Christmas Ornaments

Let’s talk about Christmas tree decorations.

In a previous post, I started going on a bit of a tangent about Christmas Ornaments, and since then I’ve been dying to write a post about them. So here we go.

Christmas ornaments have always been an important part of the season for my family. My brother and I got them as gifts from aunts and uncles every year until we turned 18, old decorations that the two of us made in elementary school are still used to this day, we even still have some ornaments that our grandparents used to decorate the trees that my parents had as children. Now, I collect Christmas ornaments whenever I travel somewhere new. They’re a big deal.

So I thought I’d share some of the stories behind a few of the ornaments that we hang on our trees every year.

This first ornament was given to me on my second Christmas, after I turned 1 year old. I have a series of these ornaments, all the way up to 6, and I think they are just the most precious things. They’re made of porcelain, but they’re surprisingly light so they don’t weigh the tree down too much.

I love them because of how gentle the colors are, and how adorable the little bears look.

I love this ornament. My parents got it for me last year, when we took our trip to Disney for Christmas.

It’s kind of incredible, actually; it’s probably the only ornament in the world that’s both Disney related, and knitting related! That blue ball is yarn, with two knitting needles sticking out of it.

And, even more cool, I found out only as I pulled this ornament out to take a picture that Tinker Bell actually spins! It’s super cute. One of the balls on the end of the knitting needle twists a mechanism, making Tinker Bell twirl. It’s so cute.

This ornament was purchased from the Keweenaw peninsula last fall, when Michael and I took our first vacation together.

We bought them from the gift shop after touring the Quincy Mine. The same gift shop where we purchased matching copper rings that we both wear every day.

I received this ornament from my godmother one year for Christmas. She gave it to me as she used to give me one every year, but this one has a funny story.

The year my aunt bought me this, she herself was in love with fairies. She’d taken to decorating her garden and home with fairies, and so I bought her a fairy ornament that year as well. By chance, we ended up getting each other the exact same ornament!

This ornament is one of my favorites, but my dad hates it! Not the ornament itself, at least not once it’s hanging on the tree, but this ornament takes batteries. And you can’t leave batteries in an item when it is just going to be sitting unused for 11 months. So each year, while I’m decorating the tree, my dad pulls out the screwdriver and batteries and puts the batteries in for me. And he does the reverse at the end of the season each year.

But the reason that this ornament needs batteries is because when you touch the harp strings, it plays music! It’s such a cute ornament, and as a kid I absolutely loved pretending to play that itty bitty harp.

This Scooby-Doo ornament is one of my brother’s, but I love putting it on the tree every year.

My brother and I loved Scooby-Doo when we were kids. We had an old VHS on which we had recorded a few of the really old, grainy episodes, and we watched it whenever we were sick. We also loved some of the newer episodes and movies, and they were one of our favorite things to rent on VHS from the video store (wow that makes me seem old…).

This is the bell that I mentioned in my previous post. It’s not technically my ornament, though it is my absolute favorite ornament that we put on the tree, so I’ve commandeered it as my own.

When you ring this bell, it sounds just like the bell from the It’s a Wonderful Life, when Clarence gets his wing. It’s the sweetest, most magical tone I’ve ever heard.

These pieces are all mini-ornaments from the Hallmark collection. They’re representations of all 12 days of Christmas. They come three to a box, four boxes in all. I bought them in the middle of summer from our local Hallmark store, they were on sale for a dollar per box! They only had three of the four boxes, though, so Michael ordered me the fourth while we were standing in the store, and the others we picked up there and then. I have a small, sparkly white tree that I hang these on, along with a few of the other minis that I have.

The minis are one of my favorite things now. They have some of the cutest designs, and they’re less expensive than the full size ornaments.

These two are a couple of the other minis that I have. They’re the first and second in their series, both came out last year.

If you’re not familiar with Hallmark ornaments, they frequently have sets that come out in a series. Typically, you’ll get one new ornament that comes out each year, up to a certain number that is determined by Hallmark.

Because the series started with two, it’s the perfect marker for how many Christmases Michael and I have spent together, and I intend to keep purchasing each new one as a way of marking each Christmas we have together.

This ornament is one that I got from my parents. When I was very little, I did ballet, and my parents got me this ornament during that time. It’s a Barbie ornament, but I love how sweet and delicate it looks. It’s such a perfect gift for a little girl who likes ballet.

Alright, that’s ten! Obviously we have dozens more ornaments that we put on our tree, but that’s enough for now.

If you managed to get through that whole post, I think you deserve a treat, so here’s one of my favorite Christmas songs, that doesn’t really get played on the radio. It’s called Christmas Is A Comin’, sung here by Bing Crosby.

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Knitting Series: Knitting Novels

Let’s talk about books.

We’re going to switch gears here from my usual posts. Don’t worry, it’s still knitting related. But I wanted to talk about something different – books.

Specifically, craft themed books. For me, this mostly means a knitting theme, but I’ve found a love for quilt themed books as well.

I’ve found, much to my surprise, a plethora of novels and series with various crafts as a defining factor of the book. Teenage me, who couldn’t imagine reading anything that wasn’t sci-fi or fantasy, would be shocked (and a little horrified) to know how much I enjoy these books.

