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!


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!).



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.


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!


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!


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.


My birthday (a little late) February 7, 2013

You know you had a good time on your birthday when you don’t get to blog about it until a week later!

My day started normally enough until I got to the office where a very interesting box awaited me on my desk.  Given it’s dimensions, I was a tad apprehensive that my day was going to devolve into something Kill Bill-esque…


…until I opened it up.  It’s a beautiful tapestry that my friend Guang had his folks bring back from China for me:-)


When my friend Elise arrived, so did flowers…


doughnuts and a massive chocolate cake.


I also got another box in the mail when I went to the post office later.  It was a wrapped box…


…and it contained this.


It’s a Nexus 7 tablet.  A very kind friend sent it to me as a really big surprise.  A big surprise is certainly was!

That evening Elise and I went to Welch Ave. Station for dinner and drinks.  This is a college bar here in the Iowa State campus town that has been around FOREVER.  My free birthday drink was their Pissed off Japanese Minnow Farmer.  After that, well, things got a little interesting.


Yeah. That’s me. Putting away tequila shots like a full-on college student.  Which I guess that I am!


Believe it or not, after about 10 shots I still was able to walk out of the bar on my own two feet.  I didn’t get sick nor was I hung-over in the morning (in case you were worried).  I think the pizza, fried cheese balls, and cheesy bread that we had eaten earlier in the evening mitigated the potential for alcohol damage.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a rather cheerful Sarah leaving the bar that night, but honestly, I was walking better than Elise was and she’d not had a drink that night!

Today I received a package from my friend Tini in Germany.


In it was a sweet birthday card, 2 cutie sheep figurines, some lush spinning fiber, a bit of leftover sock yarn for my blanket and a little notebook that I am going to use to keep my spinning notes in, and a bunch of Tyvek bracelets like what you get when you go to a club or an event.  They are for marking yardage and such on skeined-up yarn that you are then going to wash.  Brilliant!


This evening I got yet another birthday present from my lovely roommate Des.  It’s the book Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis. Such a beautifully done book!

Weezy approved!

Weezy approved!

Thank you to everyone who made my birthday so wonderful.  Special thanks to Elise and Guang for a fantastic night out!  If this is what 35 is like, roll on 40!


Lucky Woman February 9, 2012

So yesterday I got yet another birthday package in the mail!  It was from my friend Sarah who lives in Chicago with her 2 adorable (and very active) children and her husband and it contained goodies inside for me!

There was a TON of cotton yarn!

Oddly enough, that is a kings ransom worth of dishcloth cotton in some parts of Europe.  They just don’t have something all that similar.  Anyway, the center ball that has a slightly different label?  It’s SCENTED!  For real!  It smells like lavender.

Anyway, Sarah knows that I love to make dishcloths, especially when I’m traveling so this was an extremely thoughtful gift.

Also enclosed in the package as a lovely birthday card and a Jimmy John’s gift card.  When I would be visiting from England, Jimmy John’s was one of the first places that I would make Sarah take me!  Since I am going to be living part-time in Ames, where they have one, I have a feeling that the gift card is going to be used-up with the quickness!

Thank you so much Sarah!


The Mailman Always Honks Twice February 2, 2012

Today was another very good mail day.  Whenever there is a package too big to fit into the mailbox or one needing a signature, the mailman backs his truck into the drive and honks.  Usually twice.  In a house with 4 dogs in it, this is tantamount to declaring war.  You do not truly understand the saying, “the hounds of hell” until you have seen 4 dogs completely off their rockers from wanting to get outside and rip him to shreds for having the audacity to come onto their turf and honk.  Funnily enough, if they do get outside while he is still here they just bark for a little bit and then wander off and pee on something!

Anyway, we were treated to a full rousing chorus of doggie death threats today as there were 2 packages in the mail for me.  The first was from my friend Tini in Germany (who, by the way, has a bunch of new podcasts up that I keep forgetting to link to [naughty blogger me!]).  In it was all sorts of lovely stuff including a Eiki shawlette made in Wollmeise!

There was a partial ball of sock yarn to add to the blanket.  (Donations to the blanket are always welcome here even though it is on a bit of a hiatus as I still try to figure out where all my stuff is in the storage unit.)

There was also a long knitted tube that Tini gave me a heads-up on before I received it.  It was her gauge swatches from a number of different pairs of socks!  This is being put towards the blanket as well (though it’s almost too pretty to unravel!)

There was a beautiful butterfly pin.  I love jewelery with insects on it.  Someday when I am a famous entomologist (stop laughing!) I want to have something to jazz up my ultra boring wardrobe with.  I want to be the Madeleine Albright of the bug/horticultural world!

