Friday, December 31, 2010

So Long, 2010

I'm sure you are super interested in my obsessive record keeping, so here goes! In 2010, I read 46 books (1 less than last year), for a total of 14,945 pages. The worst book was definitely The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Don't waste your time. My best book discovery of the year was Roald Dahl's books for adults. I didn't know he wrote books for adults, but they are funny and entertaining (and not for kids. Unless you have some sort of diabolical plan to warp their young minds.)

books read 2010

I also had the unofficial goal of reading from as many countries as possible (book setting, not author nationality). I made it to 15, which is less than 7% of all the countries in the world. That's a pretty pathetic showing, so I'll keep working on it next year.

I don't have a specific goal for next year, other than to actually read some books from my "to read" list on Goodreads. Right now it stands at 186; I've already requested a few of these from the library, so I'll get at least 3 read before I wander off as usual. I know the covers are too small to read, but look at the pretty colors!

As for knitting, that showing was kind of pathetic. I didn't knit any sweaters this year, but finished 2 pairs of socks, some gloves, 2 stockings, and a shawl. Perhaps I could learn to knit and read at the same time?

Have a great New Year! I will be sitting on the couch, watching a movie possibly featuring people with British accents, and will most likely fall asleep before midnight. Work hard, play hard.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Once again, it is Christmas

In my overly-rational holiday mindset, I (we) didn't put up the Christmas tree this year. I don't really get nostalgic about anything, so it seemed like a lot of pointless work to haul everything up from the basement, wrestle the lights onto the tree, and pull out all the ornaments, just so the cat would have something to mess with. I know. Glass half empty.

But, I did decorate the mantel, and it seemed just as good as a Christmas tree. [I still need something permanently above the mantel, a mirror or painting. Still searching.] I finished knitting 2 stockings, which I thought represented a commendable engagement with the holiday. The pattern and the navy blue yarn came in a kit from Knitpicks, and I bought the red yarn (Knitpicks Telemark) separately. I also have some green yarn for a 3rd stocking at some point.

We also decorated the outside of the house in order to disguise our scrooge-like tendencies from the neighbors. The mini lighted trees were an after-Christmas score last year. I think I got 12 trees for $6 or $7. We had to buy the wreath on the chimney this year for full price, which caused my cold, cheap heart to skip a few beats.

I did get a great bean tower as a gift this year, and let me tell you, next year's deck garden is going to be epic.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

San Francisco

At the end of October we went to California for my sister's wedding. I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but California is very far away from Maryland. We got up at 4am for our flight, and landed in California at 10am (Pacific time). This lead to a lot of confusion. What time is it? Where am I? What just happened? So, then we went to Muir Woods. We had tried to visit during our trip last year, but Muir Woods suffers from the most horrible parking affliction I have ever witnessed. There are lots of tall things there. I'm pretty sure they were trees, but then again, I was pretty much walking dead at that point. Either way, they made me feel short. Well, shorter.

We then continued up the coast to Point Reyes National Seashore, where we stayed with some friends of ours, who live and work in the park. Sure, it was pretty, but let me tell you about the sandwich. The most amazing sandwich ever created. By noon we were on our 3rd meal of the day, and stopped at a random roadside grocery store/deli. We bought a turkey sandwich, and proceeded to devour it while sitting in the car. Jason said, "Wow, this sandwich is really good." I said, "Oh my God, it is!" I'm not sure if it was starvation or California-hippie-organic-fresh-happy ingredients, but that sandwich will forever live in my food memory.

We saw this lighthouse. It was very windy and I almost died. Not really, but that would make the story a lot more interesting.

Then came wedding preparations: nails, hair, yarn purchasing, the usual. I don't have any pictures of that because I was in the wedding, and assumed they were paying the photographer big bucks for something.

We walked on the beach (in Bodega Bay) and saw these really gross sea monsters. They are some sort of plant life, but I found them to be quite terrifying. They look like intestines, or brains, or just something that could attack you.

Also there is apparently some sort of large bridge in San Francisco that people like to walk on. The views were nice, I'll give it that, but in all these pretty pictures the loud, stinky, dangerous 6-lane (or 8-lane?) highway has been carefully edited out.

And then we flew home, scarfed some Chipotle at the the airport, and were happy to be home in our own house, amply stocked with lots of TV channels, comfy couches, a feline, and craft supplies.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fall Mantel

Miss me? I was in California, but secretly so you wouldn't break into my house while I was gone. More about that later.