The majority of books with knitting themes that I’ve discovered, however, tend to be murder mysteries. Some of these series have a dozen or more books in them, which would result in plenty of reading material for me, if only I could get into them. Unfortunately, although I can get behind a cheesy crime drama on television, I just can’t seem to develop any love for all these mysteries. Maybe I’ll come around when I get older, as I did with romances.

The series’ that I have to tell you about today are not mysteries, they are for the most part romances, but they are some of my all time favorite books.

Here are my top 3 favorite crafting related books/series.

3) Kilts and Quilts

Obviously this one is not a knitting related novel. It’s a series of seven books (so far) about a tiny little town in northern Scotland called Gandiegow. The first book in the series is called To Scotland with Love.

The series is by Patience Griffin, and it can get unbelievably cheesy, but they’re some of the most cozy, endearing books I’ve ever read. This series has actually inspired me to get into sewing again, which Taylor has been trying to help me do for ages! I intend to sew at least one quilt this year, and I’m going to be listening to these audiobooks while I do it.

Each book follows the story of two individuals. Throughout the book, the writing switches back and forth in perspective between the main guy and girl, which is a feature that I particularly enjoy. Each female character either learns to quilt, or is already a pro at the craft. And all the men are either fisherman or some other kind of gruff manly man (I did say that they were cheesy). They are all romance novels though, so they can get a little risqué, be warned.

2) How to Knit a Love Song

This one was actually one of the first knitting novels I’ve ever read. By Rachael Herron, it’s another romance novel.

This is the first book in a series, and I have read the series, but I like this book best of all, and it can stand alone perfectly well.

How to Knit a Love Song is about Abigail, a big city girl who moves to a farm in Northern California when she inherits a cottage from a recently deceased friend. In so doing, she finds herself with no choice but to live with her friend’s nephew, Cade, who’s none too pleased about sharing his home.

I love this book in particular because of how much the main character loves all things fiber. Her enthusiasm is contagious, in my opinion, along with her bravery.

I should mention a trigger warning for this one. By moving upstate, Abigail is escaping a stalker from her past, and the flashbacks, as well as some of the action later on, can be intense.

1) The Friday Night Knitting Club

This number one crafting novel is not only number one in this list, but my number one all time favorite book. I typically listen to this on audiobook, though I own a physical copy as well, and I will read it at least once a year.

The Friday Night Knitting Club follows the stories of six women, ranging in age between college student to grandmother, finding their way in New York City.

The main character, Georgia, owns the yarn shop where all the women meet on Friday nights. She’s a single mother, dealing with the sudden reappearance of her daughter, Dakota’s, father.

Anita, Georgia’s grandmotherly friend, confidant, and first patron, still feels the loss of her husband, although it’s been many years since he passed. She is trying to make sense of the guilt and wonder of falling in love again in her 70s.

Peri is one of Georgia’s employees, a college age student who doesn’t want to follow the path that her parents are insisting that she take.

KC is an ex-editor, having to deal with sudden unemployment caused by the recession. Too experienced to get a job in her old field, KC wrestles with the sudden changes in her life, including the onset of menopause.

Lucie is a struggling TV producer in her 40s, suffering from insomnia and a bit of a mid-life crisis. Realizing that she has to take hold of her future, she makes some decisions that will change her life forever.

Finally, Darwin is a feminist graduate student with a thesis that’s rather contrary to the other knitters of the book. She attends the Club for research purposes (only research, she always insists), but soon finds support from the other members that she never knew she needed.

In case you couldn’t tell by the extensive description for this one, I’m a little obsessed with this book. The ending is extremely unexpected, but the next two books in the series, Knit Two and Knit the Season (which takes place at Christmas), really help tie up loose ends and make for an extremely satisfying and heartwarming read.

I hope you’ve found a little inspiration to check out some new crafting novels, and I’ll see you again in a few days!

Travel Journals: Traveling with Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety.

When I started traveling when I was 17, I was not aware that I suffered from anxiety. But knowing as I do now that I have serious social anxiety, so many of my less enjoyable experiences of traveling make more sense.

For anyone who is unclear on what it means to have social anxiety, it’s not simply that I’m shy or nervous around new people. I am those things, but it also affects how I perceive certain events or actions, especially my own. When a situation causes me anxiety, my heart rate increases, my mind blanks, my whole body heats up immensely, and all I can think about is ending the moment as quickly as possible.

It should be noted also, that different people experience anxiety differently. Just because those are my symptoms doesn’t mean that the way other people experience anxiety is any less valid. And the solutions I’ve come up with to handle my anxiety, which I’ll be discussing below, are not right for everyone.

So, here are my top three tips for traveling with social anxiety.

1) Bring a trusted friend

The trip that I remember being the most significantly stressful for me in terms of my social anxiety was my second ever trip to Europe. On that trip, I stayed the first week in Rome with a friend, then moved on to travel for some time by myself through Venice, Vienna, and Prague, before meeting up with another friend in Munich.

And while I remember that week in Rome with extreme fondness, the rest of that trip was varying degrees of horrible.

