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.

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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!

Travel Journals: Holland Tulip Festival

Let’s talk about flowers.

Well, only a little. Surprisingly, the Tulips are not the best part of the Holland Tulip Festival.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those that don’t know, Holland is a city on the west coast of Michigan. That area of the state is very heavily influenced by Dutch culture, it was a huge settlement area for Dutch people who came to the United States in the 1800s.

As such, they have a number of cultural festivals throughout the year, and the Tulip Festival is one of them.

Despite living only a couple hours away, I’d never been to the Tulip Festival before. It’s something that everyone in and around the area knows all about, but it’s one of those things that gets pushed aside because you live too close. I’ve always thought, “Oh, I’ll go to it eventually,” but never made any effort to do so.

This year, my parents – newish empty nesters who have suddenly developed lives and interests that I had no idea they could possess – decided they were finally going to go, and invited Michael and I along with them.

Aren’t we cute?

So, after driving about two hours to get to the event, we found that they very conveniently offer a free bus service to the various sections of the event. We parked in a massive parking lot and hopped on the bus.

First stop, Windmill Island Gardens!

This stop required a ticket for entry, which I was initially confused about. It hadn’t occurred to me that these events cost money to put on, so of course they’re going to charge entry. My parents very generously paid for all of our tickets, though, so I have no idea how much it cost.

Here’s the thing about the Gardens. They’re called ISLAND gardens. Indicating that they are in fact located on a limited amount of land, which means a limited amount of space, which means that the massive crowd that descended upon the Gardens for this event had only so many places they could go.

And I am not the biggest fan of crowds.

Unfortunately, also, the weekend we went to the festival was not peak season for the Tulips. If we’d given it another week, I’m sure the sight would have been absolutely stunning. There were plenty of pretty blooms in the fields and along the walls, but it was not the sea of stunning color that I had anticipated.

That being said, we did still get a few lovely pictures.

After the Gardens, the next stop on the bus was Downtown Holland!

There were still some rather repressive crowds in the city, but it was easy enough to pop into a shop or find a side street where you weren’t shoulder to shoulder with other humans. And downtown didn’t seem to be experiencing the steady trickle inward of more and more people with too few people leaving, like the Gardens had.

The most exciting part of Downtown for me was an absolutely stunning yarn shop located not far from the main event. I won’t go too much into it, but I definitely parted with a quite bit of money there. If anyone is interested, the shop is called GarenHuis Yarn Studio, and it is lovely.

Moving on, though, the main event of downtown was a huge art fair in a gorgeous park in the center of the city.

The art fair was, of course, absolutely mad with people. The booths were practically stacked upon one another, but somehow it didn’t feel suffocating.

We took a leisurely stroll through the whole event, stopping now and then to coo over one thing or another. The offerings at the booths were eclectic, from doll clothes to lawn ornaments to paintings.

The only thing I purchased, though, was a bag of cinnamon coated roasted pecans, but I’d say it was a highlight of the trip. Michael is now somewhat obsessed with them, and it’s definitely going to be a tradition for us to seek out a nut vendor when we go to fairs in the future.

Have you ever been to the Holland Tulip Festival? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be back with another post in a few days!

Knitting Series: Weaving

Let’s talk about weaving.

Now, I know that weaving is not a form of knitting, and supposedly this is the day I post about knitting.

But you know what, I think it’s close enough. I made a scarf out of yarn. I learned a new fibery skill. I think that’s what matters.

So, let’s start with how I ended up taking on a weaving project.

One of my favorite things about my Local Yarn Store is the community of it. It’s an adorable little store in the heart of East Lansing, called Woven Art. They’re constantly updating their shop and hosting classes and knit-alongs. When I received their weekly newsletter informing me that there was a weaving class offered, I just managed to claim the last spot in the course.

