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?

So-called “selfish” knitting

DISCLAIMER: I disagree that knitting for yourself is, in any way, selfish.

NaNoWriMo ends in 10 days, which has got Matt and I both a little frantic. Though that’s probably also due to lack of a good night’s sleep in over a month.

Even so, I am using precious writing energy juices to challenge this idea of “selfish knitting” that seems to be cropping up everywhere. I’m not sure how it started, but I’ve heard about it both on The Knitmore Girls and Knit Knit Cafe. From what I remember, it sounds like the original idea was proposed as a “good” thing. As in, we should take the time to do some “selfish knitting” during the crazy holiday season. Both the Knitmores and Abby of KKC found this term to be offensive, and so do I.

Last night I finally finished my mom’s Christmas present, which was the last of the items I’m making for the holidays. Once they’ve opened them, I promise to post photos, but for now it must remain a surprise for my parents and sisters. It was a relief to finish it, as it had taken me longer than expected, and I felt an overwhelming urge to immediately cast on something for myself.

Listening to Abby get so worked up today made me feel inclined to share my thoughts on the matter. It takes time and money to finish a knitted item. I love making gifts for other people, but it can also get exhausting, often because I’m the kind of person to put a lot of pressure on myself. Many experienced knitters stop knitting for others, knowing that more often than not gifts that have taken hours to make will not be properly appreciated or cared for.

I think that’s part of why I’m enjoying my Rock Coast cardigan so much. I’ve run out of yarn at the moment, so I need to wait until the weekend to stock up and get back to it, but I’ve finished the body and one sleeve.

Rocky Coast Cardigan in progress

Rocky Coast Cardigan in progress

Last night I did a little writing, and then wound up a skein of Malabrigo sock in the Solis colorway, to be combined with my already wound Ivy ball to create a Daybreak shawl for myself.

For my Daybreak

For my Daybreak

What I’ve realized in the process of making so many items for others lately (with many projects for friends and one for my sister still on order), is that I don’t mind as long as I simultaneously have a project on the needles for myself that I really enjoy.

I read this article today (23 things women should stop doing), and I think this all ties into the same thing. Why is it that when women do something for themselves, it’s considered selfish?

It’s not even a men vs. women thing, it’s a society vs. women thing. We perpetuate this idea that women should be selfless all of the time, conditioning which starts practically from birth. “Boys will be boys” aka “boys can do whatever they like all of the time with no regard for consequences” is a terrible cliché.

I say do things for yourself, whether it’s crafting, taking time to spend on your own, or just a bit of R&R, YOU ARE NOT SELFISH, you’re human and it’s healthy.

Music as motivation

It’s crazy to think it’s only been two months since I ran my first marathon. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Since my training ended, I’ve been having fun getting back into classes at the gym, doing yoga, and going for long walks with Matt. I’ve even been able to start riding my bike to work again on days the rain chooses to subside.

It’s been an unusually long winter in Perth, with the rain lasting late in October, when normally we’d enjoy a beautifully sunny spring. Between early morning wind and storms, knitting into the wee hours, and my busy gym and work schedule, I have let my early morning run routine fall to the wayside. ENTER: Music and sunshine.

She's called Joni. Get it?

She’s called Joni. Get it?

Ever since I was in college, I would always get motivated to run when I heard a great new song at a party or on the radio. I love a good beat, and although I hardly listen to the radio these days, (it’s all podcasts all the time, especially in the car – at least until the new Arcade Fire comes out this week!!) I am still exposed to good running jams every now and then.

Personally I think music – even more than friends – is the best motivator for both running and doing chores. If I can dance while mopping, all the better. This morning I decided that rather than waiting all the way to 9:15 for Body Attack at the gym (I’m an earlier riser, we’ve established this), I would go for a run. It was time to revamp my running mix with a few tunes I’ve been loving lately. Feel free to judge, I am not ashamed.

New on my playlist

1. The Wire by Haim – check out the video too, I absolutely LOVE this song. It’s not quite the usual fast beat I like to run to, but I like it so much it doesn’t matter.

