29 April 2009

My camera is back!

I know I promised an update on the sock and pictures of that super freaking awesome silk yarn, but due to school work and other forces, that will have to wait. For now though, photos from Orthodox Easter, and the annual hike back "the fields" behind my grandmother's house that my brother, my cousin, my aunt, and I take every year to explore. When my dad was growing up, they actually were fields, with greenery, trees, ponds, and streams, with the railroad tracks cutting through it all.

Now, warehouses have moved in, and the ponds have dried up. It still gets green come summertime, thanks to a metric shit ton of Americanized bamboo and the trees that are still left, but it's no longer the endless natural playground it was for my Dad's childhood.

BUT, that's not to say it's not still filled with neat stuff. Including a huge, man-made mountain of boulders. We don't know what it's from... possibly the refuse from excavating a mine, considering the area. But regardless of how or why it's there, the fact remains that it's cool. If I had to guesstimate, it's probably about 50 feet high, and the mostly flat top is probably 100 feet long and 50 feet wide. Being the reckless hooligans we are, we climb it every year, and we try to take the steepest (while still being safe) slope we can.

My aunt's dog, Heidi, came with us. She's such a well behaved dog. Sticks right nearby my Aunt at all times, listens when told "don't go there," and all without a leash. If our pups had been with us? Disaster would have ensued. She's just too distractable, unlike the elegant and obedient Heidi. Heidi also must be part mountain goat, because she scales the rock mountain right along with us, hopping gracefully from rock to rock, without a single misstep, and in a fraction of the time it takes us. It's just *hop* *hop* *hop* *hop* and she's at the top staring down at us with her head cocked as if to say, "Lets go, you slowpokes! What's taking you so long?"

We do this hike twice a year: Orthodox Easter, and then Thanksgiving. Hopefully this year's Thanksgiving will still be warm enough that there'll be some green left, so you all can see that it's not really a barren, rocky wasteland ALL year. Even when it is barren, I still think it's beautiful in its own strange way.

In less cheerful news, I did not get that job I interviewed for last week. So I'm kind of dropping back and punting now, in addition to being swamped with schoolwork. PLUS, I'm sore everywhere because Rusalka took me down like a linebacker the other day when we were running around outside. REALLY FUNNY, actually. We were sprinting around the yard, when I turned a corner and stopped. She turned the corner, missed me, and then my brother startled her and she did and about-face. Instead of looking in front of her at where she was going, she continued to look at my brother, and ran right into me, totally knocking my legs right out from under me at like a right angle. I don't know if I'm sore from the impact, or from laughing so hard after it. Could be both, really.

Anyway, off to put another Thermacare pad on my lower back and get some more of my papers done.


27 April 2009

Switching Gears this baking Musical Monday...

Last week was bright, happy coloratura soprano music, this week, we're shifting to something a little more haunting, despite the fact that the weather here is just screaming "bright and happy and 95 degrees" at me. John Tavener's Song for Athene is arguably one of my very favorite choir pieces, which is odd, as I'm usually a fan of the more grand, loud, weird, and bombastic pieces (Carmina Burana or Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, anyone?).

Tavener wrote it in memory of a family friend, a young actress named Athene Hariades. She was Greek Orthodox, so Tavener wrote the piece in the tradition of the Easter Orthodox churches, specifically our funeral services. What this means is that no instruments are allowed. Nothing but voice, or the technical music term for it: "a cappella." So that drone on the bottom? Those are the Basses, staggering their breathing.

This is not the best rendition of it I could find, as I simply couldn't bring myself to post the most amazing version, as it makes me cry every time. At Princess Di's funeral, the choir sang this as they escorted her casket out of Westminster Abbey. Musically, it is the best performance I have ever heard of this piece, but the only YouTube videos of that recording include the video feed of the funeral, which I simply do not have the wherewithal to post. If you think you've got the chutzpah to make it through that video, all you've got to do is search "Princess Di Song for Athene" on YouTube. As it is, even with this version, you may want to have some tissues handy. Eastern Orthodox church music is just scored in a way that brings tears to eyes very easily, without you even realizing it. It's gotta have something to do with chord frequencies or something.

