Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trash Collections

Many people have collections; so in this, I am not unusual. I, however, have collections of... trash. I've always been drawn to items which serve the same essential function, but have infinite variety. For example, I collected different tea bag packages for over a year to create a collage for my kitchen.

Also, I've trained Jason to always put his beer bottle caps in an empty pickle jar on the counter top. Over the past year and a half, I've accumulated almost an entire plastic freezer bag full of bottle caps. I didn't have any plans for them, until the other day when I had the brilliant idea of hot-gluing them onto a framed bulletin board.

I love getting postcards in the mail (yet another collection - I have every postcard ever sent to me. Ever. Plus a lot that I bought myself.) But, they usually sit in a basket until I put them away in a box. I've been wanting a way to display them, so my beer-cap bulletin board has been officially been dubbed "The Postcard Art Gallery." Perhaps later in the year it will become "The Christmas Card Gallery."

In my craft room, I also have boxes of keys, maps, slides, and corks. I don't know what I will use them all for; I'm just waiting for inspiration.

I also started quilting my t-shirt quilt this weekend. I mostly hate quilting, because you have to drag a whole hot, heavy quilt through the sewing machine, constantly rearranging. Now that I can see the end, however, I hope to have it finished within the next few weeks. Only 14 more squares to quilt! Oh yeah, and the binding too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Ever since my sister saw the first bunny I knitted about two years ago, she has wanted one for herself. The original was given to a tiny baby, who is now past his second birthday and talking! So, for her 26th birthday, I decided to knit up another.

I used Lion Brand Microspun, which is quite soft, and the pattern is from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The pattern is easy to follow, but this is one of those projects where the finishing takes longer than the actual knitting. There are arms to sew on, four ear parts to put together, and stuffing. Even so, this only took me about 3 days to put together. I really like the result, since it has a sort of folk art feel.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some good books

Because I am waiting for my latest yarn order to arrive (I will soon be knitting the Cropped Cardigan and the Drops Jacket), knitting has ground to a halt. I do have a yarn stash, but it consists mostly of 1 or 2 skeins of a particular yarn; certainly not enough of anything to make a whole sweater. This is how I like it - I want to be able to pick out the exact yarn I need for a sweater, rather than the other way around.

Meanwhile, I'd like to mention some good books I've read recently. As you might remember, one of my goals for this year is to read 50 books - as I've just finished #45, I'm definitely going to smash that goal!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I have wanted to read this book every since it was recommended to me in middle school, even though I had no idea what it was about. When Ravelry's 20th Century book club picked it as their first selection, I had the perfect reason to finally pick it up. As it turns out, this book is about the second wife of a rich man, who moves into a mansion populated by all sorts of creepy servants who obviously resent her. All the new wife (whose name is never given) hears about is how her husband's first wife, Rebecca, was the most beautiful and classy woman who ever existed. When Rebecca was killed in a sailing accident, the whole household knew she could never be replaced. As the new wife struggles to make a place for herself, she learns that perhaps Rebecca was not so perfect after all...

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi
There are a lot of people who won't watch scary movies because they just get too freaked out. I'm not this type of person, but after staying up late reading this book about a serial killer, I have to admit I half expected to find a schizophreic Italian hiding in my bathtub as I slipped into the bathroom in the dark. Written by a crime novelist and a journalist, this non-fiction work describes the case of a serial killer who stalked the Florence area from 1968-1985, murdering couples who were parked in the country, um, "getting it on" in their cars at night. While the book does have descriptions of the actual crimes, it is mostly focused on the police investigation. Apparently in Italy, you can be arrested even though there is no direct evidence against you, and you even don't have to be informed of the charges against you. During this circus of an investigation, hundreds of people were accused of being the killer, and one was even sentenced to death for crimes he obviously didn't commit. The killer has never been captured, but Preston & Spezi present a pretty convincing case for the guilt of one particular suspect. This was an excellent book, particularly because it revealed much about Italian society that is not immediately apparent to outsiders.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Three seemingly unconnected cold cases appear at the beginning of the book. Years later, a private detective begins work on solving these three cases. The actual detective work is not the focus of the book, but rather the lives of the people involved. At the end, the three cases come together in a way that really blew my mind.

