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Favorites of 2010

Inspired by a post I read on Jacey’s blog, I thought it would be fun to take a look back on 2010 by choosing some of my “favorites” from the year.  It was fun for me to compile, so hopefully you enjoy reading them too. Here goes:

Favorite knit: Carp

carp front

This knit took me so long to do, I can’t say it was my most favorite to knit but once completed I was so pleased with the result and really felt like I accomplished something challenging that was actually wearable.

Favorite meal: Shake & Sweet Potato Fries

I know this doesn’t sound like a meal (or a healthy one for that matter) but when I am trying to eat right and I need a little shake and fries fix I blend up my favorite shake (1 cup light chocolate soy milk, 1 small banana, 1 TBSP peanut butter, 8 ice cubes) and serve it with Alexia Sweet Potato fries (which can be found in the Natural Foods freezer section).  It is divine.

Favorite blog post: Erin in the 10’s

I had so much fun writing this decade-in-review post. When I read this blog I am reminded of how fast things change and of all the great experiences and blessings I have been given.  Both good things for me to remember.

Favorite purchase: Kindle

I was raised a reader and for most of my life have been a voracious one.  Admittedly, the last few years I have read less and less and had been missing reading (although obviously not enough to do something about it.) Enter, the Kindle.  I bought mine this fall when they came out with the new model and I couldn’t be happier about it.  I can take my Kindle everywhere and always have something great to read.  The battery lasts forever.  I can easily read in bed without needing to hold open a book with my hands.  When I hear about a book I just download a sample and never lose track of a recommendation.  In short, it is perfect for me and has brought reading back to my life.  For that alone I will forever love my Kindle.

Favorite sewing project: Twinkles

Ellie presents Twinkles

If I was picking my favorite end result I might have chosen my dress but in the end I had to go with this perfect day of sewing with my niece.  The day we made Twinkles was so blissfully creative and fun.  I can still remember her joy over our creating something together and hold that day among my most favorite ever.

Favorite home project: Living room chairs

Living Room Chairs AFTER

So what if I didn’t recover these myself.  I am so in love with how these chairs turned out.  I could only hope that the fabric I picked worked with the style of the chairs and when I saw the chairs for the first time when they were being delivered to my home I couldn’t have been happier.

Favorite arrival: Margaret (more commonly known as Maggie)

week+28

My brand new niece is pretty much the cutest baby ever.  Have you seen her cheeks?!?  I love her. So much.

Favorite TV on DVD: Prison Break

Thanks to Netflix I watched the entire series of Prison Break this year and became completely obsessed.  AWESOME show.  The first 2 seasons are the best, I didn’t love the 3rd, but the 4th and final season was a satisfactory end–plus, it has an ending which I always appreciate.  (There is nothing I can’t stand more than a show with a narrative storyline that is canceled and not allowed to wrap up.)

Favorite TV Show: The Good Wife

I wasn’t sure I would like The Good Wife when it started but it has grown to be the show I always choose to watch first when a new one records on my DVR.  I love the style of it and the complex characters and think the acting is perfect.  I do have to give a shout out to Parenthood though as my second runner up–it stands to reason that I would watch anything Lauren Graham is a part of but the sibling dynamic and the real (read: not soap opera-y) family drama makes this a must-see regardless.

Favorite trips: Chicago, Middle East

Us at the Bean

Us and the camels

I had some pretty amazing trips this year and am so grateful for these opportunities.  I am picking two trips (because I can)–one domestic (Chicago) and the other international (Middle East).  Chicago was the perfect long weekend trip.  I met up with long-time friends and we toured and walked and ate our way through the city.  It was perfect.  Then there was the Middle East.  I know I didn’t talk about this trip on my blog (Kara summed it up beautifully here and here and here and here) but this was two weeks and 4 countries with my parents and sister and was a trip I will remember for the rest of my life.

