Saturday, December 3, 2011

Radvent Day 3 - Fascinating

Today's post is another in the Radvent blogging challenge brought to us by the always fascinating Princess Lasertron.

Today we are challenged to reveal our most fascinating selves by writing the interview questions we would most like to be asked. I love this prompt because it gives me a chance to share things I wouldn't typically write here about! If you'd like to play along at home (and please feel free to share!) it's best to write you questions out, go work on that GAP-Tastic Cowl that should have been in the mail last week, and come back in an hour or two to answer them. I decided to go with the 5 W's to mold my mock interview, but you can ask any questions you'd like! Enjoy!

Who would you consider to be your role model?
For most of my life I actually could never answer this question. I looked up to olympic swimmers when I was a kid, but I knew I never wanted to be just a swimmer & I thought maybe I'm just meant to be the person I am and forget role models. Then earlier this year with the death of Steve Jobs, I realized that I did have a role model, I just never realized it. When I brought up my home screen (I never did change it from the apple default) and saw his picture and the words "RIP" it affected me a lot more than I could have ever expected. He really was an innovator and never said no to an idea he believed in. Not only is he the reason I don't have to carry a huge CD case around with my everywhere anymore, but he was the financial backer behind Pixar studios in its early days when no one else could see their vision. I want to be the kind of person who goes confidently in the direction of my passions, and thats why I consider Steve Jobs to be my role model.

What is your best advice for traveling abroad?
Pack half as many clothes as you think you'll need and twice as many books, and bring peanut butter. I guess this advice is best suited for those traveling to less... westernized areas, but I have yet to travel abroad anywhere that has working plumbing all the time (Bhutan had squat toilets and Puerto Rico typically didn't have showers) and I was always doing field research so I have a feeling my concept of traveling might be a bit skewed, but I think those two rules should be universal. No one else in the world understands the beauty of peanut butter, and if they food there isn't to your liking, it's something that's super filling and has decent nutritional value.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I think if I were to be honest with myself I could answer this one of at least 5 ways. The things I know for sure are that dear husband and I are hoping to have a good bit of the house paid off so we can upgrade into our having-babies house. Barring any major catastrophes between now and then I think that bit is totally achievable. I would also like to work towards not having to work a 9-5 anymore, and maybe even owning a multi-family income property. We're surrounded by both college towns & military bases so there are investment opportunities everywhere.

When did you know you were ready to marry your husband?
Everyone and their sister asks me this question, and I suppose I should expect it because I got married at 21, but I still find it annoying. The answer is complicated, but simple. I'm the kind of person who was super ready to get married at a young age, but my husband never really was and swore he wouldn't propose until we were together for at least 5 years. Neither of us really believe in divorce, and that was his solution to the problem. So after we'd been together for about a year I started getting annoying about why we needed to wait 5 years, and he wasn't terribly amused by it. Then one day, I woke up and realized I didn't care if I had to wait 5 years, I wanted to be with him forever anyway, so what did it matter? I wrote him a letter telling him just that (but hopefully much more eloquently) and not even 6 months later after dating for more than two years he proposed to me. So my advice to all those ladies who want to know if they're ready to get married yet, I guess the best way to know when it's time is when it stops being so important.

Why do you craft?
I love making things with my own two hands in a world of such mechanized consumerism. I know it sounds terribly hippie-like of me, but I'd rather have things made with love than made inexpensively. It's my little rebellion against the system, and I plan to keep knitting, canning, and making for the rest of my life.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Radvent Day 2 - Balance

Today's post is yet another installment of Princess Lasertron's Radvent blogging challenge.

I've always had an issue with finding balance in my life. I've often joked that I have the soul of an artist trapped in the brain of a scientist and that's a tough place to be. While it does tend to make a very well rounded person with a very rich life, I have yet to really master balancing my creative self with my logical self.

