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Ann's Attempt at a Blog

sharing stories of fiber and fun and more…

Tales from the Great 2013 Adventure – part 1

Venice

This year marks my biggest vacation adventure to date, a Mediterranean cruise. The trip was my treat to celebrate my first year without any tuition obligations. A friend put together a ladies’ cruise, and we had a group of eight that made it on board. This was my first trip to Europe, so I knew I had a lot of adventures to look forward to. Here’s some snippets of details surrounding the starting point for this adventure.

I left Columbus on Saturday afternoon, stopping at JFK in New York before flying to Marco Polo Airport in Italy. I was most looking forward to sailing down the Grand Canal, having seen it featured in The Italian Job as well as a couple James Bond films. But the movie that had me most psyched about starting in Venice? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It took some traipsing around and referencing my city map, but I did manage to locate the church, Campo San Barnaba, which was supposedly a church-turned-library in that movie.

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Ah, Venice!

On Monday afternoon, our ship set sail for our first port-of-call. This was the only departure I would see for the duration of our trip. This gave me my best view of St. Mark’s Square, though from a side vantage point. Still, this gives a great sense as to the “sea of humanity” in that space. While I was in the square, I was able to spot at least fifteen lions, the symbol of St. Mark. St. George & the Dragon have a nice position as well. I’m still in awe of the history here – like nothing I’ve seen here in the U.S.

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In my first day on the ship, I met folks from across the globe. I chatted with Eileen from Ireland when we were both up in the middle of the night. A couple from Tin Can Bay in Queensland, Australia, were companions during the muster drill. I also met a couple from Canada while making my way back to the port. Stay tuned for more tales of my adventures!

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Playing with Pictures

I am taking an online course with Jessica Sprague, learning new techniques and refining rusty ones. This particular course focuses on enhancing photos and framing them to highlight the images. I’m not exactly completing the material in order though. But, it is getting me to take a closer look at some of my recent photographs. Today I shot some candids of the dogs I’ve been taking care of for the holiday weekend…

 

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I also went back to my recent zoo shots to pull out this one.

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I certainly have more photos to choose from in continuing my efforts with Photoshop Elements…

Finding the Right Balance: Planning vs Doing

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Granted, I haven’t been “doing” a great deal lately, at least not from the perspective of outward adventures. A good chunk of my time has been spent knitting on larger projects, and forging friendships with folks in the knitting community. Ideally I will venture out to meet more of them in Real Life, too.

I do have some adventures planned for the year, and a few have already taken place. The “Biggie” is still a couple months away, but because it’s SO big compared to my past adventures, I am spending quite a bit of time planning.How big is it, you ask? This Fall I will be embarking on a huge adventure, as I fly to Europe to embark on a Mediterranean cruise. Over the course of fifteen days, I shall visit six countries via ten ports. The whole idea was rather mind-blowing when the offer was made to me. I am joining a group of ladies, two of whom I know.

Of course, while I’ve known all year long that I have this Big Adventure looming, I’ve done my best not to let it overwhelm me. After all, I’ve got other fun stuff planned during the year. I have a couple knitting conferences outside of Ohio, a theatrical company reunion (I’m still not sure how it could be thirty years since I debuted onstage in West Side Story…since I’m only 25, lol), and a holiday weekend with my brother & sister-in-law on the East Coast.

All the while, though, the Big Adventure is getting closer…and closer. I have my flights booked, and a couple excursions have been selected via the travel agency. As I am planning what to pack, I’ve become increasingly aware of the concerns of traveling abroad. I’ve obtained an over-sized purse that is constructed to foil thieves, and a waist pack for carrying spending money and ID out of the grasp of pickpockets. Memory cards for the camera are set, and I’ve got a couple different guidebooks to work with in refining my itinerary.

No, I am not excited at all…okay, maybe just a little…or a lot. Any words of wisdom for this novice international traveler?

What I’m Learning These Days

When my son studied Tae Kwon Do, all through his grade school years, the grand master who owned and operated the school he attended had a favorite statement: “When you stop learning, you die.” I wholeheartedly agree with this belief, and it also fairly accurately defines my life and many of the choices I have made.

