Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year In Review

Overall, 2011 was a successful, but very challenging, year. I feel like I've accomplished a lot, but pretty much all of my successes have been hard-won and/or involved a fair amount of personal sacrifice or struggle on my part. It wasn't a coincidence that I left Matt right before school started, and the fallout from that made an already difficult semester that much more so. In a way, school completely eating my life helped me escape the suckitude of my day-to-day existence, but it also rendered me less able to do things that I enjoy (also, social work coursework can be pretty soul-sucking if you don't take care of yourself). Volunteering with foster kids has been every bit as awesome as I thought it would be, but it has also entailed a lot of hard decisions in situations where there aren't any right answers. Dealing with everything was pretty tough, and even though I am pleased with the outcomes of my choices thus far, only time will tell if the risks I've taken this past year will prove worthwhile.

Things I accomplished in 2012:

  • Getting into and attending graduate school, along with earning a 4.0 for my first semester.
  • Learning (some) Spanish.
  • Finally signing up for my volunteering gig with foster kids that I don't get to blog about. 
  • Reading (and mostly reviewing) eighty books (even though I didn't finish any of my book challenges because grad school ate my life). 
  • Learning a number of new recipes (which has sadly stopped since I moved back in with my dad, who does all the cooking).
  • Knitting (and crocheting) a bunch of cool stuff. 
  • Getting back into running. 
Overall, I managed to fulfill most of my New Year's Resolutions from last year. The only ones that fell completely by the wayside are the ones that were Matt-related (swimming and cooking), so I feel pretty good about the way they turned out. I'll post 2012's tomorrow; I haven't finished them yet. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Other Books I Read This Year

...That I didn't have time to post individual reviews for. Hold on, folks, this is gonna be a long one.

First up is Sharon Hays' Flat Broke with Children, which I read for a research paper on the 1996 PRWORA legislation, commonly known as "welfare reform" in the US (yes, all of my papers were on similarly cheerful subjects). Overall, I really enjoyed it-- as much as you can enjoy a book about poor single mothers getting screwed over by judgmental, affluent male politicians and their supporters. Hays combines reviews of scholarly literature and her own long-term observations of a cohort of TANF clients in a few cities in her illuminating account of the true motives of the legislation and the effects it has had on AFDC/TANF participants.

Now, whenever I recommend books on poverty in America, I always mention this one along with Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On not Getting By in America. Together, I think they paint a fairly accurate picture of why upward mobility in the US is so difficult.

5 out of 5 stars.

More reviews behind the jump: War is Boring by David Axe, The Card-Turner by Louis Sachar, Shine by Lauren Myracle, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, and The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

xmas xmas.

Now that I am home from work, I am looking forward to the evening ahead:

Part I: Working out on the elliptical while re-reading Harry Potter (so much for reading new stuff over break).

Part II: A roasted veggie pizza, Syrah, and Arrested Development on Netflix.

Part III: More Arrested Development and working on my sister's scarf.

I know some people find spending Christmas alone weird and sad, but for me, a second of solitude during the holidays is a rare treat. I have a huge family on both sides (that are in a fairly constant state of conflict over Quality Time where my sister and I are concerned), and my holidays therefore have historically been more chaotic and stressful than anything else. Not having to deal with all that has been nice, even if I did miss my two-year-old cousin's rendition of "Red Solo Cup" (my twenty-five-year-old cousin is not a good influence).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An update about running.

Yesterday, I went out to buy a new pair of running shoes. It was a necessary investment; my knees have been hurting post-run all week, a tried-and-true sign that the supports/shock absorbers in my shoes had given up the ghost.On the recommendation of a friend of mine, I headed to Foot RX in South Asheville to pick out a new pair. They had me run on a treadmill for about a minute so they could film my gait. After that, they went over the video in slow-motion and determined that I needed shoes with extra support because I run funny (their explanation was more complicated than that, though). I tried on several pairs and wound up picking out a pair of Asics.

I just got in from my inaugural run in them, and I am quite pleased with how well they're working out for me.

I am less pleased, however, with the fact that I should probably stop purchasing my exercise shoes from the children's department at Dick's Sporting Goods. A pity, because they cost about half as much as adult shoes. On the other hand, though, I'm not getting any younger and I'd rather spend extra money on good shoes now than have to deal with blowing out my knees and needing replacements at 40.

As the great philosopher Mick Jagger said, "What a drag it is getting older."

Overall, though, I'm happy with the running progress I have made. I started running again shortly after I announced my blog hiatus because my stress levels were starting to render me non-functional, and I figured my sanity was worth sacrificing thirty to sixty minutes a day to exercising. I wound up doing a modified version of the Couch to 5k program. Rather than only running three days a week, I did six (three days on, one day off, three days on, etc.), repeating each workout two times until I hit the "run 20 minutes" mark at the end of week five. Since then, I've been adding two minutes to my run every couple of days.

My original goal was to reach an hour's worth of running by last week; unfortunately, my schedule got delayed by two weeks thanks to finals (when I seriously didn't have the time to go running) and that godawful illness I had. I'm now back on track to finish by the New Year, and I'm pretty excited about that. I haven't been able to run five-plus miles in one go since I was in high school!