Yesterday I talked about the challenges of making the right decision for yourself, and I very recently took on the responsibilities of a second job in order to save for the future I want. While I can't tell you how amazing it is to put money into a savings account rather than taking it out for a change, it also doesn't leave a lot of room for my creativity. I only have one day off a week and I spend most of it sleeping, and two days a week I work well upwards of 12 hour days. Therefore up until it was time for holiday knitting I hadn't had anything seriously on my needles since I left school (hence why blogging has been so sparse as I would consider this first and foremost to be a knitting blog) and I was missing it. I've been making more time to knit every week, and now I'm officially in full on Christmas panic familiar to so many fellow knitters.

Blogging is another way I'm bringing back the creative balance. Writing has always been a big part of my life and I think blogging helps to bring me closer to where I'd like to be creatively. I love being a part of this amazing community I've discovered & I hope to one day inspire people the way my favorite bloggers inspire me every day.

Truth be told, I think the perfect balance for me will eventually having the safety net to try and make a career of making and creating rather than just working another job. However, for now I will settle for being able to finish my Christmas gifts before New Years!

I promise in the coming days I will feature what I currently have on the needles with more pictures than I've been able to include recently.


Radvent Day 1 - Challenging

What better excuse for a return to blogging than participating in the lovely Princess Lasertron's Radvent blogging challenge. And speaking of challenges, that's the topic of today's post.

This is a rather poignant return to the pen for me after the year I've had. I've faced challenge after challenge this year and I feel for the most part that I've come out on top.

Very early in the year I made the decision to leave college because I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and that I was only really in college because it's what I was supposed to do after high school. It didn't matter that I hadn't gotten into any school but my safety, or that as fickle 18-year-old I had no idea what I wanted to be, I was the smart, funny successful one and I had to go to college. I had been debating leaving for months, but I loved my school and the programs I was a part of... I couldn't imagine my life without Alternative Spring Break, or making sure my class had the most amazing senior year possible (I was class president for christ sake!) much less leaving my classes. Conservation biology was something I believe really deeply in, but in order to succeed as a scientist you have to accept that you need a Ph.D. first, and I wasn't ready to put my life on hold for that. So I drove home, told my parents I was leaving school, drove back up to school the following morning and basically packed up my room in the middle of the night without saying goodbye to anyone.

Was it the best way of doing things? Probably not, but I knew no one would really understand my reasoning. "Everyone needs a degree" they would insist, but to be quite frank I think that's a load of bullshit. Our education system is broken in ways far too complex to try to hash out in this post, but I think it's more important to figure out what you're good at and what gets you out of bed in the morning before spending thousands of dollars on a piece of paper.

So I withdrew from college and got married to my dear husband. This is probably the least challenging thing that happened this year. We'd already survived a lot of the fights & lived with his parents for nearly 2 months while waiting to buy a house so he has been my port in the storm that has been this year & for that I am eternally thankful.

Thus began my attempt to find a job to help pay my suddenly very grown up bills. I had always been interested in real estate, so it was my natural first choice and to my great surprise I heard from a brokerage the same day I applied for the job. That should have been my first warning sign that all was not as it seemed. 

I wasn't pulled into a scam, but we'll just say that no one was terribly forthcoming about how hard it is to get started and that it's insane to try and become a real estate agent so young when you have so few reliable connections. I lost a lot of money and it started to affect my marriage. I tried everything to succeed but nothing really worked, not the marketing, or the networking, or the mentoring classes. Even taking on a second job couldn't lift the burden that my supposed dream career was putting on our lives. So by the end of September I left my career to keep my life from crumbling around me & it tortured me.

I think as a 20-something I'm expected to think only in the here and now, and follow my zen, and do all that other new age crap that will turn you homeless unless you live in a sitcom-world where the bank of mom-and-dad never cuts you off. So leaving real estate was a much harder decision than it ever should have been. Of course you should leave this money pit of a job with no real prospects for the immediate future in order to save your marriage and pay the bills. That's the definition of the logical thing to do, but it took me realizing that I legitimately couldn't pay next month's bills to realize that something had to give.

