Liebster Award

The genius author of Non-Euclidean Sofa has very generously nominated me for a blog award that complements me on my writing. As a person who spent his early childhood years struggling with writing, went on to publish some academic articles, and has been teaching writing for twenty years, I feel honored to receive this nomination. If you haven’t read anything from Non-Euclidean Sofa you might enjoy it, especially if you’re a teacher and even more if you are an English teacher or have ever been a graduate student struggling through life as an underpaid TA.

Awards are not invented by some independent association. They are something that bloggers themselves nominate each other for to say, “Hey! I think your blog is awesome!” It’s a bit like going beyond the “like” button.

When you are nominated you should nominate others. This particular one asks me to suggest blogs for the award and ask them some questions to answer. If you are nominated and don’t wish to participate that’s just fine! Some people do not enjoy blog award activity. I’ve never done this before and I think it’s fun.

Here are my nominees:

Tanglewood Knots 

ALive in DEADTOWN

Craft and other Crazy Plans

Claire93’s Blog

Yochet Crochet

All the above blogs tell stories in unique ways and I truly enjoy reading them. I admire each of them as writers for different reasons. Tanglewood Knots is very descriptive and also shares stories about life that are interesting and often useful. ALive in DEADTOWN is a fun work of fiction that invites readers to choose the direction of the adventure. Craft and Other Crazy Plans is enjoyable for me to read because it brings me into contact with a style of written English that I teach as a second language but that I myself never use because I’m American. On Claire93’s Blog I find all the word play and use of idioms that I love. Yochet Crochet has so many inspirational, well-written stories of crafting, learning, and teaching with a personal touch.

Here are my questions for my nominees:

  1. What do you find most frustrating about writing?
  2. What, for you, is the best thing about writing?
  3. Where is your favorite place to write?
  4. Do you have a favorite proverb? What is it and why do you like it so much?
  5. Which, for you, is the best word in the English language?
  6. Is there an author or group of authors that inspire you?
  7. What’s the best thing you ever wrote?
  8. Do you have a favorite pen? Describe it if you do.
  9. If you could change a book’s ending, how would you rewrite it?
  10. If you had more time to study, what language would you want to learn?
  11. What is your favorite symbol on your computer’s keyboard?

And now it’s time for me to answer the questions I was asked. Here it goes:

Why do you write?

I write because I enjoy it. It’s my favorite way to communicate. This has not always been true. When I was a student all the way to the end of my undergraduate program I had to write because teachers and professors demanded this. After, I became a graduate student and had to write if I wanted to continue with my career in academia. As a professor I had to write if I wanted tenure. Now that’s all behind me and writing has never been more enjoyable. I can write about anything I want, when I want, and how I want. Writing is now happiness whereas before it was a punishment.

Is there anything in your life that fills the same need as writing?

I suppose speaking allows me to communicate and socialize with other people. Writing, though, is different for me because it’s more an art form and less a practical method of conveying messages to others. It allows me to think carefully so that I am perfectly clear and hopefully someone will enjoy reading what I’ve composed. Speaking, of course, can be very creative and in history we can find many examples of women and men who were famous for their speeches. Good orators, however, often write what they are going to say and edit the text. Then, they memorize it. Oddly, speaking and writing are closely connected when it comes to formal discourse.

Did you always want to write, or were you more like me and wanted to be the president of the lost city of Atlantis?

No. When I was a child I wanted to be an astronaut. I had big plans. I was going to visit other planets and discover new life forms that didn’t need water or oxygen to survive. In my ship I was going to fly faster than the speed of light and shoot up asteroids. In a year’s time I was going to make lots of money from space exploration. I have no idea why I thought I’d become rich from it but kids think randomly, sometimes.

What’s something you want to write about but haven’t yet for some reason?

