Saturday, January 19, 2013

Laugh till it hurts

Full disclosure: We don't do a lot. I mean, we do tons of stuff. But, Tim and I don't go out a lot. Our lives tend to revolve around kids and work. So, Thursday, when he texted me with, "Can you get out of work about an hour early tomorrow?" I immediately replied yes (because at that moment I was looking at my calendar) and wondered what the heck was going on.

Turns out, Chris Hardwick was performing at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, and Tim wanted to go. Awesome! Like I said before, we don't do stuff, so this seemed like a spur of the moment adventure. He ordered tickets to the 8:00 show, and I booked a hotel room package that included tickets to the 10:30 show.....or so I thought. Turns out, they weren't supposed to sell that package on weekends of "Special Engagements," which this show definitely was. Needless to say, we were really disappointed, but glad we had tickets to the 8:00 show, so we were nice about it. The manager of the hotel called the owner of the club to try to work things out, and we went about our business.

When we arrived at the club for the show, the owner came out to talk with us, apologized profusely and really wanted to make things right. But, all the shows were sold out, so there was only so much he could do. He was also extremely glad that we were nice about things. And we were rewarded by our tab being completely covered. Sweet!  We were also told we were welcome to come back to the 10:30 show, but we would probably have to stand.

After the 8:00 show, Chris came out and signed autographs and posed for pictures.

For this picture, I was a total dork and forgot to turn off the flash on my phone, but the pic is hilarious.

 After that, we walked around the square and ended up at The Trojan Horse for dinner.
Chicken gyros. Yum!

At 10:30, we wandered back to the Comedy Attic to see if maybe we could stand for the second show. turns out, they were able to seat us! I think the second show was funnier than the first. I don't know if it's because I already knew most of the punchlines or because I had been drinking all evening. Either way, so funny!! All in all, an excellent evening.

The next morning, as we were checking out of our hotel, they also felt really bad about all the confusion the night before and gave us $50 off our bill. Double sweet!

I think the moral of this story is: Just freaking be nice. Seriously. We had a wonderful evening made better by people who wanted us to have a wonderful evening. It was awesome! And we'll definitely go back. If you ever find yourself in Bloomington on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening, go to the Comedy Attic.

Also, two doors down from the Comedy Attic is a yarn shop.Yes, I went there this morning. And yes, I bought some Robin J. Edmundson yarn I can't get in Lafayette. Life is good.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just a peek

I started re-organizing my kitchen drawers Sunday afternoon. They aren't finished yet (more on that in a minute), but they are a far cry better than they were.

We have "builder basic" cabinets in our house. Nothing fancy and sort of annoyingly configured. When we moved it, I purchased cheap plastic drawer inserts from Menard's because they fit the drawers, not because they fit my stuff. Observe:

Things that drive me crazy here:
  • At the back of the drawers (top of the picture), there's about 3" of wasted space because the organizer covers it with a flap of plastic. I understand this was the manufacturer's way of making them adjustable to different drawers--just cut to fit. But, I hate the idea of wasting that space.
  • The spaces don't fit my stuff! In the top picture, the measuring cups were the real issue. My son (bless his little 11-year-old heart) is responsible for unloading the dishwasher, and he just doesn't take the time to stack the cups they way they need to be stacked to really fit in this drawer. In the bottom drawer, none of the spaces are long enough for a chef's knife, much less a bread knife! So, there are huge holes poked into the plastic so they can fit. 
  • In some cases, there aren't enough spaces in the plastic organizers to properly sort things by type. For example, in the bottom picture, pizza cutters and can openers have to occupy the same space. In the top picture, it's clear that stuff just gets thrown into this drawer with little regard for the spaces at all. 
After about 30 minutes of work and less than $5 of materials, my drawers now look like this:

I followed the instructions given on the Lady Goats blog. She says no tools required, but I will admit that I used a miter box and handsaw because I wanted my cuts to be straight. As pictured, everything is just tension-fit, but I fully intend to glue things together this weekend (more on that in a minute).

