30 September 2010

The Last Lazy Days of Summer...

The last, lazy days of summer have come and gone faster than I ever could have imagined. It seems like only yesterday we were closing out the camp I worked at, spending the last two days before we staff members returned to our respective homes all over the country by camping at an area lake.

I have been so busy lately that I've barely noticed the fact that autumn has already arrived. Looking outside, and then back to these photos make me feel like those lazy two days of laughter, friends, yeungling, and quiet are from a different universe. And yet, the memory is still so vivid, so visceral.

I cannot figure out where the time has gone. Well, actually, that's a lie. The last weeks of August catapulted me unexpectedly into the life of a workaholic. Every free second has been spent either writing lectures or in rehearsals for one thing or another.

Not that I mind. It has become so undeniably clear to me over the past few weeks that I love what I do. Being faculty at a University at the age of 23 has been the most emotionally harrowing, stressful, nerve wracking, anxiety inducing, time consuming thing I have ever done in my entire short life. The ups and the downs are massive and sudden. I can be flying high, feeling like I can take on the entire world at one moment, and feel like everything is falling apart the next.

And yet, I love it. Every up, every down, every left, every right. Through every second spent wondering if my students hate me, every second panicking over the way I set up my syllabus, every second guessing moment and unexpected challenge... I love it.

It's been so hard for me to figure out a way to express that. Update you guys on what I've been up to. And so I've been avoiding the blog, the few attempts at posting turning into staring at a blank blogger update screen, unsure of how to even begin to relate to you the last month and a half.

I guess I just needed to get the words flowing.


16 August 2010

The Triumphant Return of Musical Monday!

Been a while, huh?

For our first Musical Monday back, I wanted to feature something fun. Now, for the past 12 years of my life, I've had the honor and privilege to attend (and the past few years work at) a summer camp for talented young musicians from all over the world. And for the last 5 or so years, in the choirs we've had a full week of learning and performing traditional South African music, dancing and all.

There's no way I could possibly convey to you how much fun it is to perform. Or exactly how touching it can be. So I present to you the next best thing: watching it!

These two videos are of two well known songs, performed by the Drakensberg Boy's Choir. These boys are crazy awesome, and the drummers even more so! Make sure you watch as well as listen. You'll love it.

First, Kwangena thina bo - a greeting song that means something like, "When we sing, people rejoice and sing and dance because of our music." Or at least that was how I remember our conductor explaining it last year. =D

The next is: Shosholoza - a very well known one that means roughly, "Go forward." Little trivia about this one - the South African football team sang this coming onto the field to open this year's World Cup. There are also videos on youtube of this breaking out in the stands at football games in South Africa. Everyone knows this one.

Hope you enjoyed!


01 August 2010

Ease it on back...

It's been a crazy crazy couple of months, and I apologize for dropping off the face of the Internet for a bit longer than my usual summer hiatus. After a messier and more frantic finals season than I'm used to, I finally received my Masters degree in May. I took that triumphant walk down that corridor to the strains of Sine Nomine, and was handed the first degree I actually feel like I really worked for.

Not that I wasn't happy when I graduated from high school, or my undergrad, it's just that somehow those graduation ceremonies were different. Both events felt very much like it was just another thing to get over and done with. The ceremonies themselves lacked celebration, I hadn't felt like I had accomplished anything, and in the end, was just sitting there for two hours in a plastic robe to get a meaningless little piece of paper that will sit in my parents house and gather dust for a few years. Maybe my undergrad diploma will find a place on my office wall someday. Maybe not.

Kind of bleak, right?

But my masters... it's different somehow. I think it's because I finally found exactly what I want to do with my life. The path to this degree wasn't just another two years of going through the academic motions. I finally feel like I accomplished something, and really felt that excitement of commencement that I always felt that there must be something wrong with me for not feeling the first two times.

And now, I work. I work, I teach, I try to publish, and in a few years, Ph.D. here I come.

After graduation, with no clue as to employment, no idea where to go next, I had a number of great gifts and opportunities drop into my lap, including a promotion (in title, not pay) at the summer camp I have worked at for the past three years. It's been an amazing time, as always, and as it winds down, I will miss my students and my colleagues dearly.

