Cable knit caps and the midwest

So, a lot has happened in the past month: I gained a new brother-in-law (and co-gave the best wedding speech ever in the process), I got drunk/the runs from trying kombucha (not at the same time, fortunately), and I successfully organized and participated in a nertz tournament, which I most definitely should have won. But most importantly, I knit three caps!IMG_3308If you couldn’t guess, two of those caps aren’t for me. Instead, they’re for my grandma, who has basically worn through the one hat I made her last year. So, to give some variety to her wardrobe (though not really since everything she wears is purple), I knit her not one, but two purple caps! I know convention says that it’s the grandmother who’s supposed to be knitting for the grandchildren and not the other way around, but let’s face it, she wouldn’t even stand a chance. Plus, this way, I’m able to explore the depths of my malabrigo obsession and try out their different kinds of yarn (for those of you interested, i dabbled with malabrigo finito and silky merino, both of which receive the dakniel stamp of approval) while at the same time giving my grandma a cozy alternative when she’s not wearing her wig (or when i’m wearing it).IMG_3323The third cap, I am proud to say, belongs to me, and it is the first thing I actually knit for myself and will wear (not counting that sweater i made with 6 PTA moms when i was 16). Together with a muffler I knit a while back, this 3-month-early winter ensemble (i am sweating just looking at it) will keep me plenty warm in the four freezing Chicago winters I have ahead of me. The muffler pattern was adapted from purlbee’s baby blanket pattern with a couple contrast stripes thrown in and the hat pattern is 100% origiknal and may or may not be written up and posted depending on how shameless I am at asking a random classmate to model it for me (right now odds are looking pretty slim).

Oh yeah, so that’s another thing that happened this past month! Aside from winning (third place) at my nertz tournament and drinking the kombucha from hell, I also moved to Chicago! For those of you born and raised in the Bay Area bubble like myself, let me tell you a little bit about this mystical land I found myself in called the Midwest.

- Flat flat flat

- Winter is coming. Seriously. Every time I mention the weather I am told of the sub zero, contact lenses-freezing (yes! that’s a thing!) winter with wind chill (felt it once in St. Louis and i just stood in the middle of the street moaning) that will inevitably descend upon me.

- Everyone is a geography genius, familiar with remote places we’ve only read about in textbooks (e.g. Minnesota).

- Corn corn corn

Well, that pretty much sums up all of the Midwest. All in all, it’s a great place, and I’m excited to explore it over the next four years (besides my white coat ceremony, seeing fireflies was the greatest thing that happened to me this week). True, I got the whole medical school thing to take care of, but, c’mon, how hard could it be?

10604021_686118644809237_6469154189682442765_o***Wisconsin is north of Illinois.

 

Plötulopi and my 3 worst moments in Europe

IMG_1233Plaza Mayor in Madrid, where all of my photos were really crappy because I was under the assumption that what I lacked in quality I could make up for in quantity.

Well, I did it. After an entire month of musical airbnbs, deceptively valuable coins, and tall, blonde, ambiguous Europeans, I’m finally back in the US of A, where laundry machines are the size of behemoths and no one drinks bubbly water (because that ish nasty). A month is a long time, and I definitely returned with a lot more than what I left with, including 1,500+ iPhone photos (most of which are of cats), scars on my neck from falling off a bicycle (my rather protuberant adam’s apple spared my face from harm), and this:

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This is Plötulopi (one of the easier Icelandic words I came across), which is unspun Icelandic wool! For those of you who didn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of that last sentence, Plötulopi is basically the fibers of yarn before they’re turned into the balls and skeins you see in stores. It’s very thin, so you can break it quite easily, but you can also glue two strands back together with just a little bit of moisture (the lady in the store showed me this using her spit. How cool is that?!). Plötulopi is meant to be knit holding multiple strands, depending on how thick you want your yarn to be, and once it’s knit, it magically becomes as durable as regular, spun yarn! Go Plötulopi!

Not to be dramatic or anything, but Iceland was sort of like a knitter’s mecca for me. Knitting is everywhere there, since the weather oscillates comfortably between “wool sweater and a pair of fair-isle mittens” cold and “light merino cowl and maybe some arm warmers” chilly. They even sell yarn at gas stations! (bonus points for the absence of Red Heart Super Saver) Go Iceland!

IMG_1767Vernazza, one of the five cities of Cinque Terre and 1/5 of Cheny and Josh’s Italian vocabulary.

Sad to say, that is the extent of my knitting updates. I would have had a great deal more, but, thanks to the hugely inconvenient carry-on limitations of Ryanair, I was unable to bring any knitting with me on my travels. It took several repackings of my small duffel for me to finally admit that I couldn’t bring a single skein with me and that I’d have to find some other activity to pass the hours waiting for the 6 flights and 2 train rides I was scheduled to take.

But, as it turns out, bringing my knitting wouldn’t have done much good, since over the 8 different countries I passed through, I actually ended up spending very little time waiting in airports/train stations. Why, you ask? Well, it was because I was late, and then I was late again, and then I was late again, and it was the worst, ever.

IMG_2807A bird’s eye view of the Royal Library in Copenhagen, where I felt like I gained an architecture degree.

Before I go on, I should describe the other players in these tragedies, my traveling companions, the full-time friends I spent 35 straight days with, my fellow (fine i’ll do it) #theeurobears (in case you were wondering, #eurobears is already in use by an eastern European gay couple). Hopefully, this will help you better understand our dynamic as a nomadic troupe and imagine what it was like for us to travel together. Also, it’s an excuse for me to make fun of my friends publicly and garner popularity at their expense. For the sake of full transparency and blatant disregard for confidentiality, I will use their real names:

- Vivian: fellow introvert and all around heavyweight. She beat a couple of Polish lawyers at foosball in a Czech ruin pub, so I guess that’s pretty legit.

- Josh: punny and neurotic with chronic pink eye, a suspected hypochondriac.

- Cheny: connoisseur of modern art who wears a watch ironically.

- Michael: annoyingly optimistic with an unworldly metabolism. He once ate an entire tub of plain greek yogurt, 2 apples, and a bowl of pasta for breakfast.

Okay, so what follows are the 3 worst moments of my trip to Europe and quite possibly among the top 10 most stressful experiences of my life (right next to the time I got the runs and then hit a school bus with my car). Here are the 3 times we were very very very late.


Midnight train to (that country that’s close but not really to) Georgia: Prague → Budapest. Departure time: 11:45pm

11:10pm: We arrive via metro and take the escalator outside. There is an empty parking lot with no train station.

11:15pm: Czech stranger tells us we missed our stop. 7 stops ago.

11:17pm: We find a taxi driver who says he can get to the train station in 15 minutes. But he can only take 4 of us.

11:18pm: Michael and Josh agree to take metro back (Michael agrees. Josh gets kinda pulled out of the cab).

11:25pm: While in the cab, Vivian says, “This will make for such a thrilling story!” I have never come so close to punching a girl in the face.

11:30pm: Taxi driver (bless his heart) is speeding through Prague. I am counting down the minutes.

11:35pm: We arrive at the train station. Cheny and Vivian unload bags while I throw money at the driver.

11:40pm: We run to our platform. Michael and Josh have not arrived yet. I need some albuterol because that’s the fastest I’ve run in a long time.

11:42pm: First half of the train arrives and people board. Our cabin is in the second half.

11:43pm: Second half of the train arrives just as Michael and Josh race to our platform. We embrace (first and last time) and board our train.

IMG_1956The Charles Bridge over the Vltava River. Also when I learned what vscocam was (HB2 da best).


Getting to Orly Poorly: Copenhagen → Paris. Departure time: 7:05pm

5:30pm: We arrive at the bike shop to return our bikes, but owner is MIA.

5:45pm: We decide to leave for the airport regardless (the consequences of this decision is a huge mess in and of itself, but that’s for another time…) and start walking to train station.

