing, but not a curse word was said this time. Thirdly, I got lots of compliments on it at the last knitting group I went to, which was very good for the ego.

In other knitting matters, this past week I got the happy news that this winter there will be two new babies in need of knitted goodies. I'm very happy for my friends, and I'm also happy for me, because I love to knit baby stuff. It's cute and its little, which are both good incentives for me to get things done. I'm thinking maybe some of the booties that my friend Wife, Mom, Knitter's been making for the girl baby, but I don't know what to do about the baby-of-indeterminate-gender just yet. (The baby does have a gender, the parents just aren't saying, so I'm going to go with something neutral.) Maybe a knitted toy or two?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mid-July Status Report

The weather was actually pretty nice today, which is always a welcome discovery when you have no air conditioning. It bugs me a little that between the heat and the job I'm in such a hurry to have summer hurry up and get over with. I used to like summer. It used to be a break. Right now it's an inconvenience and that makes me a little sad. I wonder why I didn't feel this way when I was working before -- I think the stress of school and finances are contributory factors here. Also, in Connecticut there was air conditioning and the commute was not nearly so draining.
So what have I been up to since I last updated?
  • Well, I went to Queens and watched the Macy's 4th of July fireworks from Long Island City. It was so much fun. I can't remember the last time I went to go watch fireworks, and I haven't seen such a big display in I don't know how long.
  • I've been working (still). The internship is now half-way over. Time is flying, and that's been a pleasant discovery.
  • But since time is flying, I have to get my butt in gear about learning to read German. I went to the library today and did two and a half chapters from the book. By the end, I really seemed to be getting it. I'll be curious to see how well I did when I check the answers. Unlike the French exam I took last year, this time I don't have much of a background in the language to see me through. I really have to work on the rules for case and tense with verbs, and I'm trying to bulk up my vocabulary as well. We are allowed to have a dictionary when we take our tests, and I guess if you were fast enough you could just look up every word, but I don't really think that's a very sound strategy. Besides, I hear the German tutor is a very strict grader (To quote my brother, "The German tutor is strict? Well that's a surprise.")
  • Also, the internet seems to be back, for me at least. I'm not sure what has triggered my connection issues, but whatever it is seems to have resolved itself more or less. Thank goodness. I can deal with no cable tv, but no internet? That's just cruel.
  • I've also been knitting. And I even have some pictures to prove it. I still haven't woven in the ends on the Storm Water Scarf, and I still haven't blocked it, but here's a picture so you can see how gorgeous it is. I can't wait to start wearing it.

Storm Water Scarf

It's hard to see the color changes, but it goes from lime green to deep teal. It's also amazingly soft. Handmaiden Sea Silk is one of the most luxurious things I've ever knit with. I can't wait to buy some more and try something else.

And here's a sock!

Summer Sock

This is the official pattern of the 2008 Summer of Socks, designed by Wendyknits. The yarn is Regia Bamboo. It's a little splitty, but not too bad. I've finished sock one and am ready to start the leg on sock two (it's a toe-up pattern). It's very easy, but seems to be progressing very slowly -- I think because the pattern repeat is only three rows, so it doesn't seem like you've accomplished much each time you finish a repeat. But then it seems to grow all of a sudden. Must be sock physics. I'm very anxious to get this finished this week so I can enter it in this period's contest -- every two weeks there are drawings for people who've completed a pair of socks. It would be nice to get lucky!

I'm mostly concentrating on the sock right now, but I'm also looking forward to working on my Icarus shawl some more. I made good progress on it while waiting for the Summer of Socks to start and I want to keep going on it while I'm still in the mood for lace. Since I was good and went to the library, I feel I've earned a bit of knitting time tonight.

And that's what's up with Erin tonight. I'll try to be a better poster, but if you need an instant update, you can also find me on plurk.com, which is really kind of fun. See the widget over on the right?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

T.G.I. A Long Weekend!

I do not know if there are words to express how unpleasant the past week has been. Remember how I was complaining that things were boring in my last post? I should have known better. After that, things got hectic and uncomfortable at work due to looming deadlines and confusion over who was in charge of what. I got caught in the middle, and it made me very uneasy. Also my internet broke (boo!), and then my computer broke (double boo!), and then they both mysteriously fixed themselves (huh? but yay!), except now they're super fiddly (hmmm...) and I can't guarantee that I'll have internet access at any given moment (meh).

But! There is light at the end of the tunnel. I was already looking forward to having Friday off, but now I get tomorrow off too, thanks to my very kind supervisor who decided we had all been through enough this week and gave us permission to start the weekend early. I am sleeping in tomorrow!!! I kind of suspect that we are getting the day off because she wants a day off, but I am NOT going to look this gift horse in the mouth.

A WT-related side note: Yesterday was an incredibly demoralizing day, so to pep myself up today I wore (brace yourselves) a dress! (I know, I'm a little surprised, too). I got so many compliments on my appearance today. It was a little weird -- did I look that bad before? -- but nice. I felt a little different, too. Don't know that I'll wear dresses everyday, but I might trot them out a little more frequently. They're good for morale. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where did my mojo go?

I just don't know. But I just feel very boring lately.

