Sunday, September 02, 2018

Ann Arbor: Day 2

We began our second day in Ann Arbor with a hike in the Nichols Arboretum, which is run by U of M. We had to fight through a sort of fratty neighborhood with many red Solo cups to get there, but we found it.

Nichols Arboretum
The arboretum was a fun walk. You could walk the whole thing in a couple of hours without really seeing the same trail twice, although it's not so big that you feel like you could get lost. We had a fun time.

After that nice long walk, we went to lunch at Sava's, where we were unfortunately still full enough from breakfast that we had to split something. If you come hungry on a weekend, there is an unlimited brunch buffet that looked really good.

In the afternoon, we visited the locally beloved Dexter Cider Mill for a tasty apple cider donut and wine tasting. It was a small place and really cute.

Yes, it is literally in a barn.
We had a while before dinner and no other sights we wanted to see, so of course we boozed it up. We visited HOMES Brewery for some absolutely outstanding IPAs, then Ann Arbor Distilling Company for Dave to get a flight of spirits.

Herein lies booze.
Dave got his flight and ended up purchasing two spirits - (1) a coffee liqueur that he's going to rock as an after-dinner sip OR a bitchin' white Russian, and (2) a gin with fall botanicals. He's not a gin guy, but he really liked it. 

The distillery is set up to make a wide variety of cocktails with their spirits, so you can get more than a flight. And we happened to show up right when a neat jazz band was setting up! We enjoyed a few sets and had to jet to dinner.

Random bands are the best bands.
I had made dinner reservations as a popular Asian fusion spot, Pacific Rim. The food was really fantastic; I got something with scallops that really blew my mind.

After dinner, we stopped at Beer Grotto to try a flight of some more local beers, but I don't think our hearts were in it. We had kind of had enough booze. But the place still had a great selection. The beer garden just across the street looked cute, too, but we didn't have time to get there, and their selection didn't look as wide as Beer Grotto.

Final thoughts on Ann Arbor

I enjoyed our visit to Ann Arbor - it's mostly a very walkable town with a variety of things to do to fill a weekend. The people could be a little preppy and sometimes acted like anyone who doesn't live in Ann Arbor must be an idiot. But they have the food and beer chops to back up their town as a destination for foodies and beer lovers. And probably if you like football, you'd enjoy that, too!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Ann Arbor: Day 1

For a nice late summer trip, we decided to spend Labor Day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have heard good things about the town for years, both from friends and even from the New York Times!

The night we got in (August 31), we visited Bløm Meadworks for a flight. I was really excited for this meadery, and I was not disappointed! They have an array of dry and lightly sweet meads, including some mixed with summer fruits. Very nice.

I will say that the town was absolutely HOPPING, even at the late hour we arrived. I wasn't sure whether that was a typical Friday night, or whether it was worse because it was a game weekend (U of M at Notre Dame). In any case, the bro levels were very high.

In the morning, after a run and a tasty breakfast at our bed & breakfast, the Burnt Toast Inn, we visited the farmers market, which was totally cute and very beloved. 

Late summer veggies
My only beef was that the aisles are so narrow that it becomes difficult to walk around at times. But then you get to stop and smell the flowers.

Fantastic display of flowers!
We visited a yarn shop, too. Ann Arbor has a cute little downtown.

Next, we decided to preemptively work off some calories by walking around the U of M campus. It was wide and expansive, reminding me of U of I. The travel guides all say that the law quad is the prettiest place on campus, and it's true. It reminds me of Oxford.

...or Hogwarts.
We also visited the University of Michigan Museum of Art, which had a surprisingly broad and diverse collection. They had early American art by artists from Michigan, but also a big Korean collection and a special exhibit on African art when we were there. 

I loved this portrait of two ladies on a motorbike.

After our tour around the U of M campus, we made the apparently obligatory visit to Zingerman's Deli for lunch. The line was long, the other patrons were obnoxious (the guy in front of us was saving a spot for ELEVEN friends, who all cut in front of us), but the food was as delicious as advertised.