So I guess the moral of this very long-winded post is that it's okay to make the decision that is better in the long run, even if it hurts now. Sure your friends won't understand, but they don't always have to. You're the only person who knows what is best for you in the end, and you're allowed to make the final call.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tree of Life Craziness

Okay imaginary readers, bear with me while I get the hang of this blogging business. You know how sometimes you feel really busy and overwhelmed and then you look back and you realize that you made it seem a lot worse than it was? That's my world right now. Except that when you're making just enough to pay the bills and keep the pantry stocked, everything feels like a crisis.

So my method of escape from this craziness is throwing myself headfirst into a ridiculous pattern... Lion Brand Yarn's Tree of Life Afghan.

Don't be fooled by the prettiness, this blanket will chew you up and spit you out.

This blanket is both my escape and the bane of my existence right now. I got this kit as a Christmas gift probably 3 years ago and I had to frog it once when I got halfway through the twinning trees pattern and screwed up so completely I couldn't even rip back to a mistake because I had no idea where it was. I started this back when we still lived with my in-laws, but the pattern is so complex that I just couldn't handle it with everything I had going on then.

I'm typically a simple pattern, knit while I have a Grey's Anatomy marathon kind of girl, so this is a definite test of my abilities. I've accepted ripping out whole rows because of a miscount and have take some serious pride in mastering the flower garden pattern. I've made it through the first repeat of the flower garden so far, and hopefully I'll have some pictures for you soon.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lessons In Patience

So yesterday was a super exciting day for my career 'cause I lucked out on a phone call and got my first client! Hooray! I feel like getting the first one out of the way shows you that you can actually do this and makes everything else so much better.

A little while ago (read: forever ago since I'm still getting the hang of blogging for real for real) I mentioned some advice about starting a real estate career. My first word of caution is that it costs a good deal of money to get started. Not only do you have to pay for your licensing classes, but you then have to pay to take the exam, and just when you think it's over you get to pay to officially get your license. All in all that alone ended up around $400 for me.

And then I start making money right? Not quite yet...

THEN the Realtor's Associations have their hands out for money. $795 for my national, state, and local associations. AND THAT'S EVERY YEAR. Crazy right? I also have to pay quarterly dues to the Multiple Listing Service I use of around $200. And I still have to take continuing education courses which run me $115.

When I start actually making money, I'm sure this all won't seem so bad and obviously it can all be written off on my taxes. However when you're 21 and trying to keep food on the table and in the kitty's bowls it hurts a little.

So my advice to you is while you are studying for your exams save, Save, SAVE. It's a great career choice and I wouldn't do it any differently, but no one told me how much it would cost to start out.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ABCs of Me

So I used to do these on facebook/myspace/livejournal/xanga (Yeah, remember when everyone had a xanga? Crazy right?) and I haven't done one in forever so this was stolen from one of my favorite knitting blogs, The Sweatshop of Love. Learn a little more about the woman behind vintage envy!

A. Age: 21

B. Bed size: Queen! Husband and I shared a twin for TWO YEARS. As much as I dig that it made us cuddle I was so thankful when we got our queen bed.

C. Chore you hate: Cat box.

D. Dogs: I want to get at least one Corgi. So cute!

E. Essential start to your day: This will make me sound so lame, but checking my email. I feel like I can't start my day without checking my email when I first get up even though there's hardly ever anything new at 5 AM.

F. Favorite color: Midnight blue.

G. Gold or silver: Sliver. Always.

H. Height: 5’7 but I slouch 'cause Husband is ever so slightly shorter than me and used to be really sensitive about it when we first started dating.

I. Instruments you play: Vocal Cords. I tried guitar but I was just no good.

J. Job title: Real Estate Salesperson.

K. Kids: Cleopatra & Minerva. They're kittie kids. No, I would not name my children like that.

L. Live: In my bed 'cause I don't have a desk right now.

M. Mom’s name: Rise. Pronounced Reesa.

N. Nicknames: Button is my favorite. You always get the best nicknames in Drum Corps, but if I told you how I got said nickname I'd have to kill you.

O. Overnight hospital stays: Never had one. *Knocks on wood*

P. Pet peeve: People who are constantly talking about how busy they are <=Truth Alyson!
My BIGGEST pet peeve ever is people who chew loudly/with their mouths open. Can. Not. Handle.