The internship is fine, and I'm pleased to say I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. We're headed out for a historic walking tour of Coney Island tomorrow, which I'm really looking forward to. We even get a ticket for the WonderWheel. When we're not on field trips or at lunch lectures, we do our actual work, which in my case is lots of research and writing. For reasons I won't go into here (not because they're sensitive information or anything, but just because they're not all that compelling), I've been translating a German book on the history of carved coconut cups. Because of course the only book anyone's ever bothered to write on the subject is in a language I can barely read. I'm through the section on the coconut's discovery by and exportation to the West. Did you know that people used to think that coconuts grew at the bottom of the sea and then floated up? Neither did I. Also, they're named after their resemblance to monkeys, which were called "cocos" in some Pacific languages. It's also very good practice for the German reading exam I have to take in August. The translating I mean, not the part about floating coconuts and monkeys. (The German for coconut is kokosnuss, by the way, except instead of two esses, there should be one of those things that looks like a B.) (I also now know the German word for unicorn, cabinet of curiosities, and mermaid!) (I sure hope those show up on the test). :)

When I'm not at work, I'm at home, trying to stay cool and trying to make myself go to bed early enough to not be so cranky in the mornings. So far the early to bed part has been a failure. I don't usually get home until after 6, and then I relax for a while, and then I try to think of something to eat for dinner, and then I surf the net and watch movies, and then I realize I should have gone to bed an hour ago.

I did do some knitting. My scarf is finished! I just need to weave in the ends and do a little blocking. I started a sock for the Summer of Socks on Sunday and ended up ripping it out after I had about 3 inches in because it was wayyy too big. It's Wendyknits' exclusive pattern for the knitalong, and she wasn't kidding when she said it was very stretchy. I ended up going down two sizes from my usual sock size to get one that wasn't huge.

It just really doesn't feel like there's much interesting stuff going on in my life these days. It's just get up, go to work, go home, kill a few hours, go to bed, and repeat. I am looking forward to this weekend, mainly because I'll get to sleep in, but also because I'll be kitty-sitting for a friend who just rescued a pregnant cat and now has a non-pregnant cat and seven kittens. I can't wait to see them!

Also, I think I might go see a movie. And go to the library. And maybe hit the farmer's market down in Union Square. Boy, it's just a thrill a minute around here, isn't it? I guess not every day (or even every week) can be exciting or interesting. I'll try and get some knitting photos up as soon as I get the scarf totally finished. At least you'll have something fun to look at then. And who knows, maybe something interesting will happen at Coney Island tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Thanks for all the nice comments on my last post everybody. I'm glad the post was meaningful to you all, too. It's a constant battle, learning to live with the hand you've been dealt, and I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

I started my internship on Monday, and while I won't say too much about the particulars, I will say that (1) everyone was very nice, (2) the work I've been assigned is both interesting and well-matched to my skill set, and (3) the place is so well air-conditioned that I need a sweater. If I have to go to work, at least it will be cooler than staying at home. It's been a little difficult to get used to a regular 9 to 5 schedule again, but I'm managing. I'm also taking advantage of a full lunch hour. The past few days I've gone outside to Central Park (it's practically across the street) to eat my sandwich and knit.

Since I've sworn off socks until the Summer of Socks starts on Saturday, I have been working on my Storm Water scarf and on my much delayed Icarus shawl. I took them both with me to a girl's night out party/sleepover this past weekend. It was hosted by a classmate who is an extremely talented seamstress and needleworker. Watching her effortlessly draft and cut out pattern pieces for a blouse, it occurred to me that really knowing how to sew would be an incredibly useful skill to know. I can sew very simple patterns -- I've made pajama pants, for example, but haven't tried anything that requires curves, gathering, and other complicated (to me at least) techniques. But if I could sew well enough to make clothes that I'd be willing to be seen in public with.....

One of the problems with having a non-standard body type (I was going to say with being larger, but it's not a problem solely for plus-sizes) is that you have a fairly limited selection of retail options. Mostly I shop at Lane Bryant, because it's a brick and mortar store where I can try things on (I love the plus size options available online in theory, but I hate to deal with returns if things don't fit the way I need them to), they're relatively affordable, and they're sort of trendy. But I've been let down by them before. Like the time when I really wanted a dress but they weren't making any dresses that season. Or the time that all the business-type pants were only available in capri length. Really, a suit with capri pants? For when you want to look simultaneously businesslike and casual. LB designers, were you high that day?

Anyway, my point was that with limited options to begin with, retail shopping can be even more frustrating than it is normally. If I could sew though, I could have whatever I wanted. It's a really tempting thought, isn't it? That perfect dress I've been imagining could be mine. Of course, there are two enormous downsides to this plan. First, it hinges on me being able to sew well enough to create a garment that I could and would wear. Second, I would have to actually sew it. Being the champion procrastinator that I am, I'm not sure I'd ever get anything done.

Have any of you turned to sewing to create those elusive clothes that only seem to exist in your imagination? Or do you find the costs of skills, materials, and time to be not worth the effort? I'd be interested to know.

And speaking of procrastination, I've got to go work through a chapter of my German comprehension book. Those sentences aren't going to translate themselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Putting the Therapy in Wardrobe Therapy

So the post that I had intended for this weekend ends up on Thursday. Sorry about that. First I was melting into the very fabric of my armchair thanks to a heatwave. Then I was enjoying not melting once the wave broke. It did so with one of the most spectacular thunderstorms I have ever seen. There is a lot of litter in my neighborhood, but it usually stays in the corners and the gutters. Tuesday night it went flying through the air, making little tornadoes of cups and chip wrappers. I'm on the second floor, and things were flying up higher than my window. An awning from the beauty parlor down the street broke free of its moorings and went crashing down the street, smacking into several cars on its way. Made me glad I'm not a car owner anymore, as with my luck it would have been my vehicle in the path of destruction. Lightning lit the sky with that eerie blue green glow. It was, as they say, really something.

