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Archive for January, 2012

A year and a half (approximately) ago, David and I each had our own car.  I had my wonderful 2002 Honda Civic Ex (affectionately named “Phoebe”).  David had his 1997 Honda Accord LX, that used to belong to my sister, which she had named “Optimus Prime” (I don’t know if David kept that name).

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Phoebe, circa 2008 (when I bought her)

Well, unfortunately, things don’t last forever, and we said goodbye to “Optimus Prime” about one month before our wedding day.  The car just had too many things wrong and too many miles on it to justify the expense of upkeeping it, so we made the sad decision to junk it and keep to one car.  And at the time, that was fine.  For the first six months of our marriage, we lived about 10 minutes away from both of our places of employment, and when we moved, we were fortunate enough to find an apartment right around the corner from my office.  Even when David started working as an EMT (where he works out of six different bases, all over the state, instead of one “home” place of work), we managed.  I walked to and from work (and the various other places I needed to go), and David drove the car to work.  “Phoebe” has been paid off since April of 2011, and our car insurance payment went down by half when we junked “Optimus Prime”, so that was nice, too.

I knew the day would come when we would need to bite the bullet and get another car.  Dear Phoebe has over $162,000 miles on her; she’s good for another year maybe.  My parents have hinted that they’d be willing to sell one of their cars to us next year, but that would still leave us with only one vehicle.  The time has come to start looking at another car.  With David working odd hours, a shifting schedule, and all over the state, and with me going to graduate school two nights a week and able to only do errands around David’s myriad schedule, it’s time.  I crunched some numbers this afternoon and we can definitely swing it.  It’s just…you know.  Ugh.  Another bill.

Of course, when things like this happen, all I can think about is the extra expense.  The hassle of being lodged into another car payment for another few years.  The doubling of our car insurance monthly bill.  Twice as many gas expenses.  *sigh*

But I need to remember the upsides.  Not having to check with each other and schedule “who gets the car” days or weeks in advance.  Being able to actually go out and see my friends.  Not having to rely on others for rides if I need to get to the doctor or the grocery store.  David will be able to free up two more nights a week (since I’ll be able to drive myself to school and he’ll be able to take those hours at work if he chooses). 

The pros definitely DO outweigh the cons.  And when you think of it that way, it doesn’t sound too bad. 

 

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Welcome both old and new readers!  I’ve been posting on Blogger for over a year now, and felt like it was time for a change.  I think I infinitely prefer WordPress to Blogger, I think it allows for a little more creativity.  So without further ado, here we go.

This weekend was one of those glorious and rare weekends where both David and I were both off from work.  David announced on Friday night that he would be spending his weekend in pajamas parked in front of Zelda: Skyward Sword.  Since I had anticipated that, I spent my weekend reading my homework books, and casting on for a new hat.

I mentioned back in December that one of my goals for 2012 would be “setting the bar” on my knitting, and trying new things.  One of the techniques I’ve been eager to try for months is fair isle, or stranded knitting with two colors per row.  The project I had selected for my first fair isle was the Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osborn, and on Friday afternoon I went to Hither and Yarn in Torrington to obtain both yarn and needles for this project.  I cast on Friday night, and this morning, this is what my Selbu looks like:

ImageAdmittedly, it doesn’t look like much!  But it’s my very first fair isle, and I’m very pleased with it.  I’ve found that fair isle isn’t as difficult as it is more finicky, and for the first time I’m wishing I could knit both English (with the right hand, my preferred method) and Continental (with the left hand).  That way, I could put one color on each hand and just go to town.  Sadly, I’m hopelessly right-handed, so I make do with dropping one color and picking up the other.  So far, I’m doing okay.  I’m in the middle of the 8th round of pattern right now, so still early and near the beginning.  But I have high hopes for this project!

Here’s another (closer) look at the pattern:

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The white yarn is Plymouth Yarn Dye For Me Happy Feet in Natural, and the green yarn is Hand Jive Knits Nature’s Palette in Spring Grass.  The brim was knit on US 0 circs, and the pattern is done on US 2 circs.

As for reading…well, as I said before, I’m going to be doing a lot of school reading over the next few months, and I don’t think the reviews are going to be of interest to many people.  This weekend I discovered that the text-to-speech function on my Kindle is a wondrous thing, and allowed me to knit while listening to the textbook.  I finished Vermeer’s Hat:The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World on Sunday morning.  That one was pretty interesting, from both an artistic and a historical point of view, so I may review that.  Right now I’m listening to/reading Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and a History of Sexuality in America for my gender-studies class on Thursday.  It’s not quite as interesting as Vermeer’s Hat, but it’s not so dry that it’s agony slogging through it, either. 