So, without further babbling on my part, enjoy (and try to ignore the sometimes goofy video editing).


PS: I got my camera back, so expect a real post in the next few days!

25 April 2009

Popping in...

I am going absolutely bonkers without my camera. And to make things even more painful, the weather today is absolutely gorgeous. Shorts and tank weather, blue sky, bright sunshine, flowers budding... the works. Perfect day for a photographic walk.

I'm hoping to be able to stop by my grandmother's to pick it up tomorrow, so hopefully I can get back into the groove of blogging. I've got a lot to show you guys, including progress on my sock (I'm starting to turn the heel tonight, so long as I can figure it out), and some super freaking awesome yarn that I want to get your opinions on. It's silk, and REALLY thin, so I'm not quite sure what to do with it.

So here's to hoping, and with that, I'm going outside. =D

20 April 2009

The very first Musical Monday...

Silly me, I left my camera at my grandmother's house on Sunday after our Orthodox Easter festivities. So, I figure this is a great opportunity to start something I've been thinking about for a while, which is Musical Mondays (a.k.a. Music to Knit To).

As someone who is heavily involved in music in many different ways, there's a lot of music out there that I feel is sadly neglected. So my plan is that every Monday, I'm going to post a Youtube video (or other thing) of a work or a piece that I think is super cool, and that I would like to share with everyone. I know that classical music is not every one's favorite cup o' tea, but give it a listen. I promise to keep it interesting! =D

We'll inaugurate this series with something that's not only fun (and impressive) to listen to, but also fun to watch: Les oiseaux dans la charmille (popularly known as the Doll Song), from the opera Les contes d'Hoffmann (eng. Tales of Hoffmann). The story behind the opera is complicated and ridiculous in a way only opera can accomplish, but basically, this is an aria sung by a life-size wind-up doll who is being passed off as this one dude's daughter and is supposed to be the perfect woman.

The performer is one of the most amazing Coloratura (meaning super high, super flexible ranged) sopranos I've ever heard, Sumi Jo.

Enjoy! =D


15 April 2009

Oh, and I forgot...

Another egg!


The one where Lunaticraft thinks she's a literary critic...

I recently finished reading Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs. She has a series of mystery/murder novels out featuring her main character, and namesake of the main character in Bones on FOX, Temperance Brennan. Now, I have been a huge fan of the T.V. show for a while now. So far, it's a brilliant, character driven show with thoughtful plot lines (and the sight of David Boreanaz packing heat doesn't hurt either). When I found out that the show was loosely based on a combination of the Temperance Brennan novels and Kathy Reich's life, my interest peaked, and I knew I had to at least try reading them.

Ever since I've started my higher education, recreational reading time has been fleeting, so it wasn't until just recently that I had the time to take on these books. I had been stalling and stalling, and when I did read recreationally, it was only quasi-recreation, with my reading focus staying on the topic of history anyway. Finally, a few weeks ago I was browsing through the book sale at my university library (they always have a few racks of donated books for sale to benefit the library's funds) and lo and behold, there was the first of Kathy Reichs' novels. For 50 cents.

Well, that was it. Clearly the universe wasn't going to let me avoid reading these books for much longer. So I brought it home and got started.

Overall, I'd give the book a B+. The plot was amazing, entertaining, and just the perfect bit scary. I finished the book at 3 a.m. the day that spring break began, and I couldn't really sleep too well. I would jump awake every time the dog knocked into something for hours after I finished. To me, that's a sure sign of a good murder mystery.

I did have a few qualms with the book, however. Reichs' writing is indeed very scientific, and can be slow muddling through it sometimes. Certainly not something I hold over her too much, as it really does suit the character and her (both Reichs' and the novel's main character's) occupation. It worked very well in some spots, especially the bits with forensic information and procedures in them. However, her scientific style did muddle down other parts of the novel in too much detail. Sometimes the number of buttons on someone's shirt just isn't that important, you know?