I enjoyed most of my academic years, though as my college days seemed to drag on and on, there was a period there where I wanted to expand my horizon in different directions. It didn’t take long to get past that hurdle, earning my bachelor’s degree, and stepping out into new stages of learning.

These days, I tend to dabble a bit, having a vast breadth of interests. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of friends in many walks of life who have graciously shared some of their knowledge with me, enriching my life in surprising ways. The years I spent participating in Shadowbox Live’s Patron Talent Shows stick out in my mind as I consider this. Stacey, Carrie, Jen and Stephanie gave me a number of vocal lessons, each year seeming to refine one aspect of my singing ability. Then, being able to step out onto the comedy stage in a lead role for a couple sketches (okay, the same sketch but on two different stages), this gave me the courage to audition for acting roles that would stretch my skills even further.

These days, I’ve been putting a lot more time into broadening my skills in the arena of fiber arts. No, this has nothing to do with food or Metamucil or some such products. I’m referring to crafts that use fiber. Specifically, I’m a rabid knitter – which you probably already realize – and an occasional crocheter. I’ve been known to dye yarn as well, to customize colors to my personal preferences. A couple weeks ago, I took a class that expanded my dyeing skills, learning how to dye self-striping yarn using a tool designed for this purpose. My first project was completed quickly, but since it’s intended to be used to knit up a gift, I can’t disclose the finished product at this point. Suffice it to say – it’s really cool!

At the same festival where I learned this dyeing technique, I also took my first class on spinning. This is the art of creating yarn using the raw material, called roving. I own a spinning wheel, though I have yet to confirm that it has all the necessary parts to work. And since I don’t know how to actually work the wheel, it has remained a decorative piece of furniture since it was given to me a couple years ago. The spinning class I took addressed the process of spinning using a drop spindle, which is a very portable tool (it fits in my purse). This is a work in progress, and I’ll have to put a LOT of time into working with the spindle to become even remotely proficient with it. But with each attempt, I approach my goal step by step.

This past weekend I attended another festival and took a couple more classes to further my education specifically in the area of knitting. The first class had to do with a technique called Short Rows which can be used in the knitting process to shape a garment nicely. The instructor provided reference instructions for several different methods of working short rows, too, which was a delightful eye-opener for me, helping me to understand the differences in the methods and to see which ones work most easily for me. This is bringing me one step closer to designing my own knitwear!

The second class I took in Pittsburgh provided guidance as well as an overwhelming sense of freedom. This class taught us how to fix mistakes in our knitting without having to simply rip out all the work (commonly known as frogging, since you rip-it! rip-it!). Fixing a mis-crossed cable or some glaring lacework error needn’t invoke a panic attack. This doesn’t mean the problem project won’t be hurled across the room in a flurry of frustration, but it can be addressed rather easily, once the rage wears off (minutes, hours, months later, if necessary).

And the last bit of news on my educational forays of late… I am taking a college course that is just-for-fun, something to do in snippets of down time this Spring. The class I am taking is also FREE. Harvard University, along with MIT and Berkeley are offering courses through the edX platform, and more schools will be coming on-board later this year. The class I am taking is called The Ancient Greek Hero, which presents a number of literary works, studied in the context of the setting of ancient Greece. I have already learned quite a bit from an historical perspective, which has me all-the-more intrigued given that I will be visiting several sites of ancient Greek city-states during my cruise in the Fall.

If you are interested in learning more about this online coursework, check out http://www.edx.org. There are several other courses that intrigue me, so I’ll be investigating them down the road. I learn so much on my job at work, so it’s nice that I can find ways to stretch my mind in new directions when I’m not working, too.

Knit on.

2012 – Year in Review

I am still stunned at how quickly this year has flown by. But in retrospect, it’s been quite a full year. I joined the Gahanna Community Theater, being cast in their musical production of Mame. This was quickly followed by team formation in preparation for the Women’s 146th Cum Christo weekend. In June, I traveled west to visit my good friend Becky in Colorado. In August I went ever further west, spending a week in Oregon with my aunt & uncle. The last few months of the year were spent close to home, as I was honored to dog sit for a couple families as they traveled for holidays.

