31 March 2009

More eggs, and a bad decision...

And here, my friends is that egg that I spent 7+ hours on that I showed you with all the wax on it last post. My crowning glory egg, all polyurethane covered, just waiting to be blown out. It's not perfect... my lines are still not straight and even as they should be, and I can't seem to get a line thin enough to really make that detail work pop, but I'm not dwelling on it. I'm proud of this egg as is.

This next one isn't too shabby either. The non-orange leaves are supposed to be green, but they came out almost black because I messed up the dye order.

That's okay though. I still like it. My lines on this one are a little more consistent, and I finally got the hang of the wave motif.

Now, this next one is quite a bit less traditional color-wise. I'm planning to give this one to my college room mate, who's favorite color is hot pink.

I like the color scheme so much, I may make myself one too!

In other, non-egg news, I'm working on some book reviews for you guys. I know I've been saying this for more than a year now, but I actually got my tush in gear and started writing them. My first one is done, on Kathy Reich's first novel, Deja Dead. Expect that later in the week. These reviews aren't going to be anything formal, just a quick little write up on what I think. My reading tastes are pretty diverse, the only thing I don't read really being romances, so hopefully someone will get some book suggestions out of this!

Oh, and I did something stupid after my midterm on Wednesday. The test went alright, but certainly not as well as I had hoped. The last few questions, we hadn't even covered in class, so afterwards, I was really stressing out about them. If she doesn't count them since we didn't get there, then I'll be fine. But if they're counted, then I'm screwed. So I was pretty anxious after I got back from the exam, and I made a bad decision. I went on eBay, and I bid on nine skeins of Cascade Sierra Quatro that I have no use for. I did get a great deal on it, getting all nine skeins for just about 20 bucks with shipping, but... I broke my Lenten promise of abstaining from yarn purchases. I'm pretty disappointed in myself. First year in a long time that I actually give up something for lent, and there that goes, down the drain.

But since I did... any suggestions for this yarny goodness?


24 March 2009

Listen to this...

Not much to say right now. I'll have some things to share with you guys in a few days (more pysanky and possibly some knitting as well!), but right now I'm preparing myself for a hell of a midterm coming up on Wednesday.

So in the meantime, listen to this. It will make you cry (in a wonderful way). I want to learn this aria SO BADLY. I couldn't find the music for the longest time without sucking it up and buying the vocal score (which I suppose wouldn't have been such a terrible thing). I won an eBay auction for some aria books from the 1920's a while ago, and wonder of wonders, the aria is there. Now my only road block is figuring out how to photocopy the music (so I can use and write on it) without compromising the structural integrity of the old books (they're paperback and kind of crumbly).

Oh, well, and that gaping inadequacy complex that I keep exacerbating by listening to this over and over again may get in my way a little bit too.

Enjoy! =D


21 March 2009

Ahhh, the wonders of spring break...

Spring break has been treating me well this year. I've been run ragged by school and work for the last few months, having never fully recovered from my substitute stint, so the past week has been wonderful. Slept until I woke up naturally, puttered around with my coffee a bit, worked on pysanky for hours, crocheted a little while I watched my daily news shows, and fell asleep whenever the hell I wanted to. It's been glorious, and just what I needed to recharge my batteries for midterms.

I am trying to get as many pysanky done as I possibly can, because I know once break is over it's going to be much more difficult for me to get done without the time to sit down and finish a whole egg in one session. I have a dreadful time just working bit by bit, because I forget what I've already done. I also forget where I was planning to go from that point. My mother, on the other hand, is able to just sit down, work for fifteen minutes at a time, and go do whatever it is she needs to do, picking up exactly where she left off after she's ready. As I result she gets many more done in much less time. I guess it comes with practice.

Anyway, I've managed to pull off my first really successful egg (the egg directly above), and we took the wax off of it the other night (slightly blurry photo at the top of the post). My mom did the de-waxing, because clearly I don't have the knack of it down yet, judging by my last failure. I plan on doing some simple two-color eggs today sometime, so I can practice de-waxing them myself without worrying about ruining something I spent five+ hours on.

I'm pretty happy with my first successful egg of the season, I must admit. My lines are gradually getting straighter, and I'm getting far more confident with the kitsky.

