Thursday, July 30, 2009

This is not a knitting blog. I swear.

I started knitting last autumn, in November I think. My good friend L, with whom I watched Lost every week, is a hardcore knitter, and I was intrigued by the beautiful things she created with just two wooden sticks and some yarn. I was also intrigued by the zen-like state she seemed to achieve while she knit, and so I asked her to teach me.

Little did I know, knitting is an addictive substance.

I tried knitting before, in college, and mostly just sucked at it. I made two scarves, in garter stitch (that's the most boring one), out of really cheap yarn and on cheap needles. They were terrible, and I even had the gall to give one to my mother for Christmas. I'm sure she treasures it because she's a mother and that's what they must do, but sweet Lord, Mom, please feel free to burn it.

This time around I had a dedicated knitting mentor, who even lived right across the street which made it easy for me to run over there and weep joyfully while she showed me how to pick up a dropped stitch. She also encouraged me to move beyond scarves and to learn how to do things like k2tog and ssk, and as a result I've been building up my skills and tackling progressively more difficult projects.

Yesterday I received a shipment of yarn that I ordered online, and I opened up the box and almost died from joy when I saw my yarn. I ordered this really beautiful, light cotton yarn in this wonderful baked red color, and it's just awesome. I was so excited I ran around the house and made all of my in-laws touch the yarn and tell me how awesome it was.

Isn't it joyously beautiful? I would've slept with it last night if B weren't around.

Okay, but seriously, who does that? Who freaks out about how wonderful their yarn is and then posts about it in their damn blog? You know who does that? Knitters. Real knitters. Yesterday when I was swooning over my yarn it suddenly hit me that I've turned into L (not a bad thing) and that I have really started to immerse myself in this crazy world of knitting.

So thank you, L, for teaching me how to knit and for encouraging me to learn new things. And if this turns into a knitting blog, I think everyone knows who is to blame.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Casey's Foods: Sushi

B is currently away in New York taking the bar exam, and so despite the fact that I live with about nine of my in-laws I'm kind of on my own in some ways. B is not a huge fan of sushi, and he certainly doesn't mind when I eat it, but it's not something I can really share with him so I tend to eat it on nights when he's away. Yesterday afternoon I began craving sushi, and so I walked to the nearest Kowalski's and purchased a chef's sampler.

I forgot to take the picture before I started eating, so four pieces of sushi are already missing from this photograph. Oh man, I love my sushi. It's more expensive here than in New York City, but it was certainly just as delicious, if not more.

After that I spent the rest of the night knitting and watching the last season of Sex and the City. It was a really nice hermit night for me. I haven't posted much about my knitting because I feel that I am very much still a beginner and it doesn't make much sense to show off my knitting at a beginner's level. But I recently finished a shawl for my grandmother and I'm quite proud of it. It's a very simple lace pattern, but I think it's the most complicated pattern I've ever worked on and the largest item I've ever completed. Here's some detail from it.

I'm working on a second one in a nice wine color because I'm weird and I really like to make two of everything I knit. Probably because the second one usually turns out better than the first because I know what I'm doing by that point.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Laura's Footsteps

Some of you may know that Laura Ingalls Wilder's series of books about her life growing up in the Midwest was my favorite back in my childhood. So I was pretty stoked when my mother-in-law suggested a trip to see the Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, the site of the book On the Banks of Plum Creek.

See, I grew up out West, and didn't really have access to the sites of Laura's story. Her family moved all around the Midwest during her early years before settling in De Smet, South Dakota.

So we took off bright and early Saturday with an eclectic mix of people in the back (a grandmother who was super excited, a daughter-in-law even more excited than the grandma, a 12-year-old boy who was strangely okay with the trip, a 9-year-old girl who was strangely angry about the trip, and an almost-5-year-old girl who is excited about everything that happens in her life). Our first stop was the museum and museum store, where they sell a darling selection of bonnets for all sizes of children and adults.

I proudly bought one, and am in fact wearing it as I compose this.B wishes I were lying, but I'm not. It's fantastic and I'm not taking it off for the rest of the night.

They had a little fair in the park with lots of crafts vendors and demonstrations of things like spinning yarn. They also had a ton of crafts for the kids to do, and even the adults joined in some of the fun. I tried my hand at making a seed art bird.

Yeah, it really didn't turn out too well.

The best part of the day was surely when we went to the site of Laura's dugout home. See, for the first half of her time in Walnut Grove they lived in a sod house dug into the hill right on the Creek. Later they built a house of wood and lived there, but the sod house is probably the most memorable part of that particular book.