There was a solid handbalm (good for someone walking around outside in the middle of the night with wet hands after having made formula for a certain baby!) that smells yummy.

There was a cool lizard bookmark…

And the shawlette came packaged in a fun little clear plastic zippered case that is perfect for little projects!

And last but not least, there was a tiny package of GUMMY SHEEP!!!!  Oh my are these little guys cute!  I don’t know if I can actually bring myself to EAT them:-)

The other package is a bit of a mystery.  It came from Knit Picks and it contained 3 books. Knit Noro Accessories, Weekend Hats, and Interweave Knits Accessories were all on my wish list, so it would have been easy for someone to pick them out.  However, there was nothing in the box to give evidence to who they were sent from.  If it was you, please speak up and thank you!

Funny enough, I’ve been sucked into another Dutch Knitting Design project, this time it’s the Kaleidoscope Vest which was published in (what was then) Yarn Forward Magazine.  I stayed up far too late last night working on this (again) and this is how far I had gotten this morning.

It is an easy knit, but for some reason I frogged this piece before and I don’t remember why.  I think it might have happened around the time of my move, so who knows!  I had a chance to wear Marleen’s sample vest (I think it’s the one she’s wearing in the bottom picture on Ravelry) and it is really cute.  I got lots of compliments that day and I had to explain to many Dutch knitters that no, I didn’t knit it but the person who designed it was right over there…..  I’ve been on a serious knitting jag of late but I feel a spinning jag coming on.  So stay tuned folks!


The Surprise January 26, 2012

After having a pretty rough week today I got the nicest surprise in the world.  It was a Christmas/Birthday package from my friend Barbro in Finland with all sorts of lovely goodies in it for me!

There were these awesome wrist warmers (which I put to use as soon as I took the picture of them!).

There was an awesome pair of socks which fit perfectly!

There were yarns!

There were even BUGS!!!!!

There was a beautiful project bag.

And a scarf knit from handspun yarn, with a skein of the same yarn!

There was a tiny mitten keychain so little it barely fits on my thumb!

There was 2 different chocolate bars along with a package of tiny dog themed buttons, a hand painted heart ornament, a ceramic fox button and a little tractor themed pot watcher!

This one is white chocolate and blueberries!

Near the bottom of the box there was an amazing kit from Riihivilla yarns.  This is a Finnish yarn company that specializes in using Finn sheep wool and using only natural dyes to dye it.  I bought a skein of their sock yarn when I was in Helsinki with Malin a couple of years ago and it is lovely, lovely yarn.  (BTW, the instructions are both in English and in Finnish in case you were wondering!)

And the thing that my mom tried to claim for her own (but I didn’t let her) is an amazing shawl.  The pattern is the Red Dragon Shawl by Tuulia Salmela.  You can find more information about it on Barbro’s Ravelry page about it.

I already want to make one.  Mom really wants me to make one!

Thank you Barbro.  It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed!


Birthday Box March 10, 2010

So, I know it is WAYYYYYYY past my birthday at this point, but I realized the other day that I had not shown y’all the great birthday package that I got from my friend Tini.

First off there was this great mug with sheep all over with a skein of handspun yarn in it.  That is always a thoughtful thing to receive, and had that been the extent of the box I would have been a happy camper.

But, of course, it wasn’t.  There was a game in it, or at least I am led to believe it is a game by both the hubby and Tini as it in German.  I personally think it looks like some secret code involving leprechauns.

There was also a baggie of carded alpaca fleece in a beautiful rust color.

There were also 2 flower shaped wash clothes that made me look up the pattern so that I could make some for Sarah in Chicago.

There was some fabric with a pretty flora design as well as some chocolate (something I always forget to put into packages!).  One of the chocolate bars is (if Babel Fish is to be believed) ginger sesame nougat and the other one is red pepper.

There was also lovely handmade scented soaps and a candle called “Love Passion”.  Both of these are good for knitters as we love putting nice smelling soaps in amongst the stash (part of the reason that I take every soap I can from hotel rooms!) and candles, well, who doesn’t love candles?

There was also a little seaman in the box watching over it to make sure that it made it across the channel ok.