Any time I was by myself, I questioned every one of my decisions, I was certain I was making a fool of myself with the locals, and in general I felt extremely out of my comfort zone. While there’s something to be said about stepping out of your comfort zone in order to grow, there is a limit, especially when you have anxiety. I didn’t feel like I grew on this trip, I felt like a fraud.

So when I got the opportunity to travel again, I made sure to do it with friends. And with friends that I knew would understand and be there for me.

My Fall Break Trip (so capitalized because it was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had) to Sweden, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Bruges was the first trip that I took after learning these things, and it was far more successful.

When we found out that I had mixed up my flight when we’d booked our travel, for example, it was immeasurably helpful to have a calm headed person there to let me cry a little, and be there to help me get things worked out.

Or when we had to interact with other people, like the manager of the hostel, having a friend beside me sometimes gave me the will to complete the interaction myself. And if not, my friend was there to do it for me.

2) Have a plan

One of the biggest problems with my Europe trip was that I had been told by tons of extroverted, non-socially-anxious people that the best way to travel was to not have a plan. Just go with the flow, see what comes up, leave yourself open to possibilities.

No.

This is one of the worst possible things you can do, at least if you’re like me.

When I travel now, I like to plan as much as I can. The internet makes this so easy, it’s incredible. I pick out exactly which attractions I want to go to, I try to find a selection of restaurants that I can choose from, I know exactly what activities I want to go to and when they are happening.

Of course, this makes me a huge tourist in the places I go. I do not end up off the beaten path, and I like it that way. Going off the beaten path makes my anxiety flare like crazy. Trying to do things “like the locals” makes me feel like a fraud. The only thing that will get me away from the tourist attractions of a place is if I have a guide. Whether it’s a friend or a paid tour guide, it doesn’t matter, as long as there’s someone there to tell me if I’m doing something right/wrong.

And you know what, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You’re on vacation to enjoy yourself, not have an anxiety attack.

3) Accept your limitations and be forgiving with yourself

This one can be the hardest of all of them, I think.

You do have to accept that, while traveling, you are going to make mistakes and do silly things. You’ll end up on the wrong train or have booked the wrong flight. You’ll try to order something on the menu and butcher the pronunciation. You’ll get lost and go the wrong way in the rain for thirty minutes, and end up giving up on the destination because at that point, you want a hot shower more than you want to see that place.

And it’s ok to be upset about that. It’s ok to have a little cry in frustration, it’s ok to freak out, it ok to be embarrassed.

Just don’t let it ruin your vacation.

Book a new flight, make a joke about your language skills, try again tomorrow. And know that you are doing something extraordinary, just by being there.

That’s my best advice.

Knitting Series: Growing as a Knitter

Let’s talk about knitting.

For those who read both my knitting series and my general series, you’ll know that I’m turning 24 this month.

I thought that now would be a good time to reflect on how I’ve grown as a knitter.

It’s hard to believe that when I first started knitting, I was only about eight years old. I made a few scarves, all riddled with holes and uneven sides as I made accidental increases or decreases.

Years later, I remember picking it back up again and feeling even more clueless than I was at eight. I recall finding a cool pattern on Ravelry and being so determined to knit it. It was a cowl that was knit flat, but seamed at the end. It had some mock cables, and called for worsted weight yarn.

It’s hard to believe, but I had absolutely no idea what worsted weight meant, and could not make sense of the descriptions online. So I popped into my local Joann’s and looked for something that said worsted, ending up with this terribly itchy wool that was, indeed, worsted weight. Though of corse, most of the things on the other shelves would have also qualified.

My next challenge came when I simply could not figure out how to purl. I kept watching tutorial after tutorial on YouTube, and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t turning out right.

Eventually, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was knitting wrong. Now you may think that there’s no right or wrong way to knit, but that’s not true. If you physically cannot do a purl stitch because of the way you hold the needles, you’re doing it wrong.

This was probably around the age of eighteen or nineteen.

I found the two cowls I knit in that pattern recently. One wasn’t too bad, but the other must have lost some stitches at the end, because it was not the same size from start to finish.

After this extensive learning experience, I mostly dropped the knitting again for a few years. Not until I was laid up for six weeks, unable to put any weight on my left foot after surgery, did I start to get truly serious about knitting.

Taylor started coming over regularly, like the amazing friend that she is, and we would sit and knit together to help alleviate my boredom.

When I say I got serious, I mean it. I went from rarely picking up needles, to having them in my hands every day, pumping out project after project.

I started out making mitered squares for a quilt that I never ended up putting together, but in the process perfected my knits and purls, and learned my increases and decreases.

I did my first colorwork piece. A pair of fingerless gloves made with Red Heart that said Police Box on them, a gift for my friend who had gotten me into Doctor Who, which was another big alleviator of boredom during my healing time. It was also my first project knit on double point needles, a huge step up for me.

I taught myself to make some knit flowers that I found a pattern for, and really found my stride with those increases and decreases.

After that, I made a set of double knit coasters. Can’t for the life of me remember how to do double knitting now, but I know that I’m definitely capable, because those coasters sit on the coffee tables at my parents’ house to this day.

