Week 10: Super Giant Cowl

Lately I have been making a lot of things for others (joyfully, because there is a limit to how many knitted/crocheted things one can make for oneself), and since I didn’t have any gifts lined up, I decided it was time to make something for myself. And I also really wanted to go back to knitting for a while, since I have been back on the crochet bandwagon in the past few months. I wear the hell out of my two (store bought) infinity scarves/cowls, just because of how nicely they drape, and found this pattern on ravelry and figured it was time to actually make one for myself. Plus, this one is chunky and oversized, which is exactly what I was looking for.

handmade52.10 super giant cowl

I suppose I should tell my perfectionist side to ease down a bit, considering the fact that this is still only the 5th thing I have ever knitted, but… you know how it goes. I think one of my biggest frustrations so far with knitting (as opposed to crochet) is that I really don’t know how to fix my mistakes, or even figure out what the mistake was. The first time I cast on, I twisted the stitches when I joined in the round, which would have made a nice purposeful mobius-ish twist, but was really not my intention for this cowl. So I started over. And then somewhere along the way (four skeins in), I dropped a stitch or skipped a stitch, because there was a mysterious button-type hole, and then later I mixed up my knits and purls and I just don’t know what happened, but I don’t like how it looks. And more than anything, I was so jazzed for knitting near perfect seed stitch for, like, 12 inches, and THEN making mistakes and making it look worse by trying to fix it.

mini blanket, or, giant cowl

Either way, I ADORE seed stitch, and bulky yarn, and will probably make another one of these in another color. Or maybe I’ll crochet a bulky cowl, just for variety. (I know my sister wants one of these already, so regardless, I’ll be making it again!)

#11: Get New Glasses

I have had my current glasses since February 2007, almost exactly four years now. And at this point, I wear them almost every day, just because I have never been able to see as well with contacts as I do with glasses. I added this to my 30 Before 30 list mostly because I’ve had these glasses for a while now, and I’m a little bored with them.


That being said, I still really love them, and I get compliments all the time. (Even the eye doctor told me not to get new frames.)

So I came up with a master plan: to update my prescription in my current glasses, but also buy a new pair of fun, crazier glasses. I have wanted a “fun” pair of glasses ever since my grandmother’s giant red 80s Sally Jesse Raphael ones, but they aren’t really the most practical for every day. So the perfect solution? To have normal, respectable black frames, AND a pair of crazy shaped or colored ones. (Ideally, like whoorl’s pink ones, because seriously.)

So this past Friday, my mom and I went to the optician, where I swear I tried on every damn pair they had in stock. I was really disappointed, though, because the colored frames they had? Were dark or subtle enough to look brown or black or, you know, subtle, from far away. And that really wasn’t what I was imagining. The optician seemed to get what I was going for, and started to have a lot of fun trying to find the funnest pairs he had…. and struck gold by taking a pair of sunglasses, removing the tinted lenses, and letting me try them on.




They’re half light tortoise and half pink, and they’re kind of perfect. (Although I have to admit, they’re a little more subtle, and less wacky, than I remember.) And they’re different enough from my black frames that I can justify having two pairs. The optician actually had these in a darker brown with purple, but the darkness was too close to my black ones, and he offered to order the fuschia and lime green ones for me to test out… but even I have limits.


Now if only I could get used to my new prescription (which has gotten worse in the four years since I’ve gotten it updated)…

#7: Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame

It is hard to know where to start with this story, so bear with me if it gets a little long. I like baseball, and one of the things I love about Dan is that he likes baseball as much (okay, probably a little bit more, when it comes to the history of it) as I do. Even though our teams are not the same, it’s the crazy love of the game that we share. And that’s really something. So last summer, we planned to drive up to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame during our Birthday Week Extravaganza. We didn’t realize at first how much going in peak season would impact the cost and convenience of the trip, so we decided then that we’d just have to wait and go during the off season.

