Movin' My Hips Like Yeah

Lots and lots of knitting progress this week...aside from finishing the Trellis Mitts that I previously mentioned, I (finally) completed Little C's Little Gems Mitts. Behold:

I assumed that I would have some issues with the sizing, as I tend to knit tightly (made even worse by over-tight floating strands behind the pattern) AND the yarn is superwash merino, which I thought wouldn't block so well. But, it did! It actually got quite a bit of stretch after wet-blocking, making them a perfect fit for my sister. I think she'll really enjoy the gift she was supposed to get 2 years ago.

Speaking of overdue gifts, there was actually a hat to match these gloves which I completed before I left for Japan in 2009. I picked a gray superwash wool of pretty much the same color as the Little Gems gloves, and made Stitch N' Bitch's Kittyville Hat. The cute nature of this hat suits Constance's style, and I've been wanting to knit one ever since I saw the pattern years ago. So, a complete matching set for winter 2008. In 2010. Oh well. Better late than never.
In other news, I finally went to Looped Yarn Works on Saturday, which was the beginning of a lovely day in DC. Blake and I had lunch at a Mexican bistro, took a stroll through the Hirshhorn with friends, and just walked around in the lovely weather. After the mild winter I experienced in Japan, this winter will be quite rough, I imagine. But, all the more reason to knit (and buy yarn). Anyway, I really enjoyed Looped. They had some yarns I haven't seen available at other LYS in DC, including a very nice Malabrigo selection and a whole mess of Cascade. The shop consisted of 3 rooms, all of which had knitters in them conversing and working on their latest project. It was nice! I think I'll take my mom there this weekend to check it out while she's visiting.
These are the two hanks I bought at Looped, both of them a first for me. The first one is a teal colored hank of 50% llama and 50% wool called Classic Elite Yarn Montera
. It has a really great texture similar to alpaca and it's my first llama yarn! The second hank is Malabrigo Worsted in a beautiful royal blue color...I'm going to make a nice hat with this one. I've never purchased Malabrigo before, but Looped had it in a million different colors. So, pretty eager to use these.

Despite the fact that I haven't finished the August is For Melody scarf or the Noro Entrelac scarf I started in Japan, I did decide to cast on a new project tonight. A little back story first: Blake is always complaining that I never knit him anything. I have knit him a hat in the past, but it was years ago when I barely knew how to knit in the round...so his complaints aren't unfounded. So, since winter is on it's way and Blake loves how alpaca feels just as much as me, I decided to make him a pair of his very own Beer Gloves. He's always admired mine, and I have 665 yards of Misty Mountain Farm Baby Alpaca DK
that I've been itching to whip out. So, now I can reward him finally for accompanying me to various yarn shops and for being patient when I say things like, "Hold on, dear, just one more row." Check out the yarn to be used:
So, that's what I've been working on. I suppose I just need to accept that I will consistently have three WIPs on my needles at any given time.

In other news, I had an interview at Lush Cosmetics
this week, and it went really well! It feels weird to go back to retail since I have a degree and all, but, it's just temporary and I think it will be fun. I have a floor trial on Sunday which I'm excited about. Other things that are excellent are my abundance of guests coming in the next few days...my mother on Friday, and Lauren/Renee on Monday. I'm so excited to see them! This is Lauren's (my bffffffff) first time visiting me in DC and it's going to be so much fun.

More later. I don't know why I have Miley Cyrus in my head.



I'm not sure if I've shared this detail about myself, but alpaca is my very favorite fiber. I love the way it knits up and how it feels against the skin. It's one of those things (only you knitters/crocheters will understand) where one's love for something straddles a fine line between healthy obsession and creepiness. You find yourself having dreams about jumping into a big pile of your favorite fiber (for instance, a bed made up of knitted alpaca), and becoming extremely picky about the fibers you wear close to your skin. It's a Scrooge McDuck-like fantasy that I think anybody with obsessive tendencies can relate to.

So, my recent FO has made me incredibly happy, as the yarn is handspun from a local alpaca farm and feels like a dream.

