Year in Review (2011 Edition)

I was going to make this a post about how I did or didn’t meet my goals for last year then realized I never made any. Sure, I wanted to graduate but, really, was that ever in doubt? (Oh, I hope not.) So, again this year, a year in review.

January: Attempted, yet again, to blog daily which became weekly which became only when I felt guilty that I hadn’t blogged in awhile. Visited the National Building Museum. Started working with the TJ FIRST team. Mostly focused on coding my senior design project. Started a new job.

February: FIRST season concluded and senior design continued. Tried skiing for the first time.

March: Attended the St. Patrick’s parade in Old Town. DC FIRST regional held. Midterms and a big senior design deadline consumed my life. Spring break was spent working and doing school work. Attended Steph’s baby shower.

April: Life consumed by school projects, tests. etc. Traveled to West Point to attend a design competition (and really wished they didn’t have a rule about no AC before 1 may).

May: Wrapped up my last undergraduate semester. Graduated Suma Cum Laude. Celebrated Matt’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. Went to a color theory workshop with Ms Babs.

June: Started first full-time job (and it’s not so fun commute). Started looking at houses. Got back into sewing by making a few handbags (and failed at making myself a skirt).

July: Brutally hot month. Went to more open houses and house tours. Attended the first annual Bontrager cousins reunion in DE. Started digital scrapbooking five years of marriage.

August: Put a bid on a house, counterbid accepted, home inspection, mortgage application, and everything else invovled with buying a house. Felt not nearly as poor as expected at the end of the process. Really started my new job (assignment received). Started a quilt for the first time in four years.

September: Moved into the new house. Held a housewarming party with friends, family, and neighbhors.

October: Spent two and a half week exploring Spain, France, and Italy. Spent the rest of the month starting a new project at work and recovering from being away for so long.

November: Had Thanksgiving at our place, this time with Matt’s parents, Jesse’s family, Alison, and Lucy. Attended the DE reception for Caleb and Karen. Finished making a sweater for myself that actually fit.

December: Enjoyed a realitively warm December. Parents and brother visit for Christmas. Had first year of decorating our own house for Christmas (but settled for just a tree and some lights on a front window).

List 2: Things you are good at [30 Days of Lists]

What am I not good at?

Shush, I can hear you all laughing from here. Stop it.

In all seriousness, things I am good at:

  • Knitting lace shawls and socks
  • Making funny faces
  • Taking photos of my cats
  • Eating (you know it’s true if you’ve ever shared a meal with me)
  • Getting freaked out about things that don’t matter
  • Keeping perfectly calm with regards to things that do matter
  • Making lists, especially to do lists that get ignored
  • Cleaning toilets
  • Getting work done on time despite much procrastination

This was a really hard topic. No one wants to brag and I’m just starting my career so it’s not like I have any work-related things to mention. Plus, I tend to think I’m bad at everything (imagine that). But, still, I did manage to write the list.

Today’s unrelated photo: the street signs near where we had dinner last night. The location isn’t worth mentioning as it was pretty “eh,” overall.


Now what?

I’m now a college graduate. I knew I’d say that someday but it’s so strange to finally do so.


I spent eight years studying, working on projects, taking exams, and attending classes (and worrying about all of this in my downtime).

But now? Now I have loads of free time. And, of course, my mind is full of ideas of things I want to do more of, do again, or start doing.

