Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

8 seconds January 16, 2014

There are days that I feel like I’m on a treadmill and then there are days that feel as though I am on an elliptical machine. In my universe, an elliptical machine is the devil.  Probably invented sometime during the Spanish inquisition by the same man who invented panty hose, SPSS, and stiletto heels.  I cannot use these machines at all.  I have tried two times and the second time I was asked to please leave the gym I was trial membershiping and not come back. I somehow fell off the elliptical  backwards and nearly took out a woman on a machine behind me. This is what happens when I am on one.  It’s like my feet and hands and the machine all work really effectively against one another in order to get me off of it as quickly as possible.  Seriously, I think I would have better luck bull riding than I do exercising on one of these machines (bull riding you only need to stay on for eight seconds!).  Anyway, that is a long winded way of saying that it’s been a little nutso of late and sometimes I feel as though I’ve gotten thrown on my ass in gym full of people.

First off, I finally finished some socks that I started over a year ago.  I worked on these socks in my Psych 230 class (that I thoroughly enjoyed despite myself) but messed-up the toes and had afterthought heels planned that I never got done.  Since I was already ripping them back, I took them all the way back to the heel spots, put in traditional heels and reknit the feet and toes(correctly).  I realized how many socks I had under my belt from the time that I started knitting this particular pair until I (ahem) finished knitting them.  It’s interesting to me how things like Kitchener stitching the toes and turning the heels has really become something kinda second nature to me now.  Anyway, these turned out really nicely and very nearly identical despite, well, everything!

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I also mailed off some (very late) Christmas packages.  I know that this might sound odd, but I honestly prefer to get packages late as it extends the surprise and the number of days that you get to open packages!  I LOVE opening packages!!!!  Anyway, I thought I would share with you how I apply postage to the USPS flat rate boxes.  These two boxes are both the medium size and currently cost $12.35 to mail anywhere in the Continental United States.  I usually start off with a few higher denomination stamps, but the rest are generally valued at around $.05.  I have some as low as $.005 (yes, one-half of a cent of postage. Even the postal workers stopped at that one.) and a few in the $.30 range.   But a lot (and I mean a LOT) are in the $.03, $.04, and $.05 range.  The reason for this is simple.    There used to be a lot more stamp collectors than there are currently.  Many of them are dying or no longer collecting and their collections aren’t worth any more than the postage that the stamps are worth.  However, most people don’t want to fool around with six stamps just to mail one letter, so when sold on ebay or other websites, go for less than full face value for perfectly good postage.  Some of the stamps that I am using are from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Most are newer, a lot from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Still, the bulk of the stamps on these packages are older than I am.  Both of them have the same general theme; Old, dead, (mostly) white men.  One went to Alabama, so it got some Civil War stamps thrown into the mix (I thought that it still fit the overall theme!).  When I was mailing off Christmas boxes that were going to be reasonably on time I used a general theme of Christmas Stamps.  It was very festive in a USPS kind of way (which, really, is kind of an awesome kind of way!).

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I received an early birthday present from my roommate Elise this week.  I have been eyeing these sheets for months and when I finally made up my mind to buy them at the store, they were out.  She was there and they had them back in stock and she got them and gave them to me right away because it’s bloody freezing in my room and they seem like a good idea in January.

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Anytime you can snuggle down in a bed made-up in flannel sheets covered in dogs wearing clothing and a heated mattress pad, you know that you are on the right side of any battle that the world may throw at you the next day.  Plus, bonus cute knitting project bag that the sheets came in!

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Speaking of birthday presents, I made one for Elise’s birthday on Monday.  Since she saw me knitting it and had requested it specifically (and it’s cold outside) I gave it to her a few days early.  It is a “Jayne Hat” inspired by the one worn on the short-lived Sci-Fi show Firefly by one of the characters.  I used three shades of Vanna’s Choice that seemed to be there best representation of the colors on our TV screen.  The exact colors used are here in my Ravelry page as well as the actual pattern I used.  It was an easy knit and fast.  I’ve gotten used to making things out of fingering weight yarns so knitting something out of worsted felt as though it was just falling off the needles!

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Another knitting project I made was a pair of thrummed mittens.  These were made in response to the news of the impending polar vortex to descend upon our little piece of heaven here in Iowa.  I actually managed to get them finished prior to the big chill actually getting here, so that was actually a new feeling for me!  Once again, knitted in worsted weight wool, these just flew.  They are far from perfect and if I made them again I would make them a little bigger (like one more completion of the thrumming round) but they work and work well at keeping my hands warm which was the whole purpose.  Details of the pattern and materials are here on my Ravelry page.  I’ve had so much fun showing them to people and then turning them inside out and explaining that they are like Uggs for your hands:-)  I know, I’m easily amused.