I do have issues with these gloves, though. First off, my choice of yarn wasn't the best for showing the pretty trellis lace pattern of the mitt, as the two-ply nature of the yarn distracts from the stitch detail. But, here's the thing: I can't just knit something that's ONLY ribbed or ONLY stockinette stitch. My attention span is too short. I need lace patterns, cabling, etc. So, I chose a pattern that was simple but had something aside from stockinette to keep me interested. Despite the fact that the yarn doesn't quite do the pattern justice, these are very nice. I will definitely be wearing these when it gets cold out, for sure. And they feel like a dream. I wonder if I could knit a whole body suit out of alpaca? Done. Fantasy achieved. Starting to see that fine line cross over into creepiness...

Nice, no?

So, BIG NEWS. About a month ago, a new LYS opened here in DC. Right in Dupont Circle. Only 3 miles from me. Previously, the only LYS in DC proper was Stitch DC, which is lovely, but it's not so close to where I live and the selection is a little limited. Anyway, it's called
Looped Yarn Works and judging from the website, it looks amazing. I plan on going in very soon to check it out and (as always) spend too much money. If you're in the DC/VA/MD area, you should go, as it seems to be run by really great people and the DC SnB holds meetings there occasionally as well.

Wouldn't it be excellent if I could satiate my temporarily unemployed status by working in an LYS? Would that be great or what? One can dream.

I've decided to finish some WIPs that I've had in the works for waaaaay too long. Namely, the August is for Melody scarf and Little C's Little Gems Mitts. These projects are so damn close to being done, and yet I've dragged my heels for over a damn year. So, going to complete those, give them to their proper recipients, and move on to my next project, which will be a pair of Beer Gloves for Blake. They were so fun to knit when I made a pair for myself years ago, and Blake has been bugging me for some cozy winter wear, so, it's next on my list.

Also, I've decided not to stress out about knitted gifts for Christmas this year. I may make a couple, but honestly, not many people appreciate them as they should and more than that, getting it done stresses me out. So, regular gifts for friends and fam this year, for the most part. It means I can enjoy knitting rather than stressing out when I inevitably fail to finish all my intended gifts.

Otherwise, all is great. Already missing Japan and its beauty. But, Blake and I are having lots of fun and all is good in the world. More later with some long-awaited FOs!


Adventures in Plying, part two

So, I'm back from Japan, and back from a 5-week backpacking trip through Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia) that occurred afterward, and I find myself unemployed and subsequently spinning/knitting again! Well, I always make time for those things, but at present the time I have for hobbies is seemingly boundless. So. I have pictures and fun things to share.

First up...remember that makeshift lazy kate I created that had 3 spools for my first experiment in plying? No, of course you don't, that was a long ass time ago...anyway, this is the result. The white, which ran out about 1/3 of the way through, is mohair, and the rest is wool, all of which are recycled from mill-end rovings. It's really nice! Plying my first skein was a lot easier than I thought it would be, so I think I'm going to try and always ply the yarns to sell in the Etsy shop (which, btw, is back up and running).

Craft-related news #2: Although I currently have like, 6 WIPs going right now, I decided to start up another one last night. See, there's this 2-ply black and white alpaca that I bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in 2009 that I've been dying to do something with. Thing is, my choices were somewhat limited as the yarn is sport weight and I only have 200 yds of it. So, I landed on a pair of fingerless mitts for the upcoming winter. Knitting up really quick and lovely so far.
See those lovely yarn over holes? That's another reason why I started this project - I have no lace knitting WIPs currently, and I wanted one. Bam, done. It's the most simple pattern in the world, but as my knitting has been on a bit of a hiatus over the past 13-14 months, I felt simple was better.

I also have some really nice Noro that I bought in Japan to share, but it's still packed up at the moment. I'll also post a few pics of my SE Asia trip on here once I get around to editing them. Basically, this past 13 months has been the best of my life. I missed my people back home, but I grew so much and learned so much about culture. Now I'm 51 lbs thinner than when I left, almost conversational in Japanese (still studying!), and although totally broke, it's good to be back in DC with Blake and the kitties. And, before I returned to the east coast, I spent 2.5 weeks in KY with friends and family. It's been magical.