Now I'm relaxing from the work day, which was spent in the cool air conditioned buildings at school. In this heat, it's nice to have a reason to go into work. :) I've done a deep clean of the bathroom, fighting a losing battle against cat gravel. The bathroom's the only place in the apartment for the box, but the floor is made up of those tiny 1-inch square tiles, and Minnie's a kicker, so there's gravel all over the place. I sweep and vacuum as much as I can, but there's only so much one can do. Now I'm cooling off with some cherry seltzer and biding my time until I'm refreshed enough for a 15 minute sweep through the kitchen, where, like Tuesday's storm, I will gather up all the detritus littering the table and counters. Unlike the storm, however, I'll put it all away or in the trash.

Which brings me to now, which seemed like as good a time as any to bare my chest (metaphorically speaking) and confess why I fizzled out on Wardrobe Therapy, and why I'm really not that upset about it. It wasn't the chaos of finals, although that didn't help. It was a very upsetting revelation: when it came to my wardrobe and grooming, I had largely given up. Oh, I still made sure that things were clean and covered and decent, and I didn't neglect basic issues of hygiene, and I was ever on the lookout for cute shoes and other goodies, but I really wasn't TRYING. I was SETTLING.

I'm not sure if I've ever written about this on my blog before (I took a brief look through the archives and didn't see anything obvious), but almost four years ago this month (June 26, 2004, to be exact) I caught/developed/came down with (I don't even know what verb to use) Bell's Palsy. I've never had the most loving relationship with my body and appearance, but I mostly managed. Once half my face was paralyzed, however, things took a definite turn for the worse. Depending on which websites you look at, between 80-95% of Bell's Palsy sufferers regain their lost nerve sensation. I was one of the unlucky 20-5%. While the droopiness has, thank heavens, gone away, half my face is fine, and the other half is set in a sort of neutral expression.

In the first weeks and months after I got sick, I gave myself permission to take it easy. I was sick, in part from the steroids that were treatment for the palsy, and making extra effort with my appearance was just too difficult. It was hard enough to get out of bed and go to work. As time passed, and my hopes of getting all the movement back faded, I got depressed, and that became my reason for not doing all the little things I used to do for myself. Why bother with makeup when half my face was a mask? Why try to look nice when I felt so terrible? In time the depression passed, more or less, but by then the neglect became a habit.

Going through Wardrobe Therapy, when I saw the dresses and skirts that I didn't really wear much because I had stopped shaving my legs regularly except for special occasions, or the jewelry I didn't take time to put on, or the nail polish congealing in its bottles (I used to have a nice pedicure all the time, now I could go months between applications, letting the polish wear away into nothing), or the makeup I didn't wear and the hair products I didn't use -- I realized how much I had been neglecting myself. Oh I was still interested in beauty and fashion, but there was this little voice in my head, telling me it was fine in theory, and for other people, but not for me, because why bother? I mean, it's not like I was a fashion plate before, but this is one case where the before was definitely better than the after.

So what changed? Well, I became interested in Wardrobe Therapy after following one of Dr. Wende's posts on Apartment Therapy. I started following in the middle of the last round, and decided to participate when she ran it again for the spring. Though I have yet to follow through on an entire Apartment Therapy cure, I was impressed by the structure of the program and liked the way Wende had translated it to clothing. I also got interested in Fat Acceptance / Heath at Every Size through reading the very excellent Kate Harding's blog. Sorting through my clothes was easy, but as I (slowly) worked my way through the WT program and read more and more about the way that society conditions us to undervalue ourselves, I started to realize how messed up my attitudes towards my appearance were. The Bell's Palsy sucks. It really does (though I realize there are far, FAR worse things that could have happened to me). But like my size, it does not define me. It does not make me a good person or a bad person, and it should not stop me from doing the things I enjoy doing or treating myself with love and respect.

I don't want to give up on myself. I've had some pretty emotional moments these past few weeks as I started to put the pieces back together. I've made some strides. My toenails are painted a bright purple. I'm making an effort to put on makeup and do something more with my hair than just brush it before I head out the door. I'm going through my (newly organized) jewelry box instead of just grabbing for my old standby jewelry. And I'm doing these things not so that they'll "distract" from the fat or the palsy. I know they won't. I'm doing them because I like doing these things and because I like how I feel and how I look when I do them.

I haven't been the most dutiful participant, blog-wise, during this round of WT. I regret this a little, especially since the other participants are so interesting and inspiring (and they post so much more often than I!). But I do feel as though I've gotten so much out of the program. Yes, my wardrobe isn't quite so bulging as it was before, and I've bought (or have planned to buy) things that I love and that flatter me, and I finally got rid of all that "make do" clothing. But what's more important for me is that it's helped push me back to being myself again. And that's more important than a clean closet any day.

If you're still with me, I apologize for the novel-length post. I just needed to get this off my chest. I'm actually a little embarrassed now that I've written this, but I'm going to post it anyway. Now I'm off to tidy up the kitchen. Then I think it's time for knitting and a podcast or two before bed. Thanks for reading. I promise it will be shorter next time.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


There are monsters on my socks!

I finished these on Saturday and am pretty happy with them. It's too hot to wear them now, but fall will come back eventually. I'm off socks for a few weeks now until the Summer of Socks starts. The Storm Water scarf is making good progress (it looks like it's going to be pretty long), and is serving as my mindless knitting project of the moment. The scarf has also gotten me excited about lace knitting again, and I've even put in several rows on my Icarus shawl, which I hope to finish this summer. (We'll see).