5:50pm: Half of Copenhagen floods into the streets as we realize today is the first day of a huge music festival. Also, public consumption of alcohol is legal, which soon starts to suck for us.

5:55pm: Train station is much farther than we thought (1.5 km to be exact), so we walk faster, pushing through hordes of drunk teens and crazy DJs on floats.

6:00pm: We arrive just in time to catch the train to the airport. Michael is carrying Cheny’s suitcase instead of rolling it because Cheny bought the worst suitcase possible.

6:20pm: We arrive at the airport. We’re mildly less sweaty due to air conditioned train ride, but still somewhat panicky.

6:30pm: We get through security. Can’t find Cheny. No one is surprised.

6:35pm: Look everywhere. Still no Cheny.

6:40pm: We decide to go to the gate, hoping Cheny is there.

6:50pm: Finally reached farthest gate ever in Copenhagen airport and find Cheny. We board soon after.

IMG_3218Sunset from inside the Louvre, where I felt like I gained 50 IQ points and an art history degree.


Gatwick sUKs: London → Reykjavik. Departure time: 12:20pm.

8:45am: Cheny, Josh, and I are waiting, all packed, for our car, which is scheduled to come at 8:45am.

8:50am: Car company says we scheduled a pick-up at 9:45am, not 8:45am. We check reservation. It says 9:45am. We’re so moded.

9:45am: Still waiting for our car, not too worried because it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to get to Gatwick (WRONGWRONGWRONG).

10:00am: Car arrives. Driver says we probably won’t make our flight (least helpful driver ever).

11:00am: We sit in traffic. I check email and see that check-in for our flight closes 45 minutes before departure (i.e. 11:35am).

11:15am: Driver stops to go to the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom.

11:30am: I bolt out of the car and run to departures. Josh is close behind. Cheny is probably still getting out of the car.

11:37am: I can’t find the check-in counter for our airline. I let out a few choice words (a short prayer, of course).

11:40am: I finally find the check-in counter, and we’re next in line. I send Josh back to get Cheny. Can’t find Cheny. No one is surprised.

11:50am: Josh finds Cheny and we get our boarding passes.

11:55am: We run through security. They hold Josh to search his bag.

11:57am: A nearby monitor says our gate closes at 12pm. Security finds a huge bottle of contact solution (to be completely honest, that bottle was for me, so I guess that’s kinda my bad) and confiscates it.

11:58am: We run to our gate, which is 3 sets of moving walkways away. so. friggin. far.

12:00pm: We board as they close the gate. We are literally the last people to enter the plane.

IMG_4033Glassy pool on the outskirts of þingvellir National Park in southwest Iceland, a sight attainable only through the vitalizing power of ginger cookies and frusli bars.


Okay, so if I were being incredibly knit-picky, I’d have to admit that technically we were never actually late, since we never missed a flight or train. We were just very close to being late. But for diehard ISTJs like myself, there’s no difference. You’re talking to the guy who made an entire travel booklet complete with metro directions, confirmation codes, city maps, a currency conversion matrix, and phonetic guides (Lam, D., Eurobears: A Comprehensive Guide, 2014). I made back-up routes to my back-up routes so that being close to late wouldn’t even be a possibility. But somehow, in a strangely appropriate execution of Murphy’s Law, directions were misread, flight delays were essentially non-existent (first time i actually wished for flight delays), and I became as late as I have ever been in my entire life, and it was the absolute worst.

Or maybe not. While I was bowling over little kids and slow old people on my sprint through Gatwick, I remember thinking that it was comical, almost–how after so many close calls we still couldn’t get it right, and how everything could have possibly gone so wrong. That’s the funny thing I learned from traveling for so long (other than my high tolerance for wearing dirty socks multiple times), after a certain number of times, seemingly critical mistakes start to matter less and less. Bad is as bad as bad gets. Once you accept that, things don’t seem as, well, bad.

Would I be saying the same thing had we actually missed some of our flights? Probably not, but I’d sure hope so. I’d hope that having been late on the very days when punctuality was paramount would have, on some level, changed me for the better, making me more flexible and quieting the tiny clock in my head (fellow J’s you know wassup). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still and forever will be a schedules-and-timetables kind of guy, and being late most definitely sucks. But maybe being late doesn’t have to be the worst. After all, I’d be lying if I said all I felt was complete dread when I recount the times we were panicked and out of breath, and that there wasn’t just a hint of nostalgia whenever I tell people the stories of my 3 worst moments in Europe.

IMG_3714***þingvellir National Park is the site of Iceland’s, and the world’s, first Parliament proceedings, which were held in 930 AD.

Endings and beginnings


IMG_0217So I quit 3 weeks ago, and can I just say that quitting is like, the best thing ever? I swear, if I weren’t Asian and quitting wasn’t seen as this huge slap in the face to my entire lineage (except ballet. pretty sure some ancestor out there is glad his great great great great grandson didn’t pursue ballet.), I’d do it all the time. It’s seriously the greatest feeling in the world (next to getting hired, because that’s a good thing too). Every single responsibility drops out instantly and you can just start mass-deleting incoming work emails indiscriminately. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually able to say “I quit” to my boss and walk out holding a cardboard box with all my belongings as I originally intended, so I settled for taking an over-saturated Instagram of my last time leaving my work building and collecting its well-deserved 4 likes (thank you judy, greg, vivian, and nicoleriverox3 for your optimism).

But I couldn’t just leave without a proper goodbye. I mean, I was there for almost 2 years. This was the job that allowed me to talk to patients while they were in the middle of brain surgery and gave me an excuse to wear my ugly (but incredibly comfortable) shoes. And while most would turn to hand-written notes or Cheesecake Factory gift cards in order to express gratitude toward their employers, I decided to give my boss something a bit more, well, me:

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Okay I know you all expected that because this is a knitting blog, but believe me, my boss was very much surprised. Some backstory: so my boss is a young doctor with an even younger son who I was able to meet at a work party (as someone who has farted during yoga, i can verify that work parties are awkward). And since knitting for grown men is often a difficult and intimate process, I decided to spare both of us the awkward silence that would inevitably occur had I knit him a muffler or wool cap and instead knit a simple striped blanket for his 2-year old. However, halfway through I had the sudden realization that spending hours knitting a blanket for my boss’s little boy son who I had met (more like “seen,” since he didn’t seem all too interested in me) just once before might come off as a tiny bit creepy, so I bought a couple of extra skeins and made it long enough to also pass as a light throw or lapghan.

Before I go on, I must admit that this blanket is not new to my blog, and that I actually used and wrote about this pattern before. But, given that this is now a baby blanket/light throw/lapghan, I did make some minor adjustments. First, I decided to use Berroco Weekend (as opposed to my all time fav Malabrigo Worsted), which is an acrylic/cotton blend and perfect for babies or anytime you expect large volumes of saliva. Not only is it completely machine washable and non-irritating to the skin, but it has a shiny quality that you can’t get with most wools. Also, it’s much cheaper, making large projects like this much more feasible and easy-going on my wallet. Second, I added the stripes, which babies love, I think. Unwilling to ask my boss for his son’s favorite colors and relying on my own unimaginative color palette, I defaulted to the standard blue and gold (go bears) you usually see in expecting nurseries. A safe choice, but, I am happy to report, it was well received by my boss, who responded to the blanket as one might expect one would when one realizes that one’s employee is an obsessive-compulsive knitter (i.e. with an awkward side hug).

Since quitting my job, I have joined the ranks of my fellow funemployees, with almost 2 weeks of uninterrupted free time. And while most would turn to sleeping in late and binge watching Netflix in order to pass away the days, I decided to spend my time doing something a bit more, well, me:

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Oh, come on, you have to admit you were at least a little surprised. It’s 2 projects in 1 post! This never happens!