Of course, it certainly doesn't match my mom's skills yet. She's still got me beat by miles, both in accuracy, design, and quantity finished, as you can see above. Mine is in the top left corner. All the rest are hers. But that's okay, she's got a lot more practice than I!

I do think that my next egg is going to at least come close. It's taken me about 7+ hours on this one, but the time was well worth it. Above you can see it ready for it's first dye bath, and below it's all ready for the wax to come off.

I'm going to see if my mom will de-wax it tonight (I don't trust myself with this one, even after I practice today!), and I can't wait to see how it turned out. My only complaint is that the orange dye didn't take very well to the egg. It came out more like a peachy pastel, which kind of annoyed me. But there wasn't that much orange in the design, so here's hoping it'll be great!

Despite all the pysanky mania here, I did get some progress done on my afghan/bedspread. Not much, but some. I'm up to 16 squares now, so I think about a little over half done. I threw around some different arrangement options for the square organization this morning, and I think I'm liking the way it's turning out. The random rounds make it look like a more modern update of the normal granny square blanket. Not that I don't like regular granny square blankets, but I think this is going to be cool too. Well, in real life, anyway. The colors on this one just don't want to photograph properly, no matter what I try, and I'm getting pretty frustrated.

Oh well, I'll figure out eventually!


19 March 2009

Pysanky: A kind of, sort of visual "How To"

Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs. They've been a tradition in my (mostly Ukrainian and Russian) family for generations. My grandmother actually used to help make ends meet by selling them around Easter time. The eggs she made are beautiful, with lines so straight you'd think they were machine generated. Unfortunately, she doesn't make them anymore, but my mother and I know how, and this year we decided to drag out the supplies and start again. Once upon a time, pysanky used to be a yearly tradition in our house. My mother and I used to sit at the table and work all day on them after I'd get home from grade school. Actually, my first and only totally completed pysanky was in second grade while I was home with an ear infection.

Eventually, that ear infection turned out to be misdiagnosed by my doctor at the time, had developed into mastoiditis and blown back into my mastoid bone. If my brother's pediatrician (a different guy from mine at the time) hadn't stepped in, within about 24 hours it probably would have blown back even farther, and I could have lost my hearing. Needless to say, after he saved such an important sense (especially for a young musician), I gifted it to my brother's (who was also mine after this incident) pediatrician. So I don't have it anymore.

But I digress. So anyway, as my brother and I got older, and we all got busier, pysanky kind of fell to the wayside, and our poor supplies sat on top of our kitchen cabinets gathering dust. I decided about three or four months ago that I was going to resurrect (pardon the Easter pun) the tradition, and began looking for supplies and doing some research. This year is actually the first time in nine or ten years that we've made them.

Needless to say, I'm a bit out of practice (the ones in the front with the near perfect lines are my mom's, not mine). I mixed up the dyes no problem, got the egg sectioned off with the pencil, no problem. But the kitsky? Damn, am I shaky. The kitsky is the stylus that is used to transfer melted wax to the egg, covering the bits that you want to stay the color that the egg currently is. For example, while the egg is still dye free, you draw over any parts that you want to stay white.

And then, you plunk it into the dye. The egg turns that color, but everything under the wax is still white. It works like batik, I guess.

You repeat the wax-dye-repeat process, until you've used the last color, which is usually black.

At this point in the process, the egg doesn't exactly look like something you'd want on display. And then, off comes the wax, which I think to be the most gratifying part. There are several ways to do this, but what we do is we heat a pan (that we don't use for food) on the stove. Then we take a folded up tee-shirt (men's soft undershirts work best for us) and let it sit in the pan until it's warm. We then use the warm cloth to gradually and gently wipe off the wax.

But one needs to be careful not to wipe too hard! If your egg is a somewhat sub-par egg, than the dye could wipe right off if you wipe too hard. My first egg of the year (above) was not the best quality egg, as I knew I was going to be rusty, and my lines would be wonky, crooked, and of inconsistent width. As a result, the dye did not take to the egg perfectly. That, combined with my over-eager wiping, smeared the black dye, and I ended up with some odd little blotches.