Q. Quote from a movie: "When the time comes to decide between what is easy and what is right remember Cedrick Diggory." Is it bad that I only thought of Harry Potter Quotes?

R. Right or left handed: Right.

S. Siblings: One half sister named Kay.

T. Time you wake up: Around 5 when Husband's first alarm goes off. He's the kind of person who uses like 10 alarms while I get up as soon as one goes off.

U. Underwear: Yep, I wear them.

V. Vegetables you dislike: Uh... bitter melon? It's about the only thing I refuse to eat.

W. What makes you run late: Facebook.

X. X-Rays you’ve had: Both wrists more times than I can count, thumb, chest after my car accident last year, stomach and head. Yeah, I break bones like it's my job and I used to have killer stomach/headaches which were chalked up to "stress".

Y. Yummy food you make: Baked Mac&Cheese.

Z. Zoo – favorite animal: Big Cats. Especially now that the National Zoo has Lion Cubs.

So there you have it! Random facts about me you never knew before!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Little of the Good Life

Hey readers! So I know it's been a while since the last update, but what with moving into the new house (and almost unpacking everything) and trying to get my real estate business off the ground there hasn't been to much time to breathe much less write. However, in the wee hours of Saturday morning before husband wakes up (but after the kitties are fed) I can make time for you all.

DH and I have talked and talked about living a simpler, more wholesome life especially when it comes to food and this week we finally put our money where our mouth is. He took off on Tues & Wed and we went to our local home improvement store and got our first batch of vegetables. I've read a lot about starting a kitchen garden and the number one tip I see over and over for beginners is to start with what you like. It sounds like a no-brainer but I know plenty of projects that I've gotten over ambitious about and just ended up getting frustrated with in the end. It is tempting to plant those spaghetti squash seeds even though I have less than no idea how to cook them, but I resisted. Here's what we purchase.

  • Allstar strawberries
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Tabasco peppers
  • Pickling cucumbers
  • GIANT pumpkins
We also have the starts of a window box herb garden (which I'm still mainly crossing my fingers on) and some catnip for our new kitties. The first three up there have all been potted in planters in the back deck since they were all established plants. The last two will be planted as soon as I get a real day off in the front lawn. I have a dream of having a front yard that is nothing but I giant pumpkin patch. (I live on a mountain so it seems much much nicer than mowing on a slope)

So we essentially started our garden around things we knew that we would cook and can with. I know jams aren't the simplest to make, but you have to start somewhere and with 6 plants in our strawberry planter I have room to make mistakes and have some left over. DH makes a killer homemade Vodka sauce so the Romas were a no brainer (Bye bye store bought pasta sauce!). My big adventure this year is going to be pickling my own pickles. We go through pickles like crazy since they are such a good snack and I always want them more garlic-y than commercial pickles will ever be anyway. The peppers are all for husband and the pumpkins are my guilty pleasure.

I hope this is the first step towards us inexpensively eating the things we need & love rather than just what we can afford.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Exciting Life

So just a quick update post...

  • Passed my real estate board exams (yay!)
  • Fannie Mae agreed to fix everything we asked them to (yay!!!!!!!!)
  • I have nothing on my needles right now because life is kinda too hectic (boo...)
  • But that could change today/tomorrow (yay!)
  • I kinda start my job on Monday (yay!)

Side note to anyone looking to get into the real estate business... save up at least $1k before you start taking classes because there are a lot of costs. More about that later because I have a busy Sunday ahead.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Must get better at this blogging thing...

So once again, it has been far too long since my last post! I guess when you change just about everything in your life it's tough to find time to write about it.

I'm happier than ever about my decision to leave college. This morning I finished the last of my real estate courses and will be taking the practice tests tomorrow and figure out where I am for the final test. Ugh, I know I've always been a good test taker, but I just shoved 60 credit hours worth of work into 2 weeks and there is A LOT to absorb in this real estate business. So much of it is legalese and tough to get through my scientific brain the first time, but I managed.

