31 January 2010


The paperwhites sitting on our dining room table are in full bloom, pictured here in all their glory earlier this morning. 

What a wacky week: overly scheduled, ridiculously demanding, and fraught with insecurities. There wasn't a single day I didn't have at least two meetings and an entire list of to do to be accomplished. I guess that's the key to figuring out this last semester of coursework: how do I manage to finish up my own work while still fulfilling the requirements of my own classes? 

I've been stressing out about this more than a bit this week. A friend's dissertation defense, a meeting with possible roomies for the coming year. These are all events that remind me the end of this school year is swiftly coming, a school year in which I imagined I have a major portion of the work done for my dissertation next year. Granted, I'm ahead of the game, but not as far ahead as I would like. I need to find time to do more and do it better. Isn't that what everyone says... 

And I freaked out this week because I don't know where that time is going to come from. Do I give up knitting? Blogging? Reading? I get in five minutes here and ten minutes there of these activities, giving me possibly an extra hour a day. But that's the hour of the day that keeps me sane. I don't know where it's going to come from and I spent all Thursday night cleaning. The kitchen at the House of Whelmed has never been more clean. 

I know, in my head, it will all get done. I will pull some all-nighters and get. It. Done. But it's crushing at the moment. Every minute of every day is filled with something and while I have nothing against being industrious, I would like some time to breath. Or, at the very least, play with my new set of Sharpies. I'm unsure there is anything as cheerful as new Sharpies. 

27 January 2010

Oh, Winter.

Despite the snow, I am in a bit of a winter-induced funk. I'm unsure that I can totally blame it on the winter, though. My sleep schedule's been completely and utterly insane, I haven't been making regular trips to the gym (unlike Becks, who is amazing), and I'm not doing a very good job of setting limits at the moment. I must do better.

I love winter but, at the moment, just want to curl up on the couch with my knitting and watch back-to-back-to-back episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I won't, of course, but that is so what I want to do. Rather, I will finish writing letters of recommendation that never seem to end and continue building the corpus of material for this semester's research project.

Write stuff down on my to-do list. Do work. Cross things off. Rinse and repeat.

25 January 2010

Things I Love

Currently on my iPhone:

I happened across J. Tillman on one of the music blogs I read and haven't been able to stop listening. His Year in the Kingdom is beautiful - mellow and perfect for a rainy day. Indiana's had quite a few of those lately.

William Fitzsimmons has been one of those musicians I've heard of but had never actually heard until I was surfing around iTunes over the holidays and found his 2009 release, The Sparrow and the Crow. At once heart-breaking and filled with hope, this album reveals something new every time I listen to it. I will be looking out for more music from this man.

On the night stand:

I first read Flannery O'Connor in my undergrad, falling totally in love with the darkness that was Good Country People. It was brilliant and just delicious. I've gone on to read a wide variety of her work and Gooch's biography is lovely. Delightful reading if you're into biographies, particularly of the writer sort.

On the T.V.:

I'm kind of addicted to ABC's Modern Family. Insightful, hilarious, and definitely worth watching.

Is it bad that I still haven't watched a single episode of Lost? And let's not talk about Doctor Who. I can't force myself to watch The End of Time, Part Two. Just can't. Not yet.

24 January 2010

State of the Nick

My desk is a mess right now. Wait, scratch that: my life is something of a mess right now. Does that mean my mind is overly organized?

Grad school is chugging along, the classes, the teaching, the interning, the writing. There's a lot on my plate at the moment, like a fat kid at a buffet. I can say that. I used to be a fat kid who went to the buffet. There have been a few curve balls: a class not making, leaving me with a hole in my semester's schedule; the internship I filled that empty space with; a conference coming up in February a bit more quickly than I would like. All in all, it's just another semester.

In non-studying / reading / writing / teaching moments, I've been spending a lot of time in front of the sewing machine. I've got it bad. The sewing bug, that is. I've still got yarn and needles going, but find myself alternating between the sewing machine and the needles. And above - oh, the above! I drove to Franklin, IN last weekend to hit up Clementine's Dry Goods, who carries the entire Hope Valley line, and walked out with the fabrics above. Five prints from Denyse, all in the New Day colorway, and three yards of an Amy Butler solid I just couldn't resist. I normally don't buy all the fabrics for a project at once  and found myself so distracted by them while driving, I had to move them to the back seat. I didn't want to drive off the road.

