2013 in review

2013? That is so 12 hours ago.

After last night’s festivities, I did the unthinkable. I slept until noon! Crazy, because I am a creature of the sun, rising early even on the weekends.

I thought I’d do a quick review of 2013. I’m a sucker for lists after all. So here are a few of my highlights from the past year.

7069The best book I read this year was The World According to Garp. It happens to also be the first book I read in 2013. It was first published in 1978 and is, in my opinion, an American classic.

This is an amazing account of a fictional writer’s life. I won’t go into too much detail, but whether you’re a writer or not, this is a beautifully crafted story. Well-written and easy to read, I just loved it.

Honorable mentions on my 2013 reading list include Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave (pub. 2013) and Hal Higdon’s Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide (pub. 2000).

Early on in 2013 I started a new job as a writer and researcher covering the resource and energy sectors in Australia, Africa and the Indo-Pacific. I have learned so much about industries essential to the Australian economy, and met some great people.

This past year I also finally got my Australian permanent residency. It’s a long process and Matt and I are so happy it’s settled at last.

Me and Mom at the finish

Me and Mom at the finish

As for experiences, the definite highlight for this year was running my first marathon. I won’t go into detail since I’ve already written about it in the past, but working toward and achieving that goal was incredibly fulfilling. To then share the race with my mother was a dream come true. I’m planning to run my second at some point in 2014.

Perhaps the best thing about this year has been my reunion with knitting. It’s been nearly a decade since I first learned, and it’s been wonderful picking it back up and immersing myself in the hobby. I’ve learned heaps and developed my skills at an exponential rate.

Overall 2013 was a great one. It’s also ended with a bang. My childhood friend Lauren has been spending our Christmas holiday with us over the last two weeks. I’ll gather up the best photos of her trip and summarize it in another post. It’s been amazing having her here.

I look forward to the year ahead. Most exciting is my upcoming marriage to the love of my life. Since we first met in 2009, it’s been a whirlwind and I can’t believe I’ll have been in his country 4 years this July. It’s gone by in a blur, and I’m so lucky to be with him.

Here’s to a fantastic 2014, Happy New Year everyone!

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2014 and looking ahead

I just got back from a morning jog. The house is quiet, I’m the only one awake. I’ve opened the shades and windows and can hear my busy elderly neighbors hard at work to keep their dry Australian lawns alive and thriving.

This day has every promise of being a beautiful Perth summer one, and Lauren (my visiting friend from America) and I have morning beach plans.

On my run, my mind seemed to fixate on the idea of goal formation. As mentioned many times previously, I am a goal-oriented person. Ideas buzzed as I jogged along, and I contemplated what I want for 2014.

New Years is right around the corner, and I have already picked a resolution. In 2014, I want to complain less. Simply put, if I can’t say something nice, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

Image courtesy of weheartit

Image courtesy of weheartit

Though this will be a bit of a challenge, it isn’t enough. My mind just wants more. I want my personal 2014 to be about balancing the things I love. So my ultimate 2014 theme is: Read, Write, Sweat, Knit, everyday. It goes without saying that I want to make plenty of time for friends and loved ones, but as far as how I spend my “me” time, I want to make an effort to cover all of these things.

Lately I’ve been letting my writing and exercise slide a bit in favor of reading and knitting. I’ve still been exercising, but not as consistently, and it’s making me restless. Writing, well, that’s taken a definite backseat.

So whether it’s just a journal entry every night, a post-dinner walk with Matt, a quick chapter on my lunch break, or a couple of rows before bed, I plan to, in ways both great and small, make time for all the things I love everyday. A lofty goal yes, but I have a good feeling about 2014. What are your 2014 themes and resolutions?

The life of a reader

In this blog, I have yet to truly touch on my first obsession, which is books. These days, knitting seems to be defining who I am, and eating away (happily) at all of my free time. As 2013 winds down and I begin making my 2014 plans, reflecting on resolutions past present and future, I am lately reunited with literature, my first love.

I intend to do a full 2013 in review post closer to the new year, but this morning on my commute, I was thinking about next year and all the wonderful books I want to read. Every year I try to read 50 books, a tradition I started back in 2009 when I was living in France and had hours of leisure time every week to devote to books. That year I read 55 books; a number that I have yet to match.

This year I’m at 48, and I suspect that for the first time since 2009, I will actually attain the 50. In 2011 I fell just short, reading 47, but in 2010 and 2012 I made a very poor showing of it, only getting to the mid-30s. It’s been fairly easy to reach the goal in 2013, though I will admit that this year has seen a lot more “fluff” books on the nightstand than past ones. Being such a competitive person, having a goal like this is helpful. It’s no big deal at all if I don’t achieve it, but it’s there to subconsciously remind me not to neglect reading.

Here are a few of the books I can’t wait to read in 2014:

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (a favorite author of mine) – I’ve put off reading this one for so long because I was “saving it,” whatever that means. I want it to be my first book in 2014.

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – The TV series is coming out, and I like to have knowledge about big pop culture phenomena coming up. It’s actually been in my “to read” shelf on Goodreads for years, and now’s definitely the time to jump on the bandwagon before it explodes. I already have it on my Kindle.

3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Have heard good things, I think I’ll listen to this one as an audiobook.

4. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Read her other two books in 2013, and though they are super creepy, I’m eager to read this one too.

5. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls – Another that has been on my “to read” shelf for ages.

6. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver – Both Matt and I have been dying to read this seemingly forever, but we can never find a copy!

7. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver – Loved the other two books of hers that I read, so I’d love to try another.

8. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – Yet another that’s long been on my radar.