Favorite book: The Hunger Games

I didn’t want to pick The Hunger Games and even considered picking a less trendy book so I would appear well read and cool but in the end I have to be honest.  I delayed reading this book for the same superficial reasons that keep me from wanting to own it as my favorite.  Everyone had or was reading it and thus I wasn’t interested.  (It is for this same reason that I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until the 5th book was out.)  I ended up reading all 3 books in the series and enjoyed them all but The Hunger Games stands apart as the most compelling.  It is creative, shocking, and emotional and I loved it from the start.

Favorite movie: Pass

I didn’t see a lot of movies this year and of those I saw I didn’t really fall in love with any.  Although I am not willing to choose a favorite, I did enjoy Inception, The Social Network, and Tangled.

Favorite new period piece: Lark Rise to Candleford

I think this would be my favorite regardless but the fact that I watched all episodes of this gem of a show with my Mom and sister Kara helps solidify its status.  The show is light, emotional, funny, romantic, and sweet.  We laughed, we cried, we mimicked their country English accents…watching this show with Mom and Kara is among my favorite memories of the year.

Favorite picture: Standing in the Sea of Galilee

Me and Sea of Galilee

First, I think this picture makes me look really tiny so obviously that is one reason I love it.  Second, every time I look at it I can feel the cool, clear water from this sea with such a storied history.  Being there was a powerful experience for me and this picture reminds me of how I felt.

So there you go folks.  My favorites of 2010.  As you can see, it was a very good year.  I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!

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Checkerboard Hat

A few weeks ago I saw this awesome hat on Jane Brocket’s blog that she made up one weekend.  Immediately I wanted to make it but sadly, she did not post a pattern.  The part of me that is lazy and wants someone more clever than I to tell me exactly how to achieve the results I want was very bummed.  The other part of me shrugged it off, said “challenge accepted”, and began to plot the making of what was sure to be my new favorite hat.

A couple of weeks and one trip to the yarn shop later, meet Checkerboard Hat (more commonly known as my new favorite hat):

Checkerboard Hat

I worked it out the pattern using a few different hat patterns as starting points.  The hardest part for me to get right was the crown–figuring out how to keep the pattern going as well as how to shape the top of the hat so it had the right amount of (but not too much) ease.  I had to rip it and redo the crown once but I think I really like what I ended up with.

Checkerboard Hat - Back

This hat is so super easy and held my interest while knitting because of the fun color changes.  Plus I finished it in just one weekend.  I really love the way it turned out.

Just so you can see how cute this hat is on different people, I asked my sisters to model it for you too.  They of course said yes (they are cool like that.)

Checkerboard Hat - BriBri rockin’ the Checkerboard!

Checkerboard Hat - KaraKara’s turn!

Side note: My sisters are really pretty.  (Just saying.)

Now, I really can’t claim this as my pattern as it is a blatant copy of someone else’s knit but in case you desire your own Checkerboard Hat I am including what I did.  I really hope it makes sense.  Enjoy.

Yarn: Dalegarn Falk (24×30=4″, sport weight), I bought one skein each for the main color and the 5 checkerboard colors. I think it would also be fun to try one solid color and a hand-painted yarn that changes color for the contrast yarn.

Needles: US 4 & 5

Directions:

Ribbing: With main color and US 4 needles, cast on 112 stitches.  Join to work in the round and knit in 2×2 rib for 1 inch.

Main body: Switch to US 5 needles, join first contrast color, begin checkerboard pattern (knitting 2 stitches in the main color and 2 stitches in a contrast color) and at the same time work one round of *K4, M1* repeat until the end of the round. (140 stitches)

Continue in checkerboard pattern (first two rows identical and second two are switched) switching out the contrast color after a full repeat of the pattern (in other words every four rows).  Knit until hat measures 6 1/2 inches.

Crown: Begin decreases while keeping stitch pattern. (Note: In order to keep the look of the stitch pattern, sometimes the decreases result in one stitch for that color.  Give it a few rounds and those single stitches will meet up with its partner again.)