But, it was the last thing in the box that made me fan myself.  I never, ever, in a million years expected to find this in a box to me.  I am now in possession of a skein of Wollmeise (heavenly chorus begins la-la-la-ing).  Now, for those of you who do not know this name, Wollmeise has a bit of a cult in the US and elsewhere.  In fact, it is nearly impossible to get a hold of.  When shops in the US that carry it get a load if it posted to their websites, it is usually gone with-in minutes if not seconds.  Seriously.  People stalk her website, there are forums devoted to her stuff on Ravelry and on ebay skeins regularly sell for close to $90 (it retails for something like 18 Euros).  When it was announced that Claudia was going to be selling at Knit Nation there was nearly a collective gasp from everyone on the Ravelry message board (and made me seriously reconsider not getting the preview night ticket!). To get some of this is almost akin to receiving a cashmere sweater (though it is not cashmere, to be precise it is 100% superwash merino).  Tini was like, “I don’t know if you have ever heard of this yarn but it’s pretty popular, check it out on Ravelry.”  As if.

There is a great story about Wollmeise yarn at this blog, I would totally suggest checking it out.

In a completely unrelated thing, my Regal Geraniums are starting to bloom.

It feels as though spring is on it’s way…


Birthday! February 2, 2009

Yesterday was my 31st birthday.  Yeah, it was my 31st on the 31st.  I guess that the majority of people have their age and the date of their birthday match sooner than I did which is probably why everyone kept giving me these odd looks when I bothered to point it out.  

Anyway, I had, quite possibly, the best birthday that I have ever had.  Becca, Denise, Kim, Lily, Tyra and I started out at Christo’s in College Park for breakfast.  The hubby joined us for this portion of the day but left as soon as breakfast was over to go home and work on some more packing.  Then, the gang moved down Edgewater to the The Beauty Spot, a spa.  We had all gotten gift certificates for a manicure/pedicure, a massage and a facial back before Christmas.  The staff there was fantastic and we had a great (and very relaxing) time.  We had our own “party room” and Tyra had brought balloons and treats.  I got some lovely cards and presents and we discussed poop.  Literally.  Among other things of course.


Lily, Kim, Denise, Tyra, Me, Becca

The group (clockwise from top left): Lily, Kim, Denise, Tyra, Me, Becca


Becca getting "tag teamed" by TWINS!!!!!

Becca getting "tag teamed" by TWINS!!!!!

Kim, looking like she's gotten more than just a massage...

Kim, looking like she's gotten more than just a massage...


Tyra and I seriously "lounging"

Tyra and I seriously "lounging"

(Thanks Lily for the great pictures from the spa day!)

At the end of the day Tyra drove me home and then I opened all the lovely presents that my husband, his parents and my friend Sarah Jane sent me.  The in-laws sent me a lovely skein winder as well as many other lovely things.  The hubby’s presents were pretty camera centric, including a pimpy new flash for it as well as a photo tent that makes it easier to photograph my yarn stash and the most fun (especially when you’ve had a few margaritas!), a remote for the camera.  Sarah sent me some great pampering lotions and a really nice scented candle and a snuffer to put it back out.


Remotes are FUN!!!!

Remotes are FUN!!!!


I got the entire last season of Knit and Crochet Today on DVD!!!

I got the entire last season of Knit and Crochet Today on DVD!!!


The lovely skein winder that my lovely in-laws gave me!

The lovely skein winder that my lovely in-laws gave me!


I think that this is probably a good idea!!!

I think that this is probably a good idea!!!


I then washed the massage oil off (there was a LOT in my hair, it was making things look pretty nasty) and got dressed and went to our friends Tony and Laura’s house.  Laura was so kind as to host a sort of birthday/going away/new citizen party (one of the Hubby’s friends became an American citizen about a week ago).  There was a ton of food, lots of drinks, interesting conversations and lots of very competitive Pictionary.  


Tony telling the RULES!

Tony telling the RULES!


We had a LOT of food!

We had a LOT of food!


Laura, our hostess with the mostess!!!

Laura, our hostess with the mostess!!!


Pictionary is FUN!!

Pictionary is FUN!!


Let them eat........

Let them eat........

We didn’t get home until about 2:30 in the morning and promptly fell asleep.

Today has been totally taken-up with packing for the move.  The kitchen is now mostly done as is the bedroom.  It still feels as though we have a lot to pack yet I find myself casting about looking for something to finish off the box that I am working on.  The dogs and cats are all getting sort of annoyed with us as there seems to be no really safe place for them to sit and sleep.  As soon as they get comfortable, they get rousted from their place by one of us needing something that is below them to pack.  Oh, and most spaces where they would normally lounge have been covered with boxes.

We also said goodbye to the worlds toughest goldfish.  We’ve had this guy for a few years now and needed to find a new home for him.  It came to us through freecycle that there was a family looking for an aquarium for their little girl.  So, we said goodbye.

Call me "Blossom" now baby...

Call me "Blossom" now baby...

It is strange to type with painted fingernails.  I cannot remember the last time that I had my fingernails painted an I have them what I am calling “race car red”.

I's gots my nails did...

I's gots my nails did...