I added it to my 30 before 30 list because I was secretly afraid that if we didn’t make this trip a priority, it would easily fall by the wayside and years would pass and we’d still be wistfully saying, “We should really visit Cooperstown.” I went to Cooperstown to see the Hall of Fame game in 1992 when Tom Seaver was inducted, but I never visited the museum, and despite being a member of a pretty baseball-oriented family (of Yankee fans, AHEM), Dan had never been at all.

I can’t remember when we decided to just go, but we picked Presidents Day weekend and I’m writing this a few hours after getting home. We knew upstate New York wouldn’t be a super popular destination in the middle of winter, and let’s face it, only crazy baseball people are thinking about baseball in late February. And while there were some drawbacks to our winter visit, overall I’d do it this way again in a heartbeat.

We left New Jersey in the late morning on Friday, and the trip took a little less than five hours. We stayed at the Inn at Cooperstown, and honestly? Staying at a Bed and Breakfast seemed so… adult to me. But the Inn is within walking distance of the museum, and that was a big priority for us. We knew going in that we’d need at least a full day at the museum, and we didn’t want to have to commute on our weekend away. The Inn was really beautiful, the people were friendly, and the whole experience was just completely charming. And yes, kind of grown-up-ish. Right down to the no tv in the rooms. And the key to the outside door, since they lock everything up at 10:30 each night.

room #26

adorable details

even the radiator was adorable

I really loved the keys for some reason

the Inn at Cooperstown

A few friends told us to do everything we could to go out to Brewery Ommegang during our visit, so we drove out after we got settled on Friday afternoon. It seemed a little deserted, and for good reason, because one of the staff members told us that the brewery was, in fact, closed. Not just Friday, but all weekend. And that was a complete and total bummer. We drove back to the Inn and hung around for a while reading (and/or napping, depending on who we’re talking about here) before taking a walk into the village proper to find somewhere to eat. The downtown area is really only two blocks, and it was both completely charming and oddly deserted. You could cross the street without really looking, half of the stores and restaurants had hand-written signs that said “closed for season” and it was really a very eerie feeling. It honestly felt a bit like walking through an empty movie set. (It was, however, really insanely fun to see the baseball-related signs in every store. Even the CVS had a giant sign assuring us that baseball fans were welcome.) We found a small pub-type place and had a few beers (Dan had one of the Ommegang beers, and I had one from another Cooperstown brewery, which were both pretty fantastic) which was a relief after both the long drive and the disappointing brewery trip. We stopped at a liquor store on the walk back, hoping to pick up a six pack to enjoy back at the Inn, but alas, the liquor store? Only sold wine and liquor. (I am still having trouble getting my head around that notion.) So that’s how Dan and I came to spend our Friday evening drinking wine, eating cookies, and playing board games in the Inn’s common room. (I kicked his ass twice in Battleship, furrowed my brow through an attempt to teach me how to play chess, and then got beat pretty solidly in Parcheesi.)

On Saturday we woke up to a pleasant postcard view… of snow. And howling winds. My insistence on wearing Converse all the damn time has never felt so impractical. We had an insanely tasty breakfast at the Inn (I don’t know why I was so enchanted by the color-coordinated plates, mugs, and placemats, and B&B style family breakfast tables, but there it was. I loved it.) and hurried through the wind and snow down to the museum. (Don’t tell Dan I’m telling you this, Internet, but when we were walking around on Friday night, he deliberately decided on a restaurant we saw early on, so that we wouldn’t see the Hall of Fame until our Hall of Fame Day on Saturday. And I think that’s AMAZING.) As picturesque as the snow was, it was just way too damn cold to even appreciate how pretty it was, it was the keep your head down to keep your face from getting frostbite kind of snow, and it was a relief to just get inside.