On the more fun, frivolous side of life, as a birthday/graduation present, my aunt treated me to a few days at the Hershey Spa in Hershey, PA. What an absolutely beautiful place the Hotel Hershey is! The photo above is from the main patio, and I hope to write a post soon devoted to my few days there, which were relaxing and visually inspiring, as well as full of new experiences.

This summer, I also was given the privilege of attending and participating in a friend's wedding. I realized that I am actually at that age where my friends are beginning to get married, and I am thrilled that thanks to my musical background, I have something to offer as a wedding gift, since I am, to put it lightly, broke as shit.

This wedding was a special one, since both the bride and the groom are members of the German Oompah Band I play with during the Oktoberfest season. So, because of this, I and the other members of the brass band played the ceremony. It was beyond beautiful, and in all my years as a wedding musician (and we're going on 10 as a cellist, and 6 as a vocalist) I've never seen a happier, more laid back couple on the big day.

So, what now? What's up in the more immediate future?

The summer is winding to a close, and before we know it autumn is going to start inching in. I have been granted the opportunity to teach at the University level for this fall semester, so I have a ton of planning to do in the next three weeks. And after that, I make my first walk into a classroom as something more than a student, more than a GA. I'm going to be a real teacher, adjunct though I may be.

It's a little scary.

Okay, let's be honest. It's way more than a little scary. It's downright terrifying. However, I've never wanted anything so badly in my life, and I know that at the end of the day, I'm going to make a college instructor, even if the students in front of me are basically my age. I just have to learn to stop second guessing myself.

And besides, if worse comes to worse, I'll just make sure I'm wearing great shoes. Because really, who can not feel confident in a pair of great kicks?


16 May 2010


As I sit here, with the Met's production of Carmen playing on PBS, I am reminded of how lucky I am to finally have a chance to relax and breathe a little. April and May are always one of the busiest times of the year for me, particularly this year as I gear up to take one more walk down that mortarboard lined isle and receive yet another degree. Granted that doesn't make me any more employable, sadly, but what can I ask when I've got a degree in English and another in History? Really. Not good career planning on my part, but damn did I enjoy getting to this point. Me thinks a Ph.D. lies in my future a few years down the road anyway.

For now, I'm in that lull after classes and concerts are over, but right before the rush of commencement. I lucked out as far as finals go, and both my classes are take home essays, so as I work on them gradually, I can finally sit and relax and appreciate the summer that has seemingly all of a sudden sprouted around me. Boy was that a surprise when I went for a walk and noticed everything was suddenly green.

There's been a ton of change taking me by surprise lately, the condition of the outdoors being only one of them. I've been quite a bit more impulsive and daring lately, and I can't really explain why, but I like it. For example, I'm now a Linux user. I made the switch to Ubuntu about a month ago now, and am loving every second since I told Windows to go stick it.

There has been some adjustment time as I figure everything out, and set all my online stuff back up. For example, I'm just now beginning to cobble my RSS feeds back together (my apologies for my long absence from your comment sections, LKS friends!). I'm also just now starting to spend more time going about my old computing habits instead of spending all my CPU time playing with all the fun new features or downloading handy new (free!) software. Overall, though, it's been a fun, if slightly nerdtastic move to the land of Tux the penguin. However, I am really looking forward to getting back into the swing of the interwebs and knitting as the semester winds down.

For now though, the final paper of my masters career is calling to me...


09 April 2010

Miles to go...

So Easter has come and gone, and my disappearance from the web-o-sphere has only continued. My days away from the Internet have been jam packed, but mostly pleasant. My life is currently gearing up for yet another big transition: another graduation. This time with my Masters. With the impending degree ceremony comes all the hectic preparation for it, the frantic studying for Comprehensive Exams (in less than two weeks), the desperate flailing for post-graduation employment, the panicked search into benefit options and packages to be bought in case said employment does not cough them up...

Doesn't sound all that pleasant, really, when I list it all like that.