The only downside to this whole fitness endeavor is that I have (of course) lost weight. Okay, losing weight isn't really the downside. All things considered, I probably needed to. The downside is everybody and their mother thinking that my exercise schedule's existence entitles them to make unsolicited comments about my body and how much better I look now. I get that they're trying to be nice and supportive and whatever, but I still find that kind of thing really rude and disrespectful, particularly since I said I was exercising again because I like it. Assuming that my running routine is based around weight loss and talking about how great (read: skinnier) I look is presumptuous and kind of insulting (like, hey, it's good to know you thought I was a giant fatass last month). It's pretty frustrating, and I've added it to my list of "Near-Daily Reminders of Why Feminism is Still Necessary."

Friday, December 23, 2011

For the Rest of Us

Happy Festivus, one and all. I have already accomplished a few feats of strength (I ran three miles, then went shopping two days before xmas), and I am now airing my grievances:

  1. My yarn won't knit itself.
  2. I have a giant zit in the middle of my freaking forehead that is preventing me from going out.
  3. Finding pants that fit me is really difficult.
  4. My hair straightener has burned the crap out of me many times over the course of this year.
  5. The vast majority of people I know think I'm a giant weirdo.
  6. I still haven't mastered applying makeup.
  7. Especially lipstick.
  8. I'm not photogenic.
  9. I've lost three cats this year (two to the breakup from hell, one to cancer). Kind of over it.
  10. The breakup from hell itself and all of its attendant/subsequent ridiculousness. 
  11. Driving to Cullowhee and back for grad school twice a week all semester...
  12. ...and having to do it again next semester despite the program's curriculum that stated that all of my classes would be in Asheville. 
  13. Gas is still $3+ a gallon.
  14. Amy's work won't let her come see me again. :(
  15. I was too busy with school to finish my reading challenges for 2011, and I'm not even going to bother signing up for any in 2012 because I know my life will be just as nuts then, too.
And probably a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting. 2011 was tough, yo. 

I'll post a list of good things before the year is out, promise. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WiP Wednesday: Taffy Socks

My addiction to self-striping sock yarns continues. May I never have cold feet again.

This project is next on my list of things to be completed once I finish my sister's scarf (which will probably be featured in next week's WiP Wednesday because I seriously doubt it'll be done before then).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grown-Up Accomplishments Thus Far

I'm now two weeks into break, and I have thus far:
  1. Obtained business cards.
  2. Gotten a background check done for my internship.
  3. Figured out how to operate a curling iron (at 27. I'm not good at that sort of thing). 
  4. Finished the second Juneberry (though I still need to block it).
  5. Started my sister's scarf, which is knit at a tiny gauge and is consequently taking forever.
  6. Ran 4-ish miles at a time.
  7. Re-started Only Revolutions.
  8. Worked on my Taffy socks.
  9. Knitted a few hexapuffs.
  10. Plodded away at cleaning out the e-mail inbox. I have about three year's worth of facebook notifications archived, sigh. 
It's really too bad knitting is a zero-sum game. If I'm working on one thing, I can't work on something else, and my sister's scarf has turned out to be way more time-consuming than I originally anticipated. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Camp Out Hat

I like to have matching knitted accessories. I don't usually make something without something else to go with it, so when I was picking out Kureyon for my Camp Out Mittens (designed by Tante Ehm), I decided to grab a second skein so I'd have a hat to go with it.

Here's how I did it:

CO 10 stitches, leaving a 4-inch tail.
K 116 rows in garter stitch (or as many as you need to make the band long enough to snugly fit around your head)
BO 9 stitches, turn work.

Pick up 99 stitches along side edge of garter stitch band.
Place marker and join to knit in the round.
Knit until you have about 5-10 yards left.

Decrease round #1: K2tog around (50 st)
Decrease round #2: K
Decrease round #3: K2tog around (25 st)
Decrease round #4: K
Decrease round #5: K2tog to last stitch, K1 (13 st.)

Fasten off.
Use tail from cast-on to sew garter band together.
Block, etc.

Friday, December 16, 2011

FO Friday: Campout Gear

Pattern: Camp Out Fingerless Mitts by Tante Ehm
Noro Kureyon in #242
Needle: US #8

Finished Size:  Almost to my elbow!

I made a hat to go with the mittens. Pattern here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WiP Wednesday: 14,552 Stitches Edition

That, by the way, is the number of stitches I ripped out the other night when I frogged this scarf. I love the yarn (malabrigo sock in "eggplant") and the pattern ("Carlina" by Kitman Figueroa), but my gauge was off and it was looking to be about two feet wide post-blocking. That wouldn't have been a problem by itself except for the fact that I would have run out of yarn after about five and a half feet and I bought the yarn a really long time ago so I couldn't get another skein. Alas.

Sadly, it's probably going to be a few weeks before I can start over on this. I still have to knit my sister's scarf for her, and I have barely started it.

One day, I will learn to make gauge swatches.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Things I'd Like to Accomplish Over My Break:

Goals! With varying degrees of reasonableness!


