Pepto-Bismol in the parking lot...

it is Monday, and i appear to be alive, so it is fair to say that the Wintery illness did not win. i still feel pretty crappy, and i have less than zero energy, but it is steadily getting better... i think.

meanwhile, he has devised a brilliant new way to gauge my wellness.

me: [in the whiniest tone possible] sweetieeee...!
him: i know. i know. you're sick. do you want me to get you anything?
me: no.
him: do you want something to eat?
me: no.
him: do you want me to make you some tea?
me: no.
him: do you want to watch something together?
me: no.
him: do you want a piece of chocolate?
me: no.
him: no chocolate? wow... you must really be sick. 

then i pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep for the next several hours.

the entire weekend was like that. one big blur. however, i did manage to take some photos of my latest finished object. ta da!

this is the Willow sweater by Pam Allen. it is part of her Plain & Simple collection. Willow is a relaxed, oversized sweater with an elegant simplicity that is one hundred percent me. to be honest, i want to make every single garment in that collection... except maybe that cowl/hood thing. that one is definitely not me.

i love love love the gansey-style textured motif on the top.

it is on the back too.

 i made very few changes to the pattern... except...

i added a couple-few inches to the overall length, which made it slightly tunic-y (ish? esque?).

and i added pockets, because it was screaming for pockets, and i aim to satisfy.

i also split the hem at the sides, and i made the back slightly longer than the front.

oh, and i finished all of the edges with a sewn bind-off, which is always a pain in the neck, but it makes for a much more attractive edge. you can see it here on the cuff...

and on the neck...

i usually make a point of not making stuff in the same color as the sample garment, but i had a yarn that was perfect for this project, and it happened to be in a similar warm-white color. best of all, the yarn is a cotton-acrylic blend, which means that i can actually wear the thing for more than thirty seconds without breaking out in hives. madness, i know.

i started this project one day in Jultember (that being, the month whose name i no longer speak), right after having a meltdown in a drug store parking lot. said episode ended with me frantically opening a newly-purchased bottle of Pepto Bismol, and taking large gulps of it in-between the tears.

it was a rough day following an indescribably stressful week, and i had just discovered that there was a large rip straight down the center-back of my dress as we were getting out of the car to walk into said store. naturally, i remained behind, and when he asked me what i was planning on buying again, all that i could manage to say was "Pepto-Bisoml".

i casted it on as soon as we got home, and i called it the "Pepto-Bismol in the parking lot sweater" for obvious reasons.

it is living for now in one of the cubes in my recently-erected yarn storage system that was put in place to keep my stash under control.

is there still yarn in every room of our apartment? yes. yes... there is.


check out my buns...

i walked into the living room, and stopped dead in my tracks.

me: what is that?
him: what?
me: [gesturing toward the balcony and the world beyond it] ... that?
him: [staring at me like i'd lost my mind] i have no idea what you're talking about.
me: i'm talking about all of that snow. when did it snow?
him: oh, that. it snowed while you were sleeping all day yesterday because you were sick.

so... uhm... yeh. i seem to be in the grips of one of those Wintery illnesses that really make me hate this time of year. i spent a whole day in a feverish stupor, but that seems to have broken (for now).

Nature has clearly not designed me for life in a place that is frozen half (or more) of the year, so i already knew that the next several months were going to be rough. between my sinuses and my throat, there is always something to complain about once it gets cold around here. however, i was hoping that i would make it through November before being laid low by one of those illnesses that are designed to do nothing by cause frustration. good times.

for now, i am staying tucked up under the warmest blanket we have in the place, while working my way through our mini-stockpile of over-the-counter cold/flu remedies (luckily, this is Canada, where their OTC meds actually work). i am also subjecting myself to many cups of herbal concoctions of my own design. it tastes terrible, so it must be good for me, right?

so, that is where you find me. the pressure in my sinuses is making the back of my eyeballs hurt, every muscle in my whole body aches, my throat feels like i swallowed a porcupine, and i have the use of about half of one nostril at any given time. joy.

but i did manage to get one awesome thing done before the germs got the best of me. check out my buns!

i was in a very-not-good mood, and dough-kneading is a near-Zen experience in my universe, so that seemed like a good time to make bread. the plan was to make a couple loaves of white bread, but we were also making an obnoxiously-garlicky pork roast for use in ramen and other such meals in the coming days, when he got me excited about slices of roasted pork stuffed into warm buns. so, the loaves got downsized to buns.

he walked into the kitchen as i was dividing the dough to form the buns.

him: wow. i'm impressed that you're just eyeballing that. you usually use the scale for something like that. i'm proud of you.
me: it definitely feels like i'm doing something wrong. 

so, while my buns may not all be the same size...

they were close enough after the second rise.

the whole place smelled so wonderful while they baked, that my OCD about such things disappeared completely. pardon me while i drool for a bit.

throw in a few thin slices of ridiculously-garlicky roast pork, and you have a perfect meal for a cold Winter evening.

the snow seems to be starting up again. i am going to have something to eat. then i am going to pull the blanket over my head, and go back to sleep. if this is the last time you hear from me, just assume that the Wintery illness won.


this lost love of mine...

random fact: i have a degree in Classic Literature. it was one half of my undergrad double-major. oddly enough, it has been quite a few years since i sat down and properly read a book.

this is yet another thing i blame on grad school. at some point during that wasted time, i got feedback on a paper i had written about a research project i was working on, and the core criticism was that it was too much "fun". "your writing style is very poetic and evocative, but scientific writing isn't supposed to be entertaining", i was told. "stop writing like yourself", the notes concluded.

so, i set out to do precisely that... with a bit of advice from the killjoy writer of said notes.  

