Friday, August 31, 2012

Clear Skies

The past couple of days have been some of the strangest since we've moved here. My hometown of New Orleans has been enduring the wrath of Hurricane Issac, and I've been sitting here in Chicago, unable to help in any way. I've never been away from my family during a hurricane, and it's been so strange to be detached from my city while all of this is going on. Most of my friends on Facebook are from New Orleans, so I've been watching dozens of storm-related updates scroll by, and it's so surreal. Thankfully, my family made it through the storm safely and with only minor damage to their homes. South of us, things were much worse, and my heart is breaking for them.

Oddly, through this I've discovered how much I turn to baking in times of stress, because I baked not once, but twice yesterday:

Basic Peanut Butter cookies--except I add a dash of cinnamon and a little extra sugar.

Pizza Puffs--the recipe can be found at One Ordinary Day.

I also got two new Pyrex baking pans today--a loaf pan and a pie pan, so now I can start exploring recipes for those things! Despite the stress of the storm at home, I've been feeling great lately and getting a lot of work done musically. I got so much work done today that I have no problem with taking the day off tomorrow. I got five glorious rows of Esperanza done today, and that was just what I squeezed in while taking a break. I have big plans for tomorrow.

I'm about 2/3 through chart 2, and I can't wait to sit down for some serious knitting time tomorrow.

Edited, because the Blogger app refuses to create coherent blog posts when pictures are involved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Real Life

I've spent a lot of time lately on Katie's blog. I've been a reader of her blog for quite some time, but lately I've found that I relate to her more than ever. She's just moved across the country with her husband and her brand-new baby boy, and she's adjusting to a very different environment. But the main reason that I've become more interested in her blog is that she is not only a knitter, but also a baker. I wasn't very interested in baking before I moved to Chicago. The idea interested me, but actually baking something involved trying to use my mother's kitchen, which stressed her out far too much to be worth it. While I knew that I was looking forward to cooking meals, I was surprised by an overwhelming urge to bake when we arrived in Chicago, where I had my own oven. Since then, I've been experimenting with a couple of cookie recipes, and gradually attaining baking supplies on our very tight budget. My collection of baking paraphernalia consisted of two cookie sheets and a mixing bowl.

Until today, that is.

My friend Angela, who has been living in Chicago for a few years now, is moving to New York and getting married. She offered us an air conditioning unit and some furniture a while back, which we gratefully bought from her at an excellent price. However, as I sat in bed last night, looking at recipes and lamenting my general lack of proper baking/kitchen supplies, Angela sent me a Facebook message. Ben and I dropped by her place again today, and by this afternoon, my kitchen table looked like this:

I died. Look at it all. I now have two cake pans, a mini-muffin pan, a whisk, cheese grater, TWO potato mashers (one of which I bet could double as a pastry cutter), that gorgeous old blue pot, and so much more! Plus, she gave me a kettle, which means I can store the coffee maker that I was using to heat water for tea, and we can use that prime spot on top of the fridge for the toaster she gave us! Best of all--I got a hand mixer!!! I spent the afternoon reorganizing my cabinets, and tomorrow I'm going to do some baking with my new supplies, including a batch of cookies to thank Angela for her kindness. I also picked up some essential baking ingredients at the store today, so my cookie/cake repertoire is going to grow.

So, anyway, Katie's blog is full of both knitting AND baking, so it's been a pretty awesome place to read about two of my favorite creative outlets. I found her "recipes" tab last night, and I am really excited about making pretty much all of that deliciousness. Plus, now I have the tools to do so! Yay!

Though her blog, I was led to Joy the Baker, which is an awesome baking blog, with a freaking ton of recipes. I spent a lot of the afternoon on her blog (I got *nothing* accomplished today that didn't have to do with cooking) and wound up finding several amazing things, like this pizza recipe that I'm making as soon as I buy yeast, and this post from yet another amazing blog, Helen Jane.

I think this blog post changed my whole line of thinking about my blog. I was already on the verge of a change, but this really pushed me over the edge. She's totally right--there are so many blogs that are about how people want to be, or how people should be, instead of how people are. I think that's been the big hang-up for me with blogging--I am a person who worries tremendously about how I'm perceived, and that's led to some huge blocks while blogging. I've left out anything that could make "weird" or...whatever. I've struggled to write because I've put so many blocks on what I could write about. I stressed about sticking to the knitting theme, about whether or not people even read this blog--but it doesn't matter. I write it. That's what matters. Real life is what matters. And today, for the first time in a long time, real life is totally satisfactory to me. My favorite blogs are written by people who share who they really are, so that's something I'm going to be trying to do from now on. I gave the blog a little makeover, too, because it was looking a little dreary to me. I also changed my username to my actual name--I used to have things to hide from, but I think that being genuine is the key for me now.