Also, the end of the novel came a little too abruptly for me, with loose ends being wrapped up in exposition that sounded almost recap-like. The whole book had been paced nicely up until the end. I find running to be a good metaphor for the pacing in this novel. You start off walking leisurely, gradually moving up to a jog. Soon, you're in full on run mode. Your pace stays steady for a while, but then you start sprinting, pounding pavement as fast as you can. Suddenly, a brick wall appears out of nowhere, and you smack head first into it, the full force of your built up inertia impacting on your body. The pacing is perfect, until that wall appears. I really would have liked to have seen the ending drawn out a little more, information being revealed in action instead of being told to us. The end very much seemed to defy the mantra we all had burned into our brains in creative writing classes of "Show, don’t tell."

Beyond those two small quibbles, I really enjoyed this book. In my opinion any murder mystery that has me sleeping with my brother's aluminum baseball bat next to my bed for a night (despite the fact that I still live under the same very small roof as both my father and my 18 year old brother) is considered a raging success.

Next on the slate for Lunaticraft Book Reviews: The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity by Robert Kuttner.

In other news.... LOOK!!!


And doing fairly well with it! I had a bit of trouble adjusting to working in such a small gauge, but overall, I'm really enjoying it. It's just a simple k2 p2 rib, and I know I haven't reached the difficult bits yet. I'm thinking a short row heel, as I seem to like the look of it better, and then I don't know what I'm going to do for the toe. As it is, I really like working with DPNs, much more than circs. I find them a lot easier to manipulate, and once I relax a little bit and stop tensing up while I knit, I think they're going to be much easier on my wrists.

The yarn is that Paton's Kroy Jaquards, and I'm finding it very splitty, which is making my progress go a little slower than it should. Not having worked with yarn this thin, and needles this small before, I don't know how to tell if it really is the yarn that is splitty, or if my needles are just not sharply pointed enough. Really, it could be either I think.

And progress on my bedspread is coming along nicely, except that... a block has gone missing. Everything is blocked out, ready to be seamed up, and when I lay it all out to grab a picture, low and behold, there's a void, despite my repeated and OCD counting of the squares ever since I started. I suspect my little devil Genghis Khan is to blame. I suppose that's what I get for naming my cat after a vicious Mongol conqueror.

Also, despite everything I try, I cannot get it to photograph right. Or even decently for that matter, so this photo is sharpened and adjusted to the hilt so you guys can at least get the gist of what it's going to look like. My goal is to have it finished by the end of Sunday, but I've got a job interview on Monday that I have to prepare for, so we'll see!


11 April 2009

Happy Easter!

Growing up, Easter was always one of my favorite holidays, mainly because, like Christmas, we got two of them! As I've mentioned before, my family is Russian Orthodox, and the orthodox church is still using the "old" calender.

So, where exactly does the "two holiday" thing come into play? Well, my Mom's half of the family is Ukrainian Catholic. Which, for all intents and purposes is Orthodoxy, only under the pope and on the new calender. My dad's side of the family is actually where the Russian Orthodoxy comes from. As a result, not only do we get to celebrate two Easters, and two Christmases, but it also made Easter dinners infinitely easier for my parents, as there was no worry about getting to two dinners in one day.

Well, except for every fourth year when the two Easters match up. But still, one out of every four is a pretty good deal when it comes to scheduling problems. The only issue other than that that ever surfaced was back when my Dad would fast for the entirety of Lent (meaning the Orthodox Lent). The Catholic Easter dinner would always be sort of a bummer for him when it occurred before the Orthodox Easter. But my grandmother always made sure to have some (really good) fish on hand for him as well! (Things like that make me realize how lucky and glad I am that the two sides of my family get along. I can only hope when I eventually find the guy and take the plunge that his family gets along with mine as well as my father's family gets along with my mother's.)