That, however, is a project I won't be getting to any time soon. I've got two decently big sewing projects in the works, a mitten on the needles, and a Lizard Ridge that will be finished before April. (It's a goal!) I'm envisioning my Hope Valley zig zag as an after-quals, pre-data collection activity, a measure of crafty sanity in the midst of graduate school insanity.

17 January 2010

I Wish You Lived a Little Nearer

I happened upon this sampler as I meandered through a flea market yesterday, instantly thinking of my 30's and 40's sampler collecting Aunt. She seeks out brightly colored examples with quaint and uncommon phrases and this seemed to fit the bill. A phone call to describe condition and a few pictures later (I love technology), and she wanted it. A little negotiation later and I walked out of the market, the sampler securely under my arm.

It's sat in my bedroom overnight and, while I'm not particularly into samplers, I can't help but resonate with the message: "I wish you lived a little nearer / I wish you lived across the way / I wish you lived right here / A thousand times a day." It's a little heart-breaking, if you think about it. Each stitch filled with longing for someone, a lover, child, parent; loneliness made physical.

It's not that I'm lonely at the moment, as I'm not. I do feel a heightened sense of distance, though. So many friends so far away and how I wish they lived a little nearer.

13 January 2010

First Knit of 2010

After unwrapping my holiday present to her, my aunt's face went from excitement to confusion. Inside the wrappings she found cosmicpluto's Simple-Yet-Effective shawl, which I had started way back during the summer months, had to rip out when I realized it was way too small, and had just gotten back on the needles the month before. In short, I wasn't done yet and had given her the shawl still on my circular needles, two balls of yarn nestled in the middle of it. "You know I can't knit, right?" she said, laughing.

I grabbed it back from her. "It's just so I can work on it in front of you without feeling badly about it."

And work I did. I spent four days with my aunt and uncle and was knitting during any moment of down time. The shawl itself is alternating stockinette and garter stitches using two different types of yarn, making for a really easy, if not sometimes boring pattern. The striping is nice, however, and I am surprised by how warm the shawl is. But the knitting! I thought it would never end! This is why I do not knit lace or anything in general that requires me to use needles smaller than size six. The night before I left, I finally cast it off the needles and had blocked it overnight so my aunt could have it in the morning. A time-consuming but good knit.

One thing to be noted about this pattern: it's small if you use the yarn as directed in the pattern. I ended up ordering extra skeins and the final product was a bit larger than the original. Unfortunately, I have a skein of the blasted fingering weight left and will have to find a project to use it up in. I have the funniest feeling that project will involved small needles. This is not good.

12 January 2010

What Not to Wear

It's a resolution: I will try to dress more like an adult. Granted, I haven't figured out exactly what that means yet, but it seems like something that is do-able in the course of 2010. My wardrobe tends to be a mish-mash of items, most of them found on sale somewhere, most of which don't fit all that well. My color palette is all over the place: browns, blacks, blues, limes (yes, limes), greys. It's not very unified and there's not much that works outside of particular outfits. I buy outfits rather than clothes. I need to buy clothes that work together in multiple configurations. I need to figure out how to do just this.

In preparation for a wardrobe overhaul (which has been overdue for a while now - part of the fit issue is the weight I dropped a year or so ago), I've started purging my closet of those items I don't wear anymore. Most of the stuff will go to Goodwill, some of it will be made into rags, and others I have plans for. Like the sweater above. I bought it about two years ago at the Gap for a dollar. Ever my mother's son, I couldn't pass up such a deal. The catch? Small patterns utilizing multiple colors do not work for me. I've got a lot of surface area and such a pattern stretched across such a space only managed to make me resemble a Magic Eye.

The sweater wasn't 100% wool, so there was no possibility for felting, which seems to be all the rage in the magazines these days. Instead, I decided to see what I could do with the sweater if I cut it up and sewed it into something. What resulted was the above throw pillow - not a terribly well done throw pillow, mind you, but a throw pillow all the same. Note to self: interfacing is essential when dealing with fabric of this sort again. Regardless, it's wintery and looks nice and homey on my couch. Best of all, it took about twenty minutes to whip up.

And, no, I will not be buying any Fair Isle sweaters any time soon.

10 January 2010


It's the eve before a new semester and the kitchen in the House of Whelmed smells like brownies. I have this thought that a ten-page syllabus is somehow more manageable when introduced in conjunction with sweets. Brownies are my spring semester treat, chocolate chip cookies in the fall. I love the possibility of the night before the new semester: the weight of assignments and meetings hasn't yet found my shoulders and I'm preoccupied with all the goodness this semester will be. I forget that goodness comes from all that behind-the-scenes work, the grading of papers late on Friday nights, the chains of emails from undergrads who are simply trying to find their way in a classroom. This is good but arduous work. It will be a good semester.