After a nap in the afternoon, we visited Jolly Pumpkin's brew pub, which was convenient because it decided to downpour the entire time we were there. Maybe I was too excited about this place, but what they were pouring when we visited wasn't up to the caliber of some of their stuff I've had elsewhere.

We did a little shopping in downtown Ann Arbor, and at some point we got ice cream at Blank Slate Creamery. We were there at a slow time, but I can see why there are lines out the door in the evenings. So. Good.

You can take the girl out of the midwest, but...
For dinner, we shared a meal at Frita Batidos, an interesting little Cuban restaurant that makes street food-style sandwiches and tasty smoothies.

After dinner, we visited Vin Bar for flights of Michigan wines - anyone who looks down on Michigan wines because they've had bad sweet cherry wine or iffy wines that you'd only taste on a tourist bus tour, you need to visit Vin Bar and places like it to really explore what the state can produce. I was a big fan.

That's a wrap on our first day in Ann Arbor!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Say goodbye, say hello

I said goodbye to Northwestern this month, starting a new gift planning job at Saint Mary's College (remote from Chicago, the college is in Indiana).

It was hard to leave a safe, comfortable, enjoyable position at Northwestern, but I was ready for a challenge.

I said goodbye to my coworkers in dozens of ways. First was a nice lunch visit to Andy's Custard in Evanston for a key lime concrete. Another few coworkers in this photo were also in job transitions, either within or outside of NU.

A once a year visit to Andy's is worth the calories.
I also got to attend an old coworker's wedding at ISU - my own alma mater - in August, so of course we NU gals had a great time.

Only my second time in the football stadium, ha ha.
Dave and I are pretty cute also. It happens that one of the folks attending the wedding also recently transitioned to a small development team, so we talked about what that meant for our careers and how it enables us to position ourselves as leaders. 

I have been long wanting to move to a smaller shop than NU to take the things I have learned at NU and make a big impact on a smaller nonprofit. Veronica has been doing the same, and as I write this, I am beginning to do that for Saint Mary's!

I have some more photos of me in my last weeks at Northwestern. Here's my standing desk set-up; you can't see it too well from this shot, but my desk is propped up by banker's boxes, creating a free standing desk situation. 

Here's me in the atrium in my last week - actually, that might have been my last day. The atrium is where we held all kinds of staff engagement and learning events, including my talent show and, less prestigiously but just as important, the annual Christmas cookie exchange.

I got there early that day - it's not usually that quiet!
In my last week, my coworkers really sent me off in style. One coworker made a peach pie, others got me presents or said goodbye in their own way, and many of them signed a book with advice on fundraising.

Maybe the peach pie was my favorite...
I took a week off between jobs, which was really important for me. I picked fruit, made pies, shopped for new clothes, ran errands, knitted, and hung around the house trying to relax. I took the week off reluctantly, but I recommend it for anyone switching jobs, especially a big transition like mine.

Now I'm at Saint Mary's for two weeks of onboarding, training, and getting to know my new coworkers and employer.

The Avenue!

I feel I've already been able to be of service, my new manager lives up to her promise of not being a micromanager, and the campus is totally cute. They have me set up for a rich calendar of onboarding activities, tours, meetings, and lunches, and I've had a great time so far. It's scary to make a move like this, but my knotted stomach is easing up as I begin to feel assured that I made the right decision.

Here's to the future!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Early the Squidbilly

This one has been a long time coming.

The story behind this pattern is that my dad was strangely in love with the show Squidbillies on Cartoon Network - one of those badly drawn, darkly inappropriate shows on late night. He was often up late watching this oddball program, and of course we laughed along with him without fully understanding.

I met a guy in my home brew club who also loves the Squidbillies; when he found out I am into crochet and knitting, he asked for a crocheted Early Cuyler, the main "squid" on the show.

Of course, there is no pattern out there for this. Once I found a fairly good representation on a web forum, but the person hadn't recorded the pattern.

I improvised this one, and I thought I would share for all those other squid-lovers out there.