"think of it like you are writing a highly-detailed user manual. you want to walk the reader through the process, but at no point should it be "fun" reading."

what, then, would be the point of living?

i would have to find a philosopher to answer that question... taking care to avoid the ones who sound too engaging or entertaining. clearly they did not receive the "fun is not allowed" memo. 

turns out that the hardest part of trying to move away from my usual style of writing was that it required me to move away from my usual style of reading. problem was, i was almost-always nose-deep in the middle of a book, and it was almost-always purely for fun.

yes... i was that dorky kid. hard to imagine, i know!

from the entire set of encyclopedias (back when people owned such things) to all of mom's cookbooks to the boxes of old comic books my cousins and i found in our grandparents' basement... you only had to shove a page of text in front of me, and i was in my happy place.

then i got to middle-school, and i discovered the world of epic storytelling. i still remember the first Summer i was allowed to take the bus by myself to go to the main branch of the public library at Grand Army Plaza. that is what i still think of as "the Summer of Tolkien". and it only got worse from there.

i had a genuine love for reading. it really was my idea of fun. so, it made sense (in that moment, at least) that the only way to stop sounding like i was having fun with my writing, was to stop having fun with my reading. so i did.

and that is still where i am today. i spend very little time engaged in reading just for reading's sake. the closest i can remember coming in recent years was a handful of mysteries by Ngaio Marsh and Ruth Rendell, and a few collections of short stories by David Sedaris.

[total aside: i highly recommend Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn books if you like a good cozy mystery, and Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford series is also good reading for classic-mystery fans (her novel "An Unkindness of Ravens" inspired the title of this blog, as it reminded me just how much i love collective nouns). and, if you want to laugh till it literally hurts, look no further than David Sedaris, whose ability to find absurdity in the ordinary is a much admired trait in our household, where absurdity is a way of life.]

so after more than a decade away, i made a firm decision to get back into reading... which, it turns out, is much easier said than done.

there is a fantastic shop in our neighborhood that is packed to the ceiling with used books (and records), and we pop in there every now and then. i almost-always walk out with at least one new (to me) book, and it almost always-ends up being tucked away on some shelf to be read at some later date... which almost-always never seems to come.

so, there i was, browsing the shelves one day, when i came across two books (two halves of the same story, actually) that i had read many years ago, shortly after the Summer of Tolkien.

i was so excited, i bought both books, got them home, and i even allowed myself to be talked into opening a Goodreads account so that i could keep track of the many... many... many books i would be reading from that point on. heck... i even mentioned it in a blog post at the time. i was genuinely excited to be getting back to this lost love of mine.

then the books just sat... and sat... and sat. i carried from room to room, housing it in a bookcase, then a cubby in the table near my favorite sofa, then in the wooden crate that usually contains yarn-related items on the floor next to my side of the bed. turns out that forcing myself to have to look at the cover of the thing was not going to be enough to actually get it read. the far better approach was to leave it in what we usually refer to around here as "the library"... 'cause that sounds so much classier than just saying "the bathroom".

so, it is more than two years later, and it pleases me to announce that i finally did it. well... i am doing it... slowly. it has been three weeks, now and i am about halfway through the first book. in my prime, i would have read both books in a few (or so) days, but i am woefully out of practice, so i am taking my time.

plus... i am discovering that holding on to a book is getting in the way of the more recent addiction of mine. and i have yet to come up with an amicable  solution.

i hate audiobooks, and i do not have a recipe or spell for growing extra arms, so i am forced to choose between my two loves, and (unfortunately) the knitting usually wins—especially, as i can do that while simultaneously indulging in my other addiction, which he likes to ever-so-eloquently describe as "rape and murder tv".

and, while we are on that subject—the knitting, not the rape and murder tv— i recently started a garment entirely of my own design. [the thin white lines are just there to help me count the rows. they will be removed when it is all done. ]

my brand of OCD required an intense amount of over-planning before i cast on the first stitch, which is why it has taken over two years for this one to go from the planning stage to work-in-progress status. there was a whole lot of math and several badly-drawn diagrams along the way.

luckily, i had help to double-check all of my calculations. this is Ophelia ("Philly"), aka "Baby Bear". she is useful... ish.

but, mostly, she did a lot of this.

the project involves juggling an absurd number of balls of yarn at once. this style of knitting is called intarsia, and it produces quite a lot of ends which will have to be dealt with later. that is my least favorite part of this particular addiction.

and, yes, i am working with eleven different strands of yarn in a single row, which means i have to pause frequently to disentangle all those bits.

luckily, i have another cat to help with that. this is Cordelia ("Cordy"), aka "the Little One". what would i do without her?

then she went racing out of the room and returned a few seconds later to deposit her favorite toy in the midst of the tangle. what could possibly go wrong... right?

there are about a dozen of these plastic springs scattered around our place, but she almost-always goes for this green one... which is not to be confused with the other one in the identical shade of green. clearly, that other green spring sucks!

her favorite game is to drop the spring on the bed next to me (usually at like one in the morning when i am contemplating going to sleep). i toss it out the door, into the room across the hall, and she goes chasing after it like a lunatic. then she brings it back to the bed, and we do the whole routine all over again.

that is, when she is not busy trying to destroy my plants... again.

or my yarn.

so, you can understand my concern whenever she offers to help. so miserable. so cute.

so i packed up all the parts, and returned them to a (relatively safe) hiding place. this is when i made the biggest mistake of all. i left my warm, cozy spot on the bed for a few minutes, and i returned to find kitty number three fast asleep in that space. that is Titania ("Titty"), aka "Mama Kitty". she absolutely refused to move from that spot.

le sigh!

i do not want to give too much away just yet about my special project, but i will say that it is a sweater called "Spite". and, yes... there is a story to be told when it is all done. and, yes... it will be fun.