Weaving is something I’ve been interested in for a while, but only really started to think seriously about after watching the Babbles Traveling Yarns podcast. I love the woman who hosts this podcast, and Grace loves all things fiber. When she showed off a gorgeous scarf she’d woven in one of her episodes, I decided that I had to learn how to do it.

Rather serendipitously, I noticed the weaving class offered at Woven Art only a couple of weeks after watching that episode. After a bit of encouragement from my boyfriend, I decided to join the class that was happening just a few days from the day I signed up! It was a bit of a scramble to make sure I didn’t have plans and to get my supplies, but well worth it.

The class started at 9am on Sunday, and was set to end at 4:30pm, though I finished my project before that deadline and was able to go home and relax my aching muscles.

But more on that in a moment.

The class taught us all the basics of a Rigid Heddle Loom, pictured below:

We learned every step of the weaving process, from warping to finishing and complete with all the crazy lingo in between. If you thought knitters were hard to understand, trust me, they have nothing on weavers. Warp, weft, beat, shed. There’s so many words to know that are utterly unintelligible without a translator.

So, the first step in weaving is setting up your warp threads. These are the threads that go up and down in the project, essentially what you’ll be weaving into.

Setting up the warp is time consuming.

It took us about an hour to set up our 8″ wide, 70″ long warp. It’s not a complicated process, it just takes a while.

So, once we warped our looms, it was time to get weaving!

I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I was surprised by the way you work this particular loom.

Specifically, that this monstrosity could have one end laid in my lap and the other braced on the table in front of me, and that it would be so comfortable!

As I’ll discuss later, I wouldn’t necessarily say that sitting upright in this position for extended periods of time is comfortable, I mean it in a different sense. The position of the loom and the back and for motions of weaving felt extremely natural. Even if my edges were by no means perfect, the process was very smooth and easy to execute.

Overall, I absolutely loved this class. The teacher was kind, patient, and knew her stuff. My fellow students were all friendly and easygoing, making for a perfect afternoon of occasional chatting and lots of companionable silence.

The only complaint I have about the course is the length, which, unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to. There aren’t many project options that would feel complete besides a scarf. Maybe a place mat or a dishcloth, but the former generally needs multiples and the latter involves more complicated weaving techniques. But a scarf takes quite some time.

By the time I finished my scarf, I’d been weaving almost nonstop for about five hours. Weaving with this type of loom engages your back and shoulders extensively, and by the end of the session, I was almost in tears with the pain of using those muscles for so long.

Now part of that is because I’m a naturally tense person, especially in social situations, and I needed to relax more while I wove. But truly, going from weaving not at all, rarely using those muscles, to abusing them for such an extended period was not good.

Nonetheless, I would still highly recommend learning to weave for anyone interested. As I write this, I’m working on saving up for my own loom, so that I can properly dive into the craft!

Christmas Trees: Some Advice

Let’s talk about Christmas trees.

I think it’s time to bring some Christmas joy to May, now that it’s finally getting warm where I live (hello 80 degrees, where did you come from??).

One of my absolute favorite parts of Christmas is the Christmas tree.

Now, this post isn’t going to go into details like history or origins of the Christmas tree, you’ll have to google around for that. Instead, I’m going to discuss a very controversial topic: fake versus real.

Personally, I will always go with a real tree over a fake tree.

I’m going to start by discussing the benefits of fake trees, though, because I have less to say on this topic.

Basically, if you prefer fake trees, I completely support you.

I understand that real trees are simply not realistic for some people. Maybe someone in your household is allergic, maybe you don’t live in an area with easy access to conifer trees, maybe you simply don’t want to have to deal with watering and taking care of the needles. Even my family has used fake trees occasionally in the past, such as when we’ve had a Disney trip planned for Christmas and won’t be home for most of December to enjoy it anyway.

There are some really gorgeous, very convincing looking fake trees out there. Even if you bought your fake tree for $20 from Goodwill, the point of having a tree is not for it to be perfect, it’s to help put the household in the Christmas spirit, and I can definitely get behind that.