While I kept up the crafting – making a blanket for my grandmother while she was in hospice care, and learning to crochet to make my mom some slippers in the style that my great-grandmother always used to do for the whole family – it wasn’t until after I came home from Paris that I really started identifying myself as a knitter.

While in Paris, I made my first Hitchhiker, a staple in my pattern library now, and that pretty much cemented my fate.

Although I’ve still got a few knitter rights of passage to go through yet – I’ve yet to make my first sweater – I am unabashedly proud of my progress. I’ve gone from being incapable of purling, to being confident enough in my knitting to write a blog about it in just a few years!

I think that’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Birthday Blues

Let’s talk about birthdays.

It’s officially June, which means that very shortly, I will be turning 24!

Birthdays have always been a pretty big deal in my family. Nothing like Dudley’s birthday in the first Harry Potter book, with 36 presents (but last year there were 37!), but still, a fuss is always made. We typically go out to dinner, I get a few presents, and we have whatever my favorite dessert is that year (it’s been apple crisp for the past several, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon).

This is actually the first year that I’m living away from home on my birthday, and I’ve not really discussed what we’re going to do with Michael. We’ll still definitely be going to dinner with my family, it’s too much of a tradition not to, but my birthday’s on a weekday, so there’s not much else we’ll be able to do.

Anyway, I’m straying far from the point I was going for.

Since I graduated from my undergraduate program in 2015, every birthday seems to come with at least a little bit of existential panic. There is, after all, nothing like a birthday to remind you that you’re getting older every day, and there’s no going back.

The reason these types of thoughts have only started affecting me as I’ve gotten older is simple – I always had a plan before that.

When I was in school, I prided myself on my ambition and my drive, on having a plan and sticking to it. But that was back when having a plan was easy, I only needed to look a few years ahead at a time. And besides, at that age, with the middle class upbringing that I had, most of my goals were easily set out for me.

So, in high school? Graduate at the top of my class, make sure to get good grades, find a university that I love.

Done.

In college I decided to step it up a notch. Graduate in three rather than four years, complete a study abroad, keep my grades up.

Done.

Then when I graduated, whoops, I had no idea what I wanted to do! Cut to me heading to Paris, thinking that the answer to my identity crisis was in Europe. If you don’t know how that turned out, go check out my Backstory posts, or just look at the name of my blog.

Now, at 23 years and 11 months old, I still have a feeling that I’m trying to figure out exactly who I am and what I’m doing, and never does it seem so pressing as when I realize how quickly time flies. It feels as though I just turned 23 a few days ago!

I often find myself reflecting on forgotten goals, unfulfilled resolutions, and old dreams these days.

And yet, ultimately, I do know that 24 is just the beginning. I know that each day is what I make it, and that all my goals are still attainable. Maybe I get the birthday blues, just like a lot of people, but I try to use them to motivate myself to do all the things that I want to achieve.

Knitting Series: Yarn Review – Northern Bee Studio

Let’s talk about Yarn.

Today I actually have two different yarns from the same company to review for you! Northern Bee Studio has a great fingering weight base that I used to knit some socks, as well as a worsted weight base that I made into a hat.

First, I’m going to tell you about the fingering weight yarn. The base is called their Shawl Sock base, and is 435 yards of 100% Superwash Merino, with 85 yards in a second colorway of the same base.

I bought this in a set, as is clear from the photo. I was immediately drawn into their booth from the other colors that they had, but these colors had me drooling from the moment I saw them. The purple is called Wine on the Dock, and the yellow is Gold Rush.

I’d been wanted to try a contrast cuff, heel, and toe on a pair of socks, and when I saw this set I thought it was perfect.

I will say that working with a dark yarn like this was harder than I anticipated. I used the Hermione Everyday pattern to knit up a pair of socks for my mom, and although it’s a very easy pattern, I found it a bit of a strain sometimes to count or keep track of stitches against the dark fabric.

But they did turn out absolutely lovely.

The yarn was wonderful to work with. Very smooth, didn’t split often, and easy to knit up. It did seem to be quite a thin yarn, I would almost go so far as to call it a light fingering, which did make for some very, very small DPNs that I had to use.

The yarn is also quite stiff. It doesn’t have a ton of elasticity to it, making me a bit concerned about having used it for socks. After blocking, for example, the cuff didn’t spring back as much as I expected, and despite using and extra stretchy bind off, there isn’t a lot of give in the cuff either.

Perhaps as a shawl sock base, the emphasis should be on shawl, because I’m certain that between the quality of the yarn and the incredible colors, this yarn would make a phenomenal shawl.

Next up is the worsted weight yarn. This Worsted base is 215 yards of 100% Merino. This skein is in the colorway Juvenile Bald Eagle

I absolutely adore this base!

It’s genuinely one of the best worsted weight yarns I’ve ever worked with.

It’s super squishy, incredibly soft, and a huge pleasure to work with. The yarn doesn’t split, it works up very smoothly, and the end product is a gorgeous, velvety piece.

This was only my second ever cabled piece, and the cables on this hat were quite intricate for a newbie. This yarn helped me along by being so smooth and easy to work with.

End verdicts? Get yourself some of this worsted weight for pretty much any project you want to feel squishy and soft and lovely, and get yourself some of that shawl sock for a shawl or other more delicate piece.