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
This is a long one, over 500 pages, but I really sped through it. In turn-of-the-century London, Fiona Finnegan bascially has every possible bad thing happen to her: her boyfriend gets another girl pregnant, and most of her family members die. Oh, and since she has figured out that her father was murdered, the murderers are after her. She has no choice but to flee to America and start a new life for herself. At times, the events seemed pretty far-fetched, as Fiona is only 17 but acts like she's 30, but this book was tasty brain candy.

Writing book reviews is hard! If you look over on my sidebar, there's a list of book bloggers who make it seem so easy. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mmm, beans

I was prepared to let my bean plants die off while I was gone for the summer, but someone graciously offered to babysit them. When they came back a few days ago, there were beans on them! Six beans isn't exactly a feast, but they are home-grown and organic and oh-so-tasty. One day, when I have a more suitable yard, I hope to plant some things in the actual ground and reap a higher yield.

I've planted some more spinach seeds, with the hope that the cooler temperatures will produce something that looks hardier than grass. However, I might have washed all of the seeds out of the soil today with over-aggressive watering. Whatever happens will be a surprise...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Ah, home. Even though all of the toilets broke, and the roof is leaking again, it's good to be home among all my worldly possessions. I was so excited to be back in my own kitchen that I immediately whipped up these chocolate chip muffins. Now that I'm back at a reasonable elevation (3,100 ft instead of 6,667 ft), my baking resembles actual food rather than hockey pucks.

(Recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion... the best baking cookbook EVER. Seriously. This recipe is also online HERE.)

In addition to my mixer and baking pans, this was also hanging around to greet me:

This is the second centipede that I've found in the house, although luckily this one was a little more dead. I also encountered a huge spider, but instead of dealing with it, I just put a jar over it with a post-it on top that said "Giant Ass Spider." My plan must have worked, because it was gone the next morning after Jason had left for work. (I don't usually pawn off the disgusting creatures on Jason, but since I had dealt with both centipedes, I thought it only fair.)

I've also been back to the gym. There is a disconcerting new sign above the water fountain that says "NO Spitting in the Water Fountain!!" This means that people have been spitting in the water fountain all along, and I didn't even know! Blegh.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Arches National Park

Before I show you pictures of my brief visit to Arches National Park, I have to tell you the most exciting thing that happened to me during my 3-day drive back to New Mexico:
I saw Tabitha Stevens in a restaurant!
Ok, most of you probably don't know who Tabitha Stevens is, unless you are a fan of Dr.9021o, a fabulously graphic plastic surgery show. If you are as devoted a watcher as I am, then you will remember the infamous anal bleaching episode. (If you haven't seen this, and aren't squeamish or highly moral, then I highly recommend you click here.) THAT was Tabitha Stevens! She lives in Utah, and while Jason and I were having dinner in Green River, I spotted her sitting a few tables over. I said to Jason, "Doesn't that look like that porn star who was on the plastic surgery show?" He agreed, so when I came home I looked her up online, and it most definitely was her. Sigh, I have never seen a celebrity before... and when I finally do, its a porn star. Such is my life.

Anyway, it so happened that our route home went right by Arches National Park. We didn't have too much time to sight see, so we drove the park road and stopped at all the overlooks. The rocks are orange, and sometimes they have holes in them. That's the gist of the park. Here are some pictures:

Here's Delicate Arch, which is famous because it's on the Utah license plate. It looks tiny in the picture, but you can hike up to it and it is apparently quite big. (Or so they say; it could be a scam and just be a little clay model.)

Maybe I'm jaded by the desert after living here for so long, but I wasn't totally wowed by this park. The arches were interesting because they are freak occurrences, but most of the park is barren desert. It's also a fairly small park, and hot, so my recommendation would have to be not to make a specific trip here. If you are nearby, or are going to other attractions in Utah, then it is a worthwhile detour.