Something I've learned in my actual home-buying process is that houses are expensive. We got a fantastic deal on our house and I couldn't be happier about it. But then you realize that you have to put furniture in that house (all of which we're getting for free thank god) and even IKEA seems expensive. We're gonna have to live with our minimal free furniture for a while though because the only thing more expensive than new furniture is new appliances. This house doesn't have a fridge, washer, or dryer and the oven is so old it has an analog clock on that.

Let me emphasize that... The clock and timer on this stove are set by turning a knob.

Now I don't need the biggest, newest, or best by any means. Dear Husband and I are going to be energy efficient dishwashers for a while until we can afford to replace the dishwasher that I'm quite sure leaks. However, both of us love to cook and I love to bake. We will not have a stove that was probably the original fixture in the house.

Speaking of baking, I realized that I would give a tip about those heart shaped cupcake forms I used for my wedding cupcakes. I bought them at Michael's along with some of the cute little pearlized sprinkles and I'll own up to using boxed  mix in the interest of time and not having to make a cake from scratch on my wedding day. Each of the molds has what I assumed to be a fill line in it so on the first batch I filled each one up with mix up to the fill line. Though that line in the same place of each mold may well be a fill line, it is not for cake mix. All of them overflowed and none looked anything like hearts. So on my second batch I filled them to just below the fill line and got only marginally better results.

My advice to you if your goal is to have cupcakes that are recognizably heart shaped only fill them by half, if even that. I'm planning on trying this again with brownie batter since it won't raise as much and then everyone can have an edge as well as a gooey center since these molds are so deep. We shall see! Also, make sure that you prep these with your preferred method of non-stickery. Despite them being made of silicone they will stick to your cupcakes. Thankfully I only lost two in the battle, but like all things red velvet, they were still delicious!

Any tips for a new homeowner? I have open ears and and open mind & can recognize when I should heed the advice of others.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone

So in defense of the lack of writing I've done on here recently, the times they are a changin'.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel like the universe is speaking to you and telling you that you're going in the wrong direction? That happened to me early last week. I've had a lot of doubt about where I'm going in life and I was unwilling to admit it. However, once I did life got really exciting really fast.

I left college and spent a week at home. After a lot of talking and a little crying I decided to leave college at least for now until I figure out what I'm supposed to do with my life. I feel like it's really unfair to ask an 18 year old to choose a college and a major that can define who you are for the other 50 years you spend working. I've never lived any life other than being a student. How do I know what I'm really good at other than school? That's the journey I've started on and I know it will involve some trial and error, but I know I have enough of a support system to help me through it.

And speaking of which, DF and I "ran off" to get married on Valentine's Day. And by run off I mean we got married in his parent's living room by the sweetest Justice of the Peace ever and I baked everyone red velvet cupcakes in the shape of hearts. Well... they were kind of hearts anyway. More on that later.

Hopefully in less than a month Dear Husband and I (wow, that will take some getting used to) will be getting a house together up in the mountains and living happily ever after.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lazy Snow Weekend

So the snow we were slated to get on Friday and Saturday wasn't quite as apocalyptic as I had expected. In fact we only got about another inch and it didn't even really stick to the roads. But I had already done a bunch of food shopping and gotten new needles to try a mobius cast on so I was not going to let myself have a day without knitting beautiful handspun and watching hours of Grey's Anatomy.

Did you know there were only 9 episodes in Season 1?

So some thoughts about mobius. For those who haven't caught the mobius bug yet  it's essentially knitting in the round with a twist in it. Think about it as taking a strip of paper and twisting it once then taping the ends together.

If an ant walked along its length, it would be able to walk over every inch of paper without crossing an edge. Cool huh?

I've read a lot about it on Ravelry and a little internet detective work and when it's written out it just sounds like complete rubbish to me. You cast on and then knit into the row below your cast on to produce the twist somehow. I know I'm not really one who learns by reading so found this amazing video...

One word to the wise however... when they say "have a needle that's at least 40" long and longer is better" they really mean it. I attempted this with 32" circulars because that's why my lys had and I didn't even make it through a full row before throwing down my needles in frustration.