And then we were there! And we had baseball-shaped stamps on our hands and Tom Seaver souvenir tickets and a map and it was just so great. They advise visitors to start on the second floor, and we started with the Cooperstown history and a multimedia presentation about baseball and its history and how it makes you feel the same as the kids playing in the fields and stuff. And it had me getting a little sniffly until we were supposed to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame collectively right before doing the freaking wave. (But it was still great.)

there's a funny story about those hand stamps

We spent a looooong time walking through the second floor, which is organized chronologically and includes artifacts from each important moment going back to the late 1800s. Dan’s favorite part all day was the old-timey baseball stuff, and it’s hard to disagree with him. Something about baseball’s beginnings and seeing the old catchers mitts and ticket stubs, seeing the maps and photos from these trips around the world taken in the very early 20th century, it’s just so … I don’t know. I’m clearly running out of adjectives, but it was really something to see it all. I had a hard time getting over all of the trophies and plaques given to the players by all manners of organizations from schools to towns… the bats artfully carved into canes, commemorative pins and fruit bowls… silver season passes to early games. Since I’m a student of history and baseball, the artifacts that have been preserved for more than a hundred years are just so wonderful to see. I loved especially seeing the old uniforms and warm up sweaters (real wool sweaters) and naturally all of the most famous players along the way (Ruth and Gehrig and Paige and on and on). There were more people there than I expected, but few enough that you could read every description of every artifact in each case if you really wanted to.

old timey gear

insane trophies

1910s and 20s Yankees

the Babe Ruth crown

ted williams' batting average analysis

Seeing it myself was pretty great, and seeing Dan appreciating and marveling over the history of it was really special, too. I didn’t really have a huge need to go to the Hall of Fame until recently, because I knew that I had to get to a certain place, fan-wise, student-of-the-game-wise, before visiting the Hall would really mean as much to me as it should. And we hit that sweet spot, and I suppose this is getting boring for you non-baseball fans out there by now, but just… you know. Or you can imagine.

By the time we got to the 1960s or so, it got a bit more interesting (sort of… the oldest stuff was really the best) just because you’re so much more familiar with what you’re looking at, with the names attached to each exhibit. We saw a full diagram of the expansions of the 60s and 70s, then more Yankees stuff, a few Mets things here and there, the exhibits on women in baseball and the Latin influence on the game… We got through the entire second floor, ending with the modern day exhibits (which frankly really weren’t very impressive to me) right as it got to be about lunchtime. I was starting to feel super bleary-eyed at this point, and my feet hurt in my damn Converse and it was time for a break. How we stumbled through that wind (it was so windy and cold that it almost made me breathless) and into the pizza place, I’m really not sure. But that white pizza? Tasted like heaven.

tom terrific, of course

modern-day baseball


the Yankees locker

I was afraid that we’d never, ever get through the whole museum in one day, knowing that we had two more floors to cover before the museum closed at 5pm. We went up to the third floor after lunch, and saw a really interesting exhibit about ballparks (although it hasn’t been updated to include the demolition of the first Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium), which I really enjoyed. I love that aspect of the game, and those early ballparks? Woah. It’s hard to imagine structures like that. There was a special exhibit about Hank Aaron’s legacy, a room full of AP Yankee photos (which, of course, Dan was super into), and an exhibit about the postseason which included copies of each World Series ring since the first one. I could have stayed and pondered the Records Room for quite some time. Seeing the records that Dan is constantly quoting to me written out, and comparing some of the unattainable ones with the active players’ status on the list? Really amazing, especially when you think about how much the game has changed since some of these records were first broken. The wall of game balls from the no hitters was especially impressive. We also got to sit and watch Who’s on First, which is still so damn funny.

no hitters


Don Larsen's perfect game

in the Yankees in the media room

And then it was time to head down to the Plaque Gallery. The gallery and rotunda have a sacred feel, you’re led naturally to the first and most recent classes at the back of the hall. I have to be honest here and say that this was not my most favorite part of the museum. I have to acknowledge, of course, that knowing all of the Hall of Fame inductees and their accomplishments is one of the most interesting aspects of the game… but half of the names are ones I’m not familiar with, and it would be hard to read every single plaque in there. But we found the noteworthy ones, and being there in that space was the perfect cap to the day. It sort of sealed in the history and impact of the experience, somehow, although I’m sure that sounds weird.

the Plaque Gallery

the first class

Casey Stengel's retired number, from Shea

We were exhausted at this point, truly exhausted. We spun through the gift shop briefly and then trudged back to the Inn to put our aching feet up and talk like little kids about how much fun we had, and how we finally saw the Hall of Fame, and to debate over records and statistics and how cool it was to spend the day among other baseball fans, fans who were excitedly pointing out records and bits of history just like we were.