I'm gonna start updating this piece on the regular again. Ya heard.


Badger tickling: proceed with caution

So I'm going to start drawing again. I used to draw all the time but I kinda of stopped doing it after I graduated college...that's the thing about art school. When you're done you feel like every creative atom in you is gone, because there was so much forced creativity happening. But! No more! The thing is, I'm definitely out of practice. I need to find my style and my point of view again, and I think the best way to go about getting that back is to find inspiration in other artists. I'm thinking that constantly sketching will open the door for me to begin painting again (particularly with watercolors) and so on. And I'm surrounded by so much beauty all of the time, so, I'm going to get on it. A couple of inspirations to me:

- Igor + Andre : especially the 10 minute sketches. I am really drawn (pun!) to his use of lines and color. And when he uses watercolors as his medium. duh.
- Animal Sleep Stories: These sketches are so much fun. Tons of detail, and definitely very Yellow Submarine-esque. Which I like.
- Hayao Miyazaki, both films and sketches: Easily my favorite animator of all time, Miyazaki will many times sketch out watercolors for storyboarding and concept development and such...and the animation in the actual films is very inspiring also. I love the art. It's beautiful and magical.

Maybe I should pick up a Japanese sumi-e class since I'm here? hmmm. lots to ponder. Also, I have a Tumblr, which I've been updating a lot. Check it out: ceciliajane.tumblr.com


Merri Kurisumasu

Christmas Day for me is usually a busy day. Hell, Christmas week is always a really busy week. I've been lucky enough to have usually about a week off work or school during Christmas/New Year's for the most part. The fact that it's busy doesn't make it stressful...even though there's usually drama of some sort. Here's the thing about Christmas: I am someone who is always surrounded by a lot of people during the holidays. I have a big, tightly-knit family, and some really excellent friends. I am comfortable with solitude, but honestly, I have never been truly alone. Even when I have felt alone in the past, I have never been without people. Even thousands of miles away I don't feel alone. I've made some really great friends here and I have fairly good contact with my people back home thanks to the interwebs. I am thankful for all of my people. I am also thankful for my ability to be a good friend, sister, daughter, and girlfriend to my people.

It's been kind of weird being away for Christmas, because like I said, I'm usually in Kentucky juggling my time with friends and family. But I'm glad to be here, and I'm really glad I get to see my sister in a few days.

You'd think that being in Japan for Christmas might decrease the Christmas spirit somewhat, as this is not a Christian country and they don't even really consider it a holiday here. In fact, most people go to work on Christmas because of that reason. So I was expecting some commercial decorations and maybe a few Christmas songs in the konbini and retail shops, but not much more. On the contrary, Christmas here is actually kind of magical. I think that either Vaughn or Nathalie once said, "If there's one thing Japan knows how to do, it's lights." So totally the truth. The lights here are magnificent. Even in my small town the trees lining the main street are covered in little blue lights. And on the streets of my town, and of course in Tokyo, there are blaring renditions of American Christmas songs...you can't really help but feel like it's atleast a little magical.

Then there's the Christmas parties at my work. For a week prior to our holiday vacation, we have Christmas lessons with all of our classes, including the adults. Our school provided snacks and drinks (usually hot or cold green tea), but our adult group classes were encouraged to bring food and drinks (they were even allowed to bring booze if everyone in the class was over 20). So, my last week before the break included a lot of Christmas crafts with my kid classes, sing-a-longs with my really young kids classes, and chatting and food with my adults. I have two adult classes that I'm particularly fond of. One is on Wednesdays at 3 pm with 4 adults that are at an intermediate level. They brought in gifts for me and we chatted throughout the entire class. One of the students in that class grew up in Hiroshima and always brings me these little sweets shaped like maple leaves called "momiji". They have various fillings, the one pictured below is filled with sweet potato, and I have one to give to Melody when she gets here that I believe is filled with sweet bean paste and it's covered in white chocolate. So yummy.