As many of you might already know, I have an unhealthy relationships with the Herringbone stitch, so I took my first free week of funemployment to finagle it into a beanie. And after several botched attempts (and like, 8 episodes of The Voice), I finally came out with my very own Herringbone beanie pattern!

IMG_2955This is the second pattern I’ve officially published, and you can purchase it for just $1 through Ravelry or my etsy. As you can tell from my prices, my business model could use a little bit of work, but if just 2 people buy my pattern, I can ride the bus back to the yarn shop and do this thing all over again, which is all I really want (#simpleliving). Oh yeah, and a big thank you to my upstairs neighbor, Vicky, for the use of her shapely head. Betcha didn’t see this coming when you signed the lease.

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If you’re adding up the dates in your head, you may be wondering what I’ve been doing recently if I finished my beanie pattern my first week after quitting 3 weeks ago. And if you aren’t adding up the dates, then I have no transitional statement for you. This past weekend, I was revisiting my future medical school, meeting my future teachers and classmates and, more importantly, scoping the place for any deal breakers (e.g. institutional ban on knitting needles, widespread use of Red Heart Super Saver, book burning etc.). Fortunately, I found none. On the contrary, my time there was perfect, filled with passionate people telling me of the incredible opportunities I’d have over the next 4 years and the close-knit (HA!) community that would challenge and support me through what I am sure will be the most transformative period of my life (besides puberty. that really did a number on me.). Even the other potential students were amazing. Funny and intelligent, all of them, with a range of backgrounds so diverse and interesting that it made a knitting male like myself seem almost run of the mill.

But for some reason, after it was all over, I wasn’t feeling completely satisfied.

I was tired. Unbelievably tired. Of everyone I had just met, despite how amazing they all were. And this weariness was worrisome (wuh woh). In those two days, I was right there with my peers, forming relationships and memories and experiences that will (hopefully) lay the foundation for the intimacy everyone ensures will happen naturally. But that was as long as I could handle, and for the next 4 hours afterwards, I found myself at a cafe, alone, reading in silence and (regrettably) having the absolute time of my life. And then I started to think. What was everyone else doing right now? Were they still talking? Laughing? Building up those crucially bonding experiences that I didn’t have the energy to take part in? If you know me well (or not well, because it’s pretty obvious), you’ll know that I’m about as introverted as you can get (I’ve been cafeing since the 7th grade if that gives you a hint). Heck, you might have even known this was going to happen before I did. And while I accept my inner I as an integral part of who I am, as I sat there in that cafe eating my 3rd scone (don’t judge. i don’t drink coffee, so what else am i supposed to do?), I wondered if it was actually hurting me, tying me down and holding me back from being fully present in a social circle that seemed so accessible to everyone else.

And then I remembered the 5 hours I spent with Michael failing at breaking into a house (read more about it here) and that one time I tried all night to teach Joseph how to say the word “girl” (read more about it here). I remembered the Sundays and Wednesdays with these nerds memorizing the 90’s dance from Sister Act 2 and, oh yeah, who could forget the 8 days in Vietnam with my rabble-rousing high school friends (read more about it here). Anyway, the list went on as I brought to mind the people I (and don’t you dare tell them this) simply couldn’t get enough of, and when I thought back to the strangers I had just encountered, the names I had just learned and forgotten and learned again (though not really, but it’d be just plain insulting to ask a third time), the jokes I had perfected after telling it the same way 10 times, I realized that it will happen again, with time. Regardless of how many study groups or parties I attend or how many Sunday afternoons I spend holed up in a random coffee shop, it will all happen again. Acquaintances will be made, followed by friends. Awkward introductions will turn into hilarious anecdotes and deep, meaningful discussions will drag into the late night hours. I will be who I am, and it will all come together as it has before.

Whether it takes days or months (i really hope it doesn’t take months), I will find my place in this community that is as wonderfully different and unique as everyone else’s and embrace my new home away from home. And while most would turn to writing caps locked Facebook statuses or excited update emails to friends and family in order to celebrate this new medically-centered stage of life, I decided to go with something a bit more, well, me:

IMG_3010***”Crescat scientia; vita excolatur” is the motto of the University of Chicago and, in English, translates to “Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.”

Waves and trouble

IMG_1888Hey, remember when I wrote about woodworking a while ago and went on about how that was going to be my new thing to accompany my knitting and then I showed, like, 1 progress picture a couple weeks later but then completely stopped mentioning it so that everyone thought I was all talk and no follow through? Well, as it turns out, I actually did it! No, I didn’t finish my box for my needles (that’s still all talk and no follow through), but I did try my hand at “carving in the round” and came up with this wave-like sculpture that holds absolutely no practical value. To be honest, this is probably my most artistic project yet and my first project made purely for aesthetic purposes, so it will come as no surprise to you that the only way I could make this was by following the instructions of a step by step guidebook that I bought off Amazon (basically paint-by-numbers for woodcarving). Nevertheless, it is a work I am proud of, and so in lieu of 2-3 paragraphs expounding something I knit in the past few weeks, I will spend the first part of this post describing the steps I took when I followed the steps the book told me to take when I carved this wave.

1. The tools

IMG_1772 IMG_2063Obtaining the proper tools actually took up a lot of time since all of the places that supply woodcarving tools are congregated in the Midwest (this was the first time I ever had to consider Minnesota as an actual place where people live and stuff). But eventually, I got myself a 4x12x12in block of limewood and 2 carving gouges: a size 3 with a 30mm sweep (width) and a size 7 with a 20mm sweep (the higher the size, the more acute the curvature of the gouge).

2. The trace

IMG_1651 IMG_1667With some cardstock, I traced the shape that I wanted to carve out (aka the shape that the book told me to cut out) and outlined it onto two sides of my brand spankin’ new block of wood.

3. The carving

IMG_1765Okay, now here’s where the actual carving started. I probably spent a good 20 minutes mentally going through the motions before actually making a cut (we all remember that hugely inappropriate fishhook-in-the-eye video in woodshop). But once I got into a rhythm, I found it was pretty easy to carve out my outline while simultaneously keeping my eyeball intact.

4. More carving

IMG_1862 IMG_1875This wave is more of a loop-de-loop, so there’s actually some depth to it. To accomplish this, I carved away deeper and deeper along certain parts of each side (words are failing me now in trying to describe this exact shape) so that, starting from the cut part of the circle, the side of the wood curves inwards to, what was originally, the middle of the wood block (okay that didn’t make any sense but keep reading, you’ll get it).

5. Working through the grits

IMG_1881 IMG_1882Here’s a fun fact (the first one you’ll see not preceded by ***): in order to get it so smooth, wood is sanded several times with different types of sandpaper of gradually increasing grits (from 120 to 12000). But before each sanding, the wood is soaked in boiling water and allowed to dry, which raises up the grain that the previous grit was unable to sand down. This raised grain is then subsequently removed by the next, finer, sandpaper. This process (which seriously cut into my knitting time), is called “working through the grits” and took about 2 weeks to complete, but by the last grit, I couldn’t keep my hands off of the wood because of how smooth it was (like a baby’s bottom if you worked it through the grits).

6. The polish

IMG_2022 IMG_2032This was probably the most frustrating, but ultimately most rewarding, part. Each layer of wood polish I added never seemed to stick, and when it did, it looked splotchy and uneven. After around a dozen attempts, I eventually decided to sand it all off and re-polish the whole thing from scratch. But as it turns out, sanding it (I used the a 12000 grit) actually evened out the polish and sealed it to the wood really nicely! I’ll let a more experienced woodworker comment on the efficacy of my accidental genius, but until then, I’m pretty sure this makes me a woodworking prodigy.

Oh yeah, and the second picture depicts the curvature I was forming in step 4.

And there you have it! My very first wood sculpture. A lot more work than I originally thought, but totally worth every piece of wood dust floating around my house and inside my lungs right now.