But my friends and family have really served as a wonderful distraction, keeping me from getting too wrapped up in the uncertainty of June and beyond.

So, jam-packed, but pleasant.

Much like the holiday that just passed. (How's that for a transition? My writing professors are probably cringing instinctively wherever they are.)

This year, the Easters were together. Once every four years the Russian Orthodox Easter aligns with the Easter that everyone else celebrates, and that results in a day long marathon for our family. Two houses, two dinners, and countless churches thanks to our status as musical mercenaries.

But, as always, sometime in between devouring the Blueberry pie I whipped up (shown above) and eating our way through my Aunt's delicious, if a little modern art looking Cheese Pascha, we found time to take our annual hike back "the Fields."

Every year, the epic green wonderland that is contained in my father's memories of childhood becomes a little more eroded, a little more industrialized. But the beauty didn't evaporate. It just changed. It's still as beautiful as ever, only now it's in a strange, grey and brown kind of way.

This year it really helped remind me that good can be found in even some of the most unlikely places, and also allowed me put all the shifts I'm about to undergo into perspective.

Sure, things might not go exactly how I planned. But if I just keep going, keep heading down the road, things will stay beautiful. Even if it is in a slightly different way from what I expect.

And now I'm going to totally ruin the introspective nature of this post by introducing a new, if intermittent feature.

For the past, oh, forever, I have been collecting photos online that make me laugh. I don't know why I save them to my hard drive. It's a compulsion really. You know, just in case some sort of godzilla-esque monster ever attacks and the only way to defeat it is to have enough random funny crap saved on your computer.

You can never be too careful.

But anyway, I figure it's about time I start doing something with them, so thus begins "Funny Shit Friday." Enjoy!


P.S. - DAYUM, my feet are PALE.

18 March 2010

Greener Pastures

There are very few times in my life when green polka-dotted rain shoes are acceptable and appropriate, and this past week, they have gotten their allotted yearly wear.

Not only has spring begun to arrive here in NEPA, but just in time for the annual St. Patties Day celebrations.

Now, in and around the greater Scranton area, St. Patricks Day is a sacred event. Even for the non-Irish, it's like Christmas, only with more green beer and Irish Whiskey. Funnily enough the 17th itself is not really a big deal. Yea, maybe you'll hit an Irish pub for a Guinness. Maybe you'll wear a green shirt to work. But other than that, it's just another weekday. No, in the Scranton area, St. Patrick's day comes early, and with a vengeance.

Parade Day.

You don't even need to specify which parade. You just know. The Saturday before the 17th, the streets of downtown Scranton are filled with green. Everyone from the tiniest toddlers to the oldest mobile citizens come out to see one of the country's biggest parades, ranked number 2 based on participants per population. Only Savannah, GA beats it, and NYC comes in at number 3. The bars open at 9, the parade starts around noon, the breaking of open container laws is openly flaunted, and as always, the pipers are plentiful.

I do not have many pictures of the parade from this year, because, to be entirely honest, I did not do much parade going this year. There was plenty of celebrating, but the crazy cold wind and rain kept the parade attending to the minimum for me, and when I did, my camera stayed nice, warm, and dry in my pocket.

Now, for me, the interweb appropriate celebrating came, for a change, on St. Patty's Day itself. After working as an elementary school music teacher for three days (20 third graders with recorders, while fun, was an experience that I do not wish to repeat anytime terribly soon), I went with some good friends to the Scranton/Wilkes-barre Penguins game, which we affectionately refer to as the "Baby Pens."

Now, having done my undergraduate work in Pittsburgh, I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. It's almost a graduation requirement out there. But the Penguin love has stuck with me since leaving, so it's kind of special for me to live in the area where their feeder team resides. And yesterday, not only did the Baby Pens have a special St. Patty's day logo and jerseys (basically a requirement in this area), but there were pipers there to help celebrate.

And what were we celebrating?

Well, the Stanley Cup of course! It came for a visit, since it is currently held by our parent team.

So a very special St. Patrick's Day week it has been.

Isn't it beautiful?


P.S. We won! The Luck 'o the Irish was with us! =D

02 March 2010

Takataka, doo doo doo, doo doo doo tookatoo, Doo doo doo, doo doo doo...

