Archives for posts with tag: indiecita

Sorry about the silence for a while there–I really needed that Thanksgiving break! I was drowning in work, and a week or two spent working into the wee hours of the morning paid off in allowing me to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend relatively work-free and relaxed.

On Thanksgiving day, we drove about 5 hours south to Rahul’s aunt and uncle’s house in rural central Illinois, and his parents drove up from Missouri to meet us there.  It’s deep in America’s flat, corn-filled heartland, the type of area where they show GM seed corn ads on prime time TV and you can listen to radio call-in shows dedicated to farm equipment classifieds (RFD Trading Post)–fascinating for an urban Californian! “Uh, hello, I’m interested in buying some billy goats, but I only want billy goats without horns. No horns. So if you have a billy goat with no horns, please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.” “I got some farm fresh eggs for sale. XXX-XXX-XXXX. Thanks.”

We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner–turkey with all the fixings–but some yummy Indian food the other days, too: tandoori chicken, shrimp curry, biryani, a coconut-rice vermicelli dish called shevia (the last half of the word should be pronounced in a sort of slurry of vowels and approximants, sort of like Ozzy Osborne in that Samsung commercial).

We went shopping in Springfield on Black Friday and the day after. I feel sort of ashamed to admit that I had any part of this celebration of gluttonous American consumerism, but we were fairly practical, buying useful, cold-weather things on sale like chapstick and flannel sheets and a fake-down comforter, instead of silly things like Bacon-Waves and talking football-shaped candy dishes. We did buy a semi-frivolous Roomba at a doorbuster sale but found upon opening it that it didn’t have all the features we wanted: you have to manually start it–it can’t be set up to run automatically, and it doesn’t “go home” to charge afterwards, you just have to stumble over it wherever it happened to stop vacuuming and take it back to recharge. So we returned it, and my dreams of an amazing robot maid will have to be deferred. (An aside: I think iRobot is a terrible name for a robot company, don’t you?)

We did see some good old-fashioned Black Friday douchebaggery: a woman asked Rahul to hold her place in line for a sec when we first lined up, then she came back 45 minutes later, when we were about 5 people from the front of the line, and said “Oh, there you are! Thanks for holding my place” and shamelessly ducked back into line, completely ignoring her mortified husband telling her they had to go to the end of the line. Amazingly, aside from some complaining from us, a manager, and the people directly behind her, there were essentially no consequences for her jerkface behavior: she got to check out pretty much right away. But that was the biggest drama we saw, no fistfights over Wiis or anything like that.

Aside from that, we spent lots of time vegetating and hanging out with Rahul’s family. We watched lots and lots and lots of news about Mumbai, and I saw The Godfather for the first time, and the The Last King of Scotland. Both fantastic, of course.

Plus, at the same time, I did lots and lots of knitting! I cast on for Eastlake just before we left, and knit for a total of 20+ hours over the course of 4 days during car rides and while we watched movies or TV. I was trying desperately to meet my NaKniSweMo goal of finishing Flicca plus making one more sweater during the month of November, but fell short last night, only getting a few inches into the sleeves before calling it quits for the night. Still, I made good progress, and the sweater is going to be cushy and delicious once I’m done–I’m making it in a velvety taupe worsted-weight cashmere from School Products (via Klosekraft’s destash sale), and knitting as much of it as possible in the round. The leaf motif is so addictive I think I might even make an Eastscarf.

Last but not least, I finished the Malabrigo socks that were giving me such fits before, and wrote up the pattern! It’s available as a free download, with the caveat that this is a sock pattern by a sock moron and thus is not at all guaranteed to be any good. Here they are, the Tyro Socks, knit in the lovely Indiecita colorway:

Toe-up socks written for beginners, using the yarn-over short-row toe and heel described by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts in Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy (photo tutorial included in the pattern, for sock morons like me), and a simple, softly curving lace pattern mirrored on the left and right feet. The lace pattern is easy to read and to memorize, and it’s mostly stockinette (every other row is plain knit stitches).

You may notice some visual similarities to other patterns: the Pomatomus socks and Spirogyra mitts in particular. (There may be others, too, but those are the only ones I know of.) However, despite the similarities, which only occurred to me after I’d started, I can assure you that these socks were designed the old-fashioned way, from scratch, futzing around with a stitch dictionary and doing some swatching and math to mirror the stitch pattern and make it work with the stitch count. Namely, the parent stitch pattern is the Overlapping Waves pattern in The Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns.

This is a pattern of many knitting milestones for me. First pair of socks, first sock pattern, first short-row toe, and last but not least, first semi-creepy Flickr group request for photos of my feet. Ha! I’d read all kinds of tempest-in-a-teapot discussions on Ravelry about foot fetishists lurking on knitting websites to ogle sock FO photos, but this was the first direct encounter I’d had with them.

I’ve been tagged for two memes–I’ll do Kristen’s first, because I’ve been thinking about it for a bit.