9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – This year I read the first two books in the Divergent series. I realize these are teen novels, but like I said, I like to be up to date on the big pop culture phenomena. This certainly doesn’t hold a candle to The Hunger Games, but the movie is coming out, so I’d like to finish off the series. Though I’ll admit I really didn’t like the second book, so I have been putting this off since the third came out.

10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – Heard about this one on a podcast and it sounds fascinating.

I am a great lover of audiobooks, and recently I gave in and signed up for an audible account. When a typical audiobook costs around $30 on itunes, it’s been totally worth it to me to pay less than $23/month and get two for free and the rest at very discounted prices. November was the first month I had the account. It was helpful while doing NaNoWriMo to be able to just shut my eyes and listen to a book on the bus or before bed after computer overload.

2013 is also the first year I’ve had a Kindle. It was a Christmas gift from my parents, and it’s been excellent to have any book you want just a click away. It makes the transition between books quick, and I’ve even used it to “check out” ebooks from my library back home in Hennepin County.

The other thing I might try is to re-read a few books this year to see how they “hold up.” These wouldn’t count toward the 50, but it’s an idea that’s been marinating a longtime.

What are some of your “to reads” for 2014? I have many more, so watch my On the Nightstand space in the sidebar to keep up with what I’m reading!

A+ for service

Of late I have had the pleasure of dealing with Quince and Co‘s customer service rep. I ordered a sweater’s worth of Puffin yarn in the Twig shade a few weeks ago, and while I’d received a confirmation email when I placed the order, I never got a shipping notification.

I emailed the ladies at Q&C, and not only did they confirm that it had indeed shipped, I got a personal message saying they had tracked it down and my package had already reached Australia! I was given the tracking number and an apology.

Honestly I wasn’t too worried about my yarn arriving quickly. Ordering things from my homeland usually takes time. I just wanted to make sure my shade wasn’t back-ordered or something. But as luck would have it, my package came Tuesday, soon after our correspondence. I was absolutely thrilled.

Puffin in Twig

Puffin in Twig

I’ve been dying to try Q&C, as mentioned in previous blog posts. I’m very much looking forward to making several of the new designs that have come out featuring Q&C Owl, which is a worsted weight yarn (50% wool, 50% alpaca) with a lovely halo to it.

But I’ve also had my eye on Kate Davies‘ very popular Owls sweater pattern for quite some time now. It suits my personality completely, and I needed the perfect chunky/bulky weight yarn to go with the pattern. I’ve never knit with a single-ply bulky yarn before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

I hemmed and hawed over color choice, finally settling on Twig since I wanted the owl design, rather than the color, to be the “hero” of the piece. Turns out my decision was a good one.

Tonight I did a circular gauge swatch (Hannah Fettig has just released a great little guide to doing so on Knitbot), and soaked it to see how it came out. I didn’t get perfect row gauge, but my stitch gauge was right on, and I’m confident that I can make any necessary adjustments.

photo 4

Swatchya doing?

The yarn doesn’t retain much water, making it very quick-drying. What was already soft and ever-so-slightly fuzzy material is drying beautifully as a swatch. I couldn’t help but rub it against my check and implore Matt to do the same. It’s 100% American wool and knits up with beautiful stitch definition.

Knitting up nicely

Knitting up nicely

Back to my excellent customer service experience…I wrote back my thanks and appreciation. In response, I was told that oh by the way, did I know that Suzy Hausfrau sells Q&C yarns out of Canberra? Um, NO! I didn’t. But now I’ve got a great new yarn resource within Australia! How exciting. Suzy offers free shipping within Oz, as well as 10% off purchases over $75! What could be better?

In an age when we get pretty much anything at the click of a button, it’s such a great feeling when a company goes above and beyond to help you out. Bravo Q&C, I’m in love!

The kind you find in a second-hand store

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Big news y’all! I’ve had a busy few days, but on Friday I finished or “won” NaNoWriMo a day early at 50,233 words. My novel isn’t finished yet, but I hit the goal and am feeling proud. The fiancรฉ also succeeded, so we had celebratory brunch with friends this morning.

I’ve had quite a bit on the needles to share. First I am happy to say that I finished my “raspberry beret,” which I wore today at brunch.

This is an awesome free pattern which can be found HERE. I had a few knitting attacks while working on this, which made the process take probably twice as long as it should have. Hint: read the clarification on the Ravelry page before completing. Sigh.

Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin pie anyone?

Thursday night Matt and I went to Thanksgiving dinner at an American bar. I brought the pumpkin pie, which went over very well. We met some cool people and had a DELICIOUS meal.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

On Friday I got in a shipment of yarn I’d ordered to make legwarmers for my sister. She picked out the color herself. It’s Cascade 220 in the Tutu shade. A bit pink for my taste, but I know she’ll love them.

Legwarmers for Rachel

Legwarmers for Rachel

I also finally picked up the last skein to finish off my Rocky Coast Cardigan. I wet-blocked it last night and it’s nearly dry. I had a mini panic thinking it might stretch out, but I laid it out flat in the measurements I wanted, and it seems to be snapping back into place nicely. Can’t wait for it to be dry so I can get a photo in it!

Rocky Coast Cardigan

Rocky Coast Cardigan

I made it out of Loyal 10ply, my favorite 100% wool New Zealand yarn. It comes in some amazing colors. My raspberry beret was also made out of Loyal.

Other than that I’ve been making a gift for someone, so that’s hush hush until it’s finished. Basically my fingers are exhausted! I knit up the legwarmers at lightening speed so I could get them in the package with my family’s Xmas gifts, which heads to the States tomorrow morning!