In WT news, I went through my jewelry, which is the only big group of accessories I have at the moment (there are scarves and winter accessories, but I'll leave them for another season). In the interest of not having to link all the photos, I've created a set in my flickr photostream, with my comments. You can see it here. Since I tend to wear the same few pieces every day, I've been making a conscious effort to wear different pieces this week. It's a little difficult right now, since my summer job is very casual and much of my jewelry is kind of dressy. When my internship starts in about a week I'll be wearing my office clothes again, and I'm hoping I'll be able to work more pieces in.

I am also reminded that I like silver jewelry better than gold, but that I own much more gold-toned stuff than silver. This is in part because much of my jewelry has been "borrowed" from my mother or has been handed down from my grandma, and they both prefer/preferred gold. My mom has tons of jewelry, mostly of the costume variety, but also the "good stuff." Since she doesn't wear lots of her older pieces anymore, but since I like the vintage look, I've ended up with lots of her things. I like to refer to it as "stolen" since it usually ended up in my jewelry box permanently after I had asked my mom if I could wear a piece "just this one time." She doesn't really mind, though, since as I said they're mostly things she doesn't wear anymore. Looking at lots of the things that were hers, I realize that my mom was pretty stylish back in the day. She got married at 35, which was much later than most of her relatives and friends, and so, as she puts it, she had longer to spend her money on shoes and clothes. I love to look at pictures of her from the 60s and early 70s -- I'm still waiting for pictures of her in her wig collection to surface. :)

The jewelry that I've gotten from my grandma is kind of a roundabout story. My maternal grandmother loved costume jewelry and had a ton of it. For reasons that I won't get into here, she stopped wearing a bunch of it and it was just sitting in her apartment. Her move into an assisted living facility (a few years before she passed away) coincided with my own big move to the East Coast for grad school. Since she needed to pare down her belongings and I needed household goods, I was gifted with all sorts of things, from her rocking chair to her dishes to cookbooks, to some of the jewelry she didn't have a use for. I got a few more pieces after her death. My mom and grandma's jewelry isn't just pretty, and I don't just like it because of my own scholarly interest in jewelry -- it's a reminder of who they are (or were) and who they used to be. There are parts of their lives in those pins and necklaces, and owning them is, for me, a way of keeping all that close to me. And it doesn't hurt that much of it is pretty darn gorgeous!

All the jewelry is currently stored in a series of jewelry boxes, new and vintage. I need to come up with something better, though, since it's getting a little crowded in there. I should whip up some little bags for things the next time I get out the sewing machine, since enamelled and rhinestone jewelry is very vulnerable to scratches and losing stones if it gets all jumbled together. There's one more thing for the summer project list....

Going through my clothes, jewelry, and makeup, I've noticed that there are lots of things I used to do or wear that I don't really take the time for any longer. I've got some thoughts about why this is, and also about why Wardrobe Therapy has been far more difficult for me than I anticipated, but that has to wait for the weekend. It's been a long day and I'm looking forward to some knitting and relaxing before bed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More stuff about me

Knelly tagged me for this meme, and since I don't feel up to a whole post right now, this will have to do. Besides, reflection is good for you, right?

1. What was I doing ten years ago? It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I was working at the mall earning some money before heading off to a summer study abroad program in England. We stayed at Brasenose College in Oxford, I took a class on Chaucer, saw six Shakespeare plays (two at the Globe, four at the RSC in Stratford), and had one of the best times of my life. That was the first summer I got drunk (sorry mom) thanks to the lower drinking age in the UK. It's where I developed my love of hard cider. It was the only time I've ever really been out of the country as an adult.

2. Five (non-work) things on my to-do list today:
Buy an extension cord and a new mop (didn't get around to it)
Pay some bills
Take out the trash (did that)
Finish my netflix dvds so I can mail them tomorrow

3. Snacks I enjoy: popcorn, Pirate Booty (and Trader Joe's knockoff booty), almonds, oranges

4. Things I would do if I were a billionare: Buy a snazzy apartment in New York, hire a maid to keep it clean for me. Take care of my family. Travel. Travel some more. Buy yarn and shoes with wild abandon. (Qiviut and Jimmy Choo, here I (hypothetically) come!)

5. Places I have lived: Beaverton, Oregon; El Paso, Katy, Austin, and El Lago, Texas; Wilmington, Delaware; New Haven, Connecticut; and The Bronx.

6. Jobs I have held: Hamburger cooker at McDonald's, line server at the world's most awful BBQ restaurant (far worse than the McDonald's job. FAR WORSE), customer service rep at the mall, secretary, tour guide, substitute teacher, intern, assistant curator, exhibitions assistant, library assistant, and let's not forget -- grad student.

7. Other people to tag: if you're reading this and you'd like to participate, please go right ahead.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

While I was out

Sorry for the little blog break. I've been busy trying to enjoy myself -- knitting, shopping, cooking, watching dvds, etc. It's kind of nice to have jobs that stop at 5 p.m. and then I don't have to think about them until the next morning. It makes a pleasant change from the school semester, in which I freak out about classwork 24/7.

So what have I been up to? Well, I'm a half a sock away from finishing the pair of "monsters on a sock," and my lace scarf is currently 2 feet long. I got lots of compliments on both at the last knitting group I went to. That's right, I finally joined a knitting group here in New York. It only took me 9 months. Its a meetup group called "Sit n' Knit" and I went to one meeting at a bar (I can have one beer before the knitting gets impaired) and one meeting at The Point, which is a local knitting cafe. I had a really good time, and while it was different than the old New Haven group (and really made me miss you guys), I'm looking forward to going to another meeting.