What I love about this:

  • Customized spaces fit everything I have perfectly. 
  • Like items are together and don't invade spaces that belong to other types of items. (I still have two pizza cutters, but one is dirty because we fixed a frozen pizza for lunch. The empty space is for the kitchen scissors which were also dirty.)
  • This project forced me to evaluate everything as I was refilling the drawer. We seriously did not need 6 spoons, 2 plastic syringes, and 10 tiny cups for measuring medicines. One of each should do it. I threw out any measuring spoons and cups whose measurements were unknown--you know, the cheap spoons and cups that have the measurements printed on them instead of molded into the plastic and the print eventually (sometimes very quickly) wears off. 
So, why isn't this project done yet? Despite being very well-organized, the drawers look....blah. I haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do yet, but I need to add color somehow. Either I'm going to paint the dividers OR I'm going to line the drawers with some kind of paper OR both. I can't find any Con-tact paper that I really like, so I'm looking at other things. Wallpaper would work, but I don't even know where to get wallpaper other than on the internet. Wrapping paper might work, but seems really fragile. Maybe wrapping paper with clear contact paper over the top.... Hmmmm. We'll see. I promise pictures once I'm done. I also have two more drawers I want to do, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Projects for 2013

So, in case you didn't know, it's 2013! I know I'm a little late to the "New Year" bandwagon. We vacationed in Florida with my entire family during the holiday break this year, which was wonderful!

But, it also meant it didn't really feel like The New Year until after we got home and back into our "normal" routine. Plus, I've been battling a cold (NOT the flu!) for about a week, so that put a damper on New Year Projects. But this weekend, it will really begin! 

I like starting the new year by thinking about what I want to accomplish in the year to come. I don't really think of this process as making resolutions as much as goal-setting. In 2011, I established a self-imposed sock club, in which I knit a pair of socks each month. In 2012, I set goals related to getting my home more organized. 2013 will continue the organizing trend and add a few other goals to the mix.

  • Kitchen:
    • Install crown molding and paint cabinets
    • Reconfigure cabinet interiors (pull-out shelves)
    • Get rid of our ugly circa-1972 counter stools and get new attractive ones
    • Bug my dad to build the trash can cabinet I drew up plans for and gave to him ages ago.
  • Front room:
    • Build daybed and get rid of futon
    • Find a new place for the file cabinet and/or paint it 
  • Misc. Organizing:
    • Tackle my closet. It's a mess. Seriously. This is a high priority, and I hope to get it done this weekend.
    • Sort/weed/purge purse/bag collection. Seriously. No one needs the quantity of bags I own. 
    • Label yarn stash bins.
    • Cables and Wires: we really need a central location to keep these things, and a solution that allows us to easily put our hands on exactly what we need. I'm tired of wandering around the house searching for a USB cable when I want to download pictures from the camera. 
  • Reading:
    • Read more, and keep track of what I've read! I don't quite know what kind of measurable goal to set here. I just know I don't read as much as I'd like to. 
    • Listen to one audio book each month (I joined Audible) in addition to actual reading.
  • Personal Goals (in other words, make my health and myself a priority)
    • Eat more healthfully. So far, I'm doing this by eliminating sugary cereals (a huge weakness for me) and taking my lunch (a big salad and cup of homemade soup) to work every day. After a week and a half, I can honestly say I feel tons better all day as a result of this change. I don't get that icky mid-afternoon energy dip like I used to when I'd eat Apple Jacks for breakfast and a burger or pizza for lunch. And, my craving for candy during the afternoons is almost completely gone. I keep a box of granola bars in my office in case I get a little munchy around 3 or 4. For some reason this feels completely different than anything I've ever done before. I don't know if it's the attitude with which I'm approaching it or what. But something is working. I'm not looking at this as a diet. Maybe that's the difference?
    • Move. Seriously. Forget about losing weight, although that would be awesome. Just move. Go for a walk. Use the elliptical machine for 10 or 15 minutes before hopping in the shower in the morning, and maybe another 10 or 15 minutes in the evening. Whatever. I just need to get off my ass.
  • Knitting/Crafting:
    • Spin more. At least one evening a week--Mondays? Wednesdays? I need to establish a specific day. I bought a chair last week to make this an easier goal to meet.  Still need to move my wheel downstairs. 
    • Knit more from my stash. This is NOT a stash diet. I'm not going to limit my purchasing. That's just silly talk. But, I do have some really nice yarns in my stash that have been speaking to me. How about this goal: Six projects this year knit from yarns that have been in my stash at least a year (relative to the date the project is started).
    • Sew some more project bags. (Yes, I realize this seems in direct contradiction to the bag weeding project mentioned above, but it's really not. Here, I'm talking about small project bags for carrying knitting projects in my purse. One can never have too many project bags.)