But that's okay. It's only a practice egg. Next one will look much better!

Well, off to work on my next egg!


18 March 2009

I just had to share...

Real update later, including pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs), but I just had to share this. It's brilliant, and it made my morning. I hope it makes yours! =D

Someone shared the link on ravelry this morning, and I couldn't stop laughing as I watched it. Enjoy (it's totally worth the two minutes and 44 seconds of your time).

16 March 2009

Lunaticraft: The St. Patrick's Day Edition!

Happy St. Patty's Day! Even if it is a day early, and I don't even have a speck of Irish in me. And to celebrate the occasion, I present to you a link to 4-leaf Clovers: A Finder's Guide via Instructables. Now, if you're stuck in the northeast like me, then in all probability, your yard and local parks are currently hideous mud pits, barren of all green. In that case, you can make your own, as I have, with a great crochet pattern for a 4-leafer. The pattern is quick, easy, and has great results!

As for my St. Patty's day plans? They're technically over, as I'm working tomorrow. But despite that fact, they were a lot of fun. As I mentioned, I had made plans to go into Scranton to see their parade, and I did just that. I live fairly nearby, and have a ton of friends who are at University there, so I have become really very familiar with Scranton, and have come to love it as a city. And the parade just made me love it more. It was hugely long, with more bagpipers than I could count. And I like bagpipers. A lot. Everything is better with marching bagpipers.

The day was beautiful, warm, and bright, although slightly overcast (I apologize for the "blown out" appearance of the sky in these photos. I was still a little too tipsy to bother messing with the white balance at the time). I had a great time with some great friends. The Irish coffee was wonderful, and the Jameson even better. (Now a disclaimer: I'm not a big drinker, and I don't like being drunk, so I didn't overdo it. I don't want the interweb thinking I'm some sort of drunkard.) But it was just the right balance of fun and friends to make the weekend amazing. And did I mention the bagpipers?

They were superb. All eleventy-billion of them.

Oh, and I can't forget the marching bands. The army dudes were the best, although the local high schools were certainly nothing to turn my nose at!

Gotta love those sousaphones!

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone! =D


08 March 2009

A little bit of progress... Just a little...

It's been an unproductive weekend, really. I've spent far too much time surfing political forums, both republican and democrat, for reasons I still can't figure out. This was atypical behavior to me, as I'm not necessarily interested in politics enough to go seeking out online forums. I can have a political debate in real life anytime I want to as a History major, so I tend to prefer using my online time to get a break from it all and talk about knitting or crochet. During this little online adventure of mine, I saw a lot of things that got me sitting around and thinking. My conclusion? We can be really nasty to each other, over really stupid shit, and it's disheartening.

I just don't understand why we feel the need to pick each other apart personally and shut each other out/write each other off simply because we have differing political views. This personal attack crap (and it happens on both sides of the fence, or so I've seen during my reading this weekend) is just ridiculous to me. Why in the world can't we just be respectful to each other? Sure, we disagree on some things, but so what? Just because someone holds a differing view doesn't mean they're the incarnation of Satan... This tendency to view the other side as "the enemy" just baffles me. Aren't we all Americans? Aren't we all fellow human beings? Anyway, I should step off my soap box before I bore you all.

So, in addition to spending way too much online (and not even on ravelry, oddly enough), I spent the majority of the rest of my weekend laid up in bed with a terrible migraine. As a result, not much crochet or knitting got done. I did manage to score some great thrift finds this week though, so that's something. I grabbed them at a library sale on my campus, all for about $3.50. The Kathy Reichs books were additionally exciting because I've been meaning to read them since I became a fan of the TV show Bones (which is loosely based, not on the books, but on the author herself). I'm currently half way through Deja Dead (the first in the series), and so far it's very good. Her writing is a bit formulaic and dry, but it works considering the subject matter and the character. I guess a better word for her writing style would be scientific. Dry as it may be, it's certainly not boring. I was hooked immediately, and continue to be interested. I'll let you know when I finish what my final opinion is!

