Yet another journal-type place for Darcy to rant, rave, and/or recuperate from the world.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

50-Book Challenge

Okay, I wasn't planning on doing this today, but my Kindle's screen broke, so I had to get a new one, and there were books I've read that won't be transferring to the new device.

  1. The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  3. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  5. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
  6. Checkmate - A Beginner's Guide to Chess by Adam Stryvnski
  7. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
  8. The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  9. Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber
  10. By Schism Rent Assunder by David Weber
  11. By Heresies Distressed by David Weber
  12. A Mighty Fortress by David Weber
  13. How Firm a Foundation by David Weber
  14. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (for school)
  15. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (for school)
  16. Mutineers' Moon by David Weber (In progress)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Adventures in Knitting (and Other Stuff)

Well, I finally got my knitting project pictures from my camera onto my computer. They're not that great--the lighting was horrendous when I took most of them--but they'll do.

I started to get into knitting around the end of January. I just kept thinking that I wanted to knit something. Grandma S. had taught me how to knit at least twenty years ago, but I hadn't really gotten into it then. All of a sudden, I found myself wanting to knit though, so one day on the way to work (back when I was still on the p.m. shift) I stopped at the Michael's store in Leesburg, VA.

I didn't really know what I wanted to knit, and I'd forgotten how to cast on, so I got an "I taught myself knitting" kit--just so I could have an immediate reference should I need reminding. I also looked at yarns, and found a really nice red color. Remembering that Anna's and Tim's wedding colors were black and (apple) red, I thought to myself that I might just like to make a sweater for Anna in those colors--so I did.

It turned out pretty okay, for a first major project. I didn't really know anything about buying proper yarn weights at the time though, so the body of the sweater (the black) was thinner than the sleeves (done in red). I also hadn't tied in the ends properly in a couple of places, so when I washed and dried the sweater the first time in preparation for giving it to Anna, a few small holes showed up! Yikes!

So I called Grandma in a bit of a panic, and she said to bring it by her house when I could so she could let me know if it was fixable. Thank goodness it was, because I really didn't want to have to take it apart and make it all over again!

There are a few "yarn scars" where I had to do quick patch-ups, but they're mostly on the back. There was one on the front though, so I covered it up with a cute little frog patch that Grandma let me have, so it would be "prettier." Anna loved the frog.

When I first started making Anna's sweater, a lot of people at work remarked on it. One co-worker actually asked me to make a sweater for him too. I told him I would, and asked what color. He said blue--the same color as our uniform shirts, because he's a Carolinas fan. I couldn't quite get an exact match just by going to the craft store, so I bought a skein each of three of the closest shades, and had him choose. It ended up being Vanna's Choice Sapphire.

This sweater came out a lot better, since I was working all in one color (so I didn't have to worry about weight of yarn being different) and I knew better how to tie in the ends. Grandma also helped with a bit of confusion over the directions--I was having trouble figuring out how the pattern was telling me to sew on the sleeves. As you can see at the right, her advice helped. This particular picture came out really well, and it's probably the best picture of all the projects I've done so far.

After that, I decided to try making a pair of socks. I'd heard it was somewhat more of a challenge, since you have to use four needles at once. The first sock was kind of iffy--I'd gone the wrong direction when I started, so it has a bit of a "run" down the middle of the back where the rounds didn't quite come together. As a result of that, the first sock is baggier and looser than the second. By the second sock, I'd learned how to keep the tension on without pulling so hard that I couldn't move the needles.

Sometimes, I wear the socks when I'm just bumming around the house. But after a few hours, I start to feel the individual stitches digging into the bottoms of my feet. Unfortunately, the yarn I made them with is hand-wash and flat-air-dry only, so I can't put them in the machines to soften them up a bit. I wonder if there's a way to soften them up by hand?

The socks are black, so you're not really missing much with the uber-darkness of the picture.

Now that I'd finally knitted something for myself, I decided to go back to knitting surprises for other people, namely my bestest friend, H. (Hiya!)

What to make her, though? She lives in AZ, where it gets extremely hot, so a sweater probably wouldn't be all that useful. However, it does get at least a little chilly at times, and she has to take her dogs out to go potty too. So I figured a shawl would be just the ticket. I had bought a book of shawl patterns, and chose one with lots of lacing, so it would be warm, but still light-weight.

Without telling her why, I asked for confirmation of her favorite color, and she told me royal blue, so the picture to the right is lying to you if you're seeing black.