We read and dozed for a while, and then braced ourselves to go back out for dinner. I had expected that we’d be able to get dressed up and go out for a nice dinner, but with the weather and so many of the restaurants being closed, that just didn’t happen. We were just so disappointed with the food options, settling for another mediocre meal of chicken fingers and spaghetti on Saturday night, before settling in at Friday night’s bar for quite a few beers. (We both had Ommegang’s Rare Vos and couldn’t get enough.) And then? We crashed.

beers at the end of a baseball-filled day

at the bar

it's 9:20pm on a Saturday

On Sunday we expected to walk around town so I could get some non-snowing photos of the Hall and other landmarks, while stopping in a few more souvenir shops along the way. We didn’t bank on the few stores being closed because it was Sunday, or the 11 degree temperatures that had our poor toes frozen and hurting. So we cut our trip shorter than we expected and came home.

Cooperstown, midwinter

my obsession with converse has never felt so silly

The National Baseball Hall of Fame

But overall? This trip was amazing. It was exactly the escape we both needed, it was relaxing, it was interesting, the Hall of Fame was as awesome as we both knew it would be. It goes without saying – if you’re a baseball fan, you need to get yourself there. Just don’t go in July. There were a few disappointments along the way, but the bottom line? These two baseball fans spent a weekend steeped in love for the game, and it doesn’t get very much better than that, if you ask me.

Week Five: Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

I asked for a crock pot cookbook for Christmas this year, thinking that an actual book would help me stay motivated and organized in my efforts to complete #10 on my 30 Before 30 list. I have a tendency to bookmark random recipes on blogs or from friends’ links, and it often means that I’m left without anything very appealing when I actually decide to cook. Or, I’m left with endless recipes for things containing black beans, sweet potatoes, or both.


I am going through a pretty intense sweet potato phase right now, and the obsession seems to be mostly confined to baking the sweet potatoes and topping them with a little butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Sweet potatoes are so good that they really don’t need much embellishment, and the few times that I have tried recipes with sweet potatoes and a bunch of other crap, I’ve been disappointed.

handmade52.5 chicken and sweet potato stew

This stew is very, very, VERY simple – it basically contains carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and chicken. It is proof of either my dedication to this Handmade52 project or my interest in this particular recipe that I actually bought, cleaned, and cut chicken breasts. I am really intimidated by raw meat, and this was actually the very first time that I bought and cooked chicken on my own. In spite of my poor parents’ endless lessons on cleaning and cooking chicken in any number of ways, I am both grossed out texturally and squicked by the whole “it’s raw chicken be carefullllll” thing. But I suffered through it, and maybe it wasn’t as bad as I feared. (I’m not going to start cooking it often, but at least I’ve, you know, done it.)

serious yum

The main problem with this recipe is that it sort of doesn’t fit into my easy-quick-set it up before work crock pot expectations. There’s a lot of peeling and cubing of the ingredients. It took me about a half an hour to get this all ready, and adding a half hour to my morning routine to cut up raw chicken is not really in the cards. So I saved this for a day off, and that meant being able to cook it on high rather than all damn day. It started smelling really tasty just as I sat down around 5pm to get through the end of the book I’ve been reading this week, and it was hard to wait the remaining two hours to eat. The flavor is hard to describe, and not one that I’ve tasted before. Something about the combination of spices made this much tastier than I expected. Maybe it was the celery seeds? Either way, I really enjoyed this, and am looking forward to having it again!

it's a good thing this was tasty!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew
From Crock-Pot Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes
Makes 6 servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (mine were gigantic)
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (I used a whole hell of a lot of baby carrots)
1 can (28 ounces) whole stewed tomatoes, undrained (I might just used diced next time)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Combine chicken, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes with juice, salt, paprika, celery seeds, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and broth in the slow cooker. Cover, cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. To serve, sprinkle with basil.

