Thursday, August 30, 2012

All Finished!

This past week I’ve accomplished much. Here are my feats in no particular order: I helped a friend line my Quinn Cabled Bag (see above), finished my Blueberry Waffle Socks, experienced a Jimmy Buffet concert, celebrated my oldest daughter's 22nd birthday, launched my baby at Michigan State University, and attended meetings and got my classroom ready for 145 sixth graders. I also think I might have prepared a meal as there is a pasta salad in our giant red Tupperware bowl that looks haphazardly thrown together. Since only I use Big Red and the salad is mediocre, I’m thinking it’s my handiwork. Anyway, I’m pretty tired even after sneaking in an afternoon nap today but was too excited not to blog.

My Blueberry Waffle Socks were finished a few days ago, but I just got around to snapping a few pictures today. Since the pattern calls for DK weight yarn and I used 4-ply sock yarn, I really only used the 4 row waffle stitch pattern and winged the rest. You can link to my Ravelry page to see details if you’re interested. The yarn, Sausalito, is divine. A little splity when knitting but so soft and squishy. Squishy, adjective, used to describe divine sock yarn.

First time ever I tried not to match my stripes. They ended up pretty close anyway.
When I say I experienced a Jimmy Buffet concert, it’s because Jimmy Buffet really is an experience. We started tailgating in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin at around 1:00 for an evening concert. There was much debauchery for entertainment, none of which I participated in, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching. The actual concert was great, especially since I knew all but one song. Here’s a picture of our group. Our friend turned 40 on the day of the concert, which added to the fun.
See how well-behaved we were?
Last but not least, we moved our youngest into Phillips Hall at Michigan State University. Her closet, or rather dorm room, is 10 x 13, and she shares it with a roommate. Anyway, she was so excited to have an actual key of her own to her own place. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be a successful launch. So hard to sit back and hope you’ve taught your kids everything they need to be successful, independent adults. On that thought, I'll sign off with a few move-in day pictures. Thanks for reading. ~ Christina

Arriving at the dorm.
All moved in and so grown up!
Waving goodbye. Sniff. Yep, I shed a few tears.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Half of a Yellow Sun: A Review or Something Similar

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Disclaimer: This is not a proper book review but rather my thoughts and reactions upon finishing the book. Continue reading if you will. Here’s a brief summary: The book is set in Nigeria in the 1960s and follows a handful of main characters as they become enmeshed in the Baifra struggle (war?) for independence. I should also note that I found the author's descriptions of Africa and her writing beautiful and real. I’d call the work highly readable literature. Oh, and I really liked it. Right, onward... 

For me, the main characters symbolize the nuances and legacy of colonialism. There is Richard, the misguided European who wants so very badly to belong and make a difference but is largely impotent and benign. Kainene is an educated, African profiteer. Olanna, her nonidentical twin, is opposite in looks and belief systems; she is beautiful like Africa. Odenigbo represents the African intellectuals with their visions of independence. Baby, who has a given name which is not used, represents the innocent children of Africa. Children who seem so needy and numbered they become nameless in the eyes of the West. Perhaps the adults become childlike and nameless too... And, finally, Ugwu. Ugwu represents the tribal innocence and trust that was so badly disregarded and betrayed. 

On a side note here, I fell in love with Ugwu immediately. He is so eager to please and authentic. He is fascinated by his first encounter with running water and the refrigerator. His innocence and eagerness are endearing. And, I still love Ugwu even though he is changed by the violence around him. Violence in which he eventually participates. 

Struggles for independence are often ugly and inhumane. It becomes impossible to be involved, directly or peripherally, without being stained by the surrounding elements, a nod to Cardinal Wolsey of Tudor fame for that sentiment. And, the characters here are no exception.

Lest you think this book is all gloom and doom or just another accusatory condemnation of imperialism, colonialism, racism, or some other -ism, the main characters are so profoundly human and perfectly flawed you can’t help but care about them, pull for them, and sincerely want a happy ending for them. And, there are some genuine acts of beauty, like Kainene forgiving Olanna. In fact, there are many lessons of forgiveness to be learned from this story. However, like the current human condition in Africa, the story ends with some unfinished business.

Thanks for reading my (hopefully not too) random prattle. If you're into this sort of story, I'd say give it a go. The writing really is superb.

Oh, and I'm looking for a new book to read. Thinking about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Suggestions? My usual genres are historical fiction and magical realism, but I've been known to stray...


Monday, August 20, 2012

Blueberry Waffle Socks

I have returned from vacationing in the beautiful state of Arizona. It was the first time I have traveled for fun without hubby and/or kids. A very liberating experience. I love them dearly and all of that, but it was nice not to worry whether or not everyone was having a good time, who was stressing out whom, etc. I think I did that “who” “whom” bit correctly, always have struggled with that. Anyway, I’ll share pictures in a bit.

I’ve been working on a pair of socks for myself and am 50% finished. In non-math speak that means one sock is finished, and I need to make one more, or una mas for my Spanish-speaking friends, a phrase I usually reserve for beer drinking... Never mind, getting distracted here. The pattern is called “Blueberry Waffle Socks” by Sandy Turner. Pattern info here. This free pattern that calls for DK weight yarn on double points, so basically all I’m using is the (4) row waffle stitch pattern. I loathe knitting on double points, so I’m using (2) circulars. Is “loathe” too strong a word? Please disregard that rhetorical question. The other reason I’m not using much of the pattern is that I’m knitting with Sausalito, a 2-ply sock yarn, so the cast-on number is different. Project notes here if you want them (size 8 shoe)Ravelry.