So, after I got my cabinets organized and looked at some cookie recipes for tomorrow, I cooked a very special dinner. Ben and I have two very good friends who moved to Alaska right before we moved to Chicago, and we miss them like crazy. When we used to go hang out at their house, they'd cook a giant batch of Chicken Alfredo. I'm only willing to call it by that title because A) It's what they called it and B) They technically started with an Alfredo sauce base. However, after that, it completely strayed from the path of Alfredo-ness. Josh and Teni like very, very spicy food. So do we, so we let them go hog-wild with the cayenne pepper. Also, they always used bowtie pasta when they made the dish, so you wind up with a big plate of ooey gooey pasta deliciousness in an orange sauce. The uneducated would assume that it began with a tomato base, but one bite makes it clear that it's orange from the sheer amount of cayenne pepper. We're all from New Orleans (except Teni, who's from Alaska,) so we're used to the spices, but it's a little intense even for us, and not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, Ben and I have been missing the two of them a lot lately, so Ben suggested that we make some Chicken Alfredo for dinner. So, using some of my new kitchen supplies, I whipped up a big huge batch of the delightful spicy bowties, and a batch of sweet tea--because we always drank sweet tea with it at home.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. So good. I cooked it to Josh's spice level, just to make us feel totally at home. It was fantastic, and just like at home in New Orleans, it made a ton of food, so we have leftovers for days. WIN.

On the knitting front, I've gotten nothing accomplished on Esperanza in two days--I spent all of last night reading recipes and blogs, so I'm going to skip off now and indulge in a couple hours of knitting before turning in. I'm trying to get myself back to getting up early, because I love it so much and I am most creative early in the morning. Also, since I have so much music learning to do, I can get it done without using the whole day, which leaves lots of time for knitting and baking! Although I didn't get to schedule my classes during orientation due to drama with my undergraduate school, (sigh) I do know what classes I'm going to be taking, and I'm not in class until after noon three days out of the week, and I'm done early, which means that Operation Barista still has a serious chance of success! I'll resume applying once I'm actually registered for classes. I'm hoping to work in the morning, which will give me a couple of hours free in the evenings to cook dinner before rehearsals. I'm very excited.

P.S. Speaking of excited: I haven't had pizza since we moved to Chicago (which is both ironic and very, very sad.) I am making that pizza soon, and it's going to be AMAZING.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tip of the Iceberg

Well, tomorrow afternoon is my graduate school orientation at DePaul. Unlike in undergrad, where everything was carefully spelled out, and mailed out, and charted out, I know almost nothing about what's going to happen tomorrow. I know that I'll schedule my classes, and I may have to take some placement exams. May. I have no idea. Aaaaah. But, once I get my classes scheduled, I can really get started on Operation Barista--I am absolutely determined to get a job as a barista in my neighborhood. There are at least a dozen coffee shops within walking distance, and I know that it's the right job for me. I love the smell of coffee, I love the atmosphere of coffee shops, and I love the benefits that places like Starbucks offer. I also love that I'd be able to walk there before/after school and from home. So, hopefully that will work out for me, soon, and I can have a yarn budget again! Have I mentioned that there is a yarn shop right by our apartment? I need yarn money!!

*ahem* Anyway, I've been working away at Esperanza. I reached row 80 today--which is technically halfway, since there are 160 rows, but it's actually nowhere near halfway labor-wise because each row is so much larger than the one before. But, I'm enjoying this project so much that I really don't care how long it takes, as long as I get to wear it to Vogue Knitting Live. Here is another sub-par picture of her progress:

I never think to take knitting pictures during the day, lately. I promise I'll get a good one soon. There's so much pretty scenery around here, I really should go out and take some pictures.

Oh, also, I ran a lifeline through my knitting today using the hole in my interchangeable needles for the first time. I can't even express how much time that saved me--or how much time it could have saved me in the past. The best part is, if you're using a spool of thread or dental floss, you can actually leave it attached and just knit the lifeline through, breaking it when you're done--eliminating any guesswork about the proper length of the lifeline. Magic!!