Early Cuyler the Squidbilly

Materials needed:
  • Size G hook (gauge unimportant)
  • Yarn needle
  • Pale green yarn, the pukier the better (I used Red Heart Super Saver Frosty Green)
  • Red yarn (I used Red Heart Super Saver Cherry Red) 
  • Black yarn (I used Red Heart Super Saver Black)
  • White felt
  • Black felt
  • Hot glue gun

  1. With pale green yarn, ch 2. 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook (place marker in first sc of rnd to keep track throughout).
  2. 2 sc in each st around.
  3. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next st) around.
  4. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 2 sts) around.
  5. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 3 sts) around.
  6. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 4 sts) around.
  7. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 5 sts) around.
  8. Sc in each st around for 20 rnds.
  9. (Sc2tog, sc in next 5 sts) around.
  10. (Sc2tog, sc in next 4 sts) around.
  11. (Sc2tog, sc in next 3 sts) around.
  12. Stuff body. 
  13. (Sc2tog, sc in next 2 sts) around.
  14. (Sc2tog, sc in next st) around.
  15. Sc2tog around.
  16. Fasten off, leaving end for sewing piece. Finish stuffing and sew hole shut.

The key here is to make seven pointy tentacles of various thicknesses and lengths. I'll write out what I did, but you should feel free to do whatever you want. It's a badly drawn hillbilly squid and the stakes are not high.

Tentacle 1 - Regular (I made 4 of these)
  1. With pale green yarn, ch 2. 4 sc in 2nd ch from hook (place marker in first sc of rnd to keep track throughout).
  2. Sc around.
  3. Sc around.
  4. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  5. Sc around.
  6. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  7. Sc around.
  8. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  9. Sc around.
  10. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  11. Sc around.
  12. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  13. Sc around. Fasten off, leaving an end long enough to close tentacle opening shut and sew it flat.
Tentacle 2 - Fat (I made 2 of these)
  1. With pale green yarn, ch 2. 5 sc in 2nd ch from hook (place marker in first st of rnd to keep track throughout).
  2. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  3. Sc around.
  4. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  5. Sc around.
  6. Sc around.
  7. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  8. Sc around.
  9. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  10. Sc around.
  11. Sc around.
Tentacle 3 - Long (I made 1 of these)
  1. With pale green yarn, ch 2. 5 sc in 2nd ch from hook (place marker in first st of rnd to keep track throughout).
  2. Sc around.
  3. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  4. Sc around.
  5. Sc around.
  6. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  7. Sc around.
  8. Sc around.
  9. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  10. Sc around
  11. Sc 2 in next st, sc to marker.
  12. Sc around.
  13. Sc around.
  14. Sc around.
  15. Sc around.
The easiest way to fit the tentacles evenly around Early's lower body is to sew them all together in a ring, then sew the ring onto the body.


This pattern worked with the yarn I had, which was the same gauge. If your red is slightly larger or smaller than your green, you may need to adjust your increase rounds. If it's too small, do another increase round after round 7 (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 6 sts on repeat). If it's too large, remove an increase round.
  1. With red yarn, ch 2. 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook (place marker in first sc of rnd to keep track throughout).
  2. 2 sc in each st around.
  3. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next st) around.
  4. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 2 sts) around.
  5. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 3 sts) around.
  6. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 4 sts) around.
  7. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next 5 sts) around. 
  8. Sc in each st around for 14 rnds. Remove marker, sl st in next st, and fasten off.
  9. With black yarn, join with standing sc in any st; sc 18 across.
  10. Ch 1, sc2tog, sc in next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in next 4 sts, sc 2 tog.
  11. Ch 1, sc2tog, sc in next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in  next 6 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in next 4 sts, sc2tog.
  12. Ch 1, sc3tog, sc in next 7 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in next 7 sts, sc3tog.
  13. Ch 1, sc3tog, sc in next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st, sc in next 4 sts, sc3tog. Bind off.
Hat should fit over body, no glue necessary.