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If you’re one of the special few who actually reads my blog instead of just scanning the pictures and ignoring the text (not bitter), then you’ll know that medical school is quickly approaching (i mean, c’mon, it takes like, 3 minutes to read), and that my final guilt free summer (aka my eatpraylove summer) is practically upon me (do you not like my writing or something?). In fact, if you follow my burgeoning Instagram (seriously. about to explode. my last two photos had 10+ likes within a day. #instafamousstatus), you’ll know that my travels have already begun.

IMG_0887This past Sunday, I came back from a week-long trip to Vietnam with 3 of my friends. It was the first time the 4 of us had traveled anywhere together and we had a blast. Despite sweltering heat and a complete ignorance of the Vietnamese language (except the numbers 1-10 and the Vietnamese equivalent of “Hiya, buddy!”), we were able to do some pretty incredible stuff, like ride on backs of motorcycles, feed crocodiles, snorkel through coral reeves, have tiny Vietnamese women stand on our backs, and eat $1 banh mi.

IMG_0986However, this trip was as much about learning as it was about experiencing, and I, for one, learned quite a bit (for example, a wife beater worn under a low cut v-neck looks like a camisole). But before I go on, I have to tell you the difference between my friends and me.

IMG_8247To put it bluntly (don’t let the innocent photo fool you), my friends are troublemakers. I mean, these are the guys that once tried to rip out the bottom of some girl’s locker just to see if it was possible (it turns out it was. don’t worry, they left a note. they’re not complete jerks). And I’m not saying my own record is spotless (though I was awarded Security Monitor of the Year if you haven’t heard…), but I’m like a different breed, the quiet, obedient breed. I was the kid in elementary school who spent recess sorting mail for the secretary rather than playing handball (sad/true story). So, you can imagine the kind of stress exploring the hectic streets of Vietnam with these 3 caused, what with wild monkeys and crocodiles and shady Vietnamese pimps. And if you know me well enough, you can already expect the insightful conclusion I ultimately came to and inevitably will use to fuel my blog popularity.

For the first few days, I met my friends’ suggestions (“hey, let’s go take pictures in that guy’s boat!”) with opposition (“uh, i don’t think he wants us in there.”), concerned about who we’d anger or inconvenience and what kind of trouble we’d get ourselves into. After all, we were in a foreign country and didn’t speak the language and the last thing we wanted was to get into some deep water (partially because the water is filthy. our immune systems are essentially made of porcelain over there). However, heat+exhaustion+peer pressure eventually wore me down until I decided to just go along with every ridiculous and wild decision and have a big fat “i told you so” in my back pocket ready for when things went to chết.

But guess what? (surprise, surprise) we survived. Sure, we pissed off some local fishermen and got trash talked behind our backs (actually right in front of our faces because we didn’t understand a word they said), but we came back in one piece and, all in all, got by okay. 

IMG_0853I’m not sure if it’s the Asian upbringing or the pre-med “everything you do will be seen by admission committees” scare tactic, but somewhere in my past I developed this phobia-like reaction to disapproval, disappointment, and getting in trouble (reading this back it’s most definitely the Asian upbringing). And not to say my straight-laced day-to-day (save that one time I tried crystal meth) is flawed, but I think there’s room in my life for a little bit of trouble. Angering and disappointing people are inevitabilities of being human (especially for my asian american xiong di jie mei out there, i see you), so who’s to say I can’t have some fun along the way? Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start joy riding forklifts (been there done that) and holding up liquor stores for kicks or that there’s anything inherently good about breaking rules (this is the pre-med scare tactic talking), but let’s face it. I’m going to get in trouble at some point in my life (possibly at multiple points), both knowingly and accidentally, so I might as well learn to face it head on and accept (and dare I say enjoy?) it for what it is. Besides, there are some pretty cool things that come out of terrible, terrible mistakes, just ask my sister, Allyson.

Vietnam was just the first stop in my whirlwind of travels. In the upcoming months, there will be several more countries with several more opportunities to toe the line between what is okay and what isn’t. And despite the fact that I am new to this whole daredevilish lifestyle, I don’t know, part of me thinks I’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

IMG_7855***Ho Chi Minh City is home to around 9,000,000 citizens and 7,000,000 motorbikes.

Gryffindor cowls and portraits

IMG_2789For those of you who are no strangers to my blog (first of all, welcome back), the above image may seem reminiscent of a previous blog post discussing courage and strength in the face of certain failure, and you might feel like I may be being (redundant) redundant in this post. Well, let me quell all qualms right now and just say that this cowl is an entirely different project from my initial Gryffindor scarf (though with a far less admirable and heart-warming backstory) with its own distinct pattern and everything. Convinced? Good, now keep reading.

So while the stripes and use of 10th century Hogwarts professor and duellist Godric Gryffindor as inspiration may cause these two works to look alike, the cowl you see here is actually knit in a round, and its ends are stitched together seamlessly (i.e. this is essentially a doughnut).

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By knitting in a round, the stripes are actually able to circle the entire cowl, meaning that there is no right or wrong side. You can just throw this bad boy on and not have to worry about the unseemly backside of stockinette stitches or the curling edges of a flat-knit scarf. Plus, since this cowl is double-sided, it’s twice as thick and ergo twice as warm. AND if you needed any more reasons to convince yourself that this cowl (and me, by extension) is one of the greatest things ever (right next to Uniqlo colored jeans and Ariana Grande), it only took 2 skeins of yarn to make! So while this scarf looks like an accessory reserved for Hogwarts royalty, you actually don’t have to break Gringotts to make one (If the lady on yahoo answers is to be trusted, it would cost you exactly 2 galleons and 3 sickles)!

If you’ve been reading closely, you’ll notice that I’ve been talking up this cowl quite a bit (also that I’ve used the letter “u” 36 times since the start of this post). Rest assured this isn’t pure vanity (it’s like, 45% vanity). The actual reason is that this is my very first original pattern that I’m selling for $1!

That’s right, I was so impressed with my work (okay, 60% vanity) that I decided to write up the pattern for my striped Gryffindor cowl and sell it on my etsy (which you can find here) as well as my ravelry account for only $1! That means, for the cost of a morning coffee, you could learn how to make this scarf 3 times and also give me like, 65 cents in pity change. What a steal!

To purchase the pattern for this Gryffindor cowl, please click here.

On a more serious note, this is my first ever original pattern so apologies in advance if the formatting and layout is not to your liking (thank you MSWord). And please feel free to message me if you need any help or have any questions!

Now some of you may be asking why it is that I’m selling this pattern at all and not just offering it as a free download. The first reason is vanity (of course), believing that my amateur innovations in knitting are worth some monetary value. But the second reason is that, in the upcoming months, I will probably be having the most exciting time of my life (unless I meet Ed Sheeran at a cafe randomly and he invites me backstage to one of his concerts and then he instagrams us together and I become instafamous because of it #dreamcometrue), and while I am a working man, I would love to say that this period of my life was, in part, subsidized by my knitting.

From March to June of this year, I will be traveling to 11 different countries (I’m like 50% Eat Pray Love and 50% Walter Mitty) across 2 continents using 8 different currencies. And between flight checking, wikitravel, stress eating, and anxiety stomachaches, I’ve thought about the kinds of things I’d like to do in these different places. While the term YOLO has come to mind on several occasions and the idea of riding elephants in Bangkok, exploring caves off the Amalfi Coast, or getting drunk on an Icelandic fjord has its merits (especially the drunk on a fjord one), I can’t shake the notion that I’d be incredibly happy just sitting at a random cafe with my knitting (okay, 75% Eat Pray Love and 25% Walter Mitty), listening to music and keeping an eye out for Ed Sheeran. But even I’ll admit that this is something I could do at home, so I’ve decided to invest in another para-cafeing activity that will help me create memories wherever I visit while also still letting me relax and keep an eye out for Ed Sheeran: portraits.