Unfortunately, it doesn't exist anymore. It was made of dirt, after all, and the roof caved in quite a while ago. There is still a little depression in the hill where it was, and the new owners of the property have placed a sign to let visitors know exactly where the house was.
Luckily, Plum Creek is still there, and still in about the same condition as it was during Laura's time. I was so thrilled to be there finally! I took off my sandals and waded in and thought about all the times that I read about Laura doing the same thing, with her bonnet hanging loose off her shoulders so that Ma would have to scold her. Of course, I had pictured the creek a bit differently when I was reading, so I'll probably have to change up my perception of things the next time I read it (which may be soon). I also enjoyed the beautiful prairie grass and the wide open sky. It was really fun to stand in Laura's footsteps and wonder what this place looked like to her.


Isn't it beautiful? What a great place to have a childhood.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In the midst of weddings, a birthday.

Our niece C has her birthday on the same day as my sister in California. It makes it very easy to remember both of them! C turned 2 this year, which was more exciting for the family than for her since she's still a little young to understand what a birthday is. All she knew is that lots of people were taking pictures of her and for some reason her mother wanted her to rip pretty paper off of things.

She had a cake, of course, a nice green colored one. It looks kind of radioactive, doesn't it? It was funfetti though, and I love funfetti. It was quite tasty.

For C's birthday, her mother requested that we not buy any toys or "stuff" for her, so a few of us went in together and purchased a membership to the zoo for the entire family. We still wanted C to have something to open, and B had a brilliant idea - animal crackers!

He purchased a nice bag of animal crackers and wrapped it up along with the notification of the zoo membership. It ended up being a hit. C mostly received clothes for her birthday, and the animal crackers were one of the few things that she could actually enjoy.
It was a very cute birthday, and reminded me of how exciting birthdays are when you're a very small child. Although I guess I can't say mine aren't exciting as an adult since I sure did get funfetti cake for my last birthday! Thanks, B!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weddings, Weddings, Everywhere

Well we had another wedding last weekend, this one was in the Twin Cities area so we didn't have a long drive, nor any new zoos to explore. It was, however, at a place I had never been before, Centennial Lakes Park in Edina. It's a really gorgeous little park with cute apartment buildings on one side, a mini-golf course, a little shopping mall, and an amphitheater for weddings plus a very nice pavilion for receptions.

You can see the amphitheater's tent-like covering in the picture above. It was, unfortunately, really cloudy that day, but it didn't rain. Thankfully, grey days are better for pictures anyway so I think D and G will be pleased that it wasn't too sunny on their wedding day.

One of the best parts of the wedding was the dessert! Instead of the typical cake they had tiny little cheesecake slices! They were both adorable, AND delicious. I liked the chocolate cheesecake best, in case you can't tell from the picture below.

And then there was, of course, dancing into the night. B and I even did a little dancing. I also managed to snap this cool picture of someone's foot walking into the dance floor. This is what happens when you refuse to use your camera's flash in dark places.

Cool, huh? It was a great wedding, and we enjoyed seeing some old friends that we've been neglecting. Now we've got a few weekends off before our next wedding, a particularly exciting one at the end of August...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Surprise present!

I came home from the library today to a house full of nieces who had apparently decided to busy themselves by making something pretty for their Auntie C.

Isn't it adorable? My love of squirrels is simply infectious! And they know that I love squirrels and now will often point them out to me in real life and in movies. Anyway, my heart kind of broke with happiness when I saw what they had made me. I rewarded them by dragging out the giant bin of Barbies that none of the other adults ever want to deal with and playing with them for an hour or so.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pine Grove Zoo: PRAIRIE DOGS!

So the whole reason that we went to the zoo in Little Falls was because we had heard a rumor that the zoo had rodents in residence. In particular, prairie dogs.

Now, some of you might know that prairie dogs are actually a type of ground squirrel. Yes, ground squirrels! This blog has tended to focus on tree squirrels, but I also have great affection for ground squirrels. In fact, I think that if I were a squirrel, I would be a ground squirrel.

Anyway, the prairie dogs were HILARIOUS. Their cage was basically just an open pit of dirt, but they sure kept themselves busy with all that dirt! Many of them were digging, especially the baby prairie dogs (who were absolutely adorable... I wanted to steal one). Some of the were eating, and there was also some cleaning and snuggling going on between the adults. Best of all, you could buy prairie dog snacks and FEED them! And so we did! I think we spent at least twenty minutes at the prairie dog exhibit. We're super cool.
Oh, and there was one little prairie dog who thought he could escape his exhibit! B was smart enough to take some video of it. Enjoy! I know I did!

video

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Weddings! But this one was out of town...