Use stitch markers to denote needles when knitting a double-point pattern on circular needles.
You can easily convert a double point pattern to circular needles by using markers to note where the needles would be. 

Simon singing "Save a Prayer." Sigh. I might have swooned. 
On to my vacation. Being the huge Duran Duran fan that I am, I could not resist a chance to see them for the very first time and visit my brothers at the same time. Lucky for me they were happy to tag along to the concert and schlep me 1000 miles or so around Arizona. Our road trips included Tucson for the concert, outlet shopping, Old Town Scottsdale, Route 66, and the Grand Canyon! Here are just a few photo highlights.

Our fancy room at Casino Del Sol in Tucson.

Big Winner! Cashed out after using my free $10 voucher. I'm not much of a gambler.

With my "little" brother Scott at the Grand Canyon.
Being safely daring.
Vince being less safely daring...
Waited for this buck to cross the street on our way out of the Grand Canyon.
Williams, AZ: The last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40. 
Love souvenir shops like this one in Williams.

Not sure if you can read it, but the sign says rooms start at $3.50. Guessing that was the 1891 price.
With that I’m off to knit that other sock and plan my next blog post. Here's a trailer, like at the movies but without the video and music. Try to imagine that guy with the movie-trailer voice... Today a good friend helped me line my Quinn Bag, my youngest leaves for college this week, I'm off to see Jimmy Buffett, and I bought the iphone app Wooly, which links to Ravelry. 

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear about your solo travel adventures or your thoughts on Wooly, as I'm just beginning to play with it. Signed, Christina who had some kicks on Route 66 ;)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Saluting the Coast Guard, Heading to the Desert in August, and Knitting Wool Socks

First, a salute to the United States and Canadian Coast Guards. Thank you for everything you do to serve and protect us on the Great Lakes!
Top to bottom: USCGC Neah Bay, CCGC Griffon (Canadian), USCGC Hollyhock
I live in Coast Guard City, USA a.k.a. Grand Haven, Michigan. Really, per an act of Congress, Grand Haven is Coast Guard City, USA. Anyway, last week we held our annual week long festival/party honoring the Coast Guard. I absolutely love this week. I love that our town is packed with even more tourists. I also love the carnival on the main street, the row of “gut wagons” for glutenous eating, the beer tents, the art fair, free tours of the Coast Guard ships, the town swelling with “Coasties,” the parade on Saturday. I could go on and on and on.... Here are just a few highlights from the week:

Docking the USCGC Hollyhock: It turns in the channel and comes in sideways. 
Me at the wheel of the USCGC Neah Bay. 
Coast Guard helicopter fly over during the parade.
Everyone's fav: The Scottville Clown Band. They always end the parade.
My friend Jen and me at the parade.
Our beach stick decorated for Coast Guard week.
Now onto the other topics at hand. This summer has been one of record breaking heat here in the Midwest. So, after recently returning from a hot and humid week in beautiful North Carolina, I’m leaving for Arizona tomorrow. This from a girl who doesn’t like temperature extremes. I know, I know, it’s dry heat. Or so I keep hearing from well-meaning friends and family. My response: “So is an oven.” My point: hot is hot. 

What does one knit on a 3 1/2 hour airplane ride to the desert? This has been more perplexing to me than what I should wear. I’ve (finally) accepted the fact that no matter how many outfits I “pin” to my Pinterest “If I had any fashion sense...” board, I am no fashionista. Right, enough self-deprecation, back to knitting. I want something portable and relatively uncomplicated. The infant sock pattern I’ve written and am tweaking is out. As are the mittens I’m planning which will combine a couple of patterns. 

Infant socks from scratch: too complicated
Hmm... In the spirit of the Olympic Games, I dove, not to worry it was a metaphorical dive, into my stash and found some soft, squishy, gorgeous, and very pink sock yarn called Sausalito. I’ve just completed the slip stitch heel on sock one, and I’ve made notes along the way. I think wool socks will be the perfect project to knit on my way to the desert. Irony intended. 

Blueberry Waffle Socks. Pattern info here: Ravelry
I’ll probably also bring along yarn and needles for a dishcloth or two. One of my biggest travel fears, besides not having enough books to read - problem solved by Kindle thank you Amazon - is that I’ll run out of knitting projects. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the reason I’m traveling to Arizona in August. Besides spending time with my brothers, I’m going to see Duran Duran! I’m so excited. I’ve had a crush on Simon since high school and have never seen them in concert. I wrangled my bros into taking me to the Grand Canyon, too. Another first! The Grand Canyon not the wrangling: I'm the oldest. Anyway, did I mention I'm excited?!

What are some of your favorite travel projects? Are you or any of your family and friends Coasties? Any favorite festivals in your neck of the woods? High school band crushes? As always thank you for reading, and I enjoy reading your responses. I'm always flattered and humbled that you take the time to comment. :) Christina