Tonight David is working, so I’ll have plenty of time to myself.  Unfortunately, most of that time is not going to be spent in knitting.  The kitchen needs desperately to be cleaned, the ornaments need to come off the tree (don’t judge me), the bathroom could use a good scouring…somewhere in there I have to find time to write my essay for Modern World History and finish reading Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man…grad school is trying but at least the outcome will be worth it!

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Eesh.  Here we are.  New blog.  I’ve imported the old one from Blogger, so hopefully everything converted well over here.   I used to have a blog on WordPress but left about a year ago for Blogger.  I’ve missed the interfacing though, and I think I’d be happier here.

Sorry for the changes and indecisiveness (all you 16 people who read me — I hope you’re still here).

As you were.  Hopefully I’ll have something to update soon enough.

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Being “back” in graduate school has driven home one key reality for me: I will not be reading as many “fun” books as I did last year.  I’m glad that I shortened my reading goal to fifty new (to me) books in 2012, rather than the 100 I did in 2011.  There is no way I’d be able to complete an average of two books a week right now, especially when I’m doing so much reading for my classes.  Don’t worry; I promise not to review a book I read for class unless it’s really stellar.  That being said, here’s (probably) my last “fun” read until further notice: Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran.
Madame Tussaud, the sculpture of an elderly woman who greets customers at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, takes on the form of practical, ambitious Marie Grosholtz, a woman in her mid-twenties in pre-Revolutionary France, making a living off her uncanny ability to create exact wax portraits of people.  After an introduction to the royal family, Marie is invited to work as a tutor to the king’s sister, Princesse Elisabeth, in Versailles, where she makes friends and finds herself sympathetic to the royals.  But when the Revolution breaks over France, Marie is forced to choose between loyalty and life, ambition and love.
I feel like I would have gotten through this book a lot faster if I hadn’t had four days’ worth of homework to do.  It is a relatively quick read, and I did enjoy it as a work of fiction.  I’m glad that Moran added the tagline “a novel of the French Revolution”, because there are major historical inaccuracies present, especially around the relationship between Marie and her supposed beau, Henri Charles.  
My other bone to pick with this book is the “tell, not show” policy that Moran utilizes in this story, and that is, I’ve found, a major problem with writing historical fiction from the POV of a female character who was largely relegated to the outskirts of the political arena.  Most of the book is Marie’s reaction to political events that she finds out about through newspapers, friends, or relatives — she was not an eyewitness to most of it.  While I applaud Moran’s decision to not take liberties with history, it doesn’t make for particularly exciting literature.  One GR’s critic said she wished that she had read more eyewitness descriptions, rather than breathless retellings from people who happened in on Marie in her workshop.  This was a problem I had with The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes.  Barnes set out to write the story of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII of England, and while she did a great job of “telling” the history of what happened, she was hampered by the simple fact that Elizabeth was little more than a spectator at most of the great events that happened in her lifetime.  That is the problem that Moran also runs into with Madame Tussaud.

Overall, I enjoyed it for what it is: a re-telling of the events of the French Revolution through the eyes of one of its spectators, but not one of its main contributors.

Rating: ****

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Today was one of those “barely” productive days. I did manage to tidy my yarn stash, do the dishes, straighten the den, etc.  I managed to do some homework before my sister arrived.  Apparently the roads weren’t plowed well (she was en route from a friend’s house to our parents’), and she’s now staying here for the night.  I don’t mind; David’s working until midnight and having someone here is a nice change from the way I normally spend my evenings alone.

We spent the evening last night at Matt and Marcy’s, at a spin jam.  In the winter, those are referred to as “freezer burns”.  We didn’t last long outside.  It was about 20 degrees out and you can’t really spin in heavy gear or with gloves on, so most of us were pretty frozen.

I think this one looks very “Abbey Road.”  It’s Matt with his poi.

Jim breathing fire.

Dave doing isolations on his hands with fire staff.  This was a second attempt to catch this picture.  The first time, he dropped the staff.  Matt and Joe yelled out simultaneously “Do it again, only less shit!”  (Note: with the exception of “Are you going to Wildfire?” I’ve never heard anyone say the things in that video, or have those pretentious voices.  Spinners, at least the ones I know, are way cooler and nicer than those people.)

Joe, being awesome.  This was after I figured out how to photograph moving flames.  I’m an idiot.

No pictures of me this time.  David only took two, and neither of them came out clearly.  Oh well.  It was way too cold to be sitting outside for more than half an hour, so we ended up going in the house, drinking coffee, eating brownies, telling bad jokes, and chatting about weddings (Lyndsey and Joe got engaged on New Year’s and they’re planning their wedding for summer ’13).