Also on the thrifting scene, I had my first really exciting find in an actual thrift shop on Friday morning. I stopped by the local Salvation Army store to drop some things off (mostly clothes that don't fit me anymore, a couple of books from my pre-teenaged Caroline B. Cooney phase... you know, those Girl on the Milk Carton books?) and I decided to go in and take a look around. Well, lo and behold, I found a pair of Limited Dress capris (for the spring) in my size for $4. I was thrilled, especially since Limited dress pants seem to be the only brand that fit me right, but normally they're like, $50 a pop. Which is more than I can afford on my grad student budget. I was excited, so I wanted to share that with you guys, picture or no.

I did get some crocheting done. I finished up a few more squares, bringing the total square count up to 14. Thank you guys all so much for all the compliments on my squares. Hopefully you guys will end up liking the finished product just as much! I've finally decided how big this baby's going end up. I think what I'm going to do, is make 5 columns of seven squares each, and then add on a pure white border in the same granny square fashion for about six inches on all sides. So the finished afghan is going to be 6' x 8', which will be plenty to cover my bed, and also plenty to snuggle up in next winter (I think by the time I finish this up, it will be time to drag out the shorts and tank tops). All I need to do now besides actually finishing the crochet, is to figure out how in the world to photograph this so the colors come out right! Either the purple ends up looking blue, or it looks purple (as above), but super dull... I don't quite know how to fix this issue.

Anyway, back on the knitting front I cast on another Calorimetry, this time in "Kelly Green." I've made some preliminary plans to drive into Scranton this weekend for their St. Patty's Day parade, so I've got to have some Irish-ed up winter wear for the occasion. They're actually home to the 4th largest St. Patty's Day Parade in the nation (or so I'm told), so if I do end up going, it should be a good time. In all I hope to have a Calorimetry, a scarf with Crocheted Shamrocks on it, and some fingerless (to make sure I don't loose my grip on my Guinness!) gloves with shamrocks on the top of the hand (if I can figure out how to knit in color work within the week).

Here's to a more successful week than last!


04 March 2009

Of Granny Squares and Decorating...

Crochet is a strange animal. Ever since I started to do it, it's been a binging activity, like eating or drinking, only without the whole "hugely negative heath effects and possible liver shutdown" thing. Every once and a while, the crochet bug crawls up my ass. When that happens, for days, every free moment is spent furiously scratching away with the hook until my hands feel like they're going to fall off and my eyes feel dry and shriveled (usually around day six or seven).

Well, the crochet bug bit me on Sunday. After doing so much knitting for the last few, well months…, finally getting that Calorimetry off the needles on Saturday, I wanted a change. Plus, I had a metric shit ton of Supersaver lying around from my learnin' days. Now, a ton of people hate Supersaver, I know. I myself don't mind it so much. It's actually my yarn of choice for throws and blankets, due to the amazing washability and the fact that it wears like steel (a huge speedball of a dog who seems very fond of playing in the mud means all blankets and throws end up in the washer far more frequently than in other houses). Also, I find it actually softens up rather nicely after a few runs through the washer and dryer. Great for a couch throw, or a blanket to throw over your regular quilt in the winter.

In addition to the abundance of supersaver, right now I have a decorating dichotomy going on in my room, and it's really been making my life complicated in that very special and annoying way rooms can when you're unhappy with them. In high school, I redid my room, changing it from the flowery pink of my childhood to a more refined and classy (or so I thought at the time, anyway) scheme of muted purples. That was great for a while. THEN, I went to college, where my roommate had a very bright and boppy style, both in her personality and in her decorating sense, with her color of choice being bright pink (you can see the contrast in the two styles via our carpets: My room and our huge area rug from college which I miss terribly). I took to the whole bright thing immediately, finding it really cheers up a room, even during the dreariest Pittsburgh winters.

So, fast forward through three years of undergrad with the same roommate, and I'm back at home in my "refined" muted purple room, with a very different sense of style and taste. Plus, I've got all sorts of crap that we bought for college lying around, totally not jiving with the state my room is currently in, but matching my taste much more. So, I figured out on Sunday, that one big piece is all that's really needed to tie it all together: a new blanket. My comforter, though still perfect as far as keeping me warm at night, has become less than pleasing to the eye after years of use and teen aged acne medication bleaching. So, if I could create a blanket to cover it, incorporating the purple, and the bright colors I became so fond of in college, then the whole room would stop visually warring with itself, and finally make sense again.