Whatever the reason you don’t like real trees, that is completely valid, as long as you don’t go around denouncing people like myself.

So, here’s why I’m so into real trees. It’s been a tradition in my family since before I can remember to go and cut down a Christmas tree from the same local farm every single year.

Even when I went off to college, I would find a time to come home in December to go out with my parents and my brother to this family-owned tree farm and pick out the fullest, tallest tree we could fit in the house. (And no matter how much my mom and dad insisted it would be a small tree this year, it always ended up being way taller and fuller than they intended. I take full responsibility/credit for that).

The only time my family has ever gotten a tree without me was 2016, when I was living in Paris.

Even then, I’d made a secret plan with my brother to get my parents to the tree farm the day I arrived home (I flew home earlier than I told them I was), so that I could give them a great surprise. Unfortunately, a huge snow storm was blowing in the day I intended to surprise them, so they went out and picked out the tree the day before I got home.

On the bright side, I still got to decorate it.

For me, the Christmas season doesn’t really start until there is a Christmas tree standing pride of place in the living room, covered in gorgeous colored or white lights, and smothered in an ungodly assortment of the most mismatched but sentimental ornaments imaginable.

That, for the record, is the only way I think there is to decorate a Christmas tree in your home. Certainly if you have a business or a tree on display, make it lovely and symmetrical and uncluttered.

But at home, the only way to go is meaningful.

My brother and I both have huge tubs full of Hallmark ornaments we received from aunts and uncles, as well as our parents every year. We both have our favorites. One of mine is a little bell (which is technically my mom’s but I’ve commandeered it), which has the sweetest chime I’ve ever heard in my life. It sounds just like the bell at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life (one of my favorite Christmas movies), when Clarence gets his wings (oops, spoilers).

I also love the wind up grand piano that plays Für Elise that my godmother got for me the year I played piano in her wedding.

My brother loves the two Star Wars character ornaments he has; we always make an effort to set them up on the tree like they’re having a lightsaber battle!

My parents also have their special ornaments, like the house shaped ornament they got when they moved into their home, or the two cats sitting on a swing with their tails entwined from an anniversary year of theirs.

Now that I’m older, nobody buys ornaments for me, but I buy them endlessly for myself. They’re the thing that I collect.

Every time we go to a new place or event, even sometimes when we visit familiar places, I like to pick up an ornament or two to remind me of the trip.

Anyway, I digress. I’ll have to do another post about ornaments sometime.

To get to the point of my blog, here are a few top tips if you’re bringing a real tree into your home.

First, be prepared to vacuum. Needles will fall from your tree, it’s inevitable. It’s ok to swear a little when you get one of those buggers jammed in your foot, but make sure there are no children around first. And make sure that you don’t just leave it there when you pull it out of your tender skin, throw it away or break out the vacuum!

When picking out your tree, check for dead needles. Don’t just glance around the outside of the tree for fullness and good branches, make sure you take a look closer inside. If there are lots of dead needles clustered around the trunk, or if most of the inside is brown, the tree is not healthy. It will die very quickly and the vacuuming tip will become a daily necessity.

If your local tree farm or supplier offers it, get a custom tree stand. Our local tree farm has a stand that you can purchase with their trees. If you have one, they drill a hole in the base of the tree, which fits onto a peg in the stand. Getting the tree level in the stand is almost effortless with this, saves a lot of time and grievance!

Get your tree wrapped before bringing it home. It is so much easier to get it through the door and into the stand if the branches aren’t whacking everybody in the face.

Once you have the tree upright and level in the stand, just the way you want it, water your tree immediately. Once you’ve watered it, you can cut off the netting and give it a little time for the limbs to drop. But remember to check the water regularly, especially on the first day. You will probably have to fill the tree stand two or three times on the first day.