Round 1: *Knit 12, K2tog* repeat to end. (130 stitches)

Round 2: Knit one round in pattern.

Round 3: *Knit 11, K2tog* repeat to end. (120 stitches)

Round 4: Knit one round in pattern.

Round 5: *Knit 10, K2tog* repeat to end. (110 stitches)

Round 6: Knit one round in pattern.

Round 7: *Knit 9, K2tog* repeat to end. (100 stitches)

Round 8: Knit one round in pattern.

Round 9: *K2tog* repeat to end. (50 stitches) Note: The pattern now switches to a one color each stitch repeat.

Round 10: *K2tog* repeat to end. (25 stitches)

Round 11: *K2tog* repeat to last stitch, Knit last stitch.  Cut tail and pull through remaining stitches.

Weave in ends.

Checkerboard Hat - Close

26 down…

26 down13 to go.

Things I have learned about crocheting hexagons (and myself):

  1. It is fun.
  2. There really are endless color combos.
  3. I like some hexagons better than others.
  4. While I may not love them equally, I still love each hexagon for what it brings to the table, er, blanket.
  5. I like it when people tell me which hexagons are their favorite.
  6. It takes almost as long to weave in the ends as it does to crochet a hexagon.
  7. Like with knitting, I think I over weave ends.
  8. Although I suspect I am over weaving the ends, I still can’t stop.
  9. I know I should start blocking the finished hexagons but the growing stack of hexagons on my table really pleases me and I haven’t wanted to part with it.
  10. Stack o' Hexagons

  11. I think this blanket is going to be crazy awesome.

Chicago Reunion Trip

I had never been to Chicago before so I am aware the title of this post is a little deceptive.  The reunion part of the trip was in the form of KW and Max–my two awesome roommates from when I lived in Washington, DC 10 years ago.  We all live in different parts of the country now and don’t talk as often as we should so when Max suggested a reunion over Labor Day we all jumped at the chance and actually made it happen.  We picked Chicago because none of us had been there before and because it was a good central location.  (Actually, technically I have been there before but I was a teenager and with my family on a huge road trip and we didn’t really see anything in the city so I don’t count it.)

So, I loved Chicago.  If you love cities (and goodness knows I do) you will love Chicago too.  First, the food…

On a first trip to Chicago you HAVE to have deep dish pizza.  We got ours at a famous place called Giordano’s.  I think it might be a touch too famous as the line there was INSANE.  We fought the crowds, got up to the counter where they told us we could put our name down, wait an hour and a half, and then come back and order our pizza.  We did as we were told only to find out that once you order the pizza, the wait is another hour before you sit down.  At this point we were at the end of a long day and opted instead to have the pizza delivered to our hotel (to cook the pizza and deliver it was going to take the same amount of time).

Deep Dish

Pizza in your hotel bed while watching a pay-per-view movie…perfect.

We went to some great restaurants.  Rick Blayless’ XOCO had really amazing sandwiches and guac as well as churros for dessert with a shot of chocolate and some Mexican vanilla ice cream for dipping.

Mmmm...churros

So good.

Another noteworthy meal was Heaven on Seven for brunch.  One of the brunch options is a buffet style meal.  There is not a buffet set up in the restaurant but if you order the buffet you get a variety of dishes brought to your table, all you can eat, for everyone to enjoy–100% participation is required.  Once we saw this deal, obviously we all decided to enjoy the buffet.  We were brought scrambled eggs, thick cut bacon and sausage, potatoes, shrimp and grits, cornbread, and all of our personal favorite…bananas foster french toast.  Yeah.  We ended up getting seconds of that perfect food.  It was divine.