I should note, both of the yarns I discussed here were purchased from fiber festivals, the sock yarn from the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo, the worsted from Yarn Con in Chicago. I mention this simply because I highly recommend visiting their booth before making a judgement on the yarn they have available. I believe that they’re working on updating the website, but for now what they have listed on the site I linked above is absolutely nothing compared to their actual stock, which includes numerous bases and phenomenal colorways.

Just something to keep in mind if my review has made you inclined to purchase some of their yarn.

Travel Journals: The Louvre

Let’s talk about Paris.

The Louvre is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Paris, second only the the Eiffel Tower. You can’t go to Paris and not go to the Louvre. And you can’t go to the Louvre without spending the entire day there.

The first time I went to Paris, in May of 2013, I was utterly blown away by the museum. It’s the sort of  place that makes you completely rethink your perceptions of history, art, and architecture.

But before we get to all of that fun stuff, let me tell you about the not-so-fun.

The queue.

When my then-boyfriend and I went to Paris, our first stop was the Louvre. The day after we arrived in Paris, we went to this museum, which was not a great idea.

We were both completely exhausted and jet-lagged from the trip, not only throughout the day, but particularly in the morning. We didn’t end up arriving at the museum until around 11, even though the plan had been to get there early in the morning to avoid having to queue too long.

To be fair, we did not end up having to queue as long as we expected. The line stretched well outside the complex itself, and we honestly expected to be waiting for more than an hour, and it turned out to be less. And besides, the view you get while waiting isn’t too shabby.

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I still highly recommend getting to the museum as early as you possibly can. The sooner you can get there, the less energy you’ll waste standing in line. Energy that you will definitely need to make your way through the seemingly endless exhibit.

When we did finally get into the museum, we took one look at the first exhibit and turned back around.

We needed the audio guide.

Being a French museum, of course all of the plaques and descriptions for all of the exhibits are in French. I did not, however, speak a single bit of French, and James only spoke a little. It would have been unspeakably boring without the audio guide.

As it turned out, the audio guides for the Louvre are kind of incredible.

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The guides, at least in 2013, were a GPS enabled Nintendo 3DS. This thing would track your location to keep track of what room you were in, and then you would use the touchscreen to select any of the exhibits you were interested in hearing about. The top screen would show an image of the exhibit, and you would hear a 2-3 minute spiel on the history or significance of the piece.

This has actually become one of my top travel tips.

Whenever I go to a museum now, I always get the audio guide if one is offered. It’s usually quite reasonably priced, and you get so much more out of the experience than if you were simply to gaze at all the exhibits, never understanding the significance of any of them.

So, equipped with our stunning audio guides, we ventured into the museum. And boy am I not exaggerating when I say that we “ventured.”

The Louvre is such a massive complex, it’s astounding.

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This diorama is one of the first things you see when you enter the museum. It’s a depiction of the entire museum, along with some of the surrounding Parisian cityscape. There are three stories of exhibits in more than twenty different collection, ranging from Egyptian Antiquities, to Sculptures, to French Paintings. I don’t know that it’s even humanly possible to see every single piece in the museum in a lifetime, with over 380,000 different pieces and displays.

I was there for the entire day, more than six hours on my feet listening to descriptions of one artifact after another, and probably managed to see less than a quarter of the entire museum.

Five years later, of course I don’t remember every piece that I saw, but there were certainly a few memorable ones.

Let’s start with the obvious – the Mona Lisa.

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Despite this being one of, if not the most famous painting in the world, what I remember about seeing the Mona Lisa is not the painting itself, but rather the crush of people surrounding it.

I got to glance upon it’s glory for all of thirty seconds before I found the multitude of bodies too much to bear. Just enough time for a bad picture, not enough time to really appreciate anything about it.

The one piece that I really fell in love with was The Coronation of Napoleon.

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There was something about this piece that really transported me to the time, to that moment in history that before, had just felt like a story to me.

Otherwise, it was mostly collections as a whole that I liked. The biggest surprise was how interesting the exhibit on Mesopotamia was. I didn’t know anything about Mesopotamia, and it was fascinating!

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The Egyptian collection was also extremely impressive.

What was the highlight of the museum for me, though, was not any of the collections, the art or the history. It was the architecture and murals of the building itself.

The Palace that is now the Louvre museum is a phenomenal structure. I was surrounded by priceless artwork and historical artifacts, but all that I could think about was the amount of time and care went into each archway, each column, each mural.

Fortunately, the audio guide did discuss the palace itself on occasion. Sure, the Mona Lisa is an important painting, but tell me what the room it’s housed in was designed for! Explain to me the significance of that imagery sculpted into the ceiling, or the years of work that went into creating the facade of this building. Those were the most fascinating things to me.

While I was living in Paris, several years after my first trip, I only went to the Louvre once, with my orientation group before school started. We got a whirlwind tour of some of the most iconic pieces in the museum, but it was all in such a rush and so early in the morning that I barely remember any of it.

Even though I only visited the museum once, I walked by the Louvre on numerous occasions on my way to and from school. If my usual Metro line or stop was down for some reason, the second easiest route from my apartment to school was to walk from a stop near the museum.