Felt accents:

When you have assembled your Early doll and are feeling good about the proportions, add the following accents:


Cut out small rectangles of white felt and trim them into vague, squinty half-moons until they fit your piece. Cut out two very small circles of black felt. Hot glue the black pieces to the corner of the eye.


Use the small length of black yarn to sew a frowny mouth. I waited to glue my Early's eyes to his face until I had sewn the frown; then when everything looked right, I hot glued the eyes to the face.


Take a decent-sized chunk of white felt and lay it over the hat; you want a piece that is as wide as the head / hat from the edges of the black brim. Cut it to size, then curve the top so that it will fit to the hat when complete.

Sew words onto hat; I know Early had a lot through the years, but I chose the classic "Free Hat, Limit 1."

Cut out your felt piece in about this shape so it can curve to the head when glued
Hot glue the white piece to the hat.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Resolution progress 2018

I can't believe 2018 is already halfway over. Since I posted my 18 resolutions for 2018 here in late December, I'll recap my progress so far:

True resolutions:

See a member of my family every month: this is the only one I can say I am 100% on. Usually I have seen them more than once, too.

Practice languages on Duolingo every day: I missed two days while I was on vacation in Quebec and forgot, but otherwise this is 100%.

Meditate for 10-20 minutes daily: mixed success. I was doing better earlier on in the year with this one. I need to be more deliberate about this.

Listen more, talk less: hard to quantify - I still tend to effuse and steamroll people in conversations, but I am trying to do that less, to ask more questions, etc.

Get rid of more stuff around the house, organize what I have: Fair success. Donated about a box a week for the first quarter of the year, need to focus on home organization now.

Organize yarn projects, clear out my Ravelry queue (currently at 24 items): I have tried to finish two projects a month from the queue, and I'm currently at 17 items, all of which have deadlines, so I think there has been progress. I didn't complete any for June, but I doubled my goal to four projects for July to catch up.

Eat more vegetables, bake more bread: definitely a success; the CSA helps with the veggies, and I have been baking more bread and treats this year. I need to make more bread than sweet things, but there is just so much delicious fruit and chocolate and maple in the world.

Be more of a cheerleader for others: mostly did really well; had two especially good months where I nominated a coworker for employee of the year and got 25+ people to sign onto the nomination (she didn't get it) and helped two people at work find new jobs.

Hang out with the bunnies more, give lots of attention: mixed, mostly failing. It is sometimes hard to fit them into our lives anymore. It is also challenging because they STILL have not bonded sufficiently that Mulberry won't attack the new guy if he's in her territory. Very frustrating, so I avoid hanging out with them. That needs to change if we want to socialize / bond them.

Emphasize lifting weights more: have been progressing well on this and planned to start a Stronglifts 5x5 reboot in July, but I think I injured my back while doing a deadlift in early June and I've been too afraid to do anything but bench press for a while (although I'm lifting more than I've ever lifted before there, so I consider this one a success!)


Get back to college weight: mixed, mostly fail (or it feels like it). I got down to the high 150s in March-April, then ballooned back up 10 lb. to the high-mid 160s after the Cuba trip. Made some more progress, then had two short foodie trips in a row to Montreal and Austin, so I am hovering around 162 at the moment. Really thought I'd be in the 150s for summer - oh well.

Bake a yule log: planned for December.

Run a 5k race in under 30 minutes: got close in May (two tenths of a second, grr), planned for fall.

Complete German course on Duolingo: planned for July.

Visit the historic Pullman neighborhood in Chicago: completed yesterday, July 1! It was really cool to see. We took a guided tour with my high school buddy, Mike, whose parents grew up in Pullman.

Restored clock tower building
Scan Salzburg College photos and post online to share with friends: completed in February; also got together with some of the Salzburg College peeps in Chicago.

Finish A Song of Ice and Fire book series on audiobooks: completed in May. Enjoyable series, but books 1 and 3 are the best and the others are mixed.

Complete another race on vacation: completed in June; ran a 5K in Montreal to raise money for women's health!

The swag was amazing. Those darn Canadians.