I am an ISTJ. I think critically and concretely and trust facts, logic, and information that I obtain from my 5 senses (well, not smell, because I get olfactory hallucinations, but that’s a different story). What little creative juice I do possess gets crammed straight into this blog and my knitting and punny placements of the letter “k.” Add to that the fact that I am left-handed and you can imagine just how horrible of an artist I am. However, the romanticized idea of me sitting outdoors at a coffee shop in Prague drawing young couples looking out over the Charles Bridge (def 100% Eat Pray Love) doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so, as of a couple months ago, I am officially an aspiring sketch artist, with charcoal as my preferred medium (right next to Miss Cleo. HA!).

What follows are the faces I’ve sketched, from friends and family to famous celebrities. As I’ve come to learn, drawing and drawing likenesses are two separate arts and, unfortunately for those who I’ve drawn, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the former and completely ignored the latter.

IMG_2828Random woman from my head. She looks like Storm from X-Men because I didn’t know how to do eyes. Also her face looks bruised.

IMG_2818Probably the scariest of my drawings. I immediately knew it was gonna be bad when I started, but I thought I could salvage it. I could not. This is supposed to be Harry Styles.

IMG_2819Slightly more of a semblance to an actual human being, though a bit cartoony. There’s hope for me yet. This is Emma Watson.

IMG_2820My spurt of improvement inspired me to try Harry Styles again, which turned out moderately better than my first attempt.

IMG_2817I took a break from stalking One Direction pictures and tried to draw my filipino friend, Bea. This picture looks nothing like her, but many people said they got a “filipino vibe” when I showed it to them, so that has to count for something.

IMG_2821Next I tried drawing my sister. This is when I realize I really suck at hair (because that’s the only thing wrong with this portrait). And yes, in real life her right eye is slightly higher than her left and she has the teeth of an orc.

IMG_2831Realizing that open mouths are so hard to draw, I returned to the realm of closed-mouth smolders by One Direction. This is Louis Tomlinson and it actually resembles him somewhat, except for that cauliflower ear.

IMG_2824I just finished binge watching The Newsroom Season 2. Hence, Chris Messina.

IMG_2825I’ll leave this last one for you guys to guess. Free Gryffindor cowl pattern for whoever gets it right.

***The Sorting Hat, before being enchanted to place students into the various Hogwarts Houses, originally belonged to Godric Gryffindor.

Christmas presents and Home Alone

IMG_2005Though I am a big fan of cowls and sweaters and whatnot, I must admit that this Christmas is a season of the little things. Don’t get me wrong, gluttony is my fav deadly sin, but bringing home 9 or 10 skeins of merino wool every few weeks really puts some wear on my poor credit card (and makes me uncomfortably familiar with the staff at my local yarn shop). So this year, I’ve opted for some single-skein projects to give to my friends and family as presents, and I can’t say I’m entirely disappointed with the results:

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IMG_2004First off, I had a request for a pair of gloves that my mother in the image above is so blurrily enjoying (#datfstopdoe). While I have made plenty of mittens and hand warmers in the past, I have always steered clear of anything with fingers or toes under the belief that my large hands and ineptitude with fingering weight yarn would make such ventures impossible. Fortunately for the recipient of my knitting as well as my own ego, all it took was careful circular knitting and yarn tucking (oh yeah, and 1 seriously botched, practice glove) to produce these perfect, purple, proportional gloves. And best of all, both gloves (all 3 if you include the perpetually-flipping-you-off practice one) took less than 1 skein of yarn, so I splurged a little and used a luxurious Madeleinetosh sock yarn.

These gloves were given to my friend’s mom, who I have never met but really hope has an incredibly large thumb.

IMG_2715As I’ve traveled around the country these past few months, I’ve come to realize that winter as I know it is a complete lie. Apparently, things get really cold outside of California (i’m talking like, below 50, guys. you wouldn’t believe it.) and peoples’ faces start coming off if you don’t apply moisturizer constantly (learned that the hard way #reallifemolting). And having experienced this weather firsthand, I now know the value of having a warm, wool hat. Combine this newfound appreciation with the discovery of Cascade Longwood (an amazingly affordable superwash merino wool) and you have me binge watching American Horror Story chugging out 4 hats in a week.

These hats were for the members of my ISG crew, a gang of introverts who spends hours on end discussing Revenge, Ed Sheeran, and delivering each other’s children (we also beat people up and sling dope on street corners).

I was hoping that by the time I wrote this post, I’d have some sort of Christmas miracle story to recount to all of you (like knitting an entire sweater out of just 1 ball of yarn). Unfortunately, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, Michael Tan happened.

For those of you who don’t know Michael, he is a child prodigy, having graduated from college at the ripe age of 19 (or something like that) and beginning medical school this upcoming fall. So you’ll be surprised to learn that, recently, Michael, in all his precocial genius, locked himself out of his apartment in Oakland, leaving behind just about everything him or I would never ever want to leave behind ever.

Things locked inside the apartment: Michael’s house and car keys, Michael’s wallet, Michael’s phone, my computer (it was a blogging day so def needed that), my glasses/contact solution (i have very dry eyes and at the time I had about 2-3 hours before complete ocular agony), my medication (I was feeling particularly asthmatic that day), and my knitting (’nuff said).

Okay, so here’s what happened:

1:30pm: Initial freak out. Exchange of insults followed by apologies and reconciliation.

1:45pm: I MacGyver a dustpan and pencil to open both locked metal gates separating us and apartment #1D. The door is deadbolted and we knock on the off chance that Matthew 7:7 was written in a literal sense.

2:10pm: Michael and I switch shirts (don’t ask).

2:15pm: I give Michael a boost as he removes the screen from the front window and learns that it is locked from the inside. Mother and daughter walk past us as we are trying to force the window open. They say and do nothing.

2:30pm: Michael and I open the 2 locked gates of the adjacent apartment complex and climb through a hole in the dividing wall and arrive on the balcony of 1D. We borrow a screwdriver and pliers from the neighbor and unscrew every back window and the balcony door to no avail.

3:00pm: Begin banging and pushing on windows in frustration. I contemplate breaking a window with a rock.

3:15pm: Michael gives a pep talk on how smart and capable we are and how we shouldn’t use brawn over brains. He calmly takes rock out of my hands and compliments how his shirt looks on me. I decide to go buy a shirt like it the next chance I get.

3:45pm: I open the top corner of the back window a tiny crack and use a rusty hook to open the blinds so we can see inside. 10 minutes of jubilant celebration ensue.

3:55pm: Michael realizes that the window we have slightly cracked open is locked in place by a wooden dowel:

dowel-window-securityHe believes that if we can remove the dowel, we can fully open the back window and climb our way in. I start undoing chicken wire with pliers so we can bend it to reach the dowel while Michael goes through neighbor’s trash to find a suitable piece of wood to hold the wire. I tell myself that I’ll just let Michael keep my shirt.

4:30pm: Several failed attempts at removing the dowel. Then we realize that I still have my car and my wallet and my phone and that we can go out and buy stuff rather than dig through someone else’s trash (facepalms all around).

4:55pm: Arrive at hardware store minutes before closing and purchase steel wire and wood glue. We feel like men at the moment.

5:15pm: I use pliers to form a mesh-like surface out of the wire that will be used to stick to the dowel. I apply the wood glue. Michael balances on overturned bucket atop broken step in order to stick it through the tiny crack and maneuver it so it sits flatly on the dowel. Sun is setting.

5:30pm: Wire contraption is failing. I spill the wood glue and it gets everywhere (except my chinos. geddit jcrew factory). Sun has set. I feel like crying.

5:45pm: I make a second wire contraption to stick to the dowel while Michael holds the flashlight. I am quite impressed with my work under the circumstances.