I did it! Cue John Williams!

I crossed the Ravelympics finish line, just as the closing ceremonies were coming to a close with their dancing mounties and their giant inflatable beavers, and the ever so charmingly talented Michael Buble (because it took a Canadian to bring back the Great American Songbook).

And so, I have medaled. I competed in Short-track Shawls, and also I'm still waiting to see if I medaled on the Scarf Super-G (with the same project).

Unfortunately of the two teams I was on, I only medaled for Team Squint Squad (the Bones Fans Group Team). The Traveling Woman I was working on for Team Oooh, Shiney... (the CPAAGG team) ended up totally FUBAR, and I'm going to have to spend the next spurt of free time I have tinking back to see what happened. There wouldn't have been enough time for me to finish both anyway. So I am content with finishing one, my Saroyan in Cascade Pastaza, photos of which you see below.

The reason I found knitting time so suddenly precious over the past week or so is that I ended up drafted to play trumpet in a jazz band. That's right, trumpet. An instrument with which my relationship has consisted of nothing more than yelling obscenities at (not to mention at my brother, the person behind the mouthpiece) for the past, oh, eight years or so.

Now, I do play french horn. I am adequate at it. I get by in a symphonic band fairly well, sometimes even well enough to play first. I also do a bang up job at the "pah-pah"s to the tuba's "Oom" in the German Ooompah band I am a part of. However, it's not like I'm going to run around doing anything like this:

So while I know the general basics of brass playing, the trumpet is an entirely different animal. The trumpet was the instrument invented to lay waste to the rest of the orchestra/band like no other instrument can. Between that fact and the fact that there was constant noise production coming from one in my house from the day my brother picked one up to the day he went to college (for trumpet... major conservatory at least, so all the noise did get him somewhere), I've always been a bit resentful of the trumpet. So I went into it pretty nervous. After all learning to play a new instrument is always difficult, even if the fundamentals are sort of there.

When I told my brother, I got a hearty guffaw, directions to dig out his old beginner trumpet (which had been my mom's methods trumpet back when she was getting her music ed degree in the late 70s), and a skeptical "you'll be fine." So I dug out the tarnished horn, printed out a fingering chart and gave it a shot. With all the baggage I carry concerning that jumble of brass tubes and valve, I was going to do it, but I wasn't going to like it.

However. We had our first rehearsal yesterday... and... and...

I liked it. A lot. Like, a lot a lot.

Just don't tell my brother.


27 February 2010

The show must go on...

"... The show must go on. Come rain, come shine, come snow, come sleet, the show must go on."

Still Ravelympicing away... with Singin' in the Rain, men's curling, and a major case of cabin fever on the brain. Be back with a full update and hopefully some finish lines crossed. The snow is now much deeper than in this photo (which was taken around noon yesterday), and it's still coming. I'm going to try to take a photo with the piles shoveling our driveway made later today... they're about a foot taller than me.

Also, my thoughts are with anyone who was effected by the Chilean earthquake, and safe wishes to anyone currently in Hawaii.


22 February 2010

Quick Update.

First, an official FO: My finished Collared One-Button Scarf.

Next, a Ravelympics preview. My Saroyan, for Team Squint Squad in Cascade Pastaza:

And last, my Traveling Woman for Team Oooh, Shiney:

I love the Noro sock yarn in these colors. I'm almost hesitant to use it because looking at the little skein belly-button makes me so happy.

More as the scramble starts to end!


16 February 2010

The Ravelympics have begun...

More to follow when I get a little bit ahead in my events and schoolwork!

06 February 2010

Catch up day...

Today is my catch up day for everything Internet.

Blogroll, Ravelry stash, LKS site, EVERYTHING.

So while I get busy doing that, here's an FO to share. A pair of Bella's Mittens for my Mum's birthday. Neither of us are a fan of Twilight or anything (in fact I pointedly loathe the books, not for their content, but because her writing reads like mine did when I was, like, thirteen, yet she managed to get published and become an international sensation, something that I will never be able to do. Pure jealousy. Well, that and I find the concept of an underage sparkly vampire as a heartthrob slightly odd and creepy-in-a-not-good-way. Call me a purist, I guess.) BUT, they looked totally warm and cozy and comfy.