Heaven on Seven buffet

We also snacked on copious amounts of Garrett’s popcorn–we got the mix of cheese and caramel popcorn and it was amazing–although it turned my fingers fluorescent orange whenever I ate it.  KW didn’t have the same problem and I couldn’t understand why until I watched her actually eat some popcorn.  She swiftly but delicately would pop each kernel into her mouth, one at a time but really fast, which resulted in super clean hands.  I really must remember to eat more lady-like when consuming large amounts of popcorn.

We also loved the Doubletree cookie we received at check-in to our hotel.  Max tried to fib sweet-talk her way into another cookie when we checked out but the lady ignored us and we remained cookie-less.  Sad.

So the food, it was really great.  Chicago is known for it and I got a small taste as to why.  You would think that was all we did (interspersed between bouts of food comas) but no.  We managed to get out and experience some of the town too.

We went to a Cubs game.  I am not a huge baseball fan but I do enjoy seeing a game in person.  Plus, Wrigley Field is historic and an arena unlike any other I have been to.  You can just feel the history there.

Me and KW at Wrigley

Our seats were located in a section that was nicely shaded–only problem, this was the kind of day where you really needed the sun to be comfortable.  I learned why Chicago is called the Windy City.  The wind coupled with the lack of direct sunlight resulted in a very cold watching experience.  But still, it was fun to be there.

Us at Wrigley

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Chicago Art Institute.  There is some amazing art there that we had a lot of fun exploring (and taking pictures with).

Max as art

Max as modern art.

Us at the museum

Some took a little more time to take in.

Max listening

Max listening in.

We also walked around Millennium park, took lots of pictures of ourselves in the bean,

Us looking into the Bean

and saw other cool outdoor art.

Chicago outdoor art

If you wait a few minutes he starts crying.  It’s pretty deep.

One morning, we took an Agricultural river cruise.  Chicago has some of the most interesting and historic buildings and architecture in the U.S. so this tour was very interesting and a great way to see the city.

Chicago Agricultural River Tour

Our tour guide was awesome but she also looked and sounded exactly like the girl who plays the super fan Mel from Flight of the Conchords.  I’m not joking, I even wondered what the possibility of them being the same person was.

Tour guide as girl from FoC

Hi Mel. You were an awesome tour guide.

Perhaps the coolest thing we did was visit Oak Park to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s first family home, the studio he built, as well as a ton of homes in the neighborhood that he designed.  We were able to go on a tour of the inside of his house and it is hands down worth the trip out there.  He really was a genius and you can see it even in his early work.  I was in awe the whole tour long.  I wish they would have let us take pictures of the inside but alas, you will have to settle for this.

Frank's Studio

Outside Frank’s studio

As you can see, this trip was awesome.  What made it even more special was I got to reconnect with two friends who I love and share a lot of history with.  True friendships stand the test of time and pick up right where you left off.  KW and Max are those kind of friends.

Us at the Bean

Love you girls.

Yeah, I crochet

Before last weekend the only crochet I had attempted was some edging for a knit project.  I didn’t really have the desire to learn to crochet because (generally) I like the look of knitting better.  I figured knitting was enough and I didn’t need crochet.  But over the years a few projects crossed my path, and project by project my prejudice quickly melted away.

Of course, the desire to crochet is not enough–you still have to learn how and I was dragging my feet.  As a result of my call for inspiration (thank you, thank you to everyone who shared what is inspiring you) I decided that learning a new skill might be just what I need.  (It was.)

I bought the book The Happy Hooker as my reference guide (in honor of the SnB book that taught me how to knit in the first place), created a few swatches and then went to town on my chosen project.  Ever since I saw Nova’s GORGEOUS hexagon blanket I knew my time as a non-crochet person was ending soon.  I had to have one too.

I got some yarn:

Cascade 220Cascade 220 in all kinds of heavenly colors

And here are my first hexagons:

First 5 hexagonsLOVE.

I am a wee bit addicted to making these right now.  I love them.  I love picking the color of each round as I go.  I love how each hexagon is different and has its own personality (really, they do!)  I love how fast crochet goes which leads to more instant gratification.