  • This year's scarf for Lindsay
  • Finish grey crocheted hat.
  • Teal crocheted hat
  • Finish second robot mitten
  • Finish semele scarf
  • Finish second Juneberry
  • Get caught up on hexapuffs and hexaflats
  • Finish taffy socks
  • Make some blue socks
  • Finish French Market Bag
  • Black-n-purple Commuter Mitts
  • Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski. 
  • Stuff from my nook. I have a gajillion unread books on there. 
  • Suggestions? I'm open to just about everything except books about aliens, unicorns, sparkly vampires, and dragons. 
Other Stuff
  • Work my way up to running five miles.
  • Double duty on the elliptical every day. 
  • Get caught up on book reviews on here and do some re-vamping for the new year.
  • Write out some resolutions (gulp) and review my progress for this year (double gulp).
  • Finish cleaning out my gmail inbox and get my student e-mail routed to it.
  • Acquire business cards.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I like how I managed to get sick the very day after classes ended. And by "like," I mean "am really irked at."

Sure, it means that I didn't have to miss any finals or give any presentations under the influence of Sudafed, but damn it, I have Important Winter Break Things to get done! I only have a month off! It's also seriously thrown my running schedule out of whack.

The crazy thing is that it seems to be the same awful illness I got last year. It started with a sore throat, then I lost my voice, then I felt okay for a day, and now my sinuses are so clogged up that my eyes look bruised and my face hurts. I hope I get better faster this go-round; I was sick for almost two weeks last year and it really sucked.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In which I talk about my new phone.

I got a new phone over Thanksgiving. I was due for a new one and the one I had kept doing this irritating scrolling thing that made it more or less unusable whenever it decided to act up. My mom offered to pay for part of it as this year's birthday present, so I decided to go big and acquire an HTC Rezound. Now that I've had it for a few weeks, here are my thoughts:

  • The battery life is very good for it being a 4G-enabled Android phone. It lasts around 10-12 ish hours with moderate use (texting, a few calls, some app use and internet surfing) if I leave the 4G on continuously. If I disable mobile internet when I'm not actively using it, it lasts over twenty-four hours. 
  • It came with a pair of really awesome headphones, which was pretty cool as I needed some new ones.
  • It's super fast. 
  • I'm getting really good reception with it despite living in an area that is abundant in dead spots (downside to living in the mountains). 
  • The big screen is nice.
  • It has a front and rear-facing camera, and the photo quality is really great. The front camera also has a flash on it. 
  • I still miss having phones that I don't have to charge every day. 
  • It's almost too big and can be difficult to hold and manipulate, especially with a protective case on. Granted, I have pretty small hands.
  • Speaking of, the Verizon-authorized case makes it hard to hit the power button because it partially covers it. 
  • The phone comes with a bunch of random, stupid apps that I will never use, but since they are factory installed, I can't seem to get rid of. Blockbuster? Hot Pursuit? Let's Golf 2? REALLY?
  • Apps randomly come on when you're not using them, which can really drain the battery. Making good use of the task manager (or downloading a third-party app killer) is a must. 
Overall, though, I'd definitely recommend it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

FO Friday: Very Berry Socks

Just in time for the first snow of the year, a new pair of socks!

Pattern: Basic Sock Recipe
OnLine Supersocke 100 Emotion III - Color #1276
Needle: US #1 and #2

Finished Size:  Fitted to my tiny feet!

Seriously, I knit socks in class almost every single week. This is why I have so many new pairs now-- and is pretty much the only knitting I got done this semester.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I have officially survived my first semester of graduate school. I will now sum up what I have learned:
  • Always be ready to run, and don't wear shoes you can't run in.
  • If feminism is the radical notion that women are people, social work is the radical notion that all people have worth (even the bad ones).
  • I really hate APA formatting. MLA 4 LYFE!
  • Tab is Coke's pink-haired, overly-sweet little sister. 
  • There is no such thing as a "worried whale." 
  • Related to the above: paying attention in class is a good thing.
  • I am still the Evel Knieval of procrastination (this is probably not a good thing...), as are many of my classmates.
  • Utilitarianism can be used to justify basically everything, including telling kids to not drink Mountain Dew because it makes you stupid.
  • White kids use way more drugs and drink more than black kids do, but Native American kids abuse substances the most.
  • It is generally considered unwise to have your clients mow your lawn for you. 
  • Do your documentation.
  • Living on a casino boat sucks.
  • Don't take your work home with you, and don't bring your home with you to work.
  • Drug tests are expensive and largely ineffective. 
  • Kicking puppies is not an appropriate form of self-care.
  • And, uh, much, much more.
I'm looking forward to next semester. I finally get to take some electives and am embarking upon my very first internship! Sadly, I am unable to blog about said internship due to the usual confidentiality constraints. Perhaps one day I will write a book. 

Anyway, I don't start school again until January 9th, and therefore have an abundance of time in which I can knit, read some frivolous stuff, watch some TV, clean my room, go running, and blog about the same. I've really missed you guys! Hope you haven't stopped reading!