As it turns out, they are all three. Warm, cozy, and comfy. So much so I had trouble giving them away. I used less than one skein of Debbie Bliss Chunky Donegal Tweed and started with only one cable repeat as the cuff, since my Mum isn't the elbow-high mitten type. By eliminating most of the arm from the pattern, one skein was well more than enough, and I actually ended up with a sizable chunk left over. However, Mum's hands are really small (even smaller than my itty bitty baby hands) so my gauge was pretty tight, which may have had something to do with the amount of left over.

I have a ton to share in the coming weeks after my virtual disappearance from the interweb recently, so as I get a move on photographing and documenting FOs, WIPs, and stash, I'll leave you with two photo things that made me snort water out my nose this week.

On to catching up!


22 January 2010


My life has spun slightly out of control lately. Nothing bad, just crazy. Much as the past year seems to have done. So my apologies for not being around too often. I have seriously got to get my shit together in 2010 far better than I did in 2009, or for the past few weeks.

So I'll hopefully be getting to my blogroll soon, among other things, so expect some comments once I do get it all together!

For now, I leave you with the first of my Christmas FO's, my brother's Country Hill Hat in Noro Kureyon, modeled by James the Bear (I named him after the red engine on Thomas the Tank engine when I was like, three. I seem to have had a thing for red as a child... my first crush was the original red power ranger!). He really liked it, and wore it all Christmas break, which to me is the greatest compliment I could get for an FO. He brought it back to school with him, so I assume it's being worn in the big city as well, since he's not one to wear something just to humor someone. Ever.

And here's a shot without a stuffed animal in it, which hopefully shows the shape a little better.

In other news, the holiday decorations have all come down, and the house is back to normal. Well, almost. Genghis is still acting pissy because he lost his little lounge area when the tree came down.

Cats. Can't live with them, can't live without them.


14 January 2010

Putting it in perspective...

It's so easy to get bogged down in the little things. To let the minutia of every day life hijack your attention and force the bigger picture out of sight and out of mind.

So easy to focus on the stressful, and take the good for granted.

Sometimes I just need to stop and remind myself how lucky I really am to be able to rejoice in something as simple as a winter day's walk.

A snow covered puppy snout.

Or snow against an electric blue sky.

Sometimes I just need to remember that if my biggest problems in this world are academic stress and poor body image, then I really should count myself as one of the luckiest around.


05 January 2010

Musical Monday on a Tuesday

As far as I'm concerned, there are two things that the Russian Orthodox Church does really well. The first, is beautiful churches. And when I say beautiful, I mean beautiful. Stunning. Breathtaking, even. Even the teenie tiny parishes are gilded with gold and masterful icons. Walking into a Russian Orthodox Church is really an exercise in sensory overload... the colors, the smells, the sounds...

Oh, the sounds. That's thing number two. Our music is AWESOME. Our canon is filled with things like Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, all in eight part a capella. No instruments allowed. Just voices. The only down side is that, much like my main quibble with organized religion in general, there is basically no grey area. Because it's eight part, with no pitch center that's guaranteed (like a piano or an organ), when it goes bad, it goes REALLY BAD.

On the other hand, when it's good, it's STUNNING. And there's simply no in between.

However, it's the stunning part that I aim to share with you today, what with Russian Christmas coming up tomorrow and Thursday. So for our (day late) Musical Monday, I share with you, Russian Orthodox Christmas Carols (they're in Russian, and certainly not what we're used to hearing on the radio, so even if you're not a Christmas carol kind of person, it's just simply beautiful music if you close your eyes and forget about the holiday affiliation)! This particular one is one of my favorites, but if you click over through this video to Youtube, it is part of a whole playlist full of this kind of music. Also, sorry about the barrage of icons. I tried to find some with less religiously charged imagery (ideally video of the actual choir singing) but I could not find a recording that I liked as much musically.

I hope you enjoy!