Even for someone who watches her time as much as I do, I can't believe how much of the year has passed and how little I feel I have to show for it. The failures on the weight front and bunny bonding are especially disappointing. I am doubling down my efforts on the weight, especially since I have no travel for the next few months, and I feel hopeful that I can make my goal of 155 lb. by August 31!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Austin: Day 1.5

I got about a half day in Austin before I had to head home, but again, I squeezed the most out of my time, and today, I actually used the Austin B-cycle bike share system to get around more quickly! (And I cursed myself for not using it more the day before.)

First stop was an early morning dip in the much beloved Barton Springs Pool. This favorite local spot is fed by a nearby spring (it's chilly!) and is part of their park district. If you go early - between 5 and 8 a.m. - it's free swimming time!

It's a little far out from where we were staying, so I almost didn't do it, but we were there, and like eight people had recommended it to me, so we decided to bike over. It was indeed chilly, but it was fun to hang out with the locals and cool off a bit.

After I dried off and changed, we biked over to favorite local breakfast diner Magnolia Cafe for some breakfast tacos and pancakes. I loved their gingerbread pancake so much that I immediately Googled it for later printing.

Dave had an earlier flight than I did, so I asked him what he would really like to see in his last day in Austin. Based on what I had done the prior day, he said he wanted to go to the state capitol building, which I was excited about because I had visited too early yesterday to actually get inside.

Capitol rotunda
After that, we hit the nearby independent bookstore, BookPeople, which I had not been able to visit on yesterday's speedy walking tour.

This store was awesome. The two stories contained a wide breadth of topics, knick knacks, and reading spaces. In fact, there was a story time for kids going on as we visited. This is something my library, and a lot of local libraries, do, which shows how both libraries and bookstores play a key role in supporting your local community.

We bought some books and hit the road - in fact, Google Maps took us on this adorable little bike path on Shoal Creek. It was like Austin was saying, "Hey, there are cool hidden things all over this town - please come back!" I wish I had gotten a picture.

Speaking of the bike share, you always hear mixed things about bike shares in major cities, but our experiences in Montreal and Austin were both very good. It was easy to locate spots on the map, we never had any technical problems with the bikes, and we were always able to find or return a bike where we wanted to. Thumbs up to B-cycle.

By this time, it was time for us to check out of the hotel and for Dave to go catch his flight. I put all my stuff into my backpack for easy travel the rest of the day, and I was glad I traveled light because it was another hot one.

I had to go back to BookPeople to pick up my fancy water bottle, which I'd left on the check-out counter in my excitement over UFO cow abduction socks, then I sped over to to something I had never visited before - a bake shop and beer garden in one business, Easy Tiger.

Their baked goods looked tasty, but I picked a house-made sausage and some local beers. Yes, the beer garden was cute, but I elected to stay in the AC, knit, and watch some world cup coverage with other denizens.

On my way out of town, I picked up another donut at Voodoo - this one was maple and was STUNNING - and caught the bus to the airport.

I know that less than 48 hours in any town is depressingly short, so I would like to go back. Here are some things on my list for next time:

  • Granny's Tacos
  • Chuy's Tex Mex
  • Zilker Botanical Garden
  • Blanton Museum of Art
  • Kayaking on Ladybird Lake
  • Parker Jazz Club
  • Women & their Work (shop specializing in gifties handmade by women)
  • Tesoros Trading (shop specializing in Mexican gifties and art)
  • Museum of the Weird

Austin, you're awesome, and I'll be back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Austin: Day 1.0

For my first (and only) full day in Austin on this trip, I really tried to pack it in.

We got up early for breakfast at Voodoo Donuts, an infamously good little Portland donut shop with a location in Austin. (We didn't get Voodoo when we were in Portland a few years ago, we ate at Blue Star.)

Dave got the raspberry filled voodoo doll, I got the mango-filled, Tang-encrusted one. Both were delicious.