Both these memes are meant to be about me. I find it much more difficult to write about myself than to write about external things like books or knitting… perhaps because I find it stressful to be the center of attention, or perhaps for the same reason I’ve found it hard to answer when people say “what’s X person like?” or “what was it like to live in X place?” For complex subjects I know well, I don’t construct a simple narrative about them the same way I do for simple subjects or people/places I know only in passing. I should practice coming up with “elevator speeches” if I think I’ll be asked about something, but honestly, I never think about it until the question drops and I’m left stymied and stammering and going into far more detail than the person asking really wanted.

Anyway, here’s the six-word memoir I decided to write.

Searching for happiness. Is happiness enough?

Growing up, whenever I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, or blew dandelion fluff clean away, I always closed my eyes and simply wished to be happy. I didn’t ask for particular things to happen or for particular items. I wished for a state of mind. Mostly, as an adult, I’ve been successful in that. But–the essence of my quarterlife crisis–

Is happiness enough?

I went to Quaker church last Sunday with Rahul. The church is non-hierarchical, so you sit in silence in the meeting of Friends, and when someone feels moved to speak by the Holy Spirit, they stand up and say their piece. Best church I’ve ever been to, though being more spiritual than religious, I don’t know that I really believe in the Holy Spirit or a personified God. Anyway, someone stood up at church and talked about a successful lawyer who had been moved to drop his career and move down to Nicaragua to live in a shack.

“What would the world be like,” the speaker said, “if all Christians felt like it was their Christian duty to be poor?”

Now, I don’t think that has to mean moving to Nicaragua and living in a shack. Studies have shown that money does buy happiness, up to a certain point, once your basic needs are met and you don’t feel afraid about where your next meal will come from. But what if we actively aspired to stop wanting at that point? Not passively, with the “camel through the eye of a needle” proverb in the back of the mind, or with alms or tithing as a sort of duty separate from ourselves, but actively, as a pillar of faith. What if we tried, like Buddhists (and not the kind of consumerist Buddhism that comes from buying prayer flags and wearing yoga pants) to let our desires fall away and ignore the I want mindset? If we stopped asking for more money, promotions, power, stopped buying stuff except when we needed it? What if we focused on love and simplicity and the things that please us?

What if we didn’t need more? Could it be enough to be happy?

I think we tend to give lip service to this idea, but in practice, without thinking about it, we value money, objects, status, and achievement more. We secretly look down on people who reach a certain point in their careers, not too high up the ladder, and then stop advancing, calling these “dead-end careers.” But is it always better to be at the top? You get more money and more status, but (depending on your particular position) you may trade off free time and your level of stress may skyrocket. There was some movie about this a few years back, where a very happy temp worker got hired full-time and his life went to hell.

I don’t mean to advocate selfishness, of course, or hedonism to the detriment of the greater good, and I’m all in favor of making enough money to take care of yourself both now and in the future. And it makes life so much easier to have lots of money, no question. But there’s a feeling in personal lives analogous to our ideas about the economy that more is better, growth is necessary, but what if it’s not only unnecessary but harmful? I read this interesting story in the Atlantic Monthly called Fear of fallowing: the specter of a no-growth world (abstract here) that goes into these ideas a bit, on an economic/societal scale rather than a strictly personal one–Collapse, by Jared Diamond, does as well, but then Diamond is a successful author and professor and doesn’t really need to worry about his place in the world.

So, without going too far into the details, and without addressing consumerism (I have a wee problem with loving and acquiring stuff, though I’ve gotten much better about it in recent years) my current crisis is that despite sometimes feeling like I’ve never been happier, I get this vague itchy feeling like I ought to be doing more, achieving more, or making more money. But what if I already have enough? What if I could, but I don’t want to, and what if that’s enough? (Maybe I should move to Bhutan, where they measure and deeply value their Gross National Happiness.)

I’m feeling this crisis particularly right now because, well, I just filed my taxes and am feeling extremely poor and angry and grudgingly, selfishly in favor of this idiotic economic stimulus plan, because it will mean another $600 in my pocket. But on the other hand, I don’t really need it, I just hate having to pay the government a big chunk of money, and I know I could be making more. I can pay my rent and my bills and sock away money every month for retirement. And I have lots of free time and mental balance right now. But I can’t help thinking, sort of longingly, of the days when I had a lot more money and a lot less free time and general happiness.

I mean, springtime is finally here in Bloomington, and just look at it! Magnolias, sunshine, rainbow scarves, forsythia… would I really rather be stuck in a cubicle or in meetings in an office park until 10 PM, making a bit more money? (Um… maybe? Check back in with me in a year…)

Observe:

A star magnolia outside the public library:

Pink trees on 3rd Street:

A reversible scarf pattern I’ve been working on, called “The Water is Wide”–it will have 3 variations, and I’m working on the 3rd right now. Here are variations 1 and 2.

The main version shows wave cables on one side and a quilted “gull stitch” ribbing on the other side. It’s knit in Malabrigo Silky Merino in Indiecita, 2 skeins. I have lots of nice pictures of this that I took this weekend around the IU campus. I’ll share more later, but here are some of the outtakes I don’t plan to use in the final pattern:
Too nipply:


Shows construction in the background:

And here are some photos of version 2, a version showing quilted rib on both sides, knit with 2 skeins of Noro Kureyon and 1 skein of Plymouth Boku, all striped together. I might use some of these photos for the final pattern–I’m pleased with how they came out, but then I have a real weakness for rainbow-striped scarves, so how could I have gone wrong?
In the star magnolia:

Floating in forsythia:

TP

Close up

Far off

(Version 3 will show wave cables on both sides, but I ran out of yarn and have to wait for more to come in the mail. I hope the dyelots are similar. I love it so far–it’s luscious–but it eats yarn like crazy.)