This was my whole outfit to take the dogs out during the worst of the polar vortex.

If I had been a good girl and updating like I should be, these would have all been a separate post.  But I am naughty and haven’t been.  Though I really need to write more here.  I am doing a lot of academic writing which I sometimes feel as though it is killing my natural writing voice.  Academic writing is extremely dry and formulaic.  I feel that it was designed for people who are not very good writers to be able to get information about their study (or whatever they want to talk about) out without exposing that they suck at writing.  I’m not saying that I am a Neil Gaiman of blogging or anything like that, but I can at least (generally) communicate what I am trying to say.  Often in academic writing, the language is very dense and obscure and there is a ham-fisted approach to using big words in order to camouflage the fact that there is little or no real results from the study (or whatever) that the author is writing about.  It seems to be elitist and it’s no wonder that people who are not in academia often misinterpret what these papers mean.  There’s a whole ethical discussion that I could get into about this (we are supposed to be doing research for the good of the state/nation/world but we often don’t put our results in a language that a lay person could read and understand) but in short it hurts my brain to write too much of it at one go.  I understand that results need to be in a format of sorts, but does is really need to be this????

Also, I start saying things like, “My personal self-efficacy belief as to my ability to maintain ownership of my animal-based fiber headcovering has quickly plummeted.”  That was in response to losing my wool hat.  Seriously.

 

Easier in the Rearview January 6, 2014

A true-ism that has been forcing it’s way to the front of my mind a lot lately is that things always seem easier after you’ve done them. Especially if you’ve done them a few times.  Often, it is the thought of something more than the actual thing that keeps us from doing it.  It may be the idea of failing or just plain nervousness about doing something unfamiliar, but still, it is the thought of doing it more than the actual doing it.

Take, for example, pressure canning.  The first time that you do it it is a scary, scary thing.  You are sure that you are going to blow up your house or kill everyone with your canned green beans.  Then, after you’ve done it a few times, it quickly becomes easy. Commonplace even.  Still, to the outsider, it looks scary and intimidating and they are amazed that you do it and survive.

Making jams and jellies was kind of fun by comparison.  I mean, nothing is going to blow up.  The worst things that can happen are (in a rough order of worst to least worst) you get burned by bubbling sugar laden jam/jelly/marmalade/fruit butter (hurts like a sonofabitch, but it’s not blowing a hole in your  upstairs neighbor’s floor), scorching the bottom of your pot or pan (total pita to clean and if stainless, possibly ruining a pan if not), over-boiling your pot by having a seemingly volcano-like eruption of sugar and fruit all over your stove top with burners all a blazing making it smell like a orchard burning in August, and what seems like the worst thing at the time, your preserve not setting making what you just made to be pear vanilla sauce rather than the pear vanilla jam it was supposed to be.

Knitting can be like that too.  For a long time I resisted becoming a sock knitter.  I knit lace by the yard like a  less literate Charlotte saving my own personal Wilbur.  This was all fine until you needed to travel with these projects.  Most of the time it was ok, but there were times where needles came out and caused all kinds of havoc to my gossamer webs.  There are few things more disheartening than to pull your knitting out on the plane/train/automobile only to find the needles in one area of the project bag and the knitting in another.

In the past year or so, I’ve started knitting socks with a seriousness.  Since a lot of my time is spent on the bus, small projects are a must.  Since I have the Monkey pattern memorized now, that tends to be my go-to pattern if it isn’t a self-striping yarn.  Then it’s just a type of vanilla pattern similar to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s (You can tell the kind of evolution taking place here as I no longer say that it is, in fact, her pattern as I have changed things as needed to suit my sock making needs. EZ would be proud.).  I now have the Kitchener stitch memorized (who’d have thought that would happen!) and turning heels no longer makes me stuff the poor little sock in the project bag and leave it to be moth bait for a good long time before I garner the fortitude to finish it.  I’m not saying that I am a socky guru or anything, but I do now consider myself a sock knitter.

This hasn’t been limited to my personal life either.  There are a number of things I never thought that I would be able to say or do that now are pretty natural to me.  For example, I got an A in a Statistics class this pass semester.  Never in a million years thought that I would say that, nor that I would admit to feeling reasonably comfortable using a piece of software for it that is, well, not the most user friendly piece of work I’ve encountered.

So tell me, what things have been easier in the rearview for you?