Well it was another exciting wedding weekend for us! This wedding happened to be out of town, in a nice little place called Little Falls, Minnesota. Many of my loyal readers have heard of it as one of our good friends is from that fair city. It seemed like a charming little place, and we actually enjoyed our short visit.

Of course we were there for a wedding, so we spent our first day in town being pretty and watching a wedding ceremony and eating cake. The ceremony was in a lovely little church that was absolutely gorgeous on the inside.

The ceremony itself was really fantastic! The music was amazing, and the priest even read lists that the bride and groom made of the things that they love about each other. It was really cute. The reception was also very nice; I was particularly fond of the cake-topper, which they didn't actually put on top of the cake.

It was a long night for me since I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, so I was happy to collapse into bed at 11:30. We got up early the next morning because we had BIG plans... we went to the zoo! Yes, there is a zoo in Little Falls! It's called the Pine Grove Zoo and it's very small but very nice. They have a rather strange selection of animals. They have exactly one pronghorn antelope and one emu and they are in the same cage and appear to be best friends.

Cute, huh? I wouldn't mind having an emu friend if I were stuck in a zoo. There was one especially exciting exhibit at this zoo, which I'm going to post about tomorrow because it's so special it really deserves its own post.
After the zoo we had a little time to kill before lunch and so we stopped by the Lindbergh House and Charles A. Lindbergh State Park.


The house and museum were closed, so we made our way to lunch with some friends and then hit the road at about 1. We were unfortunate enough to get stuck in the traffic coming back on I-94. Ugh. We went about three miles in forty-five minutes. In fact, we saw a sign for a rest area in two miles and I thought to myself "Oh too bad I won't need the rest area in two miles." But sure enough, half an hour later when we reached the rest area I sure needed it. We ended up getting off the freeway and using the county roads to get back to the city. It was kind of a long drive, but good practice for our honeymoon, I guess.
Okay, come back tomorrow for a SUPER exciting post about the special exhibit at the zoo!!! I'm even going to post a video if my internet connection allows it!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

San Francisco, Day Two

Our second day in San Francisco involved no consulates nor any work! My mother was anxious to see the de Young museum, and there happened to be a special exhibit about King Tut so we went. It was very awesome and had lots of cool funerary things I had never seen before. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the King Tut exhibit. We did go to the observatory level which provided excellent views of the city.

Then we wandered around a bit in the wing of American art. I really liked this particular painting, but had difficulty getting a good picture of it.

Then we went to the modern art section, which is always entertaining. I loved this giant glass fruit bowl.

This plastic/glass thing was really cool too, although also hard to capture with a camera.

After lunch at the museum we headed to the beach. Now, I grew up in a coastal state but we probably only made it to the ocean once every two years, maybe once a year for a while. I love the Pacific Ocean, even though it's incredibly cold and not exactly good for swimming. But wow, we kids used to spend hours playing in those waves until our lips were blue. So I have very fond memories of the Pacific. I was very excited to see it again. I took off my shoes and jumped right in, of course. And of course I ended up being wet and sandy, but I was prepared to make that sacrifice.

Sigh, I love you, Ocean!
Okay, after the ocean we ended up seeing a movie, The Hangover, which was funny but totally inappropriate! And then we had awesome, awesome sushi at a place down the street from our hotel. Oh how I love the sushi!

Friday, July 10, 2009

San Francisco, Day One

So in yesterday's post I made it sound like we went to San Francisco to visit my sister. The trip was actually planned because my brother needed to get his visa for his study abroad next year and had to appear in person at the consulate. This caused a lot of stress for both him and my mother.

So our first morning in San Francisco, they headed off to the post office and consulate, my sister went to work, and I had the morning to myself. I ended up doing quite a bit of walking, which is more difficult in San Francisco than it would be in another city due to the massive hills!

First I came across this landmark, which I believe is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It's very odd, but very cool, and it does kind of remind me of the assumption.

Next I continued down Geary and ran into Japantown! It's a pretty small part of town, but very cute. Unfortunately, I walked through way too early and all the shops were closed! But I got to see the pagoda and look in all the store windows at the cute kimonos and tea cups!

So then I basically just started wandering through the city using the semi-crappy map I got from the front desk of the hotel. I fortunately ended up at the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. Now, call me naive, but I had never really thought about how cable cars work. Did you know? There are actually cables under the street that pull the car! And the driver of the cable car basically uses giant pliers to either grip the cable tightly or loosely to control the speed of the cable car! Isn't that cool? The Cable Car Museum is actually in the same main building where all the cables run. You can see them moving.

It was really loud in there, but very interesting. I can't believe I didn't know how cable cars actually worked. I also learned that the inventor of cable cars was a guy who made cable for bridges for a living. Funny, eh? Some people are just good at creating job security, I guess.