I think that's probably a sufficient specific list for now. What are your goals for 2013?

I'll leave you with a picture of Diego enjoying the chair I bought last week

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fair Isle Socks or Mittens

This post is especially for anyone who is signing up for the Fair Isle Socks or Mittens class at River Knits, February 19, 26, and March 5; 7-9pm. This is a great class for anyone who has already knit socks and is ready to take the next step into something more complicated. Socks and mittens have a lot in common: they are small, cover our extremities, and offer a wonderful little canvas for beautiful Fair Isle stitch work.

As with the HATS! class, I encourage you to choose a pattern that appeals to you. But, I also understand that there are so many patterns to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow it down. I recommend first deciding what size needles and yarn you are comfortable with and going from there. For more about yarn weights, please visit the Craft Yarn Council's page on the Standard Yarn Weight System. Here are some pattern suggestions (some, but not all, are free):

Fingering Weight:  This is the finest weight you'd want to use for mittens or socks (though there are people who actually use lace weight sometimes....I'm not one of them).  Fingering weight yarn is usually knit on needles size 0-3 (depending on how you knit) at 7-10 stitches per inch. This very fine gauge allows for intricate patterning.  On Ravelry, there are more than 1000 sock patterns and more than 700 mitten patterns that fit into this category (fingering or light fingering). So, this is truly just a tiny sampling of what's available.

Butterflies are Free by Rose Hiver I love that these socks are mirror images of each other.
Wallflower by Stephanie van der Linden are beautiful!
Pisqu by Leslie Comstock are very traditional looking. Beautiful.
Garden Gate Socks by Emily Johnson  Yes, they are knee socks, and yes, they are knit at 9 stitches/inch, but man, they are beautiful!
Dither by General Hogbuffer  I love way the colors meld into each other on these.

Lotus Mittens by Heather Desserud are quite lovely.
La Joie du Printemps also by Heather Desserud are amazingly beautiful.
Okay, I have to admit I'm finding myself falling in love with lots of mittens designed by Heather Desserud. :)
Akay by Natascha Reim Latvian style mittens.
Peerie Flooers by Kate Davies also has a matching hat pattern!

Sport Weight:  A little heavier than fingering weight, sport weight (and sometimes DK weight) socks and mittens knit up a little faster than their fingering weight brethren. They are typically knit at a gauge of 6-7 stitches per inch on size 2-5 needles (again, depending on how you knit). There are significantly fewer sport weight patterns for mittens and socks than for fingering. Here are some that appeal to me.

Caspian Sea Socks by Priscilla Gibson Roberts
Pizzelle by SpillyJane
Tank Girl Socks by Laura Hohman  (Another pair of knee socks. I made these for my daughter for Christmas this year, and I have to pry them off of her to wash's kind of gross and flattering all at the same time.)
Svedia Socks by SJ Griffin

Winter Wonder Mittens by Amy Loberg I love the swirly snowflake motif on this!
Narwhal Mittens by Ysolda Teague  because...narwhals.
Forest Mushroom by Elinor Brown  features Estonian braid on the cuff, which I love.
Robot Love Mittens by Fact Woman from Mod Knits  Who wouldn't love mittens with robots on one side and binary code on the other?!

Worsted Weight and Heavier: yarns in this weight range create super-warm socks and mittens. The look is a little more rustic because the yarn is thicker, so you can't get the intricate details you can with thinner yarns. Socks and mittens in this weight range are usually knit at 5.5 or fewer stitches per inch, typically on needles larger than size 4 (as stated before, it depends on how you knit). On Ravelry, there are fewer than 50 Fair Isle sock patterns that fall into this category, but still more than 500 mitten patterns.