I've also been watching the first season of the Flight of the Conchords on DVD. Hilarious! I have a soft spot for comedy/parody songs, and I love them! They're New Zealand's fourth most popular folk pop parodists. Here's a little video to show you what they're all about. "Ladies of the World."

And I haven't forgotten Wardrobe Therapy. I've been wearing the new maryjanes, which only get more comfortable with each wearing, and I bought a new pair of sandals, just in time for the warm weather.


Aren't they cute?

Also, in an effort to catch up on the weeks I missed due to finals, I sorted through my collection of makeup. I own tons of makeup for someone who doesn't really wear much. I think I keep buying things in the hope that they'll be the magic potion, but of course they aren't, and so after a few weeks or days I stop using them and toss them into the medicine cabinet and forget about them. I'll talk more about the makeup stuff later, but I wanted to show you two pictures. The first is my nailpolish collection. I used to keep my nails (finger- and toe-) painted all the time, and I had tons of colors to pick from. Back in college, I was the go-to roommate for all your nailpolish needs. The end of high school/beginning of college was when crazy colors came around again, and I took full advantage. My mom's only nailpolish rule at home was no black. I obeyed, but usually bought the darkest blues, purples, and greens I could find instead. Drove her crazy, but technically allowable. This is the collection after the purge I made prior to the move. I decided that I needed to get rid of ten more colors -- mostly colors I didn't like and stuff that had gotten gloppy. As you can see, I still have plenty of options. Rainbow

I also undertook a purge of the lipgloss/stick/liner/balm collection. I had forty-seven different containers of lip stuff, and then I found a few more hiding in the corners of my purse and back pack. This is the before picture. It's a little embarassing. This was harder to pare down, largely because I'm still hopeful that some of those products might work out. I did get rid of some unfortunate colors, and a few lipsticks. I've been leaning more towards glosses and sheers rather than traditional lipsticks. I did keep the red though. You never know when that might come in handy. Lip stuff Though I had tons of stuff, most of it was the same few colors, proving that while I may be a spendthrift, at least I'm a consistent one.

More WT to come this week (accessories, yay!). Also pictures of the socks as soon as they're finished.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lolcats: Is there anything they can't fix?

When I saw this, I laughed and laughed.

more cat pictures

Happy Friday!

Break Out Your Tiny Violins

Now I know that any of you reading this who have full-year regular jobs aren't really going to sympathize with me, because complaining about summer vacation to people who don't get one is kind of not cool, but I'm going to do it anyway.

I want my vacation, darn it! One of the things that was kind of alluring about the prospect of going back to school was getting back on the academic calendar, complete with summer vacation. It is nice not to have to worry about classes and papers, although I should get to worrying about that German translation exam, but shouldn't summer vacation involve a little relaxation? I've got 2 jobs in two different departments at school, which takes up about 4 days a week right now and will take up the whole week as we gear up for a big move. Then I've got a "regular hours" internship that starts in mid June. While that's going on I'll be working at the jobs on nights and weekends. The things we do to pay our rent!! That takes me up to August, when I have to take the German exam, and, if I don't pass it, 3 weeks of refresher German, all the while working at the internship for the first half of the month and the other jobs once the internship stops. Do you see anything missing in my vacation description there? Oh yeah. Vacation.

I know I shouldn't complain. I chose this, and I have to take the good and the bad. But man, I've been dangling the promise of summer like a carrot on a stick to keep me going all semester, and now I'm just a little bummed that my summer won't involve nearly as much lying around as I'd like.

And that's more than enough whining for today.

In other news, I'm going to do the leftover portion of my wardrobe therapy this weekend, since getting my bridesmaid dresses and saris stored properly will involve a reorganization of the closet that I just can't deal with during the week. I'll try to get some pictures for you, cause the Indian outfits are really pretty.

Also, here are my new shoes. I was out in Connecticut this weekend, and didn't have to twist my friend's arm too hard to get her to make a trip to M@rshalls. They have really great shoe sections, if you have one near you. I found the mary janes of my dreams. Here they are:


But wait, there's more! They were on clearance, for super cheap, and they also came in brown. So I bought them both.

2 for 1

I got two pairs for less than half the regular price of one! I felt very clever, especially since I had budgeted for more expensive footwear. They're pretty comfortable, although after wearing, they're rubbing a bit near the buckle. I'm hoping time, some stretching (with big thick socks), and maybe some moleskin will help.

Also, I cast on another pair of socks. I needed to get back on the horse after the very frustrating experience with my mom's socks. I also wanted to try the magic loop method. And then I discovered Lime n' Violet's Snakes on a Sock pattern, which I thought would be perfect for my Cherry Tree Hill Monsters in the Closet yarn. I'm calling them Monsters on a Sock, or maybe Snakes in the Closet. I haven't decided.


They're a little loud, but I like 'em. And boy, the magic loop goes fast. This photo is from yesterday, and I'm already nearly ready to start the toe decreases now. This has been a thoroughly non-frustrating project, which is just what I needed. And since the magic loop is far more portable than the double pointed needles I usually use, I think I'll take them to work tomorrow. Maybe I can finish one sock by the weekend.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mmmm, Leftovers: WT Week 7

Okay, I still need to do weeks 5 and 6, but in the service of not falling further behind, here are this week's tasks. A link to Dr. Wende's list is here.