And who knows, you might also see a porn star!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

On the Road Again (Soon)

First, knitting progress:

Inga is coming along OK, but slowly. The hat is curling so badly that it is frustrating to work with, particularly on needles that are too long. But, that will all be fixed by blocking in the end. I haven't yet perfected my fair isle technique, but that was sort of the point in knitting this hat in the first place.

The pile of stuff in the living room grows steadily. Tomorrow morning it will all be shoved into the car and we will take off towards Utah. I have never been to Utah before, so I wanted to at least drive through while I was close. (Notice the stuffed bison? I'm generally against stuffed animals, but because this is a BISON, I made an exception. The only other exception I may make in the future is a stuffed two-headed calf I once saw at Ripley's Believe It or Not.)

It's been a fun 2 months up here in the north, but I'm looking forward to warmer temperatures, a room full of craft supplies, my own kitchen, weightlifting, kickboxing, satellite TV, my own bed, and my new Netflix Roku! And, my Grand Canyon trip is coming up in just one month, so more stunning nature pictures will be coming.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Koolhaas: Finished

I think it's pretty obvious that this hat is awesome, considering that there are almost 2,000 of them on Ravelry! 2,ooo knitters can't be wrong. This pattern appears to be daunting upon first glance, but like most knitting, once it clicks, its not that bad at all. Oh, yeah, you probably want to see some pictures.

This is an example of the perfect yarn for the perfect pattern. The Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran is squishy and soft and stretchy. It was a little splitty to work with, but it was worth it for the great stitch definition. Next up is the Inga hat, which is my first foray into fair isle. I had a pretty good system, until I realized that I needed to twist the yarns on the long floats, and I haven't figured out a good way to do this. Internet, here I come!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Trail Journal: Mt. Washburn

Trail: Mt. Washburn
Date: August 29, 2008
Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation change: 1400'

As we are leaving Yellowstone in six days, this was our last major hike. It'll be sad to leave all of the fascinating landscapes here, but at the same time I feel like I've conquered Yellowstone. There will always be more trails to hike, but I've seen all of the major parts of the park, along with some not-so-major ones.

Mt. Washburn is the park's "most popular day hike," with about 10,000 visitors per year. However, when you consider that last year the park had 3,151,343 visitors, that means that only 0.3% of them hiked the most popular trail! Even so, the parking lot was pretty crowded.

Not long into the hike we encountered some mountain goats. I've never seen mountain goats in the wild before, and because they were on the trail, I hoped they would be friendly. At one point, there was one standing ahead of us, and one creeping up behind us. We had to make a quick decision to avoid being surrounded by wild beasts, so we decided to walk forward and hope we weren't noticed. Well, apparently we were noticed, because the goat gave a very severe vocal warning. We backed up and waited until the goat turned his head away before running past.

This trail is a little different from most because there is a fire lookout tower at the top (with a pay phone and bathrooms!) Having a visual of our destination made it all the more daunting. (See the tiny dot at the top?)

The trail used to be a road, a long, long time ago, and ran right along the edge of the mountain. As some points it seemed to disappear into oblivion.

Finally we reached the top, where it was incredibly windy and desolate. Apparently, the ranger who lives in the fire tower stays there all summer with no days off. I thought it would be an isolating and spooky job, particularly at night when you are all alone, it's pitch black, and the wind is howling. Here are a few shots from the top:

Even though the trail is "crowded," I'd recommend this hike. It's not as difficult as some, because the trail is long enough that the elevation gain is not drastic. It's the highest peak in the area, so there are great views along the way and at the top.

Apparently, Yellowstone has over 1,000 miles of hiking trails. Over the past 2 months, I've completed 15 of them, for a total of 46.25 miles (5 of which were a mountain bike trail.) Granted, that's not even 10%, but I'm still happy with everything I've gotten to see.

Like I said, I'll definitely miss the area. But, as it continues to get colder (it's 45 degrees today, on September 1st), and I am reminded by locals that they had over 20 feet of snow last winter, I'll be glad to be riding my bike in January in New Mexico, in shorts.

Stay tuned for the next National Park Adventure: in a month I'm going to the Grand Canyon for 4 days!
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