Dave dived back into his conference and I began a walking tour of downtown Austin, beginning with the capitol grounds (better picture of that tomorrow). I sort of forget that Austin is the capital of Texas, but the capitol building is neat. The grounds had lots of seats, and I was a little early for my next stop to open, so I just sat knitting on a bench for a while, people-watching. I remember thinking, "It's 8 a.m., I'm sitting, and I'm in the shade, and this is about fine, temperature-wise, but almost hot. I'm going to die today, aren't I."

That's a real purdy capitol ya got there
First real, substantive stop was the Bullock Texas State History Museum, which had cultural and historical exhibits.

"Come and take it" being the alternative TX state motto
The rodeo exhibit was interesting to peruse, and they had a neat art installation, Comanche Motion - a modern, pop art take on Native Americans today. 

Obviously, Texans are proud of their history, but I felt the exhibits mostly did a good job of balancing different views, such as the Texan, Mexican, and American views (at the time) of Texas's revolution.

I thought about visiting the Blanton Museum of Art, which is right across the street, but I didn't have enough time to do that and be on time to have lunch with my law friend, Chad.

I did have time, however, to visit the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a free street art and graffiti exhibition. I hear it's being torn down this year to build a new condo complex (real estate prices being what they are right now in Austin) and it will be moved outside of town.

When I was there, it was fun to see the different levels of graffiti, but I think a lot of people don't pay attention to the request not to paint over other people's work, because every photo I see of the gallery is different.

At this point, though, I think it's a bit of a free-for-all because it will all be demolished anyway. I saw little kids with spray paint cans going to town.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery
I made it down to Guero's for a taco lunch with Chad and his family - I went to law school with Chad from 2006-2009 and visited him in Albuquerque when they lived there. I hadn't seen him since that time, but he was always one of my favorites in school, and it was great catching up with him and Laura, his wife, and meeting his adorable twins! It's amazing how little we change, even if our life circumstances do.

Next stop was a visit to the new central, downtown branch of the Austin Public Library, which is truly the most superlatively [everything] library I have ever stepped foot into.

Right away, the staircases make you feel like you're in some kind of modernistic Hogwarts. The collections are clear and easy to find, the kids' section is behind closed doors for noise control, they have an outdoor reading porch (!!), and they have a roof garden. A roof garden!!

Of course, none of this comes cheaply - the librarians told me that the building, which opened in October 2017, came at a cost of $125 million. Still, it really pays homage to the idea of making our places of learning into palaces.

View from the rooftop garden
In fact, I felt so welcome, even as an out-of-towner with no card, that I ended up spending more time in there than I did the state history museum earlier in the day. I saw a display on Texas cooking, so I picked up a few books and leafed through them for recipes. I wanted to make copies, but the librarian told me I could scan for free, so BAM, now I've got Salt Lick BBQ's recipe for peach cobbler and Easy Tiger's recipe for sourdough bread. (More on Easy Tiger tomorrow.)

After my completely astounding experience at the central library, I headed back to the hotel to regroup a bit, then walked over to Craft Pride for a happy hour beer with coworker Andréa.

This bar is serious!
I had a lovely flight of sour beers, mostly from Texas. Definitely an awesome beer bar.

River trail - loved this shade
I walked back through the river trail to meet Dave and his coworkers for dinner at Lambert's BBQ, a tasty, somewhat upscale barbecue joint downtown. Brisket... Fried okra... Banana pudding... Mmmmm.

The infamous bat bridge was right nearby, so we walked over and grabbed a good spot for the dusk migration. 

Bat graffiti under the bridge
I really wasn't sure what to expect, but it was pretty neat. The bats are teeny, they all came out at around 8:45 p.m., and they flew out in a swarm that you could see for a half mile or more. What an interesting, odd attraction for the city of Austin!

I had intended to go to Parker Jazz Club, which is owned by Chad's friend, but we ended up going back to the hotel bar for some beer and conversation with Dave's coworkers. He works in Chicago and doesn't get to see the D.C. friends anymore, so it's important to keep those relationships up. I really enjoyed them, too, and they didn't just talk about financial aid the whole time!

Come back tomorrow for my last half-day in Austin.