  • Knitting: Obviously, I already do a lot of this. But I have big, specific goals for what I want to do. I want to knit colorwork mittens for everyone I know. I want to knit lace shawls for anyone who wants one. I want to make things for the children of friends, family, and coworkers. I want to maybe, someday, knit myself a sweater that fits and makes me feel great about my body (but doesn’t make it sweat like a pig every single time I wear it).
  • Sewing: I have a machine. I know basic construction. My husband’s boss got me a gift certificate to an excellent sewing shop for graduation. Heck, I even have a few friends who, I am sure, would be happy to share their fabric stash with me. And, well, I miss sewing, I really do. Even if my machine can’t be fixed (the tension cannot be adjusted correctly, no matter what I or my mother-in-law have done), I can still sew again. May even get back into quilting. Or just stick with making little bags and fun skirts and..
  • Running: I miss it. Even the agony of having to tell myself “just two more miles” and the possibility of having to do physical therapy. I don’t think I’ll ever run a half marathon or even train for one but this area is full of fun 5k, 10k and 10 mile races. I wasn’t built to be a runner but I really do enjoy it. And can you imagine the fun of going running when I’m in Europe in the fall? Talk about a great way to see a city!
  • Writing: Journaling, specifically. Actually writing down my thoughts on paper. I miss it even more than I miss sewing and running. I’ve been journaling since fourth grade, why did I stop?
  • Reading: I admitted to Jocelyn the other day that I haven’t really read anything in a long time. Sure, I read dozens of blogs and news websites and food magazines, but when was the last time I actually read a real, live book? We even have the Kindle. And the public libraries near here are great. And I’m pretty sure the DC public library will give cards to non-residents, as will Fairfax County.
  • Photography: Matt got me an amazing lens (which I must blog about later) for graduation. It’s an amazing macro lens, great for both super close up shots and the intimate portraits I love to take. And, well, it’s summer in the DC area. Perfect time and place for photography.
  • Cooking: I want to get more into cooking, not to the level that Matt is, but at least to the point where I can make us dinner once a week without freaking out halfway through. I know, generally, what I’m doing, just have to develop an intuition for it like Matt has.
  • Blogging: Both here and on Two Yolks, the food blog I made Matt start but that he hasn’t written in for almost a year. I have the great camera, he’s still cooking awesome (and pretty!) food. No excuses. There will be more food blogging (and more blogging here, like I said in a recent post). Hopefully blog both places once a week, even if it’s just a few photos with short descriptions. (Like the post I’ve already got in draft form on Two Yolks, just need to polish it a bit and press Publish.)

So, now what?

The rest of my life can start.

In my head

I have this great, mostly writte-up post all ready to go about how I’ve been so good and bought almost no yarn and have been knitting a ton and trading away yarn I don’t like. Then, well, MD Sheep and Wool happened. Yes, it’s this weekend and I’m not even attending but it resulted in my decided to buy some yarn from LYS from a vendor that’s going to MDSW, as the cool kids refer to it. So, yeah, not so good on the stash reduction on that front and now my post would just seem pathetic.

But, alas, I have all sorts of things filling my head I haven’t told you all about yet. Yes, this will be a list blog post.

1. I have been horrible about keeping up with Macro May. Not a single “real” macro photo since Sunday. I have a relatively free weekend so I should have time for more shots then.

2. I’ve knit four shawls in the last two months. Two have no recipient in mind (Haruni and Daybreak from my last post). No clue as to recipients, either.

3. I’ve had each of the following songs stuck in my head over the last week: I Feel Pretty (Dan and Cody’s fault), On the Street Where You Live, the “Children who refuse to learn, will not return” song from the Mary Poppins broadway soundtrack, and Country Girls.

4. I bought three albums last week: 99 Essential Spring Songs (Amazon only, all classical music), Best of Neil Diamond, Melissa Lambert’s latest.

5. I only have one project report and two finals standing between me and graduation. Starting to freak out about this fact.

6. I somehow managed to win a writing award at school. (Don’t laugh. I’m a much better writer in a technical forum than I am here. Here I mostly write like I talk – though without the figeting, odd faces, and hand movements.)

7. We’re having a Cinco de Mayo party with a few friends tonight. Matt’s been making things for it since Saturday. I’d have been happy just eating my weight in chips and tomatillo salsa.

8. I have yet to “set up” my chia elephant here at work. I tried to once but the chia seeds were duds. Purchased new ones this weekend but, alas, have nothing to soak said chia pet in (they gotta soak for 24 hours before you “plant” the seeds). Also, considering just trying to grow something like oregano instead of chia – would make cubical smell rather nice.

9. Cannot wait to do the ceremonial tossing of the school files once I receive all of my grades.

10. Thinking of wearing a knitted icord or crocheted chain at graduation, just because. And because the only other thing around my neck will be green/gold honor cords (magna cum laude!). Mom, I know you’ll disagree but it’s better than the “water wand” things Dad made his AP Chem students that one year.. (or did he just talk about that?)