Keep your tree as far away from any heat source as possible. Obviously necessary when it comes to a fireplace, but also remember to close heating vents that might be blowing hot air onto your tree. These dry your tree out more quickly, not only making your tree die, but also making it more flammable.

I think those are the most important things when it comes to bringing home a real tree. If anyone has any tips you think I missed, let me know in the comments!

Knitting Series: Scary Knitting

Let’s talk about the things that scare me in knitting.

Lately, I’ve been trying to get into some new Knitting podcasts. One of the podcasts that I’ve found that I really enjoy is F This Knit (The podcast where they talk about knitting and they swear a lot!).

This is relevant to the theme of today’s blog, I promise.

This podcast came out almost a year and half ago, but they only post once a month, so their backlog is not impossibly lengthy. So, naturally, I’ve been going through the entire backlog of episodes, and I just finished their October episode, titled Spooky Scary Knits.

I’ve been inspired by their podcast to tell you some of the things that I find the most scary or intimidating in knitting, and why!

Let’s start with the obvious – steeking. I don’t know a single knitter who isn’t terrified of the idea of steeking.

For those who don’t know, steeking is the act of cutting into your knitting. Typically, it’s a complicated fair isle pattern knit in the round, then cut into to make a tube into a cardigan or some such garment. The mere thought of cutting into hours and hours of colorwork gives me the heebie jeebies.

Of course, you don’t just lay your project down and cut into it. There are holds put in place to make sure your project doesn’t unravel, but it just seems like the sort of thing that can so easily go wrong. No thank you.

Double pointed needles were a big fear of mine for a while. I find them to be a piece of cake now – my preferred method of sock knitting, actually. But there is something incredibly intimidating about working with 4 or 5 needles at the same time. When I finally got the hang of knitting on DPNs (hint: ignore all other needles except the ones you’re working with) I was surprised at how easy it turned out to be.

I still get strangers who come up to me and are amazed at how I work DPNs, and some newer knitters seem to have the same reaction. It certainly does look complicated, but it’s easier than people expect.

In the same vein of DPNs, I was very intimidated by the idea of cabling for quite some time. I absolutely adore the look of cables, but they really look like the kind of technique that’s going to be quite difficult.

Once I learned how to knit on DPNs, however, cables didn’t seem so complicated. Working with a cable needle really isn’t that different from working with any other DPN.

Now, trying to do a cable without a cable needle or something to hold your stitches on? That still scares the dickens out of me. I can just imagine all of those stitches coming out the second I try to start knitting on the other stitches, and trying to deal with that while getting the cable right. Again, no thank you.

Swatching can be quite intimidating for me as well.

Certainly there’s an element of not wanting to swatch that is laziness, but also, trying to figure out how to correct gauge when the swatch isn’t quite right is difficult for me. Not to mention that I’ve definitely swatched incorrectly in the past and had it negatively impact my FO.

What else?

Oh, lace! How could I forget lace?

I think in terms of rank, lace knitting comes in a very close second to steeking, but for different reasons. Certainly, there’s some fear of simply getting it wrong, as with steeking, but it’s highly unlikely that my whole project is going to come unraveled if I miss a slip stitch or forget a yarn over.

The biggest problem with lace knitting is simply how complicated it seems. It’s not something you do while you sit back and binge watch Netflix, by any means. Tension (always a nemesis of mine) seems important in lace knitting, as well as keeping track of the pattern and really paying attention to your stitches.

And don’t get me started on lace knitting with beads. I shudder to think of the care and attention necessary for that.

Less an actual part of knitting, but as part of the community, fiber festivals were absolutely terrifying to me when I first started going.

It wasn’t until I started going with Taylor to help out and keep her company in her booth at festivals that the intimidation began wearing off. There are just so many booths and vendors and people at festivals, and they all seem to know so much more than me about all things fiber!

I still get somewhat intimidated at festivals, but I’ve found the best way to combat this is to have a plan and a buddy. It can be far too overwhelming to go to a festival without a plan of what you’re looking to purchase, and having a buddy helps to mitigate some of the anxiety I feel about interacting with the all-knowing booth owners.