So (my rephrased versions of) the tasks are
1. To take stock of leftover items, which in my case are computer bags and backpacks, saris and other fancy dress items, bridesmaid dresses, etc.
2. To dispose of, mend, and store said items as necessary.
3. Make a master shopping list. That one's getting easier.
Here's my working list.
  • new black mary jane type shoes
  • new sandals
  • new sneakers
  • new undergarments
  • a denim skirt
  • 2-3 new v-neck plain t-shirts (and one old shirt needs to leave for each one that comes in)
  • another pair of pants, either jeans or something khaki-esque
  • a big bag for toting around all the stuff that I seem to think is essential
  • a lightweight raincoat/trench coat

I've actually started to make some headway on the list. This weekend I bought almost exactly the mary janes I had in mind (and then some -- I got such a deal, and I'll post pictures later this week). I've identified the kind of sneaker I want, and today I think I saw the sandals I'd like. I wanted to go try them on, but my toenails need painting, and I didn't want to expose my chipped blue polish to the entire store (and the extraordinarily dapper salesman). Which is silly, I know. But I'll go back once I'm repainted.

4. The fourth task is a tricky one:

Name one positive thing you intend to do for your image/self-image/look and one negative thing you vow NOT to keep doing

I always find this kind of thing a little difficult. But here goes. Positive: I'm going to try not to leave the house without a little makeup. I tend to rush out of the house without it if I'm running behind (which I usually am), but I feel more pulled together with it, so there you go. Negative: this is actually related to something I've been working on, but not blogging about. Fat Acceptance/Health at Every Size. (You can read more about it at Kate Harding's excellent blog here). I am working very hard to become happier with my body at its current size, but I find that I have been holding very tenaciously to what Kate calls the "Fantasy of Being Thin."(excellent essay here). I'm not quite ready to let that fantasy go yet, but I'm also coming to realize that there's no reason to put my life on hold until I reach a certain pant size. So my negative thing that I am going to not keep doing is making excuses for not treating myself well because I am not thin. No "I shouldn't buy nice clothes/nice shoes/get a nice hair cut/manicure/pedicure/have any fun/feel good about myself until I lose a few pounds." I deserve to have these things or do these things now. Sometimes I get into this rut where I think "oh I'm so fat, it doesn't matter what I do to my appearance, so I won't even try." I don't expect that I'll be able to stop this 100%, but I hope that the next time I find myself using my size as an excuse for not living it up, I'll reject that negative thinking.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Movie Meme

I got this from Wife, Mom, Knitter. It sounded like fun.

Here are the rules:
1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie (or get them out of your capacious memory).
3. Post them on your blog for everyone to guess.
4. Bold it when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.
5. Looking them up is cheating, please don’t.

Since I love me some movie trivia, here we go:

1. Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while. The Princess Bride (guessed by CostumeChick)

2. A: We're going to catch those crooks red-handed.
B: What color are their hands now?
The Great Muppet Caper, guessed by Mella DP

3. A: Those people are trying to kill us!
B: [shouts] I know, Dad!
A: This is a new experience for me.
B: It happens to me all the time.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (SCB and Wife,Mom, Knitter got this one)

4. Your Honor, ladies and gentleman of the audience, I don't think it's fair to call my clients frauds. Sure, the blackout was a big problem for everybody. I was trapped in an elevator for two hours and I had to make the whole time. But I don't blame them. Because one time, I turned into a dog and they helped me. Thank you.

5. A: Now that was when people KNEW how to be in love. They knew it! Time, distance... nothing could separate them because they knew. It was right. It was real. It was...
B: A movie! That's your problem! You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.
Sleepless in Seattle, guessed by Mella DP

6. A: Don't call me stupid.
B: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
A: Apes don't read philosophy.
B: Yes they do, xxxx. They just don't understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, xxxx. I looked them up.
A Fish Called Wanda, guessed by Colleen

7. Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That's the other guy's problem. Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series - they don't know what pressure is. In this building, it's either kill or be killed. You make no friends in the pits and you take no prisoners. One minute you're up half a million in soybeans and the next, boom, your kids don't go to college and they've repossessed your Bentley. Are you with me?
Trading Places, guessed by Colleen (I figure that's what you meant by Trading Spaces, since that's what I call this half the time, too)

8. My colors are "blush" and "bashful." Steel Magnolias (Wife, Mom, Knitter strikes again!)

9. A: Are you married?
B: I'm divorced.
A: Would you like to talk about that?
B: There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him.
A: So what you're saying is that even though you are an almost-paralyzed, multiphobic personality who is in a constant state of panic, your wife did not leave you, you left her because she loves Neil Diamond?

10. I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope. The Shawshank Redemption (guessed by Wife, Mom, Knitter and Knelly) (As an aside, I have never seen this movie in its entirety in one sitting. But I will stop and watch it and cry like a baby whenever it comes on tv. Which is like every other week.)

Happy guessing!

First the knitting

Okay, I've slept, showered, gone to work and banged the heck out of my shins on a library shelving cart. I've been shopping, knitting, and I even watched a little television.
Now for the blogging. So on Tuesday evening I (finally) finished up my mom's socks.
Aren't they pretty? They're actually a pretty appropriate present for my mom -- I labored pretty hard on them, and didn't give up, and while I may have sworn under my breath a little, I kept on going. I think she'd be proud. I just hope she likes them. The pattern and I did not get along. I'm not sure why things went wrong, but almost everything that could go wrong did. Still, they're finished, and I think they're going to fit. So all's well that ends well.