11. I’ve been trying to make dinner one day a week, though it’s turned more into a day a month. Using mostly recipes from America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country. I like that they assume you have no clue what you’re doing. I know in theory, then freak out when I’m actually left to do things by myself. Thankfully, I’ve got Matt to help me out when I freak out so much I can’t even figure out how to use our manual can opener.

12. I am rather desperate for new clothes. Went through my closet and got rid of everything that was too faded or falling apart to wear. Left me with 15 days of outfits. After removing things I will simply never wear again, I’m down to 8 days worth (including dresses which I rarely wear). This is after what felt like a giant shopping spree Saturday when I bought a dress, two tops, and three pairs of jeans. Yeah, really do need to do some more clothes shopping before I start the new job. And shoes to wear with the new dress (it’s dark blue, all nice shoes are black). Sometimes I rather dislike being female; Matt buys most of his clothes at Costco.

13. Matt’s dad is coming down Saturday to help clean the basement in preparation for my parents’ visit at the end of the month. It’s a total disaster between the fact we’re never down there and it’s where the cat box is located. Plus, stained, original to the house linolium tiles. Feel pathetic that I need help to clean it but even spending hours doesn’t seem to get anywhere. The man’s a cleaning genius so it should be dramatically improved. Also, I plan to hang out down there more often this summer. Just need to hook up the Wii to the TV so I can stream Netflix and keep a fuzzy blanket on the futon to curl up in. I could use the alone time to write more. What’s the female version of a Man Cave?

14. We only have the most basic cable plan. And, even that we were going to get rid of but it’s actually cheaper to have it than not due to the bundling with our internet. I don’t often miss it, but for one thing: Dr. Who. I was able to catch the first episode at Matt’s parents’ house but the last one, well, not so much. I’m going to have to turn to iTunes which means $3 per episode (yeah, $60 per season, approx). Expensive, yes, but I must remind myself that that’s less than a single month of the cable package required to see it. And I’m highly to re-watch the episodes multiple times (versus Top Chef which we also downloaded last eason and have zero desire to watch again).

Favorite Class

From WordPress’s Daily Post Blog comes a question:

What was your favorite class when you were in high school or college?

Bonus: Was it your favorite class at the time you took it? Why or Why not?

It’s rather hard to pick. No, really. I think I have it down to a two which I enjoyed for completely different reasons.

1. Differential Equations with Dr S: I have not worked that hard for a course (other than my senior design course) in my entire college career. And, here’s the kicker: the professor was the source of my motivation. It wasn’t the grade – though I did want an A, I would have been fine with a B but the passion he had for the subject. I’m talking a severe, deep love of everything that differential equations is and can be used to do. He knew most of the class was going into a career in engineering, so the course was focused on specific engineering applications from fluids to circuits to the good ‘ole spring-mass-damper system. Although it was a large class, he had this way of drawing you in, making you want to go up to the white board and watch him solve problems up close. He also didn’t go easy on us; as engineers, Diff Eq is one of the first truly difficult classes we take and he wasn’t going to baby us. Nothing was ever separatable, rarely exact, and often made you search for brain for knowledge of trig substitutions come exam time. But, well, you didn’t care. You wanted to hate him for it, but couldn’t bring yourself to do so because you knew that you knew your diff eq, inside and out. And, thanks to Dr S, you weren’t going to forget it anytime soon.

2. Relgion 102 (Comparitive American Relgious Experiences): Taken the summer before Matt and I got married, I both loved and hated this class when I was taking it. My mind was on wedding planning and I was working and he assigned a crap ton of reading for a six week course. Plus, it was 6 hours a week of class. Ugh. The thing, though, was he didn’t just explain the central tenants of Christianity, Judaism, and Santeria, he really brought you into the cultures of each. He sang traditional songs, read sacred texts, and even brought in a speaker to represent each major branch of each religion. Plus, he was a former priest with a lot of great stories. And, the best part, he forced us all to have open minds, about both our own beliefs (or lack therefore) and those of others. We stayed away from theology discussions in terms of “this is the correct belief” and instead were encouraged to explain what the beliefs of our particular denomination / group / sect are. I still remember a particular Mennonites versus Amish discussion (and another one where I was informed by a classmate that Methodists are just OCD and can’t own up to it).