As usual, I’ve also been the Knit Meister this year. I had decided late in 2011 that this would be the year of Sweaters, following on 2009 as the year of socks and 2010 as the year of shawls. I achieved my goal to knit six adult sweaters, and I also managed to whip up two baby sweaters as well. There were plenty of other things to knit (and crochet) as well, and the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup on Ravelry continues to motivate me to keep active with my needlework. All told, I completed 22 pairs of socks, 15 shawls, four scarves, six plushies, and a host of other one-offs. Some of these projects were made as gifts (baby, birthday, Christmas, retirement, “just because”), a couple were requested by friends, and a number of them were simply added to my abundant wardrobe. Here is a sampling, spotlighting the three biggest projects (colorwork sweater vest, striped mitered-square skirt and lacy, beaded sparkly shawl):

Knitting 2012

The coming year is sure to hold a host of delightful memories as well. I’ve been cast in the GCT 2013 musical production of Annie. I’ll be on yet another team for the Columbus Cum Christo community. In the Spring I plan to attend a knit/crochet festival in Pittsburgh. My son will graduate with his bachelor’s degree. The capstone adventure of 2013, though, looks to be the Mediterranean cruise a friend is organizing for the fall.

There are also many knitting projects slated for the year. I have three big projects, along with a bunch of little ones (socks & shawls & such). Other things I’m looking forward to in the new year… Season Three of Downton Abbey; sequel movies for Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine and Star Trek; a couple high school graduation celebrations, and more. Thankfully I do have a lot to look forward to, which helps keep me going.

Time for me to get back to some of my year-end tasks before joining friends to celebrate an end and a beginning…

Knit on.

Blogging for Christmas

How in the world is it already December 21????? And yes, five question marks were definitely called for here. I’m stunned with the speed at which the days are whizzing past. And I know I’ve mentioned this before. And yet I am consistently amazed.

Today I’m testing out my new toy. I have downloaded an app to write my blog posts. Maybe this will help me be more consistent. Time will tell though.

I’m mulling over a post (or series of posts) to sum up the year’s activities. Knitting will be a major topic. Travel is a distant second. Family is woven all through it, too. I’ve already started planning for next year. My Franklin Planner arrived on Wednesday, full of promise with pages to be filled. The latest issue of Real Simple magazine starts a series of challenges to get organized in 2013. Inspiration abounds.

More planning will have to wait until morning. I am tired. G’night, all. Knit on.

Giving Thanks

Well, I had a heck of a time this past week, with a wild battle of priorities and juggling. Work has been extremely busy, and as we’re getting to year-end, I’m starting to use up my vacation days. I had a four-day weekend this past weekend, which meant I had to work late a few nights last week. The first night I missed my posting goal, I scrambled after working late to make it to choir practice. Having the day off on Friday was a huge blessing, as I was exhausted from the work week. The rest of the weekend, I did my best to cope with back pain – as I apparently wrenched it somehow. I managed to get the situation under control in time to return to work on Tuesday.

Tuesday also began my dog sitting stint for the week, and that was not as easy as I’d hoped. Dear, sweet Sammi spent the first eight hours after my arrival cowering under the master bed. I finally managed to coax her out, and we’ve been good buddies ever since. Which is good, as I have needed a buddy, since there’s no one else about.

The holiday weekend is nice, affording me plenty of knitting time. There hasn’t really been much else to do, either. My son will come over to visit for a bit this evening, so I’m looking forward to that.  I’m not really keen on the whole Black Friday shopping frenzy, so tomorrow will probably be more of the same – knitting & TV. On the bright side, I have finished a pair of socks for a friend and have made great progress on my Christmas skirt as well as a couple other projects I’ve been working on.  I’ve also loved catching up on the BBC series Merlin, though I’d really like to see a few more episodes involving Lancelot…perhaps I’ll go back and review some of the earlier shows. 🙂

Sir Lancelot — Yum!