Occasionally, though, I would go out of my way to walk by the Louvre, and here’s why – there was nothing like the Louvre to remind me that the city I was living in was truly remarkable.

Here is this massive palace, reaching several stories high and featuring some of the most intricate and stunning architecture you’ll ever see. Here is this stunning park, with sprawling gardens. Here is this endless museum containing countless pieces of  priceless art and history. And it was all just minutes from my apartment.

It helped put things in perspective sometimes, and was one of the things that I missed the most when I left.

Knitting Series: Stash Post Part 3

Let’s talk about Yarn!

Alright guys, this is the final stash post! After this, I’ll keep you up to date on my yarn purchases in a more general way. Maybe at the end of a post I’ll mention if I’ve bought new yarn. Or something like that, we’ll see!

Anyway, if you haven’t, I recommend going back and checking out my previous two yarn stash posts, Part 1 and Part 2.

I should mention that the yarn that I have left is a bit more random than in my previous posts, lots of odds and ends that have ended up in my stash for one reason or another.

Let’s get to it then.

First, another kit! I mentioned a mitten kit in one of the previous posts, and this one is very similar, though not by the same designer.

Just like the other kit, this one uses Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport for its yarn, which is simply 100% wool.

As pictured, this yarn is going to be for the Copper Harbor hat pattern, by MayBea Crafted.

I have an interesting (to me at least) story regarding this designer.

The first time Taylor and I went to Yarn Con in Chicago, we went to a free class hosted by the two women who head the MayBea company. I can’t remember exactly what the class was called, but they discussed some interesting aspects of wool sourcing and dyeing technique. When I saw them again later at the Ann Arbor Fiber Festival, I had to have one of their Michigan-themed patterns (Copper Harbor is a city in the UP that Michael and I visited on our last vacation).

Next is a few balls of cotton that I picked up at Meijer when they were having a sale. It’s super basic Lily Sugar ‘n Cream, each with 95 yards of 100% cotton. The colors are Violet Stripes, Desert Rising, Sonoma Print, and Chocolate Ombré.

These are, eventually, going to become dish cloths. Michael and I need some new ones desperately, I just can’t seem to get around to making them.

Believe it or not, I’ve never actually made dish cloths. I know that they’re unbelievably simple, they are after all typically what a first time knitter will make. But I just have so many things that I want to make, I never seem to find time to throw in a quick dish cloth!

This is a skein of Berroco Vintage DK in the colorway Smoke. It’s 290 yards of 52% Acrylic, 40% wool, and 8% Nylon.

This is not a typical purchase for me.

I usually stay far away from anything with that much acrylic, unless it’s for a baby blanket, and honestly I didn’t even know that’s what it was made of until writing this blog.

I got this skein from a LYS in my boyfriend’s home town, with a couple of other skeins of yarn that were a worsted weight.

They were all supposed to come together to become a Stephen West shawl, though which one I no longer remember. I saw the shawl on a display in the store and really liked it. When I asked the clerk about the yarn and had her show it to me, I was convinced that I had finally found a West Knit that I would like (most of his patterns are too ostentatious for me, though I’ve come around on a lot of them since buying this yarn).

And I really did have every intention of knitting that shawl, but I just never got around to it because I was busy knitting other things. Then I ended up using the other yarn for a different project, and that was that.

Now I have this skein of DK acrylic, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.

This is another skein of DK, but this one is much more exciting!

This is a skein that I dyed myself, with the help of my amazing friend Taylor, of course.

It’s in the Cat Sock Fibers Mango DK base, which is 246 yards of 75/25 Merino Wool and Nylon.

When I dyed this, I was going through a hat phase, where I was obsessed with knitting hats. By the time I had time to knit with it, though, I was out of that phase, and so it got put to the wayside while I did projects I had plans for.

I’m thinking it’ll be some fingerless gloves soon. I really need those. I work in an office, and it does not care that it’s May and 80 degrees outside, so of course I freeze.

I just have a few more skeins, all of them newer purchases.

First, this Birch Fire colorway by Witch Candy is something I have been obsessed with since the moment I saw a picture of it while browsing on Pinterest.

I found out when I purchased this yarn that it is one of her most popular colors – and of course you can see why. I followed this woman on Instagram after seeing that she didn’t constantly carry it in the shop, so that I could be notified when she did finally update her store with this yarn.

And it’s a good thing I did. That stuff went flying when she posted it! Within 20 minutes of the shop update, most of it was gone. I only just barely snagged these two skeins, in her sock base, which is 463 yards of fingering weight yarn in 75/25 Merino/Nylon.

I’m going to make myself a shawl with these, and it is going to be the best thing in my entire wardrobe.

Finally, these four skeins are my most recent purchase. I bought them from the GarenHuis Yarn Studio in Holland, Michigan.

Shepherd’s Wool is made by Stonehedge Fiber Mill, a Michigan brand, and I’ve seen them in a few shops, though this one had the best display of colors I’ve seen yet.

It’s a 3-ply worsted weight Merino wool with about 250 yards per skein, and runs at less than $15 a skein. The colors I purchased are Pewter, Granite, and Harvest Wheat.