So I was so excited about the cable car museum that I demanded that my mother take me on a cable car ride. She hadn't gone since she was sixteen so we decided it would be a good idea. And it was so much fun! We managed to catch a cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf where we enjoyed some tasty crab cocktail. On the way up we snagged the best seats in the cable car, on the outside right at the front! I stood for almost the entire time, and it was actually a little terrifying!

After all that excitement we went and picked up my sister at her job at the veggie warehouse, and then had dim sum for dinner. After that we had some awesome ice cream, and by then I was pretty much ready to fall asleep in the car. I barely made it into bed at the hotel!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fourth of July

It was my first Fourth of July in my hometown in about seven years! I actually had a pretty fantastic day. I finished a puzzle that had been tormenting me for about three days.


Yeah, who puts pictures of their completed puzzles on their blog? Oh right, I do!

So for the Fourth we had bratwurst and potato salad and fruit salad, which was excellent. Then we spent quite a bit of time swimming down at our favorite local public water access site. My brother A and his girlfriend L came with us, and we found some great driftwood in the water which ended up providing much fun. My sister and I used to play with driftwood constantly when we were little. I forgot how much fun it can be.

Later that night we attempted to have a Star Wars marathon but we only got through New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Actually I went to bed before the end of Empire. Sad, huh?

But the next morning we had to get up and head back to Seattle and fly to San Francisco to visit my sister. I managed to get a better view of the large glass wall in the Seattle airport. Note the typical grey Seattle weather outside!

We flew Virgin America, which was awesome. It was very strange to fly with my brother and mother. I usually fly alone or with B. in fact, I think this is the first time I've flown with my mother since 2004 when we went to Amsterdam together. So, you know, it's been a while.

So look for some posts in the next few days about our trip to San Francisco! It was a quick trip, but I managed to explore more of the city. More on that later!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Afternoon Delight

Solfeggio

Stayed up way too late last night doing a puzzle. Oh man, I love puzzles. I think I get it from my Grandma. We have a rather large collection of puzzles on top of the entertainment center downstairs and they've been tempting me for days now. I finally pulled one down at about 8:30 while we were watching Star Wars Episode III.

And then I stayed up past midnight to finish the stupid thing. I get so addicted to these puzzles. Usually I'm not even enjoying it by the end but I'm in some sort of manic puzzles-completing phase that I can't stop.

Then I got up this morning and played piano for a couple of hours.

I took piano lessons for about ten years back in my youth, and I really miss having regular access to a piano in my adult life. Sadly, most of my best music was in New York City and was packed up and put into storage. But my mother has a large collection of the music I played as a teenager so I found some old favorites and tried to get my fingers reaccustomed to quick movements across piano keys.

My fingers are out of shape, though. Isn't that sad, that fingers can be out of shape? They can type faster than Superman but when it comes to doing long runs up and down the piano keys they just can't handle it anymore. And my thumb is especially lazy since all he ever has to do on the keyboard is press the space bar. Well, guess what, Mr. Thumb, you have much bigger job to do on the piano and you better get yourself in shape!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Projects: Faucet Installation

I like to consider myself relatively handy around the house. I do a decent job of putting together new furniture from IKEA, and in college I once managed to unclog a toilet that my housemates all failed to unclog over a three day period.

So when I came home and discovered that our kitchen sink faucet was no longer working, I thought maybe it was time to step up to the plate and install a new one for my mother. Now, my mother is certainly not incompetent in the do-it-yourself department. My parents actually built their own house in Montana many years ago, and she grew up on a farm so she knows what she's doing. But projects like these aren't exactly fun when you've been doing them for so many years and especially when you spend all day at work.

Behold, the old faucet.

My parents bought this house about 21 years ago, and this faucet came with it. Only God knows how long it was there before. Judging from the connections I had to unscrew I'm going to guess that it's been here since the house was built in the 1950s. Nice. The little spray nozzle thingy hasn't worked in like seven years either, so it was definitely time for a replacement.

So this morning I went down to our local hardware store, purchased some plumber's putty, put on an old shirt, grabbed some old towels, and crawled under the sink.

And I did it! With a very small amount of help from my mother with uninstalling the old faucet (who knew that hammers could be useful for that sort of project?) and very minor help from my brother in testing for leaks, I did it!

The new faucet, in all its shiny, shiny glory.

So I'm very pleased with myself, in case you can't tell. It's my first major household project, and I think I completed it without once uttering a bad word. That is an accomplishment, people.

Oh, and I decided to reward myself with a tasty beer upon the completion of the progress. Mmmm... tastes like accomplishment!