I also thought about putting a tiny knitted swatch onto one of those make-your-own button badge things (you know, the pins that people wear that have things like smiley faces and such on them?) so that she could have detachable buttons for holding the shawl on while she walked the dogs also. But even the lighter-weight yarn I used for the shawl was too thick for my tiny button maker. Ah well.

After that, I tried my hand at pattern making. What I wanted was a sleeveless dress with a V-neck, and a slight slit about 4 inches up one side like my favorite skirt has. Only, I couldn't find a pattern with exactly what I wanted. So I took my measurements, chose the yarn I wanted to make the dress with, made some gauge swatches, and calculated all the stitches I'd need, all the increases and decreases, and where they would go, in order to make that dress. I knitted it in the round (with needles connected at the center by flexible plastic, instead of two separate straight needles), which made the calculations a bit more complicated, since my measurements diagram could only show one side of me at a time.

Over all, I did pretty well with the calculations, except between my bust and armpits, where it came out baggier than it should have been. I just sewed little gussets to the inside of the dress under each arm to get rid of (or at least hide) the excess, since I wasn't about to take apart half of the dress's top just to fix it. I'll fix the pattern by looking at exactly how many stitches those gussets hold and making sure the necessary decreases happen before I make another dress like it--if I ever do, that is.

I bought a solid blue belt (to break up the pattern a bit at the middle of the dress) and some high-heeled backless brown sandals with blue, suede opened toes on to go with the dress. The sandals are my favorite shoes, but I don't get to wear them very often now that it's getting colder and I've got somewhere to be seven days per week (work and school). I did wear the shoes on the first day of the semester though, and that nearly killed my legs. I'm never wearing high heels to FCC again!

I plan to make a solid-colored bolero-style jacket to go with the dress (which will only be worn in the winter, once I've bought a slip--the sun tends to shine through all the little holes between stitches) in one of the darker middle shades of blue that is in the verigated yarn I used for the dress. I also plan to make solid-colored pockets slightly at an angle on the front of the dress about where pants pockets would be. I just don't have time for that project at the moment, what with my crazy-insane schedule.

I had also planned to teach a few people at the Haven how to knit, and actually had planned and scheduled the class. I had planned to have them make potholders during the lesson, and give them some yarn too. I would also let them pick their next project from one of the few books I had--or help them look up patterns on the internet for whatever they wanted to make, as well as give them advice on how to choose yarn and needle sizes.

However, the people who were interested in learning to knit could not make it to the Haven on the day I'd chosen for class, and I could not make it any other day either, so the class was cancelled. Maybe I'll try to have the class again during the break between fall and spring semester or something.

To the right is a picture of the example potholders I made to go with the class flyer on the bulletin board at the Haven. The first two were from patterns in the "I taught myself knitting" kit, and the third is an adaptation I made with cable-stitching. I think I need to adapt that pattern so it's a better square with the cabling, though--it turned out a bit long and thin compared to the other two.

The yarn I used for the example is also not good for potholders, since it's not very heat-resistant and would probably melt if you tried to put it on the table under a hot pot of food, but since these are only for show, it's all right.

That's about all the knitting news for now. On to this year's Renaissance Festival, and then I've really got to get some homework done.

Earlier this fall, I asked Anna and Tim if they would want to go to RennFest with me, if I could get off work one Sunday (the only day both Tim and Anna are off from work during any given week), and they said yes. So I got the 2nd of October off, and saved all the money I could from two paychecks for the RennFest.

On October 1st, the forecast called for cold and rain, however. Anna and Tim, fearing Dylan would get a cold--or otherwise become ill--in the weather, had to back out of our Faire plans at the last minute. I couldn't blame them--I don't want Dylan to get sick either.

So, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for Havenites (or other people) to go to the RennFest with the next day, but I guess no other Havenites were online between the time I posted and the time I got up to go, since only H and one other person (who also lives out-of-state) replied. I went to RennFest by myself, but I had a fun enough time.

The first thing I did was get my name on the list to have my hair braided, because I didn't want it blowing in my face all day. While I waited, I stopped in the nearby pewter shop and bought something to hold my cloak closed in the shape of wolves' heads. Everything else I bought at RennFest (except for some beeswax lip balm), I bought for other people (just the people I found at home when I got back, though):

Anna and Tim got matching wooden boxes, with red stain, which are just small/big enough to hold small things (like change or keys) on a nightstand. I also got Anna a necklace with a green stone in the middle of a round silver pendant with snakes on it.