Anyway, there's another adult class that I really like. They're more at a beginner level of English and the class is on Monday nights. They went all out for the Christmas party...they brought fried chicken (a Christmas staple here in lieu of roast turkey), tons of sweets, beer, umeshu, and Christmas cake (another tradition here). We listened to Christmas cds the whole class and stayed at the school an hour after the actual end of the class.

Let's just say I wasn't short of any Christmas spirit this year. And I expect it to only get better. I'm going to Disneyland on Monday with Leslie, and then Melody comes in on Tuesday, and we have a whole slew of stuff planned. There's nothing like a 2 week break from work to make you fall in love with the place you're living again.

And, I know how this might sound, but there's something about my clean and cushion-y tatami mat floors that puts me in a good mood when I'm home. Good lord. I sound like my mother...!

Oh yes, and Nathalie got me a Holga for Christmas. I went to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara yesterday and bought some b&w and color film for it. I'm curious as to whether or not my local FujiColor store will develop 120 film, but I guess I'll find out. I'm having insane amounts of fun with an analog camera...finally! It makes me wants to do darkroom stuff again, which I messed with in middle school a lot but haven't done any since. So, definitely a goal.

And just for your entertainment, here's a really cool post from Danny Choo about Christmas in Japan: http://www.dannychoo.com/post/en/25335/History+of+Christmas+in+Japan.html#twitter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Sagoi, ne?

So, now I'm at 3 months in and (although I have been terrible at documenting on this blog as of late) I still love Japan. It stills feels like an adventure, even on weekends like this when I stay in. I have truly fantastic friends, and aside from some "but I don't wannnnnna go to work" - type grumpiness on occasion, I am happy here. It makes me feel like I can be happy anywhere, honestly, and do it independently. It's a great feeling. I've only been here 3 months and I feel like I've grown up so much. My friend and I are always talking about how our attitudes here are best represented by a common Japanese phrase: "shoganai" which roughly translates into "whattya gonna do?" or "it can't be helped". That's kind how I am here. If I fuck up and make a fool of myself, I may have freaked out in the past, but now I just sort of let it roll off of my shoulders. It's really that simple.

So, being inspired by Gail's blog post about growing up in Katsutadai and loving Japan, I've concocted a list of things that anyone can do to ensure a 6 week toughening of the skin. Proven 100% effective:

- fall on your ass the first time you use a traditional Japanese style toilet (TMI, but I've since gotten quite used to the squatty bastards).
- be giggled at by young children who watch you struggle to order something totally simple like yakisoba or edamame (this happened a lot in the past).
- Have yakuza overhear you asking a friend about them in English, only to realize that the words "Japanese Mafia" are words that they are familiar with. Not frightening at all, just embarrassing Especially when they hear you and exclaim "JAPANESE MAFIAAAHH?"
- stumble over your first teaching lessons and hear students direct general derogatory remarks to their fellow classmates (ex: "baka sensei")
- have your t & a groped and referred to constantly by your students (kids are crazy obsessed with "oppai" [boobs] here, especially if you're particularly well-endowed).
- get lost constantly, although the effects of this are minor, as there is ALWAYS a kind and willing Japanese person who will not only point you in the right direction, but walk you there.

All this may sound terrible and embarrassing, but all of these things that happened to me in the first few weeks I was here have completely changed how negative or positive I am towards a situation. It's kind of like a less extreme fight or flight...you either run away with your head held in shame, or you laugh it off move on. Again, who knew being content with yourself was really that simple.

I know I will never be a sharp executive type who works 60 hours a week (I don't really want to be that person, honestly), because I am always seeking change and adventure. When I think of the future, I think of going to grad school for Graphic design, yes, but I also see travelling and backpacking and living abroad as much as possible. I've just let go of all the rules I SHOULD be following to live up to an ideal that isn't me. I'm going on and on about all this change and inspiration, I know, but it's good feeling.