So, how about you all? What were your favorite college classes? For my friends who are teachers/profs themselves, what’s your favorite class to teach?

Random? Random.

As usual, I’ve got a million things on mymind and some combination of “I don’t have time to blog” or “I don’t feel like blogging” means you’re stuck with a list post for today (with the requisite random photos).

1. Finished knitting the alpaca shawl and hoping to block it soon, though I really don’t know when. The cats have taken to taking naps on the futon I usually block things on. May just block on my side of the bed, starting one of these days when I get home well before Matt. I can point the fan at it to help the drying process, right? It has no destined recipient so it’s not as if there’s a big rush.

2. Have finished knitting the scarf for Leah and am now working on a single crochet edging to help stop some of the curl. After that’s done (hopefully shortly after I get home from work this evening), I’ll toss it through one or more machine wash cycles to “block” it. Really, really want to get it to Leah tomorrow though Monday (when I would see her next) seems more likely.

3. No progress on the gloves for my coworker due to the concentrated work on the other projects.

4. First sock for Danielle is done, second is only a few rows away from starting the heel turn/gusset (whichever comes first on a cuff-down sock).

5. I have applied for graduation with the university, filled out my departmental paperwork, and even bought graduation announcements. Yet, still, I can’t seem to wrap my brain around the fact I’m actually, FINALLY graduating.

6. Next knitting project I’ll start will likely be a blanket for Dan and Shelagh though I’m waiting on them to pick yarn/colors.

7. If I finish the gloves and am itching for another WIP to work on, I’ll probably be good and finally finish up the sweater I started for myself months ago. Just needs 1.25 sleeves and a good blocking.

8. Been very much slacking on my daily self-portraits. Missed taking one altogether last Thursday. I blame the fact we had friends over for dinner though, really, I had no excuse. I even had my camera downstairs! Look, I took this photo of the flowers Matt got me.


9. Turned in abstract for my project to a conference/competition at UVA. Project is going in a different direction, yet again. I’m not too bothered, really, as it’s more of a change to the wrapper of our projec than it’s core.

10. The robot ships a week from today. I doubt Matt will be on the same planet as me before then. I’m still quite distant from what’s going on with the team as I’m only at their Saturday meetings and, well, I’ve been doing my own school work then. Maybe I’m helpful in showing that women are engineers? The school is a fancy engineering/science prep school with a good 50% female population, so it’s not as if the girls don’t think they can go into this field, but it’s another thing altogether to know the female engineer isn’t something their teachers made up.

11. It was super warm for a few days but today, back to very windy and upper 30s. Thankfully, more warmth is coming later this week.

12. We’re thinking of going to Europe this fall. Matt has a new idea as to where every time we talk about it. This time, we’re going for at least two weeks. Sort of tired of rushing around for 8 days and just plain getting worn out versus relaxing.


Once upon a time, I could keep simple promises. Promises like blogging weekly and reading freinds’ blogs then commenting. Apparnetly I have now succombed to what I’ll call Flake-itude. When you adopt of the attitude of a flaky person.

But, I will try to shake my current affliction and get back to blogging. Maybe even multiple times this week. Gasp!

So, what’s going on in my life?

School project is crazy.

Other class is easy (learning about inventory control which I learned at a previous job).

I’m starting to figure out what’s going on at work (at last!).

Went skiing for the first time Saturday and didn’t manage to kill myself despite the fact I had the wrong skis and bindings. Will try again at the end of the month. I won’t say I enjoyed myself though I did much better than I expected.

Booked a giant pavillion which will house my graduation party in May. Plan is to get BBQ from a place in Annapolis and invite basically everyone I know, even if they don’t live nearby.

I read a book. It was for class, but it’s the first book I’ve even tried to read this year. I’ll lead my review of the book for a later blog post.

I’ve been doing lots of knitting and a little crochet. And that’s where this post’s photos come in.