Kimba got a nifty RennFest magnet. She was doing laundry at my house when I got back.

I got Dylan a RennFest sweatshirt (size 4T, I think, so he can grow into it) and a picture book about bees and honey from The Bee Folks.

I also bought 50 honey sticks in two different varieties to share.

I took a picture of what I looked like with the dress and the cloak (the "sorcerer's robe" Dad made me for Halloween 2000, left open except for the new cloak clasp). I also wore the belt I bought at the Faire a few years back (which I wear to work every day), as well as the belt pouch I bought from the Haven that Erika made a few years ago. The necklace is a medallion that I bought at RennFest also. It's got a sailing ship on one side and Pegasus on the other.

I was the only one home at the time I thought to take a picture, though (and I wanted to change out of the constricting dress), so I had to take the picture in the mirror. My left hand (remember, it's a mirror image) is cropped out of the picture, because that's the hand that was holding the camera, and it looked kind of incongruous.

I have yet to find footwear to go with the dress that I find acceptable. Not only that would match the dress well, but would be comfortable to walk in for hours.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Whoops! Where'd the time go?

Yikes! I had no idea I hadn't posted since New Year's! So much has happened since then, I don't know where to start.

I do have a list of books I've read this year going, but it's rather short--I took up knitting at the beginning of the year, and am now back to school, so I don't really have much time for reading, other than for school. I am reading a novel for one of my classes though, so that will be included on the list--once I get the list up. I'll also post all the essays I'll be writing for school as well.

To sum up the last nine months (and one day) of the year so far:

I still work at Dulles Airport, and I'm doing pretty well there. I switched to the a.m. shift (4:30 to 1:00) back in the spring, thinking that it would make it easier to go to my morning classes on my days off. Little did I know that my night-owl self wouldn't be able to even attempt to get to sleep early enough for a 1:30 a.m. wake-up.

A couple weeks ago, I was so physically and mentally exhausted, the sheer force of will it took to stay awake made me clench my teeth so hard that my entire jaw ached for days afterward. And then one morning, I woke up aching all over too, so I called out from work and went back to sleep until I heard Anna and Tim downstairs around 9:30.

I've managed to get better at going to sleep lately, so it's not nearly as bad now. But we're bidding for shifts again at work soon, so I'm probably going to go back to the p.m. shift. As much as I love how much less crazy the morning is compared to afternoons at the airport, I just can't seem to adjust my circadian rhythms to the a.m. schedule.

Anyway, I just realized that I hadn't explained the whole "back to school" thing on here yet, so here goes.

Back in the spring, I decided that I needed to go back to school. I had about 35 credits just sittin' there, doing nothing, and it was kind of lame. But if I was going to go back, I needed a plan for where to take my life.

So, I talked to one of the ladies at FCC (that's Frederick Community College, for those of you not native Frednecks), and said I might be interested in teaching. She told me that, in order to teach English, I'd need at least a Master's degree, and I don't really have any interest in a Master's.

I decided to finish my A.A. in English at FCC, and then go back as a Music major. Once I have enough credits, I'll then transfer to a 4-year college and get my B.A. in Music Education. I haven't decided where I'll go for that yet--don't even really know which colleges in the area I am able to attend offer such a curriculum--but I have time.

I talked to the lady who taught my Music History and Appreciation class a few years ago, and she told me to start practicing again really soon. Asked me what level I wanted to teach music in: elementary, middle, or high school. I said either middle or high, and she told me that I could teach either vocals or instrumental music (i.e. chorus or band), so I chose vocal, since I believe I sing better than I play any instrument. Perhaps I'll minor in trumpet.

She also suggested that, while I'm still finishing my English degree, I take the Fundamentals of Music course (and at least start on the series of Music Theory courses), as well as a piano class, and individual vocal instruction. She said that, if I find I don't like the pace of the piano class after the first semester, I could get individual instruction for that too, and told me how to go about planning for that in my class schedules.

I'm headed for my at-least-once-a-year visit to the Renaissance Festival tomorrow. Anna and Tim were going to come with me (and bring Dylan, of course), but had to bail due to forecasts of cold and rain tomorrow. They don't want to have Dylan in the wet and cold all day, and I don't really blame them. It's just not going to be as fun without someone to hang out with, so I posted on Facebook that I'm looking for Havenites (or other people) to go with me.

If no one else wants to come--it is last-minute, after all--then I'll just go by myself. Maybe I'll see other people I know there, or maybe I'll make a new friend or two--who knows?