Knit on.

Sorry for the Delay…God Bless Our Veterans!

It’s cold, and I’m tired. I’ll be heading to bed shortly. But before I do that, I wanted to share one of the topics I’ve been mulling since last week. Veterans’ Day seemed to be more celebrated this year than I’ve noticed in prior years. A whole slew of restaurants offered free meals throughout the weekend, and I heard there were other perks being offered at establishments around town. I think our military veterans deserve more than one day a year in recognition for their service and sacrifice.

As the true holiday (November 11) fell on a Sunday, our church choir sang “America the Beautiful” as our closing hymn at the conclusion of the Mass. How many people know more than the first verse of this song? We highlighted the third verse to call attention to its lyrics:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

It’s becoming less common in today’s society for people to love anything or anyone more than self – tragic, but true. And yet, we still have a strong contingent of patriots serving in our armed forces. Praise God!

As I close to go crawl into bed, I’ll share one last quote,  “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Knit on.

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off…

Last night, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep I realized…dang it! I forgot to write a blog post! This morning when I woke up, I then started to wonder what approach to take. Should I treat it like a dose of medication, and write the next post as soon as I can, then get back in sync with an evening post? (This work thing can get in the way from time to time…) OR, should I treat it like a diet – blown one day, so you just start fresh the next day. I opted for the latter. Writing a new post is much easier than dieting, by the way.

Monday was a rugged day. I spent most of the day recovering from the busy weekend. Seriously, it was very difficult for me to get out of bed on Monday morning. And I ended up crawling back in after I took my shower. Finally, I knew I had to bite the bullet and get dressed so as to get in to the office at a reasonable time. I was comforted with the knowledge that it was a governmental holiday (and rightly so, as Veterans’ Day should be revered as much as Independence Day!!), which meant traffic would be lighter than usual. In an instant, my day became markedly brighter though, when I remembered that we get to wear jeans this week! In recognition of contributions to the Red Cross, supporting their efforts on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our office’s social committee obtained permission to bestow this privilege on those who contributed through the corporate office’s designated link. Woo-hoo! Everything’s brighter when I can wear jeans instead of having to dress up!

Still, by the time I got in to work, that surge of energy was waning. I dumped my things at my desk, then shuffled to the kitchen to make some coffee. It didn’t really help. Seriously, I don’t think I felt fully awake until at least 3 p.m. But, I muddled through. Through it all, in the back of my mind was the seed of worry, knowing I had an audition that evening. Granted, the initial audition isn’t something that I need to worry about a whole lot, as it’s the first hurdle toward casting, and it’s kind of a low hurdle. There’s always the chance I could screw it up though, somehow. I said a few prayers on my way to the location. A surprise blessing was being greeted by Johnny, as cast member I got to know in this past year’s production. The last time I saw him was at the going-away party for him and his wife, as they moved to Georgia to be close to their kids. He happened to be in town, so it was nice of him to pitch in and assist.

Those auditions went fine, but tonight was the call-back. This is the big challenge, face to face with all the competition. I won’t write much about it, as I’m way too nervous about the outcome. In my mind, I’m perfect for the role I want. But who’s to say the director sees it that way, or the other folks involved in the casting decisions? And the competition was pretty fierce…in a perky and talented way. Tomorrow all will be revealed, and I’ll learn what my winter will hold in the way of non-knitting entertainment.

Speaking of knitting…yes, I was! I’ve still got a bunch of projects on the needles, but I’m making decent progress on a bunch of them. Between my segments on stage, I managed to complete 75% of a hat, and several rows on the baby cardigan. The former I had to set down when I realized there was an error in the pattern. The latter only lasted as long as the skein of yarn did, which ran out after six rows. Now that I’m at home, I have wound the next skein to continue on the sweater, and once I post this, I’ll check the hat pattern!

I’ve got a few ideas of things to write about still rattling around in my brain. And there’s nearly half a month remaining in this challenge. So stay tuned. I should have something at least mildly entertaining to share real soon…

Knit on.

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