(re)starter.

I have been meaning to post about my birthday present from Ethel Louise (welcome to blogland!) for about six weeks now. (You know, because my birthday was six weeks ago.) Ethel is a fantastic baker, and she gifted me my very own sourdough starter, complete with bread-baking instructions. I was going to wait until I actually baked bread to share this, but let’s face it — that might not happen until after the exams are over. I ignored all non-writing responsibilities last week, and then panicked about forgetting to feed my sourdough starter (it still needs a name) its weekly meal. Ethel says it is very, very hard to kill (unlike my motivation).

Last night I gave it white and whole wheat flour, and happily watched as new bubbles rose to the surface. I need my brain to start bubbling with thoughts again, too, as I am by no means done with this exam process! (Just past the most anxiety-inducing one of the three.)

More knitting soon, I promise.

grown-up floats.

I turned in my first exam yesterday morning: 44 pages in 7 days. I’ve never written so much, so quickly, in the whole of my academic life. (And honestly, I’m hoping I’ll never need to top that.) Thank you for all of your encouragement this week; it means so much. I’m not done, but I’m more than a third of the way there.

Brokeknits recommended The Improvised Life a few months back, which means she is to thank for last night’s celebration. A small group of my favorite grad school women came over last night for a laid-back evening of conversation and caramel porter and chocolate stout floats. Boh was loving it: a whole house full of women to pay attention to him! After they left, I made one more float with the leftovers from the bottle of chocolate stout and the bottom of the ice cream carton and put a dent in my grading. Time to pour the coffee and grade the rest before class!

earth hour.

Last night, after a frustrating couple of hours at the coffee shop, I looked up and realized it was 8:30. I packed up, rushed home, found the lighter and gathered my candles, and turned off the lights to participate in Earth Hour. (WordPress doesn’t want to let me insert a link, so check out http://www.earthhour.org for details.) Basically, people all around the world turned off the lights at (their) 8:30 pm. I spent an hour reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver by candlelight in the kitchen. (One of my reading groups is discussing this next week.)

I should turn off the lights more often — I needed to be reminded of bigger things, to focus on something more important than this exam.

More glimpses of the week:

Brain food: Friday’s breakfast.

Boh and a pile of books.

Boh had the right idea this morning — to not get out of bed. I am so tired. I have a lot of writing to do today, because my hope is to spend Monday editing, formatting footnotes, and all-around prettifying this paper before I turn it in on Tuesday morning. Almost there. (Well, with the first exam.)

day two.

Brokeknits has been hinting at this forever, with all of her gorgeous stripey shawls, but I think I had to figure it out for myself: stripes are good for academic productivity. How else can you explain that I not only met my word count goal for day one of my exam, but I also managed to knit several more stripes on my shawl?

I am in love with this shawl. That center-ish spot (you know, where the center would be if this were symmetrical) looks little less crisp than I’d like, but I’m thinking it might have to do with the fact that the dark grey trekking pro natura I’m using is slightly thinner than the local organic undyed wool, which is closer to sport weight. I’m hoping the poofiness of garter stitch after blocking will help with this — and do a better job of hiding the short row wraps.

And then there’s this guy. Such a good sport.

Alright, back to it.

ready.

Ready. The apartment is clean, the library book piles are tidy, and Boh is pouting.

[I meant to post this earlier today, but wordpress was a little finicky. Day one was okay. I’m aiming to write steadily every day this week, and if I can reach my word counts/section goals pretty consistently, I will feel good about the process.]

stripe study shawl start.

I stayed up past my bedtime last night just to finish one more row, one more section, one more… I’ve missed this. You know, the need to keep going, the way that everything else gets a little blurry when you’re focused on the squish of the wool, the click-clack of the needles; when the podcast ends and you barely notice.

I didn’t do it on purpose, exactly. I finished terra and I didn’t cast on anything new. I have WIPs, sweaters, even, that I can’t wait to wear. But they’re all in stages that require counting, thinking, more brain power than I really have.

This is dangerously addicting in just the right way. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to take a guilt-free day off. Already I’ve been slapping my own wrists: no, don’t pick up that book; no, not that one either. Even in the shower this morning, my mind was drifting toward the pile of books it might be nice to just get a feel for.

Today is my day off, and this shawl is going to help. Well, this, plans with friends, a rainy walk with Boh, and an evening yoga class.

I’m not sure if I’ll be here in this space this week. Sometimes I find that blogging helps me to start writing in the morning — it gets my fingers moving in a low-stakes (well, lower than 30 pages of exam-writing) kind of way. So I might be here. But I might not.

Either way, I’m sending a great big thank-you out into blogland for all of your words of encouragement. All of this exam reading, more so than other kinds of reading (due to the pace and specificity of it), is necessarily quite solitary. Thanks for keeping me company.

exam (knitting) prep.

So this morning I made an important decision: I settled on my exam knitting project. I know I said I was going to get going on the second sock, but I’m decreasing the first toe right now, and I just don’t think I’m going to feel like kitchenering and knitting the ribbing on sock #2 before Tuesday. Which means I need something pretty and soothing to knit on, just a little bit, this week.

Lately I have become obsessed with Veera’s Stripe Study Shawl, especially the versions that are made in neutrals. I want this one — but I want to knit it out of my stash. This morning I went stash-diving, coffee in hand. I came up with some gorgeous color combinations, but I’m just in love with the idea of natural/grey. Ideally, the grey would be less severe, but this Trekking Pro Natura in a charcoal-ish tone is what I’ve got in the right weight and yardage, so I’m going to give it a go. This natural yarn is local, organic wool, and I’ve got almost 800 yards, which means I’ll be able to use it again in another stripey shawl. Yay!

Unrelated, but I snapped some pictures of Boh making his crazy face.

It might look like he’s not having a good time, but trust me: this is the face he makes when he is very happy about being scratched. He almost looks like he has bug-eyes! Silly dog.

Last night some of my cohort got together for a delicious dinner at E.’s place: homemade pizza and two colors of Jello! I made salad with farm spinach I picked in the greenhouse last weekend, and it reminded me of how excited I am for spring and summer vegetables. Today I’m going to try to crank through the big ideas of a handful of books so that I can keep my plan of a book-free Monday. Knitting, dog-walking, yoga, good food: all of these are on the list.

no licking library books!

I snapped this sequence of photographs before lunch yesterday. Strangely, I take comfort in this behavior: it is how I know that Boh is my dog. He’s no longer interested in chewing on shoes; instead, he licks library books. I know, Boh. Some old books have a particularly intoxicating scent. I realize it probably isn’t the best idea to deeply inhale when I enter the library stacks, but I still do — that smell, that feeling — well, it’s part of why I’m an aspiring historian. Can I really blame Boh for wanting to lick a library book or two? “No licking library books!” Not exactly the kind of statement one ever expects to need to say out loud. I laugh every time.

Thanks for your kind words about my last post. Thursday’s tears had to do with general exhaustion as well as a particular task related to this first exam: writing the question. I regrouped and re-thought (and slept a full-night’s sleep — with the windows open), and we had another meeting on Friday.

This week is going to be intense, but I have a better sense of what I am going to do. This weekend I’m going to work through a handful of books, and then I’m taking Monday OFF. I might go to bed at 8…

Happy weekend!