#10: Cook something in my newly inherited crock pot

It’s no secret that I’ve been meaning to continue learning how to cook new things this year. This extends to using the crock pot that I inherited from my grandmother’s stash. And since half of my life lately seems to be motivated by finishing Scavenger Hunt 101, knocking #63 (a kitchen appliance) off while I’m accomplishing a 30 before 30 goal at the same time? Obvious.


After a brief poll on twitter, I decided to go with Marianne’s Slow Cooked Black Bean Soup, because my black bean-obsessed phase doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. I used leftover gift cards to buy a cheap immersion blender, and dusted Ghami’s crock pot off. Marianne cooked her soup in a much larger crock pot than the one I have, so I cut the recipe in half.


Things worked out so that my sister was over to enjoy this easy dinner with me, and let me tell you – this was SO tasty, and coming home to a good-smelling apartment that contained dinner that was ALREADY COOKED? Felt awfully luxurious. The soup ended up on the spicier side, which would probably be good for most people, but for my weakling’s palate, one habanero seemed just a touch too spicy. (I forget that when I use one in chili, the recipe itself is much bigger so the impact is smaller. And actually, I just wrote “one hot pepper” on my grocery list, so didn’t remember to try to look for the chipotles that Marianne used.)

black bean soup

So I learned not only that the crock pot is as great as it seems like it would be, but also that non-canned beans aren’t nearly as much of a hassle as I had originally assumed. And! I didn’t even splatter my entire kitchen with black beans while using the immersion blender. So I’d call that a pretty damn successful dinner.

The Power of the Internet

So a pretty awesome thing happened this week, awesome enough that I have to tell you about it. I have been looking forward to the fall installment of ‘Roid Week, now that I have a polaroid camera of my own, and I’ve (sort of) gotten past my fear of actually using it. Polaroid week only comes around twice a year, and after following along, I was really jazzed about getting to participate.

Except … my un-airconditioned apartment pretty much ruined my Silver Shade film from the Impossible Project. Or, the combined powers of my fear of doing the wrong thing and the extreme sensitivity to temperature of the film itself combined to ruin the film. But I didn’t find this out until the start of this week, when I took a few pictures and they turned out like this:

hot apartment + silver shade = ruined film

And while the swirls are actually really interesting in their own right, I was bummed. And I said so on twitter, just because I was so disappointed. I was shocked when I got a reply from the Impossible Project itself, telling me to call their store in NYC, because they could help me out. For real?

ten, slightly blurry

Yes, for real. I talked to Anne, who was super nice, and offered to send me a new pack, and quickly, in the hopes that I could still participate in Polaroid Week after all. This is the kind of amazing (completely unexpected) customer service that you hear about, but don’t really ever experience. I mean, I sort of ruined the film by my own stupidity (or lack of knowledge, perhaps…) so getting another chance was kind of the last thing I expected. I came home to a box from the Impossible Project Space in NYC last night, and was shocked again, because it contained not one but two packs! (They duplicated my original order, which was for two packs, and I’m sooo happy, because I can’t imagine my second pack escaped the swirly chemical fate of the first one.)

e E, just barely

So I just wanted to say thank you HUGELY to Anne and the Impossible Project and their general awesomeness. I mean, they were awesome before.. but it just goes to show how the internet can be a pretty wonderful place.