Prior to throwing together my brownie batter, I visited a friend's new baby. He's a darling little boy with intense brown eyes and the ability to stretch his body like a rubber band. I knit him a Baby Sophisticate, which has indeed turned into my go-to baby sweater pattern. It makes me happy to think it will keep that new little life warm during these cold winter months.

09 January 2010

Kind of Snowed In

The roomies and I ran to the mall last night as a precursor to our nightly movie fest. Upon arriving back home, Debbie plunked herself down into the snow and began to furiously make a snow angel. Eventually, the camera was found and we all threw ourselves into the snow, the many inches of fluff that's been falling the past four days. This is just one of the reasons I love my roomies. They do things like make snow angels and allow me to photograph it.

Despite the impending beginning of the semester, I've gotten a decent amount of making done. My syllabus is off and copied, I'm uploading material to my course site as I write this, and I've got thirteen nine-square quilt blocks sitting on the shelf in my closet, waiting for the additional charm packs I've ordered to arrive. I'm trying to maintain a mindset about making and creating that uses the supplies I have on hand and have had two charm packs of Moda's Hello Betty sitting around since the summer. Thursday was a perfect day to sit in front of the sewing machine and practice patient, accurate sewing. It's not perfect, definitely not the kind of work Adam would do, but it's better. I'm getting better. It's about process.

Yesterday was the first day I ventured out of the house into the tipped snow globe that is Bloomington. I knew I had to leave the house eventually as my clementine supply was dwindling. I do love my clementines this time of year, a little bit of summer in the midst of the snow.

07 January 2010

Oh, Snow! And Fabric!

I had a full docket planned for the day: meetings this morning, cleaning my carrel this afternoon, dropping off items at the copying center to avoid another unfortunate copying situation. Typical week before classes begin kind of things. The weather has decided not to cooperate and covered the greater Bton area in a decent layer of snow. Schools are cancelled, meetings put off, and I am left with an entire day cleared. (Granted, I could trudge into the School of Education and clear out my carrel, but why ruin a perfectly good snow day?)

Before I haul out the sewing machine and begin working through piecing together a tote bag, I thought I would take a stab at making a list of my favorite fabrics of 2009, vis-à-vis TrueUp.net, a crafty fabric blog I follow. Even though I'm relatively new to sewing, I've managed to collect a decent amount of fabric, which is something of an unfortunate turn as my closet space is already strained by my yarn stash. Regardless, here are my favorites of the last year:

Favorite Quilting Collection

(Image via TrueUp's Flickr)

I'm drawn to vintage-inspired prints and Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley fits my aesthetic perfectly. TrueUp posted a postcard used as inspiration for the line back in May and I knew I would totally dig it. And I do. In large ways. I envision a zig zag quilt for my bed one of these days... perhaps when I get better at sewing straight lines...

Favorite Overall Designer

(Image via TrueUp's Flickr)

I feel like a bit of a cad listing Anna Marie Horner as my favorite overall designer given the love I feel for Hope Valley, but I can't help it. I am drawn to Horner's use of delightful color and the diversity in her line and find myself coming back to it again and again as I sew items for friends and family. This woman's got a lovely eye for color and balance and I feel as though I can play around with this fabric. With Denise's, I feel I need to be serious, an orientation I should do well to shed if I'm ever going to get anything done.

Favorite Holiday Print

(Image via Google)

Once again, I am sucked in by vintage charm. Sheri Berry's Have a Sheri Berry Holiday is filled with retro-inspired goodness. All the prints evoke a mid-century aesthetic, particularly the snow-covered village fabric above. It is, by far, my favorite of the collection.

Favorite Novelty Print

(Image via Kaboodle)

As a novice academic studying how children learn to read and write, there was no way I could possibly ignore this print of the Little Golden Books characters. Once again, there's the vintage factor as well as the many, many memories I have of my parents and I reading aloud from these books as I was growing up. I have a yard awaiting in my stash for just the perfect project.

Favorite Floral Print

(Image via TrueUp's Flickr)

I have two charm packs of Moda's Hello Betty line that will be turned into a quilt-ish top at some point. I'm in love with these (wait for it...) vintage designs but this particular fabric grabs me. There's something about the persimmon color against the dark backdrop that is just perfect.