When, Sunday afternoon, we were hit with a large snowstorm and my orchestra rehearsal got cancelled, I saw the opportunity right away, dug all the supersaver out from it's box in the basement, and got to work. It was originally going to be a totally random, eclectic granny square blanket, using every color I had (all brights, anyway,), framed by white. Ever since Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy posted about her granny square blanket, I have loved and envied the idea, so I planned to use her blanket as my inspiration.

Well, I got through one square and quickly realized that I was only going to use three colors: Spring Green, Amethyst, and White. They turned out to go together beautifully, and it would still accomplish my main goal of tying together my room, as most of my stuff from college tended to be that bright color of green. So, what turned into a stash busting project quickly had me out shopping for more Supersaver. But that's okay. I've still got the Flower Hexagon Afghan in progress, and I finally picked up more yellow yarn for the centers, so that'll use up all the rest.

Since Sunday, I've been crocheting like a madwoman. I even postponed updating here in lieu of making more squares. They're addictive, and it's so much fun to watch them come together. I've been using the TV to determine my color changes so they stay fairly random (I've been assigning characters to colors, and when I finish a round, what character is on TV at that moment dictates what color the next round is going to be). I've got ten squares done, the count of which is bound to be more after tonight. My hope is that I can get all the squares finished before this little crochet binge runs its course, and I'll leave seaming and the edging for the next binge.


01 March 2009

Bucket List...

Thanks to some facebook meme's that have been going around, my bucket list has been on my mind lately. I don't think I've ever put it down in writing before, and I think it's about time. So, ladies and gentlemen, bear with me, this is going to be a long one, full of historical sites and artifacts, I'm sure. Things that are in bold are things I've already accomplished.


- See King Tut's burial mask.
- Visit the Great Pyramids.
- Sail down the Nile.
- Visit the Valley of the Kings.
- See Jerusalem/The Temple Mount.
- Visit the Dead Sea (a good friend of mine is currently studying abroad in Jordan, and visited this weekend. I am tres jealous).
- Drive a car in London.
- See Hadrian's Wall.
- Visit Bath.
- Learn Spanish fluently.
- Learn serviceable Italian.
- Learn serviceable Mandarin.
- Learn serviceable Russian
- Go to China.
- Walk on the Great Wall. (And yes, this is my photo from said experience).

- Go to Madrid.
- Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Ireland (even though I'm not Irish).
- See the Terracotta Soldiers.
- Go to Seattle.
- Eat Sushi in Kyoto.
- Go to Tokyo.
- Paddle boat on the lake at Versailles (possible, I have a friend who did it).
- Go to St. Petersburg.
- Visit Rome.
- See Venice.
- Touch the Parthenon.
- Leave flowers on my Great Grandfather's grave in Belgium (he died in the Battle of the Bulge).
- Be Liu in a production of Turandot
- Walk through the Forbidden City/Tienanmen Square
- Get an orchid to rebloom twice, on my own.
- Play Stravinsky's Firebird Suite (unabridged).
- Salsa in Miami.
- Stand in the middle of the pass at Thermopylae.
- Run multiple 5Ks.
- See the Summer Palace.
- Meet a famous Opera Singer (Placido Domingo!).
- Visit the graves of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary I, King Henry VIII, and Charles I.
- Go to D.C. and see all that great stuff (Lincoln memorial, Vietnam memorial, Washington Monument, etc…).
- Learn the family Kolachi recipe by heart.

- Publish a Book.
- Read the whole Bible.
- See the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Read the Koran.
- Eat Peking Duck, in Beijing.
- Raise a dog from puppyhood.
- Have a role in a fully staged opera.
- Attend a service in St. Basil's Cathedral.
- See the Kremlin.
- See an opera at the Met.
- Visit Portland, Oregon.
- See Mt. Rushmore.
- Ride a Horse.
- Ride an Elephant.
- Get my Ph.D.

And that's about all I can think of for now. I'm positive I'm missing a whole bunch of historical sites. When they come to me, I'll add them!

What's on your bucket list?