Ok, last one for today, and this is another community aspect – posting in forums on Ravelry.

I have no idea why this scares me; it likely has everything to do with my social anxiety, because it cannot be the people on the site.

Whenever I have mustered the courage to post on Ravelry, everyone has been nothing but kind and helpful! But there’s just something I find extremely intimidating about trying to add to a thread, group, or forum. Especially with the length of some of the threads! There’s nothing like finding a thread on a topic you like, only to have it be 700 comments deep, with virtually no way of picking up all the threads of conversation.

That’s all for now! Let me know in the comments what your biggest knitting fears are, and I’ll see you all next week.

Bullet Journaling

Let’s talk about to-do lists.

So, in the past few years, bullet journaling has seen some ebbs and flows in popularity.

For anyone who has somehow not heard about this trend, it’s basically a simpler way of keeping a journal. You make bulleted points rather than long, deeply explained entries. Like a journal, it can be absolutely anything you want, from what you’ve done any given day, to feelings, to to-do tasks.

And I was doing it before it was cool – that’s right, I’m a bullet journal hipster.

I started this journaling in March of 2015, when I was in my last semester of university.

At the time, I was finding it really hard to keep up with my schoolwork and social obligations. I had an incessant feeling that I was always forgetting something.

At first, I just wrote lists and reminders on scraps of paper, but eventually I realized that I needed to use something more consistent and organized.

So, the next time I was at Meijer (that’s our supermarket, kind of like an upscale Walmart, for all you non-midwesterners), I picked up this little notebook so I could start writing my lists in it.

So far, I’m on my 8th notebook and counting.

Part of the bullet journaling trend has been to make these journals gorgeous. A simple Google image search of bullet journals gets you stuff like this:

Or this:

And I’ll come right out and say – that is NOT how I bullet journal.

If you have that kind of creativity, artistic skill, and/or time to make it that pretty, good for you. Someday your grandkids are going to find it stunning and fascinating.

My journals look more like this:

My journals are basically scratch paper, I use them for everything.

I try to do at least one entry every day. This entry consists of a list of anything from appointments, to household tasks that need to be done, to the number of chapters of a book I want to finish that day. Each of these gets crossed off, which makes it harder to read later, but not impossible, and gives me a deep sense of satisfaction.

Even on the days that I don’t remember to write something, I’ll usually go back and write in a few of the tasks that I accomplished that day, or events or interactions that I participated in.

I’ve found this habit to be incredibly therapeutic, for a number of reasons.

First of all, it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to cross off tasks that I completed. It also gives me peace of mind so that I don’t feel like I’m forgetting anything.

One of the most significant benefits, though, is that it helps me accomplish things that my anxiety makes difficult.

I’ve mentioned before that I have anxiety, but it’s often hard for people to understand how my social anxiety impacts my daily life. It makes small tasks, like calling to make a doctor’s appointment, going to a club meeting, or other basic interactions, extremely challenging for me.

By writing down a task, like calling the doctor, and giving myself the “reward” of being able to cross it off, I’m able to muster the motivation to do the sorts of things that most people don’t think twice about accomplishing.

Now, I said that I use my notebooks like scrap paper, but so far I’ve only described the daily lists I make. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though.

I use my notebooks to make grocery and meal lists, for brainstorming story ideas, to make note of a knitting pattern idea, to keep track of my knitting projects, to take down information and reminders when people tell me things, to make my budgets, as scrap when I need to remember a series of numbers for some reason – the list goes on.

And the thing is, if I made my notebook fancy and colorful and creative, it wouldn’t be nearly as useful to me.

So, needless to say, if you’ve been considering getting into bullet journaling but are intimidated by the time and creativity it will take, don’t be. You can make bullet journaling anything you want it to be, as long as you’re getting something down on the page.