2. Talk Dirty to Me by Jason DeRulo – heard this one again a few weekends ago when out dancing with friends. Certainly not family friendly, but a GREAT beat.

3. Classic by MKTO – again, judge if you will. It’s catchy

Oldies but goodies currently on my mix

1. Let’s Groove by Earth Wind and Fire – YES.

2. She Drives me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals – great jam, totally classic.

3. Sussudio by Phil Collins – if you know me at all, you know that I LOVE Phil.

4. Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol – this has a perfect beat for running, as does…

5. Super Freak by Rick James

6. Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles – can’t go wrong with this one

7. Sleepyhead by Passion Pit – it’s the perfect first song on a running mix

8. Pompeii by Bastille – not exactly an oldie, but it’s been a favorite for awhile

9. 867-5309 (Jenny) by Tommy Tutone – makes me laugh

10. Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here by Deborah Cox – great motivator and great to dance to

I could go on and on, but these suggestions are more than enough to get you started. What songs are staples on your workout/cleaning playlists? I’m always open to ideas (though if you say Taylor Swift, FRIENDSHIP OVER).

Itching for prep

Ever wake up and realize your wardrobe needs a makeover? (or a lobotomy?) I feel like that’s been me the last two years.

Growing up a Minnesota girl, the preppy fashion scene was hardly on my radar. It seemed to nest in a mythical boarding school realm and the far northern east coast regions I had never visited.

Then I went to university in small town Virginia, and suddenly prep was everywhere! Popped collars, pants that looked like patchwork quilts and ensembles akin to horseback riding uniforms. I get nostalgic thinking about my capris with little turtles on them or my endless supply of polo shirts.

After graduation I moved to France for two years where it was all about black and converse sneakers (neither of which did I choose to wear). I tried to maintain my own identity, but the prep look in a small country town would have pegged me as “l’américaine” instantly, and I really wanted to immerse myself in la vie quotidienne of Decize (my little French town).

Following my stint in Europe, I came home for a few months to say my goodbyes and pack up the bare minimum before again relocating to Perth, Australia.

During my time in Perth, I have not been able to devote much time money to developing my personal style. It’s changed a bit over the years, but simple and classic is definitely my scene.

Lately I find myself wandering into preppy clothing sites on my lunch break, desperately wishing I didn’t have to order things all the way from America. I blame The College Prepster. It’s her fault I’m drawn once again to the prep.

Here are a few staples I simply MUST to get my hands on.

LL Bean boots - perfect for rainy Perth winters

LL Bean boots – perfect for rainy Perth winters

I have never owned a pair of these but have always wanted to. I put them in my “shopping cart” nearly every time there’s a string of grey rainy days. We’re entering Perth summer pretty soon, but next winter I’m taking the plunge and just getting them.

Jcrew

J. Crew embroidered cap

Let’s face it, there will always be bad hair days. Most of my caps are ruined from being worn during my hot summer runs. I really need a clean classic one for all occasions.

Bracelets from Kiel James Patrick

Bracelets from Kiel James Patrick

I love the entire bracelet range from Kiel James Patrick. These are sturdy and well-made and are 100% American. What could be preppier than sailing? And speaking of KJP…

Seafarer collection

Seafarer collection

I am loving the new collection. I do not own nearly enough collared shirts anymore.

Other sites I’ve been trolling are Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, Madewell and even Brooks Brothers. Sadly many sites do not ship to Australia. I’m going to have to get creative, not to mention look for online bargains. It’s all about the look, not the tag.

One thing I never gave up was my puffy vest. I love it and still wear it all the time, even in Australia. The vest trend seems to be more dudely over here, but I don’t care. I also have a beautiful pair of tall brown “riding” boots, which are a wardrobe essential.

I recently bought a very tame Lilly Pulitzer dress for Melbourne Cup (a popular Australian horse race that the whole country celebrates), which is the first sign of my dipping my toes back in prep-land.

At the end of the day I just need to mix it up, and the classic preppy look never goes out of style. I need to start making some new wardrobe investments. Are you due for a change?