Before I left I became obsessed with decorating for fall. I even when to Michaels twice, even though I have a rule not to go to Michaels between September and January, due to the assault of fragrance that will knock you over if you are even within the vicinity. Even driving by I got a little dizzy.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Here's my mantel, completely with fake pumpkins and leaves. But they're good looking fake pumpkins and leaves, right? In fact, I might even call them "faux". The sticks are real though. I got them from the woods.

The only thing I made was the felt garland. All I did was cut circles out of felt and stitch them together with embroidery thread.

Even though capitalism wants me to think it's Christmas already, 'tis not! My fall decorations will stay until after Thanksgiving, thanks very much.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Readathon: Update 4

Total time spent reading: 5hr 50min
Total pages read: 186
Currently reading: A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine DiRollo (finished!); The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray; The Girl Who Played With Fire

Whew, I don't know about you all, but this whole reading for 6 hours thing is getting a little tough. I'm bailing. Yesterday a friend invited me out for dinner tonight, and I couldn't really say, "Um sorry, I have to sit in my house and read by myself." I know sometimes I perplex people, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

In other news, Kiska says, "Why are you wasting time reading when you could be getting me some of that cat food with gravy out of the refrigerator?" I'm pretty sure the cat is a magical creature who can consume gravy and then manufacture it into hair, which she will then get everywhere possible. Can't deny the beast.

I might be back for another hour after I get home tonight - but if not, happy reading to all of you who are stronger than I, and a huge thanks to all the wonderful cheerleaders who left me comments today.

Readathon: Update 3

Total time spent reading: 3hr 50min
Total pages read: 114
Currently reading: A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine DiRollo

So, I went to the gym, ate lunch, and took a shower. I read at the gym and while eating, but I couldn't quite figure out how to read in the shower. I'm almost done with A Proper Education for Girls, so I'm going to keep plugging on that one. The book is just OK, and I even already looked in the back to see what happens, which I hardly ever do. It's dumb. But I'll finish anyway.

Also, as a public service announcement to all you short girls out there, they have short-length black workout pants at Target. I've already bought 2 pairs, and I didn't have to hem them. Go now and stock up while the gettin's good.

Readathon: Update 2

Total time spent reading: 2hr 40min
Total pages read: 69
Currently reading: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

I'm moving along much faster now! Must be because I brushed my teeth and put a bandanna on my head to conceal my hair, which was sticking straight up when I woke up this morning.

This hour's mini-challenge is Show Me the Books!, hosted by Crystal. Here's my bookshelf, which I've shown here before:

Next to my side of the couch is the pile of books I'm currently reading.

As long as I'm posting pictures, here's what's currently in the knitting basket. I'm making new Christmas stockings this year, and this is Jason's. Mine will be a different color and pattern. I always gripe every year about how stores seem to be putting out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier, but that rule does not apply to knitting. Knitting takes time, people!

Well, I'm off to the gym - but don't worry, I will keep reading there.

Readathon: Update 1

Total time spent reading: 1hr 40min
Total pages read: 35 (told you I'm slow!)
Currently reading: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Although the readathon technically started at 8am, I didn't get up until 9, when someone's tiny dog decided to have its own bark-a-thon outside. I'm trying to get through a chunk of The Girl Who Played with Fire today because I have to take it to my sister at the end of the month. She's read the first in the series and is patiently waiting for me to finish. The thing about this book, though, is that it takes so long to read! No skimming allowed, and you have to pay attention to every sentence. Also, Swedish names have a lot of v's and k's in them. I'm not sure if that has to do with anything.

Even though Jason is not doing the readathon, he's currently reading The Truelove by Patrick O'Brien. It's number FIFTEEN in a series that he just started reading this year. Apparently reading opposites attract, because I can't read less than 5 books at a time, and here he is plugging through an entire series, one book after the other. Show off.

The cat is currently not reading anything, because she does not know how to read. At least that's what she has us believe.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


For years I have wanted to participate in Dewey's 24-hour-readathon. A few years ago I was a "cheerleader" (and won a big box of scary books from Hachette), but I was working freelance at the time and couldn't give up a whole day to reading. Finally, this year I signed up! The readathon is on Saturday, October 9th, and starts at 8am eastern time. I won't be reading the whole 24 hours, because I am old now and have to go to bed early. I'm amassing a buffet of books to choose from, and I'll be reading at will. I doubt I'll finish any entire books, but I do hope to move some bookmarks around. Oh, and you may have noticed something in the bottom left corner of the photo above. Wait, let me get closer:

It's my new computer!! My 5-year-old Dell recently became inhabited by the devil, and alternatively laughed at me and mocked me every time I tried to use it. It took me several months to build up the nerve to buy a new computer, because I hate spending money. Jason and I frequently have conversations that go like this: (him) "Why don't you just buy it? We have $$ in the savings account." (me) "That money is not for spending!!"