I actually want to write about the Truth of Everything. This would take too long and it would be a multi-volume work. I wish to do this because I don’t like lies and I get very frustrated with people who tell falsehoods or live their lives deceiving others or make pretend they are something they are not. Liars have always found ways to waste my time but fortunately I have figured them out and got far enough away from them. My large project on this subject would begin with a chapter called “Your Facebook Friend Actually Regrets Having a Family.” You know, because my Newsfeed gets jammed up with statuses from the same person who is always gushing over her kids. I often imagine this individual, just after pressing the “post” button, shouting thousands of expletives at her “angelic and amazing” children who, after emptying all the cleaning products into the toilet, have decided to play a game of living room basketball. All the while she was distracted for hours by her social media accounts, mostly fawning over her own selfies. The next chapter would have the title “Let’s Do Coffee Sometime / Let’s Not and Say we Did.” Yes, you understand me perfectly clearly, this is a pet peeve of mine. If I wish to do coffee with somebody I just say, “Hey, are you free tomorrow for coffee?” If they say no, that’s fine. If they say yes, well, now we’ve got a plan. So, I get truly irritated with people who say goodbye and say, “Let’s do coffee sometime!” A favorite hobby of mine is to immediately reply with, “How about tomorrow?” 80% of the time I see the bright, fake smile turn to a frown. And then the typical response: “Er, uh, no, I can’t tomorrow. I’ll send you a message!” I guess you could say that I enjoy trolling liars and fake people in real life rather than online.

What is your favorite punctuation mark?

My absolutely favorite punctuation mark is the hyphen. I love it because it is mysterious and different countries’ versions of standard written English approach the hyphen in divergent, yet equally confusing ways. Standard British English requires hyphens for some compound words for no apparent reason, even though there’s a rule for it. Standard American English usually asks us to hyphenate when we use two words together as an adjective that represents a single idea. Isn’t that difficult to wrap your head around? Adjectives are not ideas. Nouns are ideas. If we have two words that normally do not combine as a compound word how are they suddenly going to become a single idea? Hyphens are grammar anarchy at its finest. They are the best anomaly in punctuation.

What is something you cannot stand?

Telemarketing. Need I say more?

What is something you can stand, but you’d really rather not deal with it.

I can tolerate salespeople in a shop or department store but it’s a challenge for me to speak nicely with them if they try to use their pitch on me. So, I prefer not dealing with them. When I do, I have to force myself to smile because, for whatever reason, if I smile it is easier for me to speak politely. You see, when I go shopping, I like to have the freedom to look around and see all the wonderful things. Then, I enjoy choosing the items I wish to buy and paying for them. When I’ve got someone following me around the store asking me questions and trying to see if they can convince me to buy something I don’t want to buy I get very irritated. I understand their job is to try to make me discover that I need something that I didn’t know I lacked and that they are just doing what they’re paid to do. The problem is that it’s absolutely pointless to try that on me. I know how to make up my own mind and when it’s made, that’s the end of it. I’m also aware of what I like and before I leave the house I decide what I’m shopping for. Shopping for me is like being on a mission. The salespeople just unnecessarily interrupt the task.

If you could burn any single building to the ground, what building would it be?

Trump Tower.

When was the last time you laughed so hard you made a noise you’re ashamed of?

That has never happened to me. If I laugh really hard sometimes I make a soft snorting sound, but I don’t feel ashamed at all. We must take into account that it’s hard to embarrass me. I think the last time I was embarrassed was in 1987 and I can’t remember why. I probably got in trouble for something at school.

What would it take for you to steal a car?

A zombie apocalypse. According to the movies and TV shows, when there are zombies it is necessary to steal cars and drive them until they run out of gas or are totaled. Before the zombies eat you it’s possible to steal as many as twenty cars. I have a major problem that I must overcome before the zombie apocalypse, though. I don’t know how to hot wire a car or pick locks.

If you had a spear, a potted plant, and an empty journal, what would you do with them to impress a date?

I would magically transform them into spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and salad. The road to the heart begins with my good Italian cooking.