So, self-motivational speeches aside, I did some pretty cool things last week. I went to Kyoto for two days, to Nikko on a day trip with Naz and Vaughn, and to Narita on the Emperor's birthday with Naz and Courtney.

Probably the best moment ever captured. In Nikko (can you believe those leaves? amazing!)

In Higashiyama in Kyoto (you can spot Kiyomizu temple and some lovely mountains in the background).

These trips were magical. And the end of the third trip, my picture taking abilities sort of went to shit because everything was so beautiful, it all just looked like a postcard. Nature here is, well, extraordinarily beautiful and dreamlike. God I will miss it when I leave. Although if I know myself, I'll be back many, many times in my life. Who knows, maybe I'll stay longer or come back with Blake after he gets his degree.

Something cool happened in Kyoto that is worth mentioning. I met a British woman in Kyoto at the Golden Pavilion temple (she was probably 70 or so) who was a retired English teacher taking a 3 week long trip through Japan on her own. She had a son who lived in Shanghai and had taught English in the Southern Himalayas (where the Dalai Lama lives) for 3 years. She had been everywhere. I felt so young and inexperienced whilst talking to her. But it was also really inspiring because she wasn't exactly a spring chicken and was still doing so much, on top of all the cool things she had done already. I wondered how the woman had time to have kids, honestly. I want to be like that woman. Adventuring this piece up until the day I croak. It's gonna happen.

Melody will be here in less than 2 months! So excited!



So yesterday I spent my first day as a bumblebee. This will continue on Monday and throughout the week for our Halloween parties...actually, it was pretty fun. I have this one reallllllly bad class of four boys who act up any chance they get, but with no actual lessons yesterday, we just played games and shot paper airplanes at each other. They definitely won that game. Unless of course you consider winning equivalent to cowering behind the table and attempting to defend myself in vain...in which case, I kicked their asses. It was fun actually...next week I can go back to really disliking that class.

My Japanese is improving, and I can actually read now! wow! I'm no longer totally illiterate! I'm still desperately trying to work on a few other things, such as shedding some pounds (which is happening but it's happening slowly)...and also trying to hone my photography skills. I think about buying manual film cameras a lot...and a DSLR. But enough about that.

My life has been so busy and amazing. Every spare moment off I grab by the horns and do things, with the exception of right now in which I'm enjoying a rare Saturday holiday off from work. When I start to talk about my life I sometimes draw a blank...why is that? Shit is happening all the time, everyday. Life is extraordinary and interesting right now, and I think that sometimes it's hard to put that into the right words. In short, I am becoming more and more myself everyday.

Lots of events coming up in the following week: possibly Kamakura tomorrow, as well as Kyoto on Thursday/Friday I think. And Melody comes to Japan in only 2 short months! I'm thinking I'll take her to Hakone to see Mt. Fuji at some point, and of course my favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo, which I should mention....Shimokitazawa, Koenji, and Kichijoji. These areas are not the big and brightly lit areas of Tokyo such as Shinjuku and Shibuya...they have these little vintage shops and pedestrian only streets that really remind you of where you are and how people live. Also, because all these areas are fairly young and trendy, they make for some excellent people watching...even if you're not into fashion, it's hard not to notice how well-dressed people are here.
Kichijoji contains a park which I love dearly, and every time I think of it I want to hop on a train and go there immediately. In fact, maybe I'll do so. Shimokitazawa is the coolest place in Tokyo, I think, and absolutely packed with things to do along narrow and traditional little roads. All of this is so difficult to explain, really. You just need to be here.

I have been thinking about the outdoors a lot and really want to go camping here. On my days off, I mostly just want to walk around a park or be near nature...which is actually quite easy to do, even in Tokyo. I think that is what makes Tokyo such an amazing city: the duality of new and traditional, of industrial and organic. It's all here and in perfect balance.

There are so many places to go and see for me still, and Nathalie got me thinking a bit more of this Trans-Siberian/Mongolian railway adventure that's been in the back of my head for awhile. I mean, when else am I going to do all of this exploring? Carpe diem, I say. A lot to think about there.

It's getting better all the time.