Now I've cast on with my seasilk to make a Storm Water Scarf. Here's the yarn I'm using. In keeping with Wardrobe Therapy principles, its in one of my joyous colors. :)

I also wound up this yarn, from Cherry Tree Hill, its called Monsters in the Closet (what a great name! that's why I bought it!) and I have a very special pattern in mind for it. I'm hoping to cast on this weekend.

Okay, that's part one of the post-school update. Up next, wardrobe therapy catch-up. Since I'm now 2 weeks behind, I'm going to skip week 5 for the moment, do week 6 (or at least part of it) tomorrow, and then try to catch up with weeks 5 and 7 next week. I've been working on making a list of things I need to buy to fill in a few holes. I'm also still struggling with letting go of a few shoes that I had intended to purge in shoe week. I delayed in tossing them, and then I had second thoughts. Because I love those green sneakers so much. I think I need to buy replacements for them, and then I won't feel so bad about tossing them. I'm thinking about something like this. Aren't they cute and summery? Or what about these? Adorable! I might see what I can find this weekend.
Hmmm... this turned into kind of a WT post after all. :)

Monday, May 05, 2008

I'm back!

And I'm done!
The paper was turned in at 10:30 this morning. Barring any horrendous grading tragedies, I am now finished with the coursework for my Ph.D. (yay!)
While I thought that my term papers would never end, it just doesn't seem possible that this is it, class-wise. I've got one more language exam to pass this summer, and then it's on to the qualifying exams. (eek!)
But for today, I'm just going to relax. After I turned in the paper, I ran some errands, had some lunch, and then bought some celebratory yarn. I had been thinking about buying some Socks that Rock, because I'd never tried any, but then I decided I had too much unused sock yarn. So I went with the Handmaiden Sea Silk instead. I'll do pictures tomorrow. But it's gorgeous (and in a really great colorway for me, too!). I'm going to make a lacy scarf with it. It will be my reward for finishing the semester and my mom's socks, which, by the way, I am scheduled to bind off tomorrow and mail Wednesday.
Now I'm going to knit, listen to some podcasts, and relax (and then sleep!). I'm so happy summer is here. I'm going to try my best to catch up on blogreading/commenting/wardrobe therapy-ing. I feel bad that I dropped everything for the last few weeks, but such, unfortunately, is life. But thank you all for your comments and encouragement. It was so nice to know that you were rooting me on!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Three down

One to go! It was originally due Friday, but I got an extension until Monday. I hated to ask for it, but I think it was necessary -- I'm running on empty and couldn't have turned in anything I'd be proud of by Friday. This is one of the two papers that I'm really excited about, and I very much want to do a good job. It just took me forever to find my angle on this one. But I've got it now, and I think it's not too bad. Assuming I can get it all down on the screen.

I just have to keep telling myself the end is in sight.

Thanks for your supportive comments. They're really appreciated right now.

I'll be back on Monday. :) See you on the other side!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Still alive

One paper handed in, one almost done, and two more to go. I don't know if I'll get much posting done until after everything's in on Friday. Now back to writing what are probably my last term papers EVER!!!

p.s. the socks are growing slowly during the periodic "sanity breaks" I'm taking while writing. The ends are in sight!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Week 4, and ... Socks!

First of all...
Look at that!


See? Socks. Two socklike objects!! Okay, so one has only the whisper of a cuff, and there's still plenty of yarn left, and I really can't give my mom socks of two different lengths. Fine. Be picky. But the fact remains that there are now two socks that could in theory go on one's feet. And the end is in sight. In fact, I'm going to say it out loud (and probably curse myself into not meeting this deadline, but hey, it's late and I'm feeling bold so here goes): I will mail the finished socks to my mom for Mother's Day!!

And now on to Wardrobe Therapy.
Week four was about shoes, socks, and purses. The shoes were done, the socks above are all you're going to get on that for now (with the exception of my hand knit socks and my punk socks, my sock collection is functional and boring, and that's okay), and here come the purses.

I've grouped them by type.


The large cary-alls. This doesn't count the plethora of canvas bags I use to tote around school stuff that doesn't fit into these, but those are boring, and also too full of notebooks and file folders at the moment. The one in heavy rotation right now is a canvas tote from the Strand. It seems fitting to carry books around in it. I have really come to appreciate big bags now that I'm in the city and carless. All the junk that might once have rattled around my car is now in these bags.
The green messenger bag in back I have had since high school. The zippers are broken, but the clasps are still functional, and I keep using it because I've never found anything else that worked quite as well. I'll happily replace it when I find something else that can do the job for schlepping things to and from school and libraries.
I love the black wool bag in back. It was very good in fall/winter when I was working and wanted something more professional looking than the messenger bag. Still in good shape, although I need to mend a tear in the lining before it gets bigger. This one's worth repairing, unlike...
The black bag in front. This was a Christmas gift from my parents. I was really excited about it because I thought it might be a good alternative to the green messenger bag. It was, until the handles started to crack right where they're sewn to the bag. I'm afraid they'll break while I'm out, so I don't use this one anymore. I hate to toss something that's so new, but this is really non-functional, and I can't think of a repair that won't be more trouble than its worth. Sadly, gone.
The gray bag in the bottom left is my computer bag. It would be perfect, except it needs a bit of shoulder strap padding, because when its full it can be heavy. Still, I don't tote my laptop around unless I'm in the middle of a paper or on a research trip, which doesn't happen too often (except for right now). But there's lots of writing in my future, so I should try to find an alternative. There's plenty of time to find something though, and this works pretty well, so it isn't a priority just yet.
Also, please note the cat. She would not get off the bed while I took these photos. There are cats and paws in the background of half these shots.