6:00pm: Michael maneuvers wire to sit on top of the dowel and lets the wood glue dry. We read the glue bottle and realize we have to hold it there for 30 minutes.

6:05pm: Michael asks if it’s time yet because his arm is tired. I lie and say almost.

6:25pm: Michael and I go back and forth seeing how long we can hold our breaths.

6:29pm: We pray that the wood glue will be dry.

6:30pm: The wood glue is not dry. Michael pulls the wire back through the crack and we pack up our stuff. I drive him to his parents’ house, then I drive home.

I know. I’m just as disappointed as you are. If we had gotten that window open I could’ve made a reverse Home Alone blog post (speaking of Home Alone…) and talk about how there really is magic during the holiday season and that hard efforts really do pay off in the end. But no. Instead, I got 5 hours of labor amounting to nothing (aside from deep conversations about life and the future and unforgettable moments of laughter topped off with a delightful dinner with Michael’s family, of course). So much for a Christmas story.

***As of 2011, there are 1,307.8 reported burglaries per 100,000 population in Oakland, California.

Ravenclaw cowls and villages

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Medical school interviews (yes, we’re talking about that again. deal with it) have taught me a great deal many things, approximately 10% of which are related to medicine. Flying from city to city and living out of a suitcase has expanded my horizons (and credit card bill). I’ve learned that, contrary to popular belief, Chicago is in the Midwest and NOT the East coast, and that it is NOT the capital of Illinois (apparently, my geography education is comparable to that of a 2nd grader). I’ve been gambling in Las Vegas (Airport) and won $3 (and then lost $15. stupid triple double bonus poker). I even know how to get off one of those moving walkways without stumbling like an idiot.

All this to say, in these past couple months of flights and shuttles and overpriced airport parfaits, I’ve done a lot of new things. But the one thing that grounds me, the thing that gives me a little bit of home no matter where I go (aside from my emergency relief inhaler #albuterol) is my knitting. Yes, other than jury duty, 5 hours on an airplane is the perfect milieu for a long, soothing knitting session. And since I’ve already made a Gryffindor themed scarf, I thought I would move onto the (obviously) next best house:

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I present to you all my Ravenclaw cowl (Ravencowl), painted in the colors of blue and gold, just like the robes of the intellectually inclined Rowena Ravenclaw herself! Coincidentally, this cowl also sports the colors of my alma mater, so I guess it could represent that as well (Cal cowl). I knit this in fair isle fashion (i.e. Contintental style with the left hand and Western style with the right), and since I held both strands at the same time, this cowl is doubly thick, making it super plush and warm, just in time for the upcoming winter. Special thanks to my friend Vicky for volunteering to be a floating head.

Since I knew this cowl would take a ton of yarn to make, I decided to go a bit thrifty and used Berroco Vintage. You still get an acrylic feel when you touch it, but the nylon gives it a stretchy sheen. Also, if you look closely,

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you’ll realize that you cannot find the backside of this scarf. That’s because there isn’t one! Yes, this infinity cowl is infinite in every sense of the word. It is knit in a round, with the starting and ending rounds kitchener-ed up to create a donut of sorts. That means you can literally wear this every which way and the pattern will always be showing!

Now, it will come as no surprise to anyone that knitting has come up quite often during my medical school interviews. Aside from good grades and the 4 titanium screws on the left side of my skull, that’s pretty much the only other interesting thing about me. And while this topic has come up in different ways at different interviews, all of them eventually come to the question: How did you start knitting? My gut reaction is to respond, “with a long-tail cast-on,” (if you’re not chuckling, trust me, I just made a really good knitting joke) but the real answer is a much more embarrassing story. So, to avoid an unwanted trip down memory lane, I usually just say, “to impress a girl.”

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The real story is actually much more complicated than that, but for the sake of keeping my awkward nightmarish middle school days a thing of the past, I won’t go into much detail. All I’ll say is that it happened on a trip to the East Coast (or the Midwest, wherever Washington D.C. is) during a long bus ride, when this girl I liked, Angel (as much as I hate to deprive someone of being featured on my blog and of the fame and glory that would inevitably ensue, I figure I should get a head start on this whole HIPAA thing), started to crochet. I was immediately hooked (you can’t tell right now, but I am killing it with my knitter readers right now) and eager to learn more.

You can predict what happened next: We graduated middle school and the next thing I knew, we never saw each other again (she went to a high school half a mile away from mine, so distance became a huge issue). But her love of yarn seemed to stick with me and, as evidenced by this blog, has come a part of the masculiknitter I am today.

To be honest, I never really thought much of how I began knitting until I was asked at an interview. I always assumed that admissions committees would want to know what I was knitting now and why I was knitting now. But as more and more people have brought it up, I’ve started to think back to that era of my life and (between the moments of cringing) wonder how my life (or at least my choice in hobbies) could have gone in other directions. What if Angel had brought a camera with her on that trip, would I be applying to medical school as an expert photographer (oh wait, I already am one!)? Or what if she’d been reading Pride and Prejudice (she was that kind of girl), would I have turned into a hardcore Jane Austen fan 10 years later (emmasculinity.wordpress.com)?

But then I think about what happened after that bus ride, and how Angel was only the first step. Because after her there was Izzy, my bad ass harpist classmate who was on the same trip as Angel and me and showed me her knitting needles after she saw me crocheting. And then there was Auntie Alice (and when I say auntie, I don’t mean, like, actual auntie. I mean it like the way Asian people use it, which is more meaningful I think), my dad’s co-worker who fixed my first afghan via telephone while I was in the middle of the Grand Canyon. And there’s also “that lady from the yarn shop,” who taught me the importance of knitting swatches and how to correctly measure bust size.

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Oh yeah, and there’s also this woman, my mom, who birthed me and set this crazy, yarn-filled journey in motion to begin with. Aside from being the only mom at Beverly’s who was dragged there by her son (and not vice versa like every other mother-son pair in the store), she has proudly worn every one of my knitting endeavors and has even gone to work in them, where she is no doubt judged by her fashion forward colleagues and clients.

There’s a saying, “it takes a village…” (I’m not too sure what the second part of that adage is because everyone just assumes you know it), which I believe means something to the effect of, “there are a lot of people that go into making you who you are.” And if I had to guess, I’d say that my village would be like one of those Amazonian warrior women tribes. Not because of the whole lobbing off of the breast to become better at throwing weapons thing, but just because my life has been shaped by women. From classmates to PTO moms to even my own mother, these women have, in more ways than they know, left their print on me (and let’s not forget the men who have shaped me as well, like Kai, who broke my head. thanks a lot, man).

About a month ago, I received my first acceptance into medical school. I was notified by phone by one of my interviewers, a very pleasant woman who also happened to be a fellow knitter. When I tell people this, many comment on how fortunate I was to be interviewed by someone who shares my interests. And I have to agree, the fact that I was able to connect with my interviewer over something so mundane as knitting has, yet again, allowed a yarn-working woman to guide my next steps. A career in medicine, now more than ever, has become a foreseeable future because of her.

There’s a saying, “it takes a village…” and I believe mine just got a little bigger.

***Emma, written by Jane Austen, was published in 1815.

Blankets and sweet potato pie

IMG_1835For those of you who knew me before I had the letter “k” stitched between the second and third letters of my name, you’ll know that knitting was not my first “are you forreal?” eliciting hobby. It was crocheting. That’s right, before I was dakniel I was crochetcaptain4eva (sad to say that that was a very real xanga profile for all of 2 weeks), a quirky 8th grade crocheter who, among other things, crocheted tons and tons of afghans. What are afghans, you ask? They are huge, retro-looking blankets that you often see in knitting catalogs and no where else in real life ever (afghans aren’t the type of blanket that you want to curl up under reading a good book. you can thank the Snuggie for that.), and they were the primary fare of my preteen crocheting days. Back in my heyday of crocheting (circa 2005), I would march into Beverly’s, straight past the potpourri and floral wreath making kits, ravage their wall to wall cubbies of Red Heart Super Saver yarn (#truecolors), and just chug out afghan after afghan for all my friends and family (if you smiled at me in the hallway, you probably got an afghan). Combine that with never missing an episode of Jeopardy and you pretty much have my freshman year of high school in a nutshell.

