Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's Good To Be Back

I know it has been a very long time since the last blog post but hopefully, you guys have enjoyed the book reviews I've posted and this very extra long blog post. 

Anyway, it has been quite busy these past few months. My husband and I went on a road trip at the end July to early August 2013 from Colorado Springs, CO to Ogden, UT then straight to Fairfield, CA to pick up my mom at the San Francisco International Airport. It was shortly after her 60th birthday and for her birthday present, we flew her from Manila to San Francisco where we spent about two days with family then we drove towards Anaheim, CA so my mom (and us too) can spend a fun day at Disneyland. I have to admit, I immediately fell in love with the small city of Ogden and I also missed working with yarn. Sad to say, there doesn't seem to be any LYS in downtown Ogden (a great opportunity for me to open one if we end up moving there!) and the nearest store that carries yarn would be in Salt Lake City. I knew I should've brought a knitting project with me but somehow, I decided against it - again. Back in February 2012 when my husband and I spent a week in San Francisco, I promised myself that no matter what, on my next vacation/trip, I will make sure to bring a knitting project. So I was a little disappointed that I talked myself out of it for this road trip. 

Another disappointing aspect of this summer trip was the fact that my husband and I wanted to eat at Ristorante Parma in San Francisco as well as at an In-N-Out Burger but none of that happened because my well-meaning family preferred to feed us at two different Chinese Buffet on the two days that we were there. Yeah. So when we got back to Colorado Springs, I have stayed away from Ultimate Buffet (until now) even though the food at Ultimate Buffet is far better than the others in town. Talk about being sick of Chinese buffets! And as you can probably read from the tone of this blog, I am still a little peeved that I didn't get to eat at our two favorite restaurants in California and we both vowed that our next vacation will be somewhere where there are no families to visit and cater to and that it will be just for the two of us. So we're thinking maybe Ireland or New Zealand and Australia.

All three of us greatly enjoyed Disneyland and after a long, fun day, we made our way back to Colorado Springs and my mom stayed with us for three months. She just recently retired from 20+ years of teaching College students for the Natural Science department of my alma mater, Adamson University (in Manila) and I was worried she'd get bored while we are at work during the day. So one weekend, I endeavored to teach her how to Knook (by Leisure Arts) since I have the beginner set that I was not using at all. Sadly, she didn't take to it and told me, in no uncertain terms, that she was not interested at all in learning to knit or crochet. So that was a little sad about that but at least she was honest enough to tell me right off the bat - after trying it for an hour - and did not waste both our time and effort. So I ended up showing her how to borrow ebooks from the public library on her iPad instead and she was happy reading Danielle Steele books that she hasn't read yet. 

And though she doesn't have any interest in yarn and fiber crafts, she did told me that her mother (my maternal grandma) used to crochet a lot when she (my mom) was younger and before we were born. My mother said that my grandma used to crochet doilies, blankets, cozies and lace curtains! On top of that, my awesome mother-in-law told me that her mother (my husband's maternal grandma) also crocheted a lot of doilies, table runners &  pillow cases. And that bit of information made me resolve to really learn and appreciate the art of crochet mainly because my maternal grandmother and my husband's maternal grandmother were crocheters and so in effect, I am hopefully going to continue on the tradition and later on, pass it on to my children and my grandchildren, linking us all through crochet. It would've been better if I could have learned directly from them but they've both gone to the afterlife now so I have to either teach myself or learn the art from someone in order to continue their legacy.

Luckily enough, I already have a set of the awesome Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks that my husband gave me and I felt bad that I haven't used them as much but now, I am close to having all the hooks listed on Ravelry's hook size inventory and I have more hooks now than knitting needles! And though it seems, I have turned over to the dark side, I have no intentions of selling or giving away my Clover Bamboo circular knitting needles, nor have I any intention of completely turning my back on knitting, I have decided to concentrate on building up my crochet skills and hopefully, I will get my knitting mojo back. If in the event that I don't get my knitting mojo back after three years, I will re-evaluate my knitting, or rather my non-knitting status and decide then what to do with my needles. Well, there's always the Knook style of knitting to fall back to if ever I ended up giving away my bamboo needles and decide later on that I want to knit again.