WIP knockout

I’ve managed to transform a couple of WIPs into FOs, which means I feel less overwhelmed because I have fewer things in progress. The flavor of the week, that had been abandoned temporarily, is the pineapple shawl for my sister.

pineappleaug2

This time I hung it off a hanger, which is promising. It means that it’s big enough to drape over something. The yarn ball only has three color repeats left. This is good news, because it means I’m almost done. It is also slightly disappointing, because I was thinking of borders, but I don’t I think I’ll have enough yarn for one. This is only slightly disappointing because I envisioned a border just to have fun crocheting it. The shawl will look just as wonderful without it.

I have resisted the temptation to start any new projects (Go me! Fighting the good fight!). I am not even working on my usual pair of socks that I always have going. This means that the WIP stats are going down. All my projects are now crochet and cross stitch. I have no knitting in progress. That’s fine. I’m not going to start anything new until I finish my cross stitch pumpkin, the pineapple shawl, and my crochet sweater. The Celtic Wheel cushion (cross stitch) and two crochet afghans can continue with their WIP status for a while longer. However, I plan to work diligently on my hexagon afghan before starting anything new. The goal is to bore myself with the afghan until I can’t take it anymore and then start a new project or maybe I’ll feel like working on the Celtic Wheel cushion. Hope certainly floats, doesn’t it?

Almost almost finished

It’s amazing what happens when the world leaves you alone so you can really get going on some knitting.

This morning I talked about my mosaic project. I didn’t know what it would become. After saying “I’m not cooking” and ordering a pizza, everything just took care of itself.

First of all, the knitting is done. Second, before deciding firmly on what the mosaic rectangle would become, I took a peak in my fabric stash to see what I had. You see, if I didn’t have anything in my fabric stash, I might have speedily concluded that the mosaic rectangle would become a table runner. However, I found the perfect fabric to line it and create pockets. Behold my theoretical roll-up tool organizer:

mosaicandfabric

It’s night so I’ve had to use some artificial light, but I think you can still appreciate all the difference having the right fabric has made in my decision. The dark blue fabric will definitely go around the outside to frame the mosaic pattern. From here, I’m not sure. I might use the light blue patterned fabric as the inside liner and the dark blue for pockets. On the other hand, maybe I’d prefer to do the reverse. I feel like the piece needs more dark blue. This is why I wasn’t thrilled with the colors in my knitting. The white yarn is too bright and doesn’t contrast enough with the light blue yarn. Anyway, the fabric will make all the difference.

Tomorrow I shall spend some time cutting and ironing fabric. Then, to the sewing machine!

 

Not quite finished

Today I only had to teach one class in the morning so now I am free to do whatever I want. I decided this morning to work on my mosaic knitting rectangle. I think with a couple more pattern repeats this will be taking a direct flight to done city.

mosaic18_2

I’m still not 100% certain about what I want to do with this, but I’m considering either using it as a table runner or turning it into a rolled up storage case for my most often used tools. I’m not really happy with the colors, though, so I’m leaning towards table runner a little more. On the other hand, I was thinking that in the future I could knit another roll up in better colors with a different mosaic design and switch them out. Two is better than one, I suppose. Another idea would be to just give this to someone who wants it and likes the colors for a roll up storage case.

I have finished two more pumpkins although the pumpkin project itself isn’t really done. I think they’re pretty cool.

I’m so glad it’s the weekend!

Text-only Wednesday

No pics today. Nope. Just some text. I want you to feel nostalgic for the days of yore when you were trying to beat The Legend of Zelda and you went over to the GameFAQs site to read the walk through with its ASCII terminal type and maps “drawn” with symbols. OK, maybe you never did that. I did, though.

What made me think of this? Because way back in 2002 I decided to get out the old Nintendo and follow the walk through to beat Zelda, finally. 17 years later I did it again! That’s how I spent my weekend. No, I did not remember all the things I had to do to win the game, so once again I relied on good old Colin Moriarty’s nerdy, ASCII instructions. By the way, Colin, thank you again.