One squish of this yarn and I was sold. I’ve been trying out new types of worsted weight yarn, and I really love this one.

The Harvest Wheat is already on the needles, it’s going to be a Hinterland Hat for my boyfriend for Christmas. The Granite will be a hat for my dad, and the Pewter a treat for myself, it’ll be a scarf.

And that’s all! Hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts, and I’ll be back with another post in a few days. See you then!

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Let’s talk about Walt Disney World.

It’s been absolutely ages since my last Disney post, and it’s long overdue.

But since it’s been so long, let’s have a little refresher. I, and my family, are a little obsessed with Disney. We go to Disney World in Florida every few years, almost always at Christmas.

In my last Disney post, I discussed a few of my favorite things about Disney at Christmas. For this post, I’m going to talk about the Magic Kingdom exclusively.

Magic Kingdom is Disney’s most iconic park. It is also packed with the most stuff, so I will by no means be able to discuss everything about the park. Notice that I said the most stuff, not just the most attractions or rides or anything, because the park is utterly infused with endless amounts of charm, happiness, and, well, magic!

Let’s start at the beginning – Main Street.

There is something awe-inspiring about entering Magic Kingdom. When they designed the park, they absolutely knew what they were doing to create the most magical effect possible.

When you first enter, there is a small central square that blocks the view down Main Street, so that only when you are in the exact right place to experience the magic do you see the castle.

I will absolutely never tire of that sight.

Main Street itself actually has a great number of interesting shops, though we never stop at any of them when we first get to the park.

My best tip to anyone planning a trip to Disney, and this goes for all parks, not just Magic Kingdom, is to get there at opening and book it to the back. Most people dawdle at the front of the parks without much of a plan. If you go quickly (no running though, that’s not allowed) you can get onto some rides that usually have extremely long wait times in just moments. We usually head back to Adventure Land first, which is immediately left once you get past Main Street.

In Adventure Land, our top two rides are always Jungle Cruise, which is my personal favorite, and Pirates of the Caribbean, which is my dad’s.

Somehow, it has also become a tradition for us to ride the Aladdin’s Carpet Ride as well.

This camel spit on me the last time we rode the Carpet ride, and somehow it is still one of my favorites.

So you’ve experienced the awe of your first sight of the castle, you’ve made it to Adventure Land for some rides, what’s next?

Well it’s probably about time for a Fast Pass!

I don’t remember when they first started introducing Fast Passes, but regardless, they’re a godsend. There are so many rides that I would simply say, “Oh well, not going on that I guess,” to, because the lines can get insane.

Seven Dwarves Mine Train, for example, is a relatively new ride. The lines for this can be around two hours during the busy Christmas season, and that is just not happening. Which would really be a shame, because the Seven Dwarves Mine Train is a great ride! It’s much longer than you think it’s going to be, and tons of fun without being too intense. No one in my family besides myself usually enjoys roller coasters, but we all love this ride.

So now you’ve just finished your first Fast Pass, and there seems to be something going on. A bunch of people are sitting down beside the pathway, and cast members (the brilliant name for Disney employees, in case you didn’t already know), are directing traffic off the main walkways.

It’s time for a parade!

There are a number of different parades that happen every day at Magic Kingdom, featuring everyone from Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to Flynn Rider from Tangled.

If you have little kids, this is going to be a terrific experience for them. They’ll be able to see all their favorite characters! But do make sure to find a spot early; it fills up fast.

For those of us on the older side who care less about seeing every aspect of the parade, there are plenty of spaces that are a bit less crowded that afford a decent view.

When we were last at the park, my family found a nice spot near one of the transition areas, a bridge from Liberty Square to Main Street, which allowed us some space to rest but also see the parade.

Ok now, let’s get to the most important part of the trip – the food!

The hot thing at the Magic Kingdom right now, or at least what the hot thing was when we were last there, is the Dole Whip.

My dad got one of these while we were down and he let us all try it, and honestly I don’t see what the fuss is about. It’s pineapple flavored ice cream with pineapple pieces. It’s nice, but not spectacular.

What I really like, and love getting every time we go, are the Mickey Mouse Pretzels! Of course, these are just regular pretzels, there’s nothing special about them, except that they’re shaped like Mickey Mouse and I just think that’s so fun.

In terms of walk-up restaurants – these are the restaurants typically used for lunch, so named because you walk up and order food like at a fast food restaurant – Magic Kingdom is not my favorite in this field. Nothing is particularly memorable, at least not in a good way, though we’ve had a few walk-up meals that definitely left us not feeling so great afterwards.

For sit-downs this year, we tried a couple of new places.

My parents insisted that it was probably the last time we were ever going to be able to go as a family, just the four of us, and I in turn insisted we do something special.

So we had breakfast in Cinderella Castle!

Let me tell you, it cost a small fortune, about $200 for the four of us, since we couldn’t use our meal plan. And you do pay before hand, and simply choose whatever you want from the menu.

But it was so worth it! It’s a character breakfast, which is not my favorite thing since no one in my family likes interacting with or taking pictures with the characters. I sucked it up, though, and got some cute pictures with some princesses.