The oldest WIP I’m actually working on is this shawl in Ultra Alpaca Fine. I have no idea who to give it to when it’s complete, I just know there is no earhtly way I could wear it against my neck. Alpaca’s fine for me to knit with but, man, does the stuff make me itch everywhere else. Does one of you in blog land want it? It’s a beautiful crescent shape with a simple, traditional lace edging.


Next is a scarf for Leah, of which I have no recent photo. It’s now a good 30 inches long so far more distance to go before it’s complete. It’s large enough that I can no longer tote it with me to/from work or school though I must get better about actually working on it. She’s a great friend and I don’t want to get the scarf to her after it’s already warmed up enough not to need it. [Yarn is Berroco Weekend]

Scarf for Leah

Then there’s these fingerless gloves I started to crochet for a coworker but got stalled on when I got to the second one. These’ll get finished real quick once I pick them up again. [Yarn is Neighborhood Fibre Co Studio Sport in a OOAK colorway named L'Enfant Plaza.]

Half Done

Finally, another pair of socks for Danielle in squishy Sanguine Gryphon Bugga!.

7 Feb - Cold Toes

So much for that…

For the last couple weeks, I kept posting my daily post on Thursday. I knew this and fully planned to write a post yesterday. Too bad all sorts of things conspired together and I didn’t actually get that post written. I also almost forgot to take my daily self portrait.

Oh, right. I don’t think I’ve said anything about that here. I’m trying, yet again, this year to take a self-portrait daily. With a brand-new camera and a year that’s going to be full of all sorts of big changes in my life (hello, college graduation!), it was the perfect time to try again. So far, I haven’t missed a day.

I can’t say all of my shots have been wonderfully inspired. Some are just quick iPhone shots of me during my commute or sitting at my desk at the end of the day, but there’s always a picture. On more exciting days, I’ve been trying really hard to record what happened to make that day important/special/impactful (yes, it’s a word). Way to record my life, even though it’s usually pretty mundane.

Outside of this photo project and forgetting to blog, I’m working on getting back into the swing of things with school and work. I only have two classes so most days are spent at work, not at school. That’s going to take a lot of getting used to, as I was only working 8-10 hours a week last term.

But, only 15 weeks of school left and my classes aren’t that bad. Senior design is complicated and stressful but, really, that’s expected. My last operations research class looks like it’s going to be easy and the professor is a good combination of informative and interesting (though he voice is so soothing, it makes you want to sleep in class).

Oh! And the crafting. I finished that blanket for Steph and Kevin and the socks I’ve been working on for Danielle since early December. Also slowly plugging away on an alpaca shawl for some as of yet undetermined recipient. Feeling guilty that my cardigan I started for myself in late November still has only 3/4 of its first sleeve (though the body is all done). Started the next pair of socks for Danielle though the dark color of the yarn she chose is obfuscating the pattern horribly. Just this morning, started a pair of fingerless gloves (crocheted) for a coworker with permanantly cold hands.

Exciting, huh?

Today’s random blog photo is of a prototype for the claw the students designed. Search my blog for FIRST and you’ll find previous posts about the high school robotics program I work with. New school, same concept. [Though these kids can all solder, machine, weld, and draft far better than I can. It's nuts!]

Claw Prototype 002

Later, all!

Year in Review

Alternate title: The New Year is not nearly exciting enough to blog about, yet, so I’m going to cheat and blog about what last year was all about.

January: Worked part-time during winter recess from school. Found myself with more free time than I knew what to do with. Did almost no blogging but lots of knitting. Matt was away for work for a week and I passed by time by hanging out at the yarn store and going to lunch with my friend, Rosemary.

February: Started the Couch to 5 K for the first time (which ended a few weeks later when I got sick and could barely breathe). Went to West Virginia so Matt could go skiing with Alex and Shelly during a horrible snow storm. Two days after unburrying a parking space for Matt’s car, we got another 20″ of snow. I did get to miss four days of both work and school, though my poor car remained burried for a full three weeks. I participated in and nearly finished my goals for Ravelympics. The semester really got going, including two classes which went late into the evening. Thanks to Dan’s wife, I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Mason Inn construction site.

March: Spent a week feeling like death which was really just a bad cold. Did a lot of knitting while Matt spent my Spring Break skiing in Vermont.