Wait a minute, this is a knitting and crochet (and sometimes cross stitch and sewing) blog. Totally off-topic. I’m supposed to talk about crafty things. OK. Here it goes:

  1. Socks knit with Cascade Heritage Prints yarn: I turned the heel on the second sock.
  2. My sister’s pineapple shawl: languishing in the UFO bin.
  3. Cross stitch pumpkins for Halloween: I’ve got three done and I’m working on a fourth one. I wanted to photograph them but I worked all day and now it’s night time so, nope, no picky-picky. Another time. I’ll be talking about these things for a while, anyway, because cross stitching them entirely is just the first volume of the saga. Once they’re cross stitched I’ve got to decide how I want to sew them together. I also “need” to buy fabric to accent them. I really “need” Halloween-themed fabric.
  4. Cross stitch “Celtic Wheel” throw pillow (or cushion, take your pick): I’ve managed to get some little details done. I’m still in quarter 1 of the chart. I might overstay my welcome in this area given that the details are time-consuming. Yesterday, with about three hours, I got the little thingies that might be rocks or might be snails (not sure what they are supposed to be) stitched up partially. If only Joan Elliott cared about my blog. I follow hers. BTW, Ms. Elliott, if you’re reading this, what are those things supposed to be? Are they magical rocks or magical snails? And please excuse my ignorance. Sometimes I see them as snails and sometimes as rocks, because the thingies that sit in the middle of the piece don’t have antennae, but then the ones that are on the border framing the whole piece seem to have antennae. I debate with myself often if they are snails hiding in their shells or magical Celtic rocks with mystical time travel powers.
  5. Top-down crochet “Telegraph” sweater: languishing in the UFO bin with its cousin, the pineapple shawl.
  6. Crochet cotton tablecloth: languishing yet perched on the back of my sofa, exposed to the elements but certainly free to finish itself if it feels motivated. I tell it often, “feel free to finish yourself” but so far it isn’t getting my drift.
  7. Tunisian crochet afghan: on month 4 of being ignored, yet pleased to be resting in the afghan cubby. It often shouts at the projects in the UFO bin that it’s in the VIP furniture.
  8. Hexagon afghan: Resting peacefully next to its brother, Tunisian crochet afghan, telling him to shut up and leave the non-VIPs alone. It’s not their fault they’re wool and need a line of protection against pests, after all. I’ve even heard Mr. Hexagon say to Mr. Tunisian, “don’t get so full of yourself, we’re cheap acrylic, after all!”
  9. Socks that are finished yet not washed or blocked yet: Those three pairs are in the UFO bin, shouting at Cascade Heritage Prints to get done already, so that maybe they can all have a bath together.
  10. Never-before-mentioned mosaic knitting thingy: I made some progress on it. I still have no idea why I’m knitting it and what it will be. It’s blue and white and a big rectangle. I cast it on some months ago and forgot I had started it. I found it by accident yesterday and knit some on it this week just for fun.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for your attention. Since you are kind enough to stay, I pose the question to you: What the hell would you do with all these WIPs? It’s too much. Some days I feel like putting white dresses on them all, parading them through the town, and leading them to the mountain to sacrifice them to the volcano.

So far the only idea that has occurred to me is that I will finish my socks and then just work my way through all the other projects until they are done before I ever, ever, ever start something new. Obviously the afghans have a low priority given that it’s July and it’s hotter than seven shades. However, the shawl is manageable. I think I’ll try to finish the shawl and the table cloth next while using cross stitch and the mosaic knitting whatever-it-is to take a break from the shawl, table cloth, and cross stitch. I don’t like this idea much because I WON’T HAVE A PAIR OF SOCKS GOING. THE AGONY. But that’s life when you have the attention span of a fish that knows how to knit, crochet, and make other things.