P.S. Also, I just realized today how close I am to Lorna's Laces. Immediately afterward, I began contemplating plans similar to those about Skywalker Ranch in the movie Fanboys. :D Just kidding. Mostly.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby Steps

I finished the first chart of Esperanza today. I'm surprised how quickly I
managed to get it done, given that I've been spending about five hours a day learning my new role for the opera. I have to say, I am really enjoying this pattern. I wish I had tried working with lace weight sooner, because I'm really enjoying it. I know that the going will get slower as the shawl gets bigger, but I'm loving every minute of it, and it is helping me unwind in just the way I hoped it would. I think that sometimes, when people are placed in a situation where many things in their life are changed, they start assuming that everything has changed. It's been like this for me, at least. I think that, after moving to Chicago, there was a part of me that thought knitting had changed, somehow. But, if anything, it is more helpful now, and I am in a town that is even more knitter friendly. Speaking of this, amazing news! In October, I am going to Vogue Knitting Live!!!!! Somehow I had managed to forget that this event happens in Chicago, but I was reading the Yarn Harlot's blog, and it was mentioned in her tour itinerary, which reminded me! I got a three day marketplace pass, and a ticket to the Yarn Harlot's lecture! This will be my first knitting event, and I am so excited! Ysolda Teague will also be there, and I'm hoping that there are Ravelry gatherings like there usually are at the knitting events. Maybe I might even get to catch a glimpse of Bob? One can only hope. Anyway, my goal is to complete Esperanza in time to wear it to VKL. One of my best friends, who I've been teaching to knit (she is a natural!!!) will be in town for the event, which is going to make it even better!!

So, I need to keep trucking along on Esperanza if I want her to be done by then. I leave you with a picture of her in the yarn bowl that my friend Amanda made for me! I've had it for quite some time, but I'm just getting around to using it because I thought it would be most useful when I had my own place and could put it on the floor. Silly me, now that I have my own place, I still use it most on the bed. At any rate, I love it, and it works beautifully.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What Was Missing

Moving to Chicago has been one of the most adventurous things I've ever done in my life. However, once we arrived, I found myself feeling less adventurous than ever. I'm a very anxious person, and in the course of all of the stressful new happenings, I've receded pretty far into my shell. As I mentioned in my last post, this has manifested itself in many ways, the most disturbing of which was a lack of desire to knit. I've been working on a sock (pictured in the last post) off and on, but I'm not particularly motivated. This is mostly because the yarn is one chosen in the early days of my knitting career, and one I don't particularly care for. Also, I know that it's one of my last balls of sock yarn (that in planning to use for socks,) and so I'm not over eager to finish it and leave myself with nothing to knit socks with. I thought that perhaps I needed a greater challenge, so last night, I excitedly wound up three hanks of Malabrigo Lace, with the plan of starting a Totally Badass Big Girl Laceweight Project. But, I found myself agonizing over the delicacy of the lace weight, and eventually stepped away after winding it, and spent my night doing nothing in particular. Thus it has been lately, but tonight I was feeling particularly inspired, and decided it was time. So, I grabbed the Mal Lace, and cast on the intended Badass Project: Queen Anne's Lace. Despite last night's horror over the fragility of the lace weight, I now find the yarn perfectly resilient, and I hadn't knitted for long before I felt a very specific feeling, one that has eluded me since we moved here: peace, satisfaction, and (most importantly) hope. Much like the lace weight, hope often appears fragile, but proves itself quite resilient when one trusts it under pressure. I've been spending so much time focusing on the negative that I was blocking out what I needed most. Now that I've figured that out, tomorrow looks entirely different. Regardless of anything else in my day, two things will most certainly be there: knitting, and hope. I'm knitting this epic piece of lace out of a colorway called Verde Esperanza, which was a very helpful hint, when I was ready to accept it. So, I'll be calling this lovely green shawl Esperanza. Hope starts very small, but it grows quickly into something strong and beautiful, if one is willing to put in the work.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Unpacking, and The Best Medicine

So much has changed, dear reader, since last I posted. I blog now from our apartment in Chicago, the apartment that I share with my fiancée.

Yep. Not only have I moved across the country, but I am now engaged. The move was a serious adventure, complicated vastly by the fact that it was grievously ill-planned. In the end, we carted an entire U-haul's worth of boxes (mostly filled with books) up three flights of stairs at 8pm after having two hours of sleep (total) in two days of driving. Yeah, not so smooth. But, we are here, and we are slowly unpacking and arranging our new life.

It's funny, I thought the hardest thing about this would be the physical unpacking, but it's more the mental side of it: adjusting to the new town, not knowing anyone, finally having my own kitchen, and being a Big Girl. The past couple of days, I've really been struggling, and I realized today that I haven't knit in at least a week. Maybe more. I was going to earlier, and found that I didn't even have the will. That's when I realized that I was really not okay. So, I had a little snack and a lie-down, and now I'm going to give myself a big dose of the best medicine I know. I betcha I'll feel better in the morning.