#24: Knit Something

Learning how to knit was on my 28 to do list, and I very nearly didn’t get it done in time for my birthday. But a last-minute crafty gathering with Jodi and Minty in New York City four days before my birthday meant that I learned how to knit before my birthday deadline after all. And I kind of thought that after so many years of crocheting, I’d take to knitting instantly… but I felt so completely awkward trying to cast on and learn to knit and purl. I figured it out eventually, thanks to Minty’s patience (and getting to use the less cumbersome circular needles she had with her). Even though finishing that granny square blanket earlier in the summer has me completely jazzed about crocheting, I wanted to make sure to knit something, and soon, so as not to forget all of my recently learned skills. So I added “knit something” to my 30 before 30 list.


I watched a lot of youtube videos, took books out of the library, and went to the craft store for yarn and my own circular needles, because despite now being the owner of my grandmother’s impressive stash of needles, at least for my first project, I wanted to stick with the tools that worked best as I was learning. And thank the universe for youtube videos, because I had forgotten a lot even a week or so after I learned. And in a surprising subplot to this whole learning to knit thing, I’ve discovered that I really am a more visual learner than any other method. All of those quizzes we took in high school to help us learn how we learn told me I was every type of learner (visual, tactile, auditory) but when it comes to crafting? I need to see it. Reading books with black and white diagrams doesn’t help me at ALL. I need photo step-by-step instruction or a video. Or someone showing me how to do it in front of me. So that’s good to know about myself.

windblown and squinty

Anyway, I bought a few $0.99 balls of “fun yarn” mostly because I couldn’t resist the jewel-toned colors, figuring I’d just knit a bunch of rows until I felt comfortable. That turned into just making a garter stitch scarf, because (a) it was all knitting and (b) I like how garter stitch almost looks like stripes, sort of. So rather than try to learn how to make stripes with my first project, I just knit until I was done with each ball of yarn. And I really dig the color block effect, perhaps simply because it’s not what I’d normally plan. And who knew changing colors was so damn easy?

the first thing I ever knitted!

I see a lot of projects in my future, and a lot of stripes, too. I think I’m going to try a hat next… but if you have any suggestions for good beginner knitting projects, I’m all ears!

30 Before 30

Even though the change in Official List Name Style makes me cringe a little, I wanted to make this year’s list a little different. Three years in a row of birthday lists means three years of accomplishing some pretty awesome stuff, but I think I can go one more list-driven year, and then I’ll be ready for something different. The previous two lists were spontaneously written on the eve of my birthday, but I’ve been working on this list in draft form since the beginning of June, trying to come up with concrete, fun, perfect things. I’m really excited about the year to come, and I think 29 will be full of some pretty great things. Isn’t that the whole point?

  1. DO NOT start another daily photo project. (Really. I mean it.)
  2. Add some colors to my converse collection, and take pictures of the adventures I have in them.
  3. Go swimming.
  4. Play miniature golf.
  5. Shoot more film. (Or, stop being afraid to try the Polaroid.)
  6. Make homemade pizza. (Making my own pizza dough is extra credit.)
  7. Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  8. Go through my clothes and shoes really honestly and donate what I don’t, won’t, or can’t wear.
  9. Enjoy now instead of worrying and planning for things that aren’t here yet.
  10. Cook something (or several somethings!) in my newly inherited crock pot.
  11. Get new glasses.
  12. Make garlands or paper flowers to hang in my apartment.
  13. Keep learning how to cook new things.
  14. Work on organizing my grandmother’s old photos.
  15. Decorate the blank walls in my living room and bedroom.
  16. Go on a fancy date.
  17. Spend at least one day at the beach (and not the kind of day where I’m wearing jeans).
  18. Go on a picnic.
  19. Play with sparklers.
  20. Try to tame the mess contained in the Black Hole Closet.
  21. Make a photo book out of Project 365 photos.
  22. Get a tattoo.
  23. Make a change.
  24. Knit something.
  25. Don’t spend the year worrying about turning 30.
  26. Eat at Harold’s.
  27. Do something completely touristy. Extra points if it’s local and therefore embarrassingly touristy.
  28. Wear heels more often.
  29. Bake something just for me, without an occasion.
  30. Consume beer samplers as often as possible.

(28 Things To Do While I’m 28)
(27 Things To Do While I’m 27)