One thing I feel I have to admit though, I’m not sure I’m doing it right.  Meaning the whole crochet thing.  The book teaches to hold the working yarn in your left hand (like when you knit continental style).  I started out that way and honestly am not sure when it changed but a few hours into crocheting I noticed I was holding the yarn in my right hand–exactly like I do in knitting, using my pointer finger to control my tension and everything.  It has been working for me so I hesitate to bring it up but I thought I would in case anyone knows why I shouldn’t be doing this.  Am I forming a bad habit?

Overall this project was exactly what I needed.  I am feeling creative again.  I am itching to make stuff again.  I choose to knit a hexagon over playing ninjump on my iPhone…and that folks, is progress.

A dress!

So, I made a dress.

Vogue 8469
I finished the dress a couple of months ago but didn’t hem it until this weekend.  Thankfully the weather is still pretty warm here so I was able to wear it at least once before the season really changes.

The pattern I used was Vogue 8469.  I had to make an adjustment to the bodice–adding about 4 inches to it in order for the waist band to actually make it to my waist (I did a muslin of the bodice and everything!)  The fabric is cotton but with a titch of spandex so it has a nice body to it.

The dress is far from perfect–if you look closely it is clear I am not an expert seamstress.  Putting in the zipper was my least favorite part (and now that it is done opening and closing the zipper by myself requires some serious arm bending).  The waist is pretty snug so gaining weight is not an option (which I suppose is a good thing).  As for the pattern itself, the sleeves turned out a little shorter than I was picturing and I wish they were a bit longer as I don’t love short cap sleeves on me.  Overall though, I am happy with the way it turned out.  And while I won’t be appearing on Project Runway anytime soon…I am pleased with my sewing progress.

Vogue 8469 close

Now that this dress is finally finished I can’t help but think of what’s next.  Ideally something without a zipper.  I mean really, do our clothes actually need zippers?  I think a lot more people would take up and stick to sewing if zippers weren’t involved.  Just saying.

Wanted: Inspiration

Thanks to my blog and it’s handy archives, I have noticed a pattern with me.  At least over the past 4 years, I tend to get a little sluggish around this time of year.  The end of summer/pre-fall season.  I don’t want to knit or sew–can’t really think of anything I want to make.  I don’t want to cook or try new dishes.  I certainly don’t want to blog.  I am tired.  Bored.  Uninspired.  Simply put, in a funk.

If I could write this off as an isolated occurrence I would feel better but using my blog as evidence, this is a pattern.  This discovery is troubling to me.  Fall is my favorite season…or so I have always thought.  Actually no.  It is.  Fall is my favorite.  I love the weather and the food and the holidays and the clothes and everything about how it feels.  So why aren’t I anticipating it?  Gearing up?  Planning my fall adventures?

My worry is that (as in years past) the funk that falls over me bleeds a little too far into the actual season.  Thus spoiling, or at least preventing me from fully enjoying fall.  I am not sure how to snap out of it but I figure recognizing the pattern is my first step.  Second step…Inspiration.

My first thought was knitting.  I need to start knitting something I actually want to wear and make.  Everything I have started since I finished the carp hasn’t done anything for me.  I go to ravelry for the first time in ages and the first pattern I see…Delancey Cardigan!  Ummm…I love it!  Looks different and fun to make.  Plus it looks like something that would actually look good on me.

Could this be it?  The answer to my post-summer/pre-fall funk?  Maybe it is that easy but just to be safe I think I need a little more inspiration to wake my soul up a bit.  So I was thinking, maybe you guys (the faithful still reading my blog) could help me out.  What has been inspiring/exciting you lately?  Doesn’t need to be knitting or craft related–really anything: a recipe, pattern, song, book, quote, activity…whatever.  Thanks in advance.  As you can see, I can really use your help.