31 January 2011

Yarn wreaths

I've been seeing a lot of yarn wreaths all over the internet. And I've been wanting to make one, badly. But where to get the straw wreaths? I had a suspicion that Michaels would have them, but I didn't want to go all that way without knowing for sure. Michaels website was no help so Sunday I sucked it up and headed out. Luckily they had the straw wreaths, they didn't have a good size so I got the big one and the small one. I have plenty of yarn so I didn't look at the yarn (ok I looked, but I restrained myself). I used instructions from this blog. Basically you tie a knot around the wreath (how many times can I use the word wreath in this post) and then just start wrapping and wrapping (best to do this while watching weird old movies on THIS).

Then comes the felt flowers. I need to find other uses for felt flowers because they are adorable.... yes adorable. Now if I only knew how to arrange them. I like how my green wreath turned out but not so pleased with the blue one.

Originally I was going to hang the green one inside on my living room door and the blue one outside on my front door (to replace the Christmas wreath that is still hanging), but I kinda like how they look together and I'll be able to enjoy them much more from my couch then from outside my front door. The yarn braid was my own touch and added for hanging purposes. I just cut several strands of yarn of equal length and braided them.

23 January 2011

First time on the slopes

Yesterday I headed up to Belleayre Mountain to learn to ski. A friend and I boarded a bus at 6 am for the two hour ride to the mountain. After stopping at a rental place to pick up skis, boots, poles, and a helmet (safety first) we headed to the mountain. My friend had never skied before so we were the blind leading the blind when it came to where to go, what to wear, what to do, how to look cool... but we soon figured out our gear and where to go for our beginner lessons.

We spent the morning learning how to take our skis on and off, side step, ski parallel, ski wedge, stop (big pizza), and turn (smash a bug with one toe while smashing a bunch of ants with the other foot, huh?). We had a variety of instructors pass us off, but ended up with a great guy. After lunch we spent the afternoon on the bunny hill. I got pretty good at turns and stopping and everything, but the surface lift killed me, hardest part of the day was going to the top of the hill with that thing.

View from the top, well the top of the bottom
Not a fan of these boots... they kinda hurt a lot
I actually got a complement on my $25 JC Penny Husky Boy's snow pants

17 January 2011

Boskke Sky Planter

My sister got me a classy topsy turvy for Christmas... well that is what I've been calling it. It really is a Boskke Sky Planter, made by some guy from New Zealand. It really is cool. It can hang from the ceiling or as my sister got me a wall mount that is where I hung mine. The instructions all showed a developed plant, but as they didn't expressly say that you couldn't start from seeds I thought I would give it a try (I just don't have random extra plants sitting around). They suggested planting parsley. I flipped through my seed packets and to my surprise I saw chinese parsley, "perfect" I thought. Well it turns out that chinese parsley is cilantro's other name. I planted it anyway.

temporary planting station
the bottom has a little mesh piece and then a locking disc, so far the dirt is staying in
the top has a clay water reservoir that gradually waters the plant and only needs filled occasionally
mounted on the wall near the window
nothing growing yet

16 January 2011

7 hours in Boston

Last Sunday I had to head up to the suburbs of Boston for work so instead of heading up late I caught the 7 am Amtrak, which put me in South Station at 11 am. I spent a lot of time planning what I would wear and pack (I had to carry everything around all day including work computer and business outfit for the next day. I packed a backpack and it was a success, I didn't feel like I was roughing it and my back made it through the day pain free.), but I didn't spend a lot of time planning what I would do in Boston.

First a little background- I'd been to Boston once before, when I was 20 years and 364 days old. I had family living there at the time and was visiting with my mom and sister. We had a wonderful, if not cold, time and saw a lot of the tourist highlights (while on a trolley). My favorite memory of the trip was when everyone went out to some awesome pub with awesome music, but I was sent home with my 5 yr old cousin to watch Lion King 1 1/2 because I was a day short of 21 (maybe two or three days... I might be being dramatic). Anyway back to Sunday...

What to see: I wasn't feeling in the shopping mood or the museum mood and hey it was a balmy 37 degrees with a beautiful sunny sky so I thought I would do the Freedom Trail up right this time and walk every red step brick of it.

the trail

How to get there: I took the Amtrak which was very reasonable compared to how much it usually is to DC. Work was paying but at $67 each way it is a relaxed and comfortable way to travel. There are also plenty of nice buses and flights traveling between NYC and Boston each day.