But as the story goes, I ultimately traded in my hooks for needles and transitioned into the painfully punny world of silent “k”s. From a technical standpoint, switching to knitting did allow me a greater variety in the kinds of patterns and projects I could make, but it came at the cost of no longer being able to hand out afghans as birthday party favors. Crocheting makes big, bulky stitches (called “crochets,” uncreatively), which is perfect for large pieces of work. Knitting full-sized blankets is practically unheard of, and only reserved for those with massive amounts of time on their hands.

IMG_1780Surprise, surprise, I knit a full-sized blanket. To be completely honest, I used a pretty worsted (bordering on aran) weighted yarn, so it didn’t take quite as long. But still, halfway through I was like, “wow, 6 seasons of It’s Always Sunny sure went by fast.”

I knit this blanket using Malabrigo “Pearl Ten,” and it’s a darkish purple even though the pictures make it look brown. Malabrigo is another favorite Merino wool of mine, right behind Madelinetosh (click here to read my Madelinetosh exaltation). Each skein comes with 210 amazingly long yards, and each lot is hand-dyed to get that unique blended color you see above. It is much cheaper than Madelinetosh, so if you’re in an especially thrifty mood (as I am 28 days of the month), this is the yarn for you (wait, that sounds like I’m menstruating. I meant because I get paid twice a month, I feel thrifty the other 28 days I don’t get paid. I don’t ovulate.).

As expected, the only patterns I could find were all small, baby blankets, so I ended up having to adapt purlbee’s baby blanket, using up ~6.5 skeins of Malabrigo with 10.5 needles (32″) to make a 33×50″ blanket with a crochet (#crochetcaptain4eva) border. The stitch is inherently stretchy, so you could probably shave it down to just 6 skeins without noticing much difference.

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Now, if you are one of my 28 followers on Instagram (first of all, thank you for following me and I will remember you guys when I become instafamous), you have already seen my line-converging, rule-of-thirds abiding photographs and no doubt expect Act 2 of this post to be about my time in Chicago (Chiblogo) and Pittsburgh (Knittsburgh) interviewing for medical schools. And while my time there was full of deep dish pizza and affordable real estate, I must admit that more has happened to me after I returned home than during my days riding around the Loop pretending to be Batman.

Interviewing for a school was a real trip, because for the first time in a long time, people were telling me what my future would look like. Prior to my first interview, amidst the crazy of MCAT prep, sdn lurking (don’t lie, we all do it), and secondary writing, the only person talking about my future was myself. And these internal (and sometimes external) hypotheticals of my future in medicine would be heavily padded with “might”s and “maybe”s, ensuring that I kept a firm foot in the reality of my uncertainty. But during my interviews, everyone spoke to me in the future simple (as opposed to the future conditional. geddit linguistics.) tense, pointing out the things I will do when I go to their school. And the more they talked like this, the more excited I got for the different things I will be doing, until I later realized that I was actually getting excited for the different things I might be doing.

Sitting on that border between realis and irrealis (dude, my linguistics degree is totally paying off right now) drove me crazy. I’d constantly oscillate between the two, sulking in the unknowing-ness of it all at one moment, and then cheerfully daydreaming (and even 1 instance of night dreaming) of the fantastic life that was without a doubt awaiting me in 10 months time. I’ll save you the drama of the bipolar-esque conversations I had with my parents and just say that these mental suicides (as in that terrible running exercise thing they make you do in P.E.) were exhausting, so much so that I often found myself after work wanting nothing to do but sit in my room and knit. But who knew that the answer I was looking for was right there under my nose the whole time… (between my fingers, to be more precise)

IMG_1801I will be giving this blanket to a high school friend of mine, partly as a birthday present (nothing says 23 like a hand-knitted blanket from a dude) and partly as a gift to his entire family for opening up their house so often to me and our 2 other friends. As 4, post-college men, we have outgrown the thrill-seeking behavior of adolescence and have since moved onto more respectable recreational activities. We sometimes cook feasts à la Game of Thrones with an excessive number of cornish hens (seriously, even the Dothraki would be like, dude, that’s way too many cornish hens), and we sometimes play games, from Pokemon Master Trainer (terrible game, you’ll end up hating yourself afterwards) to Ticket to Ride (excellent game, but you’ll end up hating yourself afterwards). But regardless of what we do, it has been generally agreed upon that each night should end in the consumption of homemade fruit smoothies and sweet potato pie (I know you must be thinking that we are 4, grossly obese men, but you really have to try my friend’s sweet potato pie).

I do not know what will happen a year from now, and that uncertainty is indeed terrifying. But what I do know is that every moment dwelling on an unknown future is a moment neglecting the calorie charged, board game bombarded festivities that are currently within my reach (…and that’s why they call it the present). I will become a doctor one way or another, whether I start next year, or the year after that, or (God forbid) the year after that. And when that time comes, the uncertainty of medical school will move just a couple steps ahead, being replaced by much more daunting prospects of residency and getting myself a dog (or a wife). Likewise, the simple pleasures I have thus far been privileged to enjoy will be swapped with newer (and hopefully more mature) opportunities that the fleeting present allows. And while I am unsure as to what these new activities will be, I can guarantee you that they will end in a knitted blanket and pie. Lots and lots of pie.

***Afghans were originally made in Afghanistan.

Madelinetosh cowls and eggs

IMG_1725You know how there’s always that one step that makes something your “thing”? Like one day you like to bake, and then you buy a stand mixer and suddenly you’re a baker (like my friend ghetto-B #datfoodblogdoe). Or you become a photographer when you get a dSLR (unless you’re instafamous, then I guess all you need is vsco cam…), or a true Dexter fan when you buy this:

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(no need to have it gift wrapped, you can just send it straight to my house)

Well, knitters have a similar tipping point, and I believe I reached it three weeks ago when I made my very first impulse-buy off eBay during my half hour lunch break (my online purchases have more than doubled ever since I memorized my credit card number. stupid secondaries.):

IMG_1598Yes, I bought two skeins of Madelinetosh sock yarn! That’s right, one word. Madelinetosh. It’s so fancy it doesn’t even need spaces like common folk yarn (Madelineposh). Madelinetosh is, in my opinion, the gold standard of merino wool. Each lot is hand-dyed and therefore comes in a variety of unique, beautiful blends. And do you see the size of those skeins?! Each one is 395 yards, which is like 39.5% of a football field (well, not “like,” it’s actually exactly 39.5% of a football field), enough for a pair of socks or even a small shawl! So, when I saw two of these bad boys on sale, I simply couldn’t resist (I swear, half of the purchase was sheer muscle memory), and after season 1 of The Newsroom (Jim always pouts, it’s weird hearing Jack McCoy drop the F bomb, and did Dev Patel have that same accent in Slumdog?), I came out with this:

IMG_1688Okay, true confession, I rarely knit with light weight yarn, mostly because it takes forever to make anything larger than a sock and I’m a pretty impatient guy when it comes to finishing projects, but my budget will probably never allow me such an excessive purchase ever again (not a huge proponent of the YOLO movement), so I just went for it and tried my hand at this intricately designed cowl.