If any of you are also joining the readathon, let me know.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Finished: Catherine Socks

I've got a fall vibe going on, no? Too bad when I took these pictures my outfit consisted of cargo shorts and a tie-dye shirt that I only use for painting. I had to scurry off the deck right quick before the new neighbors noticed my crazy-person outfit.

And you want to make a comment about my shoes? Go ahead: a friend informed me that red shoes are only for "children and whores" and Jason asked me if my feet were going to curl up underneath the house. It's ok, I just know they're just jealous.

The socks? The pattern is Catherine, the yarn is KnitPicks Stroll, and these socks took EIGHTEEN MONTHS to knit. There was just something about the pattern that made me want to stab myself in the face. I was never able to memorize it despite repeating the 8-row pattern 46 million hundred times.

But now I have another pair of socks! And there was much rejoicing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Some thoughts for a Monday

1. Let's all just stop having this conversation: "Oh my! It is 95 degrees and 80% humidity outside. We are all going to die!" "But oh, I lived in [insert name of southwestern locale here], and it was 110 degrees outside every day! I am impervious to heat." "But that was A DRY HEAT."

As a public service, I am going to settle this debate once and for all. They are equal. 95 degrees + 80% humidity = 110 degrees + 20% humidity. Consider the matter closed. We are all equally tough.

2. If you feel the need to drag a rolling backpack or briefcase back and forth to work every day, then perhaps you should invest in some organizational courses because you clearly have too much stuff. Your desire to take your hoarding on the road is going to kill someone one day. When there are 1,000 people behind you on the escalator standing approximately 4 inches apart, that 5 seconds you take to bend down and re-extend the handle of your oversized commuter bag undoubtedly leads to the person behind you leaping frantically to avoid the inevitable stampede at the bottom of the escalator. One day that person behind you is going to be a 95-year old holocaust survivor with a cane, so think of how bad you'll feel when she gets crushed in a metro station after fighting so hard to survive the Nazis.

3. As long as we're on the subject of public transportation, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that standing closer together will not load the bus faster. It's like the bus is a black hole, and as soon as the door opens, the crowd outside gets sucked into the vacuum. Apparently the more mass you have, the faster you get sucked inside.

4. Jeggings. Really? REALLY?

5. Fried butter is a real thing. We are all going to die [for real this time, not just like in #1].

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home Improvement: Basement

During my junior year of college, my roommate and I watched "Trading Spaces" on TLC every day. Do you remember that show, when Ty Pennington was a carpenter and not completely nuts? Well, the designers on that show just loved to paint vertical stripes on everything; I'm pretty sure my house wasn't on that show, but the basement looked like it had been hit hard by Doug Wilson circa 2001.

The dark paint, dark wood stain, stripes, and underground-ness made it feel like a cave. Here are the before shots with the previous owner's stuff (I believe this was supposed to be a "man cave.")

If you've seen the pictures of the rest of our house, you'll surmise that I'm not a huge fan of beige or neutral paint. But in this situation, it was truly needed to brighten up the cave.

A coat of primer and 2 coats of "Wild Honey" on the walls, and 3 coats of paint on the bookcases, we now have this:

Painting that bookcase was a giant pain, but I think the results were worth it. I also spray painted the frames over the desk black (they were varying shades of brown), made 2 pillow covers, and new curtains. Even though I have a love/hate relationship with Ikea, I made 2 trips there for the lamp, bedding, rug, shelves, and chair cushion (the previous cushion had an unfortunate run-in with the cat.)

We also sprung for a new TV (the shelf the TV is sitting on was free from the trash; I'm not above dumpster diving) so this could be a secondary family room. It's so cold in the basement I have to put on a sweater in the middle of the summer, which is perfect for the 100-degree days we've been having lately.

I still need to paint the hallway (it's currently green), but it doesn't look horrible and I've been enjoying the break from painting. So it'll get done... eventually.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Household hints

Years ago I came upon the book 1003 Household Hints and Work Savers: A Treasury of Household Hints to help you beat the high cost of living at my grandpa's house. It was published in 1948, and has many ingenious hints that could help all you ladies during these tough economic times:

85: To put attractive scalloped edges on thin cucumber slices, just run the tines of a fork lengthwise over the peeled cucumber, and then slice.