Money Spent: $67 each way

What to eat: I brought along some snacks for the train ride then got a my first coffee of the day on my walk to the Common. It was early and cold, so coffee was necessary. Sidenote: I always thought the further you went northeast the less you saw Starbucks, but Boston is covered in with them.

Money Spent: $4.00

Where to start: Walking straight northwestish from South Station you arrive at Boston Common where the trail begins. I went to the visitor center and bought a little book so I could read about each location as I walked around.

Money Spent: $6.75

Massachusetts State House
The Granary Burying Ground
Paul Revere's final resting place
Old State House
I'm not sure what this building is, but I liked how the picture came out
Where to eat: By the time you reach Faneuil Hall you've been walking for an hour at least and you are hungry. Faneuil Hall was closed for a special event, but behind it is Faneuil Hall Marketplace and that is where I had lunch. The middle building is a giant food court and while I had researched a few nice places to eat I didn't want to take too much time to eat and I ended up getting some clam chowder and a bottle of water from one of the booths inside.

Money spent: $6.00

Old North Church- where the lanterns were displayed to warn Charlestown how the British were advancing
Where to take care of business: The bathroom facilities in the visitor center for Old Ironsides is anything but old. Highly recommended.

What to do: I was delighted to learn that there are free half hour tours of the USS Constitution. I arrived right as one was started so I climbed down the ladder and joined in. As the USS Constitution is a commissioned Navy ship the tour was lead by an active sailor. The ship got its nickname from a fight during the war of 1812 with the British Frigate HMS Guerriere firing at less than 50 yards away the cannonballs were just bouncing off the sides. The sailor explained that it was because of the special wood that the ship was made out of that can only be found in the southern United States.

Money Spent: $0

USS Constitution "Old Ironsides"
On board
Lesson Learned: Even a beautiful 37 degree sunny day will start to feel a lot colder in Boston when the sun starts to dip. The walk across this bridge to the ship and to Bunker hill was not pleasant. And it wasn't until I was to the other side that I looked at a map to learn that there are no subways over there... when you walk over, you have to walk back. Even though I warmed up inside the ship I have to confess... I didn't make it to Bunker Hill. I mean I saw it... I saw the memorial lots of times, but not close enough to see the whites of their eyes.

Charles river with Bunker Hill Memorial in the background
How to get around: You see the most by walking so that is what I did for most of the day, but after walking over that cold bridge twice I looked for the closest subway or "T" and went inside to buy my Charlie Ticket (who's Charlie?). For a visitor like myself it costs $2 a ride and is convenient to many parts of Boston (just not Bunker Hill). I also saw lots of cabs, but why are all their lights on with people inside. Well it turns out that the lights don't indicate anything in particular and people don't generally hail cabs in Boston. They operate on more of a dispatch system. But what to do when you are wandering around? When it was time to head to my hotel in the suburbs I walked past another hotel and asked a cab waiting outside if he would give me a ride. He turned out to be a great driver and I had a smooth trip to the hotel. I didn't catch the rate, but the 16 mileish ride cost about $55, a ride around proper Boston would be much, much less.

Money Spent: $2 for the Charlie ticket

Other highlights: Somewhere on the tracks in CT I realized that my phone wasn't working. I tried everything and it just wouldn't do anything. If you have a Sprint phone I highly recommend the Sprint store on Boylston. After my four hours on the trail I stopped in. They not only fixed my phone in less than an hour they gave me a new back cover for it... brilliant.

Where to eat dinner: After fixing my phone I was tired from walking around and cold so when I saw a Boloco, a Boston chain, I thought I'd give it a try. I had the memphis which was BBQ shredded pork and cole slaw burrito. Pretty good and the staff was very friendly.

Money Spent: $8

15 January 2011

What ever happened to snow days?