IMG_1714This is probably one of the more complex patterns I’ve used (not one of my own, sadly. it belongs to a Daknish knitter on Ravelry who was apparently inspired by the danske skogar), with two alternating designs and a garter stitch border to prevent curling, making it a perfect project for intermediate knitters looking to make a light spring/summer scarf. Because I’m a pretty tight knitter, my cowl was not as airy as what the original pattern entailed, so for you high-tension knitters out there who are like me, I would suggest doubling or even tripling the “yarn-over”s to get the loose, hole-y look that Frøken Eldøy intended, and then just releasing the extra loops when it comes time to knit them. But all in all, I’m pleased with the final product. It’s a great accessory for a slightly breezy day and I cannot get over how lush that green is. “Sock”cess (because it’s made from sock yarn, get it? c.f. “cowl”some, completely rad(elinetosh))!

If any of you have noticed the personality of my prose, penchant for poorly phrased puns, or abhorrent abuse of alliteration, then it will come as no surprise to you that I love language. That along with my brand spanking new Linguistics degree cause many people to assume that I know how to speak a plethora of languages, which sadly isn’t the case and happens to be a huge pet peeve of mine (second to that breeze you feel when someone walks past you really fast). I know a lot of things about a lot of languages, but deconstructing a language system is very different from becoming conversational in it. I’d like to become more fluent in different languages, though, and since I am currently living with my bilingual mother, I’ve decided to begin my quest of polyglotism with Cantonese.

Though I was tempted to just sit down and memorize Cantonese’s phonological and syntactic structures, I ultimately opted for a more effective path, learning this language the way that any reasonable newborn baby would: complete and total immersion. That’s right. My mother speaks with me exclusively in Cantonese, and I am required to either a) respond in Cantonese, b) respond in Mandarin and ask how it would be said in Cantonese (“deem yurng gong?”) or (and this is the option I’ve preferred) c) avoid her like The Plague. As a result, I have developed a Pavlovian reaction of intense anxiety and nausea whenever my mom approaches me, and my relationship with her has deteriorated exponentially (it’s safe to say that that bridge is effectively burned).

Well, at least that was the case initially. Over time (as any 2-year-old will tell you), I’ve picked up some crucial words and phrases that have helped me get through the day (Note: my transcriptions are a mix of IPA and pin yin. Don’t worry about trying to pronounce them correctly, you’re probably saying them just as badly as I am):

dzo sun/man an” — “Good morning/night”

gnaw fan gong le” — “I’m going to work”

gnaw gum tin yao sui” — “Today I swam”

gnaw ho gui” — “I’m very tired”

gnaw dzoy ba si haap gnan fun” — “I took a nap on the bus”

gnaw day gay see sick?” — “What time are we eating?”

lap sap! lap sap! lap sap!” — “Trash! Trash! Trash!”

With these phrases, I can literally describe every activity I do on a daily basis (sad, I know) as well as name what’s inside the garbage bags that my mom carries outside every Tuesday evening. But there is one more phrase that I learned, and it marks a very momentous milestone in my Cantonese education.

Around a week ago, I was in the car with my family, aunt, and grandmother, returning home from a family dinner. The topic of discussion was moon cakes (yoot beng in case any of you were doubting my phonetic prowess), and suddenly, with a clear, authoritative voice, I said, “gnaw mm zhong yi dan (I don’t like eggs)!” Thinking back now, I’m not exactly sure what prompted this declaration of displeasure, or why I felt the need to say it so decisively, but immediately afterwards, my grandmother broke out in laughter. She was probably (definitely) laughing at how random that statement was (I had yet to learn how to say, “I don’t like eggs in my moon cakes.” dumb prepositional phrases.), but that moment struck me; it was as if I had just spoken to her for the very first time.

Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother and I are very close. We grew up together (well, I grew up with her. she didn’t grow up with me. that wouldn’t make sense.). When I was younger, she would tape aloe leaves to my face to give me better skin (yet to this day my skin is like, annoyingly dry and devoid of any hydration) and make me drink hot Hawaiian Punch when I was sick (haven’t had Hawaiian Punch since). And when I got a bead stuck in my ear (don’t ask), she’s the one who tried to extract it with a rusty metal hook (she’s 80 with a bum right arm. it was pretty terrifying.). But whenever I was with her, I always spoke English, which she would nod along to with a vague understanding and reply with Chinese that I didn’t comprehend at all. That evening in the car, though, discussing our preference of dairy products, she heard and knew my words exactly as I had produced them, and in a sense, she finally heard me as me.

It’s been tough not being able to speak with my mom in English (last night she asked me if I liked big dogs or small dogs. I said big dogs.), but I’ve been getting better, working towards a day when I’ll be able to hold an entire conversation in Chinese. And when that day comes, there are several things I’d like to discuss with my grandmother, but until then, I have some pretty strong opinions on brussel sprouts that I feel like she should hear.

***The ending “-by” in English place-names such as Whitby or Selby is a borrowing from the Danish word “by“, meaning “village” or “town.”

P.S. Here are some updates on my box. Routers are my new favorite power tool:

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Ponchos and Woodwork

I’m back! After writing 29 medical school secondary applications in 28 days, I am finally returning to my blog to make a much needed update on my knitting ventures (you’ll have to excuse any secondary-ese or flawless use of punctuation that accidentally spills into my diction; it’s been a long 4 weeks)! For those of you who checked here daily for the last month and a half expecting a new post, thank you for keeping my WordPress stats looking pretty, and for those of you just joining me (I feel like my stitching sabbatical has been long enough to warrant an explanation), my journey to medicine (also: medical journey, road to medicine, path to medicine, pursuit of medicine) had caused a brief irregularity in my knitting and blogging regularity, but now that my essay-writing is over, I can show you all of the things I’ve been working on!

IMG_1621So around 5 months ago, my uncle asked me to make his daughter a poncho (which he erroneously called a shawl. I know, rookie mistake, but go easy on him. he’s new to knitting knomenclature). Naturally, I agreed, not just because she’s my little cousin and I’d basically knit whatever she asked me to, but also because I’d never knit a poncho before, and I figured it would be easy enough for me to make while still trying out my own patterns and colors. Unfortunately, my uncle told me that she wanted a tame poncho with soft, muted colors (as evidenced from the above picture. apparently the “wacky colored poncho kid” doesn’t get popular until high school or college), so I ended up making it an off-white ecru (redundant?), using a different contrast (definitely redundant) color for some fringe bands running along the edges (okay, I’ll stop).

For those of you who want the knitty gritty details, I used Karabella Aurora 8 Ivory and Gold and followed this free pattern, which I adapted a little (actually a lot, since the original pattern is meant for like, a Barbie doll). Aurora 8 is perfect for children’s garments because it’s machine washable and super soft (I’m tempted to say supes soft but I’d hate to over-hype it), making it perfect for kids who love to run around outside during recess and look fabulous doing so. Also, if you’re afraid of the dreaded stockinette curling, crocheting a border around the edges works perfectly to keep the entire work flat (after some blocking, of course).

Okay, now you’re probably dying to know how this poncho looks on my cousin. Luckily, my uncle was able to snap some candid pictures of her just trying it on and acting natural as if there wasn’t a camera in front of her.

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Kat fullAren’t these pictures great?! I’m pretty sure they were taken with an iPad, so I totally regret judging all of those iPad parents in the front row of my graduation taking rapid fire shots of their kids.

I’m actually kind of surprised that it’s taken me this long to knit something for my cousin, considering our unique (also: diverse, diversity, unprecedented, innovative, inventive, creative) relationship. Since learning how to use a spindle at school (while the rest of us were reading The Giver and seeing how many dead buffalo we could carry on our wagon on “Oregon Trail”), she has become the only member of my family who shares in my love of yarn. We have big plans to open our own yarn store in the future (It will be called “Too Cool for Wool” and she’ll spin the wool and I’ll dye it and knit the sample projects that hang in our 2 story loft-converted-store located behind a coffee shop where we’ll provide quality, elegant wool to unlikely knitters), so keep an eye on kickstarter, because when my cousin gets really good at spinning wool (or graduates from elementary school. whichever