Anyway.  This is what I’m dealing with in trying to do my homework.

Sorry, Ollie.  That type of distraction is why I haven’t graduated yet.

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Back to life

After our whirlwind vacation, David and I have been settling back into “real life”, and everything seems to be starting up again this week.  So much is going on in the next couple of months, but when you live life with two people balancing between three jobs, graduate school, one car, and two active social lives, it gets a little crazy!
I re-start graduate school tonight.  I have two semesters and one major thesis left until I complete my Master of Arts degree in History, and that starts tonight.  I’m nervous as hell (I haven’t been in school since 2008), and things are going to get very busy for a while.  My husband works between 61 and 64 hours a week between two jobs, I work 35 hours a week at my job and classes will take up another five hours a week (classroom time; I have no idea what homework/writing time will take up).  We won’t be seeing much of each other Wednesdays and Thursdays from now until May, but I keep telling myself that it will be worth it in the end.
I am wondering what this is going to do for my reading and knitting productivity.  😦  I’m taking three books out of the library today, and I was hoping to get through them quick enough, but considering the amount of books I had to purchase for my two classes (it was something like 12  books), I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing a lot more “work-reading” than “pleasure-reading.” 😦
Speaking of books…I realized after Christmas that I desperately need a new bookshelf.  My current bookshelf is full to overflowing.  My very generous family gifted me many books for Christmas — some fiction, some history, some knitting technique books — and I have no room for them.
Right now, I have two bookshelves.  A big one for my fiction and nonfiction, and another little one for my knitting technique books.  I have a $50 gift card that I got for my birthday in September from my parents, and right now I’m thinking the best use for it would be a new, big bookshelf, devoted either entirely to my fiction or my non-fiction history (I’m thinking the latter).
I often joke with my family and friends that the reason I have so many hardcopies of books (even though I have a Kindle) is that I’m “building a library” of my history books — and it’s true!  I have a pretty good start to a vast collection.  Every college teacher I’ve ever been fortunate to have has had a vast library of their own in their office — I aspire to this one day.  So far, my “history library” includes the following (and I might have missed one or two):
British History:
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir
The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England by Alison Weir (title used in England, where I purchased it)
Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir
The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Mistress by Alison Weir
Britain’s Royal Families: A Complete Geneology by Alison Weir
Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser
Russian History:
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
King, Kaiser, Tsar by Catrine Clay
U.S. History:
The Devil In Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials by Marion L. Starkey
Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
Do you consider your book collection “your library” or “your legacy”?  

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We didn’t do too much on our cruise the last two days we were there.  Thursday was the “fun day at sea”, which to us translated into a late breakfast and lying on the “Serenity Deck” (re: adults-only deck with plush lounge chairs and two hot tubs) all day.  David and I spent about three hours just lounging about, him taking intermittent naps and me reading my Kindle (I got through re-reading the entire Hunger Games trilogy on this vacation).

On our way back to Miami, we skirted along the coast of Cuba.  I tried to take some pictures but we were just too far away, so Cuba looks like some sort of weird, pale blue cloud formation on the horizon.
We had our last meal in the formal dining room that night.  From this picture you can see we all got quite a bit of sun on this vacation.  Fortunately, nobody really got sunburned.  This time.
The last evening, after the final show and when everyone had gone to bed, David told me he wanted to have some time alone.  It was late — around 10:30 or so — and we went up to the very top deck and overlooked the bow (I told him that if he started any “Titanic” jokes I was tossing him overboard), and we stood out there looking out on the water.  We could see a cruise ship off in the distance — just its lights — and except for that, we were all alone out on the water.  The wind was really intense and it was so beautiful.
For my first cruise, it was something else.  I can understand how people get hooked on these.  The best part of it is being able to not worry about money.  Sure, you have your drinks billed to your account and you have to settle that in the end.  But David and I had a credit card with zero balance on it, and we had put a little money aside just for this trip, so we’ll be paying that off ASAP.  And a whole week’s worth of drinks for two people, plus the mandatory $48 gratuity (per person, so it was $96 for both of us) cost us under $200.  We’re not huge drinkers; I imagine if you really like your booze it would be more expensive.
But the absolute best part of our cruise (IMO) was spending some time with my husband, just relaxing.  I loved getting to hang out with David all the time, with nothing to do and no worries (sandal escapade aside).  It was a great vacation, and I look forward to having another one with him.  He went back to work yesterday, and I start school again tomorrow *shiver*, and having a little time off to ourselves before that was…just perfect.

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