I got really excited about the snow this week. I took my computer home from work. I planned on working from home, but when I got up the next morning and ran to the window I saw sunny skies and only 8ish inches of snow (not the 15 or so predicted). There was still one chance left, I flipped open my laptop to check the MTA... all trains running normal. Bloomberg took care of business. And I went into the office for a normal business day. And like a true pedestrian city the sidewalks were clearer than the streets.

the streets
the sidewalks

08 January 2011

knitting frenzy

I had a bit of a knitting frenzy leading up to Christmas.... actually it was leading up to early December (mailing over seas takes time).

I made Gretchen a blanket. I got some size ideas from some online patterns, but then just went with a simple design I came up with on my own. As you can tell below, she loved it!

(Side note: in the background you can see the book "simple times: crafts for poor people" that I got for my sister. She enjoyed it, but the funniest part was everytime my mom picked it up my sister said "you can read it, but don't get mad")

For my mom's side of the family we do a Christmas gift name exchange. With aunts, uncles, and cousins living all over the states (and some in Europe) its a nice way to think of each other when we can't actually be together. This year I got my cousin Ellen's name (disclaimer: I'm actually the executor of the name exchange, but I have a secret highly fair system). I made her a knitted cowl like the one I made myself in the fall.

Ellen with a warm neck on slopes
I took a bit of a knitting break over the holiday, but am excited to start my next project especially because I got this awesome "knit kit" for Christmas.
A stitch counter, crochet hook, tape measure, scissors, thread cutter, needle covers, and stitch markers...
... all fit in this tiny thing, great for travel and small apartments

01 January 2011

6 hours in Columbia, MO

I'm starting a new blog segment I hope everyone will enjoy (title cred to NYT). If you know me at all you know I like to explore (or wander as some people like to say); it doesn't matter if it is down the street or a few countries away.

Due to poor planning on our part we only had an hour to walk around campus, so we hit the highlights: francis quad, the columns, tiger spot failure, memorial union, MU student center (Brady improved).
Money Spent: zero for me (my sister spent $1.50 for a window decal at the bookstore)
Lesson learned: Leave plenty of time to walk around Campus and time for the downtown shops.

the Francis Quad

sitting on the Columns
more Columns
Tiger spot failure
What to eat: Shakespeare's Pizza
Ok, this is where we kinda went wrong. We thought we could go to Shakespeare's downtown at 5pm and get pizza in time for the 7pm game. With a line out the door and the time estimation sign pointing at 1 hour and 1/2 + wait for pizza, we thought it was time for plan 2. So we went to the Westside location... still busy but we got our pizza in less that an hour and half.
What to order: large wheat crust pizza with pepperoni, green pepper, and mushroom
Cheesy garlic bread
Diet Coke from the fountain (I love fountain drinks done right and Shakes has both Coke and Pepsi products and they have fantastic cups and fantastic towel napkins)
Money Spent: $27 for a large pizza, cheesy bread, 2 pops, 1 beer, and a water (friend brought coupon for free cheesy bread)
Lesson learned: On game day go for lunch... or start at 4:30
awesome cups...
My sister and I are both graduates of the University of Missouri, but her being two years my senior had never gone to a Mizzou game in Mizzou arena. We are both big basketball fans and the Tigers are looking good this year and a trip to a game seemed necessary. I didn't get to sit as close as I did in my student days, but the game was a lot of fun and the Tigers won easily 81-58.
Money Spent: Upper Corner ticket to Mizzou Arena $14 (including handling fees/service charges) to watch the Fastest 40 minutes in basketball
Lesson learned: Buy tickets in advance. There seemed to be plenty of tickets, but we waited to buy (to figure out who wanted to go with us) and the game became a sell out.
What else to eat: Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream
Sparky's was a favorite of mine senior year at Mizzou. My family has a thing for ice cream and since my sister was graduated and moved out of country by the time Sparky's opened up I decided we had to stop by.
What to order: Sparky's is known for their unusual flavors, use of local suppliers, and alcohol ice cream mixtures. I had one that incorporated all three with the "bourgeois and ghirardelli" selection. The ice cream was red wine flavored (from Les Bourgeois Winery) with chocolate slivers. The first taste was interesting but the ice cream soon grew on me. My sister had butter pecan and said it was good.
Money Spent: $2.75 for a full cup
Lesson Learned: Not a lesson we had to learn the hard way, but Sparky's is closed from January to February. If we had visited two days later we would of been out of luck.
the mascot out front