[My cucumber slices just have regular edges. I feel like such a failure.]

192: When it's necessary to cut marshmallows, use a pair of thoroughly clean scissors dipped in hot water to prevent the marshmallows from sticking together.

[I don't know about you, but sometimes I find that a whole marshmallow is just too much.]

216: If you drive a car, get in on the side nearest the wheel, instead of scraping along the whole seat until you worm your way into position, thus wearing out the seat of your fur coat.

[Well thanks. NOW you tell me, after the seat of my fur coat has already been worn out.]

225: Pack turbans (several to a box) with tissue paper. They'll keep their shape better.

[I have been having a problem with flat turbans lately.]

511: Freshen up your wax flowers by dipping them in alcohol and swabbing them off with a soft, small paint brush.

[Just what I needed! My wax flowers have been looking awfully tired lately.]

693: Cut out interesting illustrations from magazines or wallpaper, chintz or cretonne, paste them on the screen and shellac the whole thing for "tricky" and colorful designs.

[I'm bringing "tricky" back.]

751: When making long-distance telephone calls, place an "hourglass" egg-timer near your phone. It operates on a three-minute schedule and will warn you exactly when your three minutes are up.

[My frequent 4-minute long-distance phone calls have been a subject of strife in my marriage lately.]

That dream home of your own - here are a few ways to tell whether it's the house you want
: 988: Is there enough lumber in the construction? Go up to the attic and measure the rafters, beams and studding. They should be close enough to make the frame substantial.

[Oh no! I forgot to measure the rafters before we bought our house!]

1002: You can tell whether or not the phone has been ringing in your absence by placing a piece of thin paper and carbon paper between the clapper and the bell. If that important call came in while you were out, the carbon marks on the paper will tell you so.

[I prefer the "missed call" icon, but this works well too.]

Monday, July 05, 2010

Finished: No-Purl Monkeys

It's supposed to be 99 degrees today - perfect for some wool socks! I know you just want to look at the pictures, so here are the details: Wullenstudio yarn (75% merino wool, 25% nylon; color "Lipstick On Your Collar"); pattern No Purl Monkeys (just Cookie A's Monkey pattern, but knitting the purls instead of, well, purling the purls); shoes are Semira by Doc Martens.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Surfing for Inspiration

[I first starting drafting this post in July 2009; it's time to finish!]

In a comment to something I posted last year, Charley asked about my inspiration file. (If I see an interesting picture online, I save it to a file on my computer.) She asked where I got my images from and if there were particular sites I visited.

Why, yes! Most of my pictures are decorating ideas, and a few are knitting & sewing ideas. I'm pretty sure all you crafty types know the usual suspects (Whip Up, Etsy, The Purl Bee), so I'll share a few of the decorating sites I frequent:
For a snarky take on decorating, check out Catalog Living.

If you love color as much as I do, check out Holly Dyment Design:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Finished: Citron

What's that? A finished knit? I hardly know what one of those looks like these days. I finished this shawl a really long time ago, back when it was cold, and my hands didn't immediately turn into sweat factories as soon as I picked up wool.

The pattern is Citron, and I used Malabrigo sock in "Botticelli Red" that I bought in San Francisco last year. It was pretty fast and fun to knit, although it's somewhat small. When I have worn it, it has been bunched up around my neck like a scarf. (Which seems to be the preferred way of wearing shawls anyway, since this isn't 1879.)

The pattern is available free at Knitty; raveled here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Basement Tidying

Not all projects are glamorous. Along with the fun of choosing paint colors and scouring TJ Maxx for that perfect turquoise vase comes stink bug eradication, washing the windows, sweeping, vacuuming, swiffering (is that a word?), laundry, dishes, taking out the trash... and lately, cleaning the cave in the basement.

Our basement is finished except for one room, which holds the washer and dryer, HVAC unit, hot water heater, and a whole bunch of stuff that we don't really want to look at on a daily basis. My husband, while I love him dearly, is of the "close the door and forget it" mentality, while I (as you should have guessed by now) am of the lying in bed and thinking of new ways to organize things variety. The basement has been bothering me for a while, and a few weeks ago I took the time to organize it. Here are the before shots:

And after:

I actually only threw away two grocery bags full of trash - everything else has been rearranged (I always was pretty good at Tetris). I know, not super exciting... but still super satisfying.
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