"Everyday" bags


Clockwise, starting at the top left:
A vintage straw purse "borrowed" from my mom. A bit flimsy for serious use, but fun in the summer.
My favorite purse. Pink tweed and brown leather. A little small for all the necessities I seem to need these days, but good for dressier occasions.
Teal suede purse. This is the one I have been using, though I guess its time to change it out for spring. Roomy with straps that go over my shoulders in a fun color that isn't black but still goes with a lot. A definite keeper.
White "macrame" purse. Good for summer. It's getting a little dingy, so I'll see what a wash will do to it. If the results aren't pretty, its no big deal.
Teal felted purse. I really like this one. It's tiny, but is good to stick inside a bigger tote so all the essentials are in one place.
Striped wristlet. I thought this would be useful for when I go out, but then I realized this isn't really a "going out" style. Also? My going out clothes tend to have no pockets and this won't fit a cell phone, so it isn't really very useful. I should toss it, but its little and doesn't take up much room.
Needlepoint bag. This was my grandma's. I don't think she made it, though. I think I'm going to repurpose it as a knitting bag. It's roomy enough. I just can't see myself carrying it anywhere. But it would make good project storage.
Denim bag. For a $10 clearance purchase, it's done a good job. But it's a bit dated, and the straps aren't comfortably long enough to go over my shoulder. I loved the big pockets in the front. They were perfect for keys and my phone. I need to remember to look for that in future purchases, because this one's hitting the road.

Evening purses:

I made the bronze bag in the back to go with the bronze flowered evening sandals from the shoe post. This is a great little pattern and is perfect for whipping up in an afternoon or so. I know it's a little matchy-matchy with the shoes, but I kind of like it. Besides, when you're wearing a blue, pink, and purple sari with metallic embroidery, subtle accessories help.
The black mesh bag next to it is a genuine vintage Whiting and Davis, I'm guessing from the 1950s-60s. Bought at Buffalo Exchange in Austin in the summer of 1999. I wouldn't have thought I remembered that. It goes with a lot, it's surprisingly roomy, and it's a little piece of decorative arts history.
Silver vintage purse. Another one "borrowed" from my mom. I'll have to ask her where she got it/wore it. Really useful for super fancy occasions, and in great shape.
Black burnout velvet clutch. I'm pretty sure that I bought this to take to the homecoming dance my sophomore year of high school. My date (my first boyfriend --neither of us could drive so my parents drove us) was a total doll who sadly moved away not much later. It's not exactly my style anymore, but this is a hard one to get rid of. I think I need to hold on to it just a bit longer.

I just realized I didn't take into account my big knitting bag, or the two knitted purses in progress, or my old backpack. And I know I didn't weed much out, but I did get rid of a bunch of old purses before I moved to New York. Oh well.
Looking at these, I realize I need a new "big bag" solution for when I need to carry a ton of stuff around. I'd also like a new spring bag. Ideally it could fit inside the big bag so I could just pull it out and have all my essentials when I don't want to carry the big one around. I hate having to do the purse swap all the time. Something crucial always gets left behind. Like kleenex, mints, etc. The multiple purse swaps are also why there are a million tubes of lip balm rolling around the place. I found 4 while cleaning out all the bags.

Now, for the final section of week 4: The questions (my answers in italics)

  • What's my Status Symbol? That is, what do you expect people to value and respect about you as a human being? I would like to be recognized and appreciated for my intelligence, my consideration for others, and my sense of humor. That sounds very cheesy, doesn't it?

  • How does my wardrobe relate to my status symbol? Does the way you dress help people recognize your status symbol? Undermine it? Play into one part of a stereotype but not another? Attire always says something, though it may say it quietly or it may hop on a table and sing the score of A Chorus Line. When I had a job, I tried to dress professionally and appropriately, while still retaining a bit of my individuality. In an art museum, there was lots to choose from, style-wise, and I think I did okay. Now, I'm not exactly certain how I should be dressing. The graduate student/art-field/New York overlaps are confusing me. In theory, lots of black should work, but that's just not me. I just want to look appropriate. Like I belong. And then I want to stand out from the crowd, but in a small, good way.

  • Do I want some aspect of my attire to be a conversation starter? If so, what? No and nothing are valid answers here -- it's in wonderfully good taste for every aspect of your outfit to contribute to a vague general impression that you look healthy, happy, and appropriate. My purses are my life or let's talk socks! are also valid answers, as is I've worn the same necklace every day since I was 16, and that's what I'm about. I don't mind if people notice something I'm wearing, as long as it's in a good way. Between shoes, purses, and jewelry, I've got some really cool stuff, and I like it when people notice. But my love for pink sparkly shoes notwithstanding, I'm generally happier being a conversation starter in more subtle ways.

Okay, so now that we're into week 5, I've finally finished off week 4. Some of my donation items have already left the building, but there's still a stack waiting for my next trip to Goodwill (having to schlepp it on the subway means small loads). Purses have been cleaned out, and the detritus sorted and tossed where appropriate (adios, lint covered lipgloss and smooshed gum). Now it's on to week 5 -- underwear and overwear. I probably won't get around to much before next weekend, since I have a paper due this week. But the next time I do my laundry there will be some serious sock evaluations. And somewhere in there, I'm going to finish those darn socks!