This NPR story inspired the meme, and here are the guidelines:

Here are the guidelines, should you choose to participate in this yourself:

  • Write your own six word memoir.
  • Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
  • Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
  • Tag five more blogs with links.

I hereby tag:

  1. Goldtop, in revenge exchange for tagging me with the “seven things” meme
  2. gleek
  3. Emilee
  4. Kate
  5. Big Sister

(Apologies if you’ve been tagged before… I didn’t do a search to check. And no obligations here. It was definitely hard to figure out what to write in my 6-word bio, so totally I’ll understand if you don’t want to.)

And anyone else who wants to be tagged, please do participate and let me know!

Have you heard the recently discovered oldest recording in the world? It’s sort of a haunting idea, a French recording of the folksong “Au clair de la lune,” recorded in 1860 by a phonoautograph, a hand-cranked device that scratched sound waves onto paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp.

But the reality of this ghostly voice from the past… well, doesn’t really live up to its promise. Listen to it and you’ll see what I mean. A BBC radio announcer dissolved into a giggling fit after playing the clip on the radio, because someone whispered to her while it was playing that it sounded “like a bee buzzing in a bottle.” Pretty apt. (You can listen to an audio clip of her meltdown through that link.)

This morning, Rahul woke me up by singing me his rendition of “Au clair de la lune,” the Bee Buzzing in a Bottle version. It was a great way to wake up, much better than listening to Morning Edition on the clock radio, if you ask me.

From there, the day improved in two ways, despite the rainy weather. Or maybe three. One, I discovered that Philip Pullman has a new His Dark Materials book coming out: Once Upon a Time in the North, now available for pre-order. I haven’t decided whether to buy it or not, but I did put it on hold at the library. It’s a prequel to The Golden Compass, and its protagonist is Lee Scoresby at the age of twenty-four.

Two, I finished both of my aforementioned interminable knitting projects, and turned in the moonlighting project I was doing for the business school. Various weights off my chest. Here’s a picture of one of the interminable projects, my The Water is Wide scarf, blocking in the sink.

At some point, the penny dropped that the second skein I’d bought was a drastically different color from the first. They looked very similar in the hanks, but once wound into balls they were obviously quite different. The first one was very pale and golden, the second one much more saturated and predominantly lavender and teal. Thankfully, I realized this before the end of the first skein, and striped the second one in for a gradual transition in colors. You can clearly see the difference in this picture, though, and the colors are only exaggerated by the water.

Three. I got a skein of Malabrigo in the mail–Jewel Blue merino worsted, a gorgeous baby blue. Someone on Ravelry was destashing it for $5. I’m going to at least swatch for one of my The Water is Wide variations with this, if not finish the entire variation scarf. Speaking of which, here’s another sale to add to that list of sales I posted the other day: Sandra Singh has Malabrigo worsted and lace and Kauni Effektgarn on sale right now.

Oh, and four. I guess this doesn’t quite count, since I made this yesterday, but I had some great ragu for dinner last night and for lunch today. I don’t usually cook meat at home, but we’ve been shifting away from our mostly-vegetarian diets lately–backsliding, which is bad for my karma, yet so delicious. I simmered it all afternoon while I worked yesterday, so it has that really nice slow-cooked flavor. I put a couple of unorthodox ingredients in it, but mostly followed a pretty traditional recipe.

(An aside: when I lived in Italy, my roommates thought it was hilarious that the two leading brands of spaghetti sauce were named Prego and Ragu, as this would be roughly the equivalent of having two leading brands named You’re Welcome and Meat Sauce. Meat Sauce brand Vegetarian Tomato Sauce, Meat Sauce brand Basil Pesto… You’re Welcome sauce beats out Meat Sauce sauce in blind taste tests two times out of three!)

To make the ragu, I browned a package of Fischer Farms grass-fed beef in a large Dutch oven, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a spatula. When browned, I removed it to a separate bowl, then cooked a soffritto of diced onions, carrots, and celery in the rendered fat (I hear tallow is not as bad for you if the cows are grass-fed), adding minced garlic a little bit later. When the soffritto was lightly browned, I added the beef back in, then poured in about a cup of milk, and cooked, stirring every so often, till this was nearly evaporated; added some glugs of leftover white wine and cooked it down again; then added a couple of cans of diced tomatoes and spices, and left it all to simmer, stirring every now and then. The spices: dried rosemary, oregano, fennel seed, bay leaf, nutmeg, and some rather unorthodox cinnamon (only a tiny sprinkle. I love the way it tastes with meat), brown sugar (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes) and soy sauce (more salt, more umami). I added some black pepper at the end and served it over egg noodles. Eat your heart out, You’re Welcome Sauce!