Book Review Break

I know I haven’t churned out a book review in a while. It’s because I got burned out on writing them. I’m sure in the future, maybe after summer, I’ll get back in the groove. Until then, I have created a new page you can surf to from my home page. Click on the button “Book Reviews” and you’ll see a list of all the books I’ve reviewed with links to their corresponding blog posts. I organized it all in alphabetical order by title and indicated whether the text is for knitting, crochet, or both. I do not receive books from publishers to review. Also, authors do not send me requests. I review whatever I feel like talking about on here.

Some friends of mine – including my good buddies from my knitting and crochet club – have asked me how and why I got so many books and patterns. In case you’re curious, here’s my answer:

First off, I’m a book enthusiast, a trained literary critic, and I like to have patterns just to have them. It’s sort of like being a coin or rock collector. I just like to have plenty of literature and I like to have special editions of my favorites. There’s a practical reason, too, which is that I find a lot of inspiration in patterns. When I see something I like, I buy it, after some thought.

Another method of acquiring so many is that people have given them to me. Friends and relatives alike know what my vices are. Also, my sister made a habit of getting me Amazon gift cards for Christmas and my birthday and I’ve been able to buy a lot of Kindle versions of pattern collections and other types of crafty things. When the gift cards were flowing I got a whole ton of goodies.

Over the years I’ve also had magazine subscriptions. I’ve recently canceled all of them, though, because I started to feel like I was seeing a lot of the same every month.

Additionally, the way my parents raised me has a lot to do with it. My mother and father encouraged me to read and take interest in my own education. When I was a little boy my mom took me to the library once a week so I could borrow books. I remember always getting excited about the regular library excursions. If I saw something in a book shop I liked and it wasn’t available in our local library my parents had no qualms about buying it for me, even though sometimes it meant waiting for when there was extra money to spend. Books and food were considered worthwhile expenses and there was no established limit on them. If I was hungry they fed me. If I wanted to read they strove to keep me interested. My dad also instilled in me the importance of taking care of my things, making sure they were kept organized and out of harm’s way. This means he also taught me not to write in my books. He turned me into a collector. So, in my adult life my library is something special to me and I don’t ever feel guilty about buying stuff to add to it. They’re educational so they are a good investment. Of course, we mustn’t exaggerate. I don’t spend all my money on texts and I’m certainly careful not to go overboard.

Lastly, all of this encouragement I got in my childhood turned me into a literature and language specialist. In high school my favorite class was English and I got really excited about all the literature we read in those classes, from Homer to William Faulkner. In college I studied Spanish and Anthropology and I went on to get a PhD in Hispanic Literature. My undergraduate double interest was due to my inner conflict about whether I wanted to study mythology, archeology, Spanish American colonial history and literature, or Spanish Peninsular literature. So, obviously, books are very much the center of my entire life, from when I was a toddler to middle age! I have special treasures in my library that are not crafty at all. For example, my very old Obras completas de Miguel de Cervantes (Cervantes’ complete works), my facsimile edition of the first publication of Don Quixote, my Complete Works of Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, respectively, and many more.

All of these factors have shaped me into the pattern and book collector I am today. I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading and getting extreme pleasure from discovering a new book, whether it be a literary work or a craft-oriented one.

Getting ready for Halloween

As many of you know, a lot of people tramp through my house because I tutor them in English in my living room. Well, after two years, I’m tired of looking at this leisurely work space. I need to add new colors and patterns to perk it up.

I’ve decided that it would be entertaining for the students to see festive decorations during particular key seasons for Americans: Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December, etc. So, I’m getting ready for Halloween by planning and creating little things to put out here and there in the living room. I’m pretty sure I’ll knit and crochet some things: how about some knit throw pillows with Halloween-colored stripes and some amigurumi bats? I’ve also decided to cross stitch some things to hang up.

This week I’ve started cross stitching some pumpkins I found in Just Cross Stitch. There are six different ones. I haven’t decided if I want to stitch all of them because I might like to mix them with other Halloween-themed items. I’ve finished one pumpkin and started another one. Here’s the one I finished this morning:

pumpkin

I like them because they aren’t the typical Jack-o-lantern, although I plan to stitch up one of those, too. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?