April: Decided to train to run a half marathon, while only being able to run for 2 minutes at a time for 30 minutes.

May: Learned to crochet, hexagons specifically. Spent a long weekend in Chartlottsville wine tasting. Went strawberry picking. Finished up what turned out to be a 4. 0 GPA semester.

June: Went back home for a friend’s wedding. Managed to also go to the Florida Keys (finally) during the same trip.

July: Celebrated the 4th at Arlington, as I did last year. Knit a shawl for a coworker and an ill-fitting sweater for myself. Got an iPhone 4, an upgrade I really didn’t need.

August: Made fingerless gloves for Sarah. Gave away about a third of my stash, finally got the last of it to the recipient this past week. Went to DE to go to the beach (but forgot to take photos, apparently).Visited the National Zoo.

September: Began my penultement semester of college. Got eaten alive by my senior design project. Celebrated my 26th birthday by not being able to talk for three days. I finally went to the doctor about my hip and was told no more running until some physical therapy (or a monthly injection). Had family over for labor day.

October: Went to the Rally to Restore Fear/Sanity. Celebrated fourth wedding anniversary but going somewhere for dinner than neither Matt nor I can remember. Ran out of candy at 7:15 on Halloween, despite expecting very few children.

November: Had a cousin’s-only Thanksgiving, again. Lots of school stress. I’m sure I did some knitting.

December: Last days of the semester. Caribbean cruise with parents and MIL. Barely stayed up until Midnight on New Year’s Eve. GOT NEW CAMERA!

Things I May Do Next Year

Because we all know how good I am at following through, here’s my list of things I may possibly do next year.

1. Learn how to use my new camera: What new camera, you ask? My pretty Canon Digital Rebel something-something Matt got me for Christmas. While I know the absolute basics of how to use it due to prior experince using his (original model) Rebel, I really don’t know what I’m doing. That being said, I do have the manual and Matt, of course, to help me figure it out. I plan to take lots and lots of photos, not just on special days like vacations but also on normal days and throughout my normal, daily life.

2. Take self-portraits: I know better than to try to do this every day, but I do want to take self-portraits that really show where I am in my life at that particular moment.

3. Graduate: Okay, this isn’t a may do but a WILL do. I have been in college since 2003, it’s about dang time I graduate. Only two courses remaining, the second half of my senior design course (did I mention I got an A in the first half?) and a final course in stochastic modeling. I can’t believe I’m almost, at last, done.

4. Visit more touristy places in DC: Sure, I’ve been to most of the Smithsonians and the National Gallery of Art, but want about the Udvar-Hazy Center, Arlington Cemetary, and the moments (other than the Washington Monument). I live less than 5 miles away from the city, there is really no excuse. Okay, maybe the cold. The cold is a good excuse.

5. Blog more: Partly because I feel better when I write, partly so phone calls to my mom aren’t nearly as necessary. Man, that sounds horrible. I really like talking to her. Really. I just don’t want her to worry that I’m dead. Blogging means she’ll know the important (but not super private) stuff and will only have to fill her in on the important but not blog[able and stupid stuff.

6. Get back into running: Sure, tehre was the whole injury thing which I never followed up on. Then school got busy and now it’s cold. But, really, there is not adequate excuse from now on. I have a great gym on campus with decent treadmills and have both the time and money available to get physical therapy for the injury. And I’m pretty sure I can convince my former running partner, Jen, to keep me focused.

7. Watch what I eat: And not in the “watch as I eat it all” way. I’m not talking a diet, per say but being more mindful of what I’m eating. Again, school was busy last term so it was all about just eating anything that was available. But this next term, I only have two classes and a part-time job. I should have more than enough time to eat healthier.

8. Figure out what I want to do for a career: Although I know what industry and discipline I want to work in, generally, I really need to work on figuring out specifics. Performance? DOORS and other database stuff? Project management? Risk mitigation? Find a manufacturing job? Process improvement? Work on a software-based program? Small program? Big program?

And, just so this isn’t a totally boring post, a random photo I took on our cruise this last week (that I’ll blog about in detail at some point).

In the water on Princess Cays