My favorite pictures, though, were with our waitress!

She was an absolutely fantastic waitress, and so at the end of our meal, I asked if I could get a picture with her. She must get this all the time, because she had a little performance put together for it where she made a show of freshening her lipstick, and had poses planned for us to do.

But as usual I’m getting ahead of myself. What about the food!

We all had amazing food, and it actually turned out to be my brother’s favorite meal. He had some variation of steak and eggs. My mom and I shared a quiche and some apple french toast (I wanted the French toast, but didn’t think I could handle so much sweet. I was right).

I highly recommend this experience to everyone, just once. It feels incredibly special being able to eat in Cinderella Castle, and I’m glad that I can say I’ve done it at least once.

Our other sit-down choices were for Be Our Guest, the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant, and Tony’s Town Square, from Lady and the Tramp.

Be Our Guest is a fun restaurant with several different rooms, each themed. We ate in the West Wing themed room. This room is dimly lit and has a constant sound of rain and thunder, as well as the famous rose in a glass case!

Every once in a while there’s a lightning flash and a roll of thunder that changes the ripped portrait of Prince Adam on the wall into a portrait of The Beast! It’s very cool.

Tony’s Town Square, on the other hand, is a very typical bistro style restaurant, but it is now one of my all time favorites.

The service was fantastic, the food was phenomenal, and the atmosphere was perfect.

We also may have started a new tradition with this restaurant! We ended up eating at this restaurant at lunch time, and it was such an amazing experience that we may be doing lunches for our big meals of the day in the future. It’s a much more relaxing atmosphere during the afternoon than durning the evening, and gives us the perfect opportunity to rest.

Well, I think that’ll have to do for now! There’s just way too much to talk about with Magic Kingdom. I could go on forever! Let me know if you’d like to hear more about this particular park, and look forward to some more Disney Parks posts!

Knitting Series: Yarn Review – Madelinetosh Pashmina

Let’s talk about some Mad Tosh.

We’ll start with semantics, to get them out of the way.

This yarn Madelinetosh Pashmina, a 75/15/10 Merino, Cashmere, Nylon (typically called an MCN base) in the colorway Citrus. The skein is 360 yards of sport weight yarn, with a typical retail cost of around $35.

Yeah, you read that right, $35.

Now, I’m not usually the type to spend that much on a single skein of wool. I understand that for Cashmere, that is probably a pretty good price, and that there is definitely yarn out there that is far more expensive. Unfortunately, it’s just a little out of my price range. I was only able to get this skein because it was on sale at my LYS.

Despite its rampant popularity among knitters, this yarn was my first time using anything by Madelinetosh, so I’m went into this blind. And I may have ruined myself for all of her other yarn, because this stuff was heavenly to work with, and I will always be making comparisons.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start with color. This is not a color I would typically be drawn to, except that my friend, Taylor, loves orange. Like seriously loves it. It’s her favorite color. So when I saw this beauty sitting on the sale table, I knew I had to have it for her.

This shawl was Taylor’s birthday present this year, but I snagged some photos of it before I wrapped it up to give to her. (Hopefully she doesn’t mind me modeling it, but the lighting was too gorgeous for me to pass up. And I had just bought new lipstick I wanted to try out. Perfect storm really. Sorry Taylor!)

I got tons of comments on this while I was knitting it. The color really is stunning, and by the time I finished knitting this shawl I realized I was going to have a tough time giving it up!

The only bad thing about the color, I’d say, is that it bled a little while I was knitting it. Nothing too drastic, but I had orange stains on my fingers from where the yarn passes as I feed it. It was honestly pretty entertaining to see how orange I could get my fingers (more knitting that day = more color!) and I wouldn’t consider it such a bad thing if I weren’t worried about it bleeding when I give it away.

I did soak it in wool wash and block it before giving it to Taylor, and the water did turn a rather bright orange, but I wouldn’t say it was any worse than many of my other projects. Hopefully all will be well.

Now, for what you’ve probably truly come here for – how did this yarn knit up?

Well I suppose I kind of spoiled this already, actually. As I said, it was heavenly.

I can absolutely see why someone would pay $35 per skein for this yarn.

The fiber never split once, no matter how much I abused it (and that was quite a lot, since this was my first ever cable pattern). It was so smooth to work with, it ran through my fingers like water, and frankly, my hands rejoiced to work with it.

While knitting, I couldn’t help but give the project a good squish every few rows. The fabric is gloriously soft and bouncy, and with a mostly garter stitch pattern, it was all I could do to get any knitting done at all when I just wanted to squish it.

Miraculously, I’d say it’s even softer once blocked. Definitely smoother. It feels very sleek and soft.

It is a cashmere base, and sport weight at that, so you can’t get too crazy with what you’re knitting here. Shawls, definitely. Maybe a hat if you reeeeally love who you’re knitting it for, or a sweater if you’re endlessly wealthy. But no socks or mittens, and it would seem like a waste on fingerless gloves or leg warmers.

So, my final verdict?

An absolute must use for any serious knitter. Maybe you won’t be making a sweater out of it, with that price tag, but certainly a shawl or two. I will definitely be picking some more up soon to knit myself a shawl as well!