Miner's Dream by Jennifer Still are lovely.
Bunny Hop OP Sock by Laura Andersson are super cute with a ruffle at the top.
Fair Isle Sock by Patons would be really lovely in natural shades of Cascade 200.

Knitter's Mitten by Elisabeth Sliney Marino features grazing sheep!
Maine Woods and Rivers Mittens by Pat Higgins are rustic and lovely.
Bacon Mittens by Nikol Lohr  because.....bacon.
Drifty Mittens by Mandy Powers are so adorable and call for Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky on size 9 needles!

So, I hope that at least gives you a good starting point for finding some Fair Isle sock and mitten patterns. Please don't feel limited to this list! Choose whatever you like, and well work through them together!  If you need additional help finding something, just email me at And, if you want to sign up and join us for the class, stop by, call or email River Knits. This 3-session class is $45. Hope to see you there!!!


This post is especially for anyone who is signing up for the Hats! class at River Knits, January 22, 29, and February 5; 7-9pm.  In this class, we'll be knitting hats! A plain hat is a great first project for a beginning knitter, while more complicated patterns can be fun and challenging for intermediate or advanced knitters. Here are some suggestions:

Plain Hats:
So easy that once you knit a couple, you don't even need the pattern anymore! You can use just about any yarn, though starting with worsted weight or heavier is a good idea. Hats in this range knit up quickly, allowing for a great sense of accomplishment and a warm head! Here are a few patterns, but really....if you pick a yarn, I can jot a pattern down for you in no time. (A note about these links: they link to Ravelry, which is an awesome online community for knitters and crocheters. If you haven't already joined, you might not be able to see what's linked. Join! It's free and way cool.)

Simple Slouch Hat by Robyn Devine
Be Loving by Melissa Simpson
The Long Beanie by Woolly Wormhead

If there's another you'd rather knit, go for it!

Fair Isle:
I love a Fair Isle hat. There's just something fun and wonderful about colorwork in a hat. It feels cozy and looks festive. Here are some of my favorites, but please feel free to choose something else if you like!

Fair Isle Hat from Gaea Creations (yeah, that's me; also available for purchase as a paper pattern from River Knits)
Sheep Heid by Kate Davies  (Not free, but too cute not to include in the list!)
Skull Hat by Gina Davidson (Especially if you know someone pirate-y.)
Beaumont Tam by Jared Flood  (also not free, but worth it)

I could go on and on and on. There are some really gorgeous Fair Isle hat patterns out there. 

Nothing is better than a good, sturdy, warm cabled hat. Don't feel limited to my list, but check these out:

Star Crossed Slouchy by Natalie Larson  I've made several of these. They are easy, quick, and an excellent introduction to cables.
Koolhaas by Jared Flood Hugely popular.
Who? by Sara Amoroso features cute little cables that look like adorable owls.
Druidess Beret by Anna Bright is gorgeous!

I love knitting lace more that just about anything else. Hats are an excellent way to get your feet went in the big lace knitting ocean. Here are a few good ones:

Cascade Beret by Kimberly Porter beautifully combines cables and lace.
Shroom by Lee Juvan
Foliage by Emilee Mooney gives you the choice of two different yarn weights.

Want to knit something a little more "out there?" Check these out:
Capucine by Adela Illichmanova  I made one of these last year for myself, and my daughter immediately stole it.
Fish Hat by Thelma Egberts  Heather made a ton of these a few years ago.
Vortex by Lee Meredith is decidedly not for the faint of heart. Challenging, but so worth the work!
Or how about a hat inspired by a cartoon, movie, or video game? Invader Zim Gir, Shrek, Transformers, Chain Chomp, R2D2Pokemon, or Tardis.

If none of those appeal to you, absolutely feel free to pick something that does! If you need additional help finding something, just email me at And, if you want to sign up and join us for the class, stop by, call or email River Knits. This 3-session class is $45. Hope to see you there!!!