Favorite Fabric Shop - Brick and Mortar

Shiisa Quilts is my local quilt fabric store, a beautifully stocked merchant of quality fabrics. I hold them personally responsible for my obsession with Anna Marie Horner but credit them with building my confidence as I attempt to wield the terrifying sewing machine.

Full disclosure: Jeri's Quilt Patch in my tiny hometown of Norway, Michigan is owned by my friend Marcy's Mom. She's the Jeri. She has amazing taste in fabric and this historic home is filled with a ridiculous amount of fabric, including some of the most beautiful reproduction fabric I have ever seen. It's almost overwhelming, but oh-so enjoyable.

Favorite Fabric Shop - In the Cloud

I also love SuperBuzzy for Japanese fabric. They carry such beautiful inventory as well as other objects from Japan (I lust after the Gera cross stitch patterns as well as most of their Kokka cotton-linen blend inventory) and have had such great service when I order from them. While I try to shop locally when possible, I am constantly checking SB for new inventory, new things to drool over.

Favorite Juvenile Print
(Image via SuperBuzzy)

One of my favorite prints from SuperBuzzy: Kokka's Hello My Friend: Let's Play print, which I first saw as TrueUp's Japanese Print of the Week. There's just so much right about this fabric. What's more fun that bright colors and Legos?

Favorite Fabric Trend: Gnomes

(Image via TrueUp's Flickr)

I love me some gnomes but came to anything involving fabric too late for Heather Ross's Lightning Bugs and Other Mysteries, my personal gnome fabric standard and most lusted-after over-priced eBay search. While economic pragmatics (the realities of being a grad student) prohibit my consumption of Heather Ross's design, there's been a proliferation of gnomes in recent lines. Michael Miller has an entire line devoted to these little people while making appearances in another line as well. Spoonflower has several offerings as well, such as weefolkart's Waldorf-inspired gnomes (above), while etsy's Pocketful of Pinwheels offers up the delightful Willard the Gnome. I think I'm in love.

Fabric I Will Be Most Happy to See Go Away

(Image via Shiisa Quilts)

I really hate this line of fabric. Really, really hate this line of fabric. Every time I walk into the fabric store, I flip it the middle finger as I walk by for insinuating that, in order to be a man, I must change tires, maintain a unibrow and porn star mustache. Bullpucky, I tell you. It so happens that I can rebuild an automobile's transmission and knit a baby sweater, thankyouverymuch. And really, in an age where we're constantly calling for boys to have spaces to be more gentle and thoughtful, do we really need a quilting fabric that reinforces the ridiculous stereotype that little boys need to engage in certain behavior in order to "be a man"?

Perhaps not a good idea to end my list with a rant... but that's about all I have time for as I've spent way too much time on this list. Time for some snow day sewing.

05 January 2010

Back to the Grind

It's my third year of teaching this class; you would think I would be able to switch some dates, swap out some readings, and call it a day. Rather, I'm thinking this is a good time to revamp, reorganize and streamline the course. So much work, but so much good work. I'm particularly looking forward to our field trip to the Art Museum.

It's good to be back to work.

03 January 2010

Frenzied Knitting

I wish I could say I was done with my holiday knitting, but, alas, I cannot. I have been knitting with vigor during this last leg of my holiday travels, attempting to finish what is turning out to be a larger project than expected so that I might give it to my aunt before I depart in the morning. There are about six hundred stitches on my needles currently and the pace is sluggish using size four needles, but I'm optimistic. It does make for a good time sitting in front of the fire on a frigid night, though.

Right before I took this picture, I celebrated my last antibiotic from Cystal Gayle and her five cysters. Two weeks of medication finally over. My face has returned to something of a normal size, a very welcome sight. Additionally, my back has stopped aching from when they were removing said facial squatters - all that pushing down wrenched my back all sorts of out of whack. Rather than sore shoulders, I have a sore arm. Too much Wii tennis yesterday, I tell you.

I head back to Bloomington tomorrow morning, to my own bed, my own house. I've missed my friends and am so glad I spent the last two weeks travelling but will be happy to slip beneath my own flannel sheets tomorrow night.

01 January 2010

New Year

I update Facebook entirely too much as I could only fit a smattering of my status updates on the above graphic.

Happy 2010! I always feel a little conflicted about New Year's. As a teacher, January 1st has little meaning to me; goals and such are always set in August, when my mental calendar resets. Regardless, it was lovely to celebrate with friends last night and curl up in my Uncle's Stickley chair and knit all day today while flipping through the latest issue of The New Yorker.

Luxury, I tell you. May the rest of the year go the same way.