Anyway, on to the crafts. I bought this wonderful yarn off of eBay, and I think I'm going to use it to make my first shawl. I'm thinking the Heartland Lace Shawl would look very nice knitted up in this. It is technically sock yarn, and I bought my first bunch back when I grabbed my first set of sock needles (which I have yet to try out) with the intentions of turning it into socks. When it came (a set of 3 skeins), I decided it was a tad too scratchy to use as socks. I think my feet are just too sensitive for 100% wool of any kind. So I promptly ordered another three pack, and started looking for a shawl pattern.

I am now re-thinking my "too scratchy" decision. It definitely will not take nearly all this yarn to make a shawl (I don't think anyway), so if I have enough left, I might still try to glean a pair of socks out of it. We'll see though.

As far as my bed spread goes, I've spent the last few days wrestling with pins and my iron getting the squares blocked out. It's been quite a challenge as well as a learning experience for me about my crochet technique. As I did more and more squares, my gauge simply got tighter and tighter, and the squares got smaller and smaller. So I've had to have some pretty serious combat with some of the squares in order to get them blocked to the intended size of a square foot. The moral of the story? Well, I need to keep track of my gauge better over the course of large projects. I'm hoping to have the whole thing seamed together, edged, and washed by next Sunday (Orthodox Easter).

Also, I finally got around to ordering the Knitpicks Ball Winder that I've had my eye on ever since I bought those nine skeins of Cascade Sierra Quatro and realized that I couldn't just knit from the hank. It came in yesterday, and I am loving it. I had a bit of trouble at first. It took me about two hours and a ravelry inquiry to figure out how the clamp attached. I guess nothing is idiot proof.

But now that I got over my mental roadblocks, it's up, running, and delightful.

Oh, and in honor of Easter....


Hippitus, Hoppitus, Deus Domine!

(P.S. Props to anyone who gets that last reference!)

08 April 2009

Spring was... well, springing!

The lilac bushes had the teeniest of buds on them, and the sun was shining over the finally green grass...

The weather was even pleasant enough for a game of tennis ball chase with the puppy, who, though not technically a puppy anymore, still gets herself into all sorts of puppy-like trouble.

For example, I turn my back for one second, and she lodges herself under my car in pursuit of the ball. After checking to make sure she wasn't stuck, and was in fact there because of her own persistence, I thought it was too funny not to capture with the camera.

The chase even brought us over by the pool, an area that always fascinates the puppers, because it's fenced in and full of flora and fauna.

It was a beautiful day, warm and bright. There seemed to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel that is winter in the North East. But then I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow, fluffy, white, and disappointing. And though it's not sticking too well, it has continued to snow all day so far. Cruel weather. Giving me a day of blissful spring and then snatching it away.

However, judging by the skeptical look on her face, the pups saw this coming...


06 April 2009

Not bad after twenty+ years...

Since my mom and I started making pysanky, my aunt wanted to learn, and teaching her got my grandmother picking up the kistky again. Her eggs are certainly nothing to sneer at after not making any for over twenty, maybe even thirty years.

And every egg she makes gets better and better.

This one's my favorite so far.

I stopped up her house the other day, and instead of going on our weekly errand trip (she doesn't drive, so I stop up once a week and we go shopping for whatever she needs), we stayed in and she bestowed on me her egg designing knowledge.

It was also my first time using a traditional kistka. My mom and I always used delrin kistky, which are I guess a more "modern" tool.

It took me a while to get used to the angle the kistka needs to be held at, since the delrin kistky have angled heads, while the traditional ones don't. So my lines are pretty shaky.

But over all, I like it. Especially the bottom.

I think this is going to be the last of the eggs for a few days, as I've been swamped with other stuff. I'll have the book review posted later in the week, along with an update on my granny squares. I think I'm done making the squares, so all that's left now is blocking (or rather, killing because of the acrylic thing), seaming and edging!