But there was still beautiful handspun to knit so I opted for a more traditional infinity scarf. Now I just hope I have enough yardage to make it wide enough to wear. Pictures to come soon of my first FO for the blog!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oh snow

So the snow on top of snow on top of more snow has closed the college for the morning and gives me a little time to actually update again! Hooray!

I'll start off by saying I hate snow. It's great and beautiful and awesome while its coming down and then it turns into that houseguest that doesn't leave for weeks. Then it's cold, and wet, and slick. (I'm prone to fall without ice, I don't need the extra slip and slide!) Then, just when you're excited to be rid of it because temperatures are rising, those 12 inches of snow have to melt. And that much snow means a lot of melting water coming out all at once...

Yeah, I'm not a fan of snow.

In brighter news it has given me the opportunity to do some good knitting! I am a huge fan of Crystal Palace Yarns. They're known for their fantastic bamboo needles, but they actually make wonderfully bright yarns in mini, plus, and chunky. I'm currently working on their Fair Isle Hat. This is my first time doing a real traditional type fair isle pattern so it's pretty exciting for me. The only downside is working with their mini yarn on size 5 needles so it takes a good 2 hours to get an inch since I'm not exactly the fastest knitter. (This could have something to do with that fact that I always knit while watching good tv) One thing that is exciting to me is that they do their crown shaping while still continuing the pattern repeat. That feels like it'll be a little bit of rubbing your stomach and patting your head, but I love a good challenge! Pictures will hopefully be posted soon.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011: The Year of the Swatch

Despite knitting for about 7 years I have yet to knit a single swatch. Thus far I've mostly done scarfs and blankets with the occasional hat thrown in recently and who does swatches for glorified rectangles?

This year I am bound and determined to stretch myself as a knitter and work my way toward mastering two things I've never dared try before: socks and sweaters. These are both four letter words to those of us who prefer to just go with the flow and don't worry about gauge and occasionally treat needle sizes as suggestions. You can play it by ear with a scarf and I've had many a scarf turn out to be what I've deemed "coat scarves" (they're short so they don't add bulk under your coat, not because that's where I ran out of yarn!) despite using the recommended yarns and needles.

This year I will overcome my swatch phobia! I will find a friendly sock/sweater pattern and knit a swatch so I end up with something I can wear rather than something that gets shoved into the back of the drawer. Then one day I'll be able to not only knit all those beautiful cardigans, pull overs and unbelievably detailed socks, but maybe even dare to dream of starting my own designs?

All in good time I suppose. Look out for posts containing sock and sweater adventure updates and possibly even some talk of Christmas projects. Christmas in January? Why not? I didn't do much Christmas knitting this year as I did quite a bit of birthday knitting so my internal knitting clock must be all messed up.

Also, I feel that there should be a clinical name for the fear of knitting swatches. I'm quite sure there are enough out there who share this fear.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Here Goes Nothing

So how does anyone ever know how to start the very first entry of a blog? Do I introduce myself? Do I try to prove how witty I am? Do I pitch to my lack of readers what my shtick is?

Well, wit is in the eye of the beholder and I have no shtick other than dry humor and a sense of adventure (unique qualities, I know), so I guess I should get to who I am.

You can call me Alexis. I am a 21 year old conservation biology student, volunteer, knitter, indie music lover, vegetarian, and so much more that I'm sure will come out sooner or later. I am human and I deal with a lot of struggles and more than my fair share of mood swings, but never doubt that I love my life.

The reason I've started this blog is because this is going to be a big year of change for me...

Just before Thanksgiving Dear Boyfriend suddenly became Dear Fiance (DF) and I couldn't have been more surprised or more excited.
Then before Christmas I got accepted into what I consider a rather prestigious internship program at Georgetown University this summer.
Then literally the day I'm set to drive back up to school DF and I found a fantastic place that we would love to call our first home together.

So expect a lot of this, that, and some of the other. I'll share things I think are awesome, talk about exciting things that happen in my life, post pictures of projects I'm working on, and anything else that comes to mind.

Let's both hope this is the start of a beautiful thing.