Speaking of the Knook, I gave a beginner's set to a friend of mine as a birthday present. She's a crocheter who wanted to learn how to knit but she's having trouble with working two needles and a yarn so I gave her a set in the hopes that it will either make it easier for her to knit or help her transition from crochet to knit. I too have my own set of the beginner's Knook set and since I was no longer using it and my mom clearly didn't enjoy it, I gave it to another friend at work who is also a crocheter and who also wanted to learn to knit but wielding both needles and yarn was just too frustrating for her, it makes her want to poke her eyes out. So I gave her my set and I still have yet to schedule something with her so I can show her how to use it and hopefully she will enjoy that. As for me and the Knook, it helped me transition from knit to crochet and at the time, knitting with it was a bit fidly compared to knitting with needles because the cord doesn't have any support. So I will probably try it out with a cabled Tunisian bamboo hook that I found on Amazon - I will just have to take out the stopper at the end of the cable.

So lately, I have been crocheting a lot and I was hoping to subscribe to a couple of crochet podcast but when I searched for crochet podcasts, there aren't any to be had on iTunes. YouTube has a lot of crochet tutorials but no crochet podcast either. So now I'm wondering why is it that there are tons of knitting tutorials and podcasts but there are no crochet podcast? Is it because crocheters are more private? But that couldn't be because when I searched for Crochet blogs, Google came up with a lot of crochet blogs and I can't wait to check them out. Among the crochet blogs that I stumbled upon, one of them is by Trey Ajusto aka Gantsilyo Guru on Ravelry. She is just amazing with what she has done with crochet. She is a Filipina (like me) who resides in Manila, Philippines and she has been very brave in coming out of the crochet closet and has been crocheting in public and even holding crochet workshops for anyone interested enough to learn how to crochet. In the Philippines, yarn and fiber crafts as old as knitting and crocheting are generally only done by old women in their rockers. When I left Manila for Colorado 5 years ago, the crafting world is centered around cross-stitching. I have nothing against cross stitch as I used to do that back in high school. So anyway, back to crocheting in the Philippines ... Back then, you only have crochet threads available and the only yarn available would be the regular, scratchy, craft yarn - those really poor quality acrylic yarns and no one really crochets in public for fear of being labeled and teased mercilessly as an Old Woman. However, because of Pinterest and because of the efforts of Trey, crochet seems to be making a comeback in the Philippine crafting world. Yay! Another reason for me to crochet is that not only it links me with my husband's and my own grandmother, it also links me to the yarn art from the country of my birth. The Philippines is a very hot and humid country and so knitting is not that popular. Crochet dominated that country during the times of our grandparents and they made a lot of doilies, table runners, curtains, and whatnot then it almost disappeared and now, after years and years of being pushed behind embroidery, sewing and cross-stitching, it is finally coming back. If I were still living in Manila, I would definitely be attending Trey's 2-day crochet workshop. Since I can't attend her wonderful and fun crochet workshop, I instead invested a lot of time watching YouTube crochet tutorials and practiced my stitches until I felt comfortable enough to do them on my own and I also bought a couple of crochet books then ventured on to making easy crocheted projects.

So far, I am really enjoying the art of crochet to the point where, if I am working on a project, I would take it with me everywhere (to work, so I can work a couple of rows during my lunch and afternoon breaks; to a friend's house, so I can work a couple of rows while chatting with them or while watching a movie with them; and when my husband is driving, I bring my project with me so I can work a couple of rows in the car)! I have never done anything like this with my knitting and I guess maybe because when I knit, I always have to have my iPad in front of me so I can read the pattern while with crochet, the patterns are usually a two- or three-row repeat and one that is easily memorized and I really like that. I also find that crocheting goes somewhat faster than knitting (and I already knit pretty fast, continentally). I also liked how easy it is to change colors or to attach a new yarn, binding off is a breeze and I don't have to worry about a whole bunch of live stitches. And what I really appreciate is the fact that a set of the most commonly used crochet hook sizes are much more budget-friendly compared to a set of knitting needles. That and because one crochet hook can be used for multiple projects going on at the same time, eliminating the need for me to buy two or three hooks of the same size. Well, I was a monogamous knitter so I am expecting I will still be working one project at a time - that's why I don't blog that often.

In the world of the written word, in case I forgot to mention it in previous blog posts, I have completed the course on Writing for Children and Teens from the Institute of Children's Literature. Boy was that distance-learning course really fun! I learned a lot out of it and though I am currently working on a Women's Fiction book, I have not worked much on it since November 2013. My female protagonist owns a bookstore and the last thing on her mind was whether to switch out her slow Windows laptop for an iPad or a MacBook Air. She ended up with an iPad and bluetooth solar keyboard (both items which I own) and now, she's being uncooperative because she has heard of a couple of indie bookstores already closing their doors and some indie stores in her street already closed up shop too and she's afraid her bookstore might be the next on the block to close down and everyday, fewer and fewer people go in because of the emerging popularity of eBooks and eReaders and Tablets. I don't like where this story is going so I moved it to the back burner for now until I figure out what exactly is going on and where this whole thing is going. Believe me, I plotted it out and everything and it still blindsided me. Maybe plotting is not my best suit and maybe I should go back to how I used to write in high school and college - very organic, the sort where I just sit my butt down and write. So we'll see how this story goes. I may or may not throw the whole thing and start from scratch - I am so not looking forward to that.

Also, I was playing around with the Auryn Ink app on my iPad 2 and these are what I came up with.






Before I got Auryn Ink, I was using Sketchbook Express and this is what I came up with.




And now I don't know which drawing app I like using better.

                                                       
I hope you all have a wonderful week until next blog post.


Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post
• The Taming Of The Duke (Essex Sisters #3) by Eloisa James - 4/3/2013
• The Mystery at Lilac Inn (Nancy Drew #4) by Carolyn Keene - 4/4/2013
• Duchess In Love (Duchess Quartet #1) by Eloisa James - 4/21/2013
• Fool For Love (Duchess Quartet #2) by Eloisa James - 4/30/2013
• The Secret of Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew #5) by Carolyn Keene - 5/2/2013
• The Secret of Red Gate Farm (Nancy Drew #6) by Carolyn Keene - 5/7/2013
• The Clue in the Diary (Nancy Drew #7) by Carolyn Keene - 5/13/2013
• Nancy's Mysterious Letter (Nancy Drew #8) by Carolyn Keene - 5/14/2013
• The Sign of the Twisted Candle (Nancy Drew #9) by Carolyn Keene - 5/17/2013
• Always You by Kirsty Moseley - 5/31/2013
• Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - 6/12/2013
• 16 Lighthouse Road (Cedar Cove #1) by Debbie Macomber - 7/5/2013
• 204 Rosewood Lane (Cedar Cove #2) by Debbie Macomber - 7/8/2013
• 311 Pelican Court (Cedar Cove #3) by Debbie Macomber - 7/11/2013
• 44 Cranberry Point ( Cedar Cove #4) by Debbie Macomber - 7/15/2013
• 50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove #5) by Debbie Macomber - 7/17/2013
• 6 Rainier Drive (Cedar Cove #6) by Debbie Macomber - 7/19/2013
• Starting Now (Blossom Street #9) by Debbie Macomber - 7/20/2013
• Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles #2) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - 7/28/2013
• 74 Seaside Avenue (Cedar Cove #7) by Debbie Macomber - 7/30/2013
• 8 Sandpiper Way (Cedar Cove #8) by Debbie Macomber - 8/8/2013
• 92 Pacific Boulevard (Cedar Cove #9) by Debbie Macomber - 8/13/2013
• 1022 Evergreen Place (Cedar Cove #10) by Debbie Macomber - 8/15/2013
• A Turn In The Road (Blossom Street #8) by Debbie Macomber - 8/22/2013
• 1105 Yakima Street (Cedar Cove #11) by Debbie Macomber - 8/24/2013
• 1225 Christmas Tree Lane (Cedar Cove #12) by Debbie Macomber - 8/29/2013
• Falling For You by Heather Thurmeier - 9/5/2013
• Catch A Falling Star by Jessica Starr - 9/7/2013
• When First They Met by Debbie Macomber - 9/12/2013
• Bridesmaid Lotto (McMaster the Disaster #1) by Rachel Astor - 9/12/2013
• Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly - 9/21/2013
• Swim by Jennifer Weiner - 9/24/2013
• I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler - 9/30/2013
• The Inn At Rose Harbor (Rose Harbor #1) by Debbie Macomber - 10/25/2013
• A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Fire & Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin - 10/30/2013
• Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family #1) by Shannon Stacey - 11/17/2013
• Rose Harbor In Bloom (Rose Harbor #2) by a Debbie Macomber - 11/30/2013
• The Proposal (A Perfect Match #1) by Lily Zante - 12/2/2013
• Dark Witch (O'Dwyer Trilogy #1) by Nora a Roberts - 12/8/2013
• A Clash Of Kings (A Song Of Fire & Ice #2) by George R.R. Martin - 12/9/2013
• Starry Night by Debbie Macomber - 12/14/2013
• Three Girls and a Baby (Three Girls #1) by Rachel Schurig - 12/23/2013
• Password to Larkspur Lane (Nancy Drew #10) by Carolyn Keene - 12/29/2013
• The Clue Of The Broken Locket (Nancy Drew #11) by Carolyn Keene - 1/1/2014
• The Message In The Hollow Oak (Nancy Drew #12) by Carolyn Keene - 1/3/2014
• The Mystery Of The Ivory Charm (Nancy Drew #13) by Carolyn Keene - 1/7/2014
• The Whispering Statue (Nancy Drew #14) by Carolyn Keene - 1/13/2014
• The Haunted Bridge (Nancy Drew #15) by Carolyn Keene - 1/22/2014
• The Clue Of The Tapping Heels (Nancy Drew #16) by Carolyn Keene - 1/24/2014
• The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown - 1/24/2014
• Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Wouldn't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - 2/3/2014
• The Mystery Of The Brass-Bound Trunk (Nancy Drew #17) by Carolyn Keene - 2/4/2014
• Cast On, Kill Off (A Knitting Mystery #10) by Maggie Sefton - 2/6/014

Currently Reading & Writing
• A Storm of Swords (A Song of Fire & Ice, Book 3) by George R.R. Martin

Finished Objects
• Collapsible Cloche by Laura Macagno-Shang
• My First Self-Striping Two-At-A-Time Basic Socks
• I Heart Socks (Toe Up) by Wilma Becker
• 4th Sock, 2nd Stripey Sock
• Granny Square by Sara Freisberg
• Starburst Table Runner by Coats Design Team
• Heart Bookmark by Lisa Hamblin
• Milo's Car Seat Blanket by Sue Childress
• Micah's Car Seat Blanket by Sara Freisberg
• Crochet Coaster With Shell Edging by Crochet Geek on YouTube
• Easy Knotted Crochet Headband by Rachel B. Brown
• Chemo Cap by Kim Kotary
• Elegant Hat by Kim Guzman
• Our Esprit Pullover by Nancy Queen, The Chicks With Sticks Guide to Crochet
• On The Town Shawl by Julie Farmer for Red Heart North America

Currently Knitting/Crocheting
• I am waiting to buy yarn so I can crochet along with the 2 Knit Lit Chicks for their Colorwork KAL/CAL starting March 1, 2014 and I am planning to make the Be My Valentine Throw by Roseanna Beck. So excited to get this started! Thank God February is a short month!

Product Reviews
Yarnology Aluminum Crochet Hook with Bamboo Handle US size K >> I generally stay away from aluminum hooks mainly because I find it hard for me to get a good grip on the hook especially smaller sized aluminum hooks and because I find that my hands (fingers and wrist) cramp more easily even if I use both styles of holding the hook. This hook from Yarnology is made of aluminum but has a bamboo handle. The only reason I bought this is because my project Our Esprit Pullover by Nancy Queen calls for a US size K hook and this was currently the only one available in Hobby Lobby. I did stop by two of my LYS before hitting Hobby Lobby but they both didn't have it. So with this hook, I swatched and discovered that I needed to go down to a size J hook to get gauge so I was happy about that because that means, I get to use my Clover Soft Touch hook (more on that later). Anyway, with this hook, because it is a bigger sized hook, I noticed that I have a good grip on it whether using the pencil or the knife hold. I also noticed that the knife hold is much better suited for this type of hook although it still made my hand and arm cramp after an hour or so of crocheting. Using the pencil hold on this hook is okay and the weight of the bamboo handle makes it heavier to maneuver the hook around so I decided I don't like the bamboo handle that much on this hook. The point and the throat of this hook is similar to the Boye Aluminum hooks as well as those from the Clover Soft Touch hooks and it doesn't seem to split the yarn as easily as the acrylic ones. So if you like that kind of point and throat construction with the weight of the bambo handle and the slippery material of aluminum, this hook is for you. The hook size is engraved on the aluminum thumb rest, just like with the Boye and Susan Bates aluminum hooks.


Yarnology Acrylic Hook US size M & N >> I have been dying to try plastic/acrylic hooks just for the fun of trying new things and I finally got these acrylic hooks from Yarnology at Hobby Lobby. Because these two hooks are the bigger size, I like how it feels in my hand, they're very lightweight and colorful, and I can get a good grip with it using both the pencil and knife hold. I tried this hook with my Cascade 128 Chunky weight scrap yarn and it was a little disappointing in the sense that the hook was too grippy that the yarn doesn't glide easily across the shank compared to aluminum hooks. The point and the throat is very similar to those from Susan Bates aluminum hooks and because of this, it has a tendency to split the yarn quite easily when drawing through the loops but if you have been using Susan Bates hooks and really like that kind of construction, you will surely like this hook too. As for this being too grippy, I am hoping as time wears on the acrylic material, maybe it will smooth out or maybe it will work better with a different yarn material. This hook is perfect for the ultimate beginner so they're not constantly dropping their stitches. The hook size are engraved on the end of the handle and because of the dark colors and the see-through acrylic material, it is quite hard to see what the hook size is. But if you have a crochet hook case with labels on it, I guess it will be okay. 

Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hooks US sizes B,C,D,E,F,G,7,H,I, & J >> It was a long time before I found this set and my husband got it for me. Back in my knitting days, I have two Susan Bates aluminum hooks to fix knitting mistakes in US size C and G, with which I tried to learn how to crochet. But because of the slippery aluminum material and the fact that I only crocheted with the knife hold, it was terribly hard for me to get a good grip on the hooks and my wrist and arm would cramp up in thirty minutes. Not a very good experience for a beginner crocheter. I found the Clover Soft Touch crochet hook set at the Clover website because I figured, if I really love their Bamboo circular knitting needles, maybe they have something for crochet that I will love as well. After reading all the reviews on both the Clover website and on Amazon, I was convinced that this is the answer to my problem. I had it on my Amazon wish list and my husband got it for me. With this set of hooks (the set comes with US size C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J and sizes B & 7 just recently came out so I bought those too) I noticed how easy and comfortable it is for me to hold it using both the knife and the pencil hold without accidentally dropping the hook or dropping a stitch. I also noticed that with the knife hold, my wrist and arm takes longer for the cramps to begin. I could crochet with the knife hold for 4 straight hours before my wrist and arm would get a little tired but with the pencil hold, I could crochet for 10 hours straight and not feel any discomfort at all. These set just makes me want to crochet non-stop. The handle is made of durable plastic with a rubber thumb rest and the hook size printed in black at the end of the handle, making it easy to identify what hook size it is without having to pull out your needle/hook sizer. So if you are one who has arthritis or suffering from chronic pain in the hands, wrist, arms and elbows, this super comfortable hooks just might be for you.

Vera Bradley Quilted Bags - Mandy Handbag in Lilli Bell & Vera Tote in Paisley Meets Plaid >> I was lucky enough to be gifted with these two Vera Bradley bags. I love the fact that they are machine washable & dryable and that they both have a lot of pockets inside. I don't use it for everyday work bag but I actually use them both as project bags. The Mandy Handbag, is about medium sized and can fit a couple of socks, dishcloths, wraps and shawl projects while the Vera Tote is quite large and can fit a sweater or a baby blanket project. With these bags, I usually don't need to bring my bulky notions pouch because there are at least six pockets on the inside to hold the absolute essentials. I do bring my all my hooks just in case. The Mandy Handbag has only one outside pocket while the Vera Tote has two outside pockets, one side has a zippered pocket and the other has a regular pocket. The handles and both bags are very well constructed and I absolutely love them both.

Yarn Bee Soft Secret 100% Acrylic Yarns >> After buying six skeins of Cascade 128 Superwash Merino and making it up into the Our Esprit Pullover by Nancy Queen, I tried it on and started itching all over in ten minutes. "I can't be allergic to wool?!" My mind screamed at me. But apparently I might be. It is weird though because when I knitted my socks out of Paton's 50% Superwash Merino, 25% Rayon from Bamboo & 25% Nylon, my hands and feet were fine. No itching whatsoever. And now this, after I have painstakingly worked and seamed all the pieces of my first pullover and even with a sleeveless shirt underneath it, the skin of my arms, neck and shoulder area that was exposed to the wool started itching.  So when I went to Hobby Lobby to look at some yarns they have (the two LYS in my immediate vicinity don't carry acrylic yarns). The pattern On The Town Shawl was calling for Red Heart yarns. They did have it but upon touching the skeins, my hand recoiled from the rough texture of the Red Heart Super Saver acrylic yarns on the shelves. I walked up and down the aisles looking at yarn bands and touching the yarns that interest me. I saw some bamboo yarn, some cotton yarn, crochet threads and the rest of the yarn inventory goes to the acrylic yarns. So far, for non wool yarns, I have only worked with the Lily Sugar 'n Cream 100% Cotton yarns and the Bernat Baby 100% Polyester Super Bulky yarns and I didn't get any itching on those but at the same time, I don't like working with the Lily Sugar 'n Cream because the yarn is so stiff, a little rough and unforgiving on my hands. So the only time I use that yarn is to make a year's worth of dishcloth for my mother-in-law. So I was looking for a nicer acrylic yarn when I was browsing the aisles of Hobby Lobby and there I saw Yarn Bee Soft Secret yarns. Though it is 100% Acrylic, the colors are very bright and vibrant and it has that sheen to it and it is super, super soft and squishy. It is actually better than Caron Simply Soft Premium Acrylic yarns. I just love working with Yarn Bee Soft Secret Yarns and I am looking forward to creating more lovely things with this yarn company.

Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

• 2 Knit Lit Chicks
• Never Not Knitting
• The Writing Show (ended Dec 2012 I think)
• Books On The Nightstand
• Knit Me Happy
• Knitting Blogcast
• Blooming Knitter
• Knit 1 Geek 2
• Just One More Row
• That's Write
• The Foodie Knitter
• Knitabulls Podcast
• Ladies of the Knit
• Robinz Nest
• The Book Pod
• Life Coach and Author Sheri Kaye Hoff
• The Pinoy Warrior
• Worsted For Wear (Webcomic for knitters)
• Literary Disco
• Book Fight
• Reading and Writing Podcast
• Write The Book Podcast
• Kindle Love Stories Podcast
• Me And My Dog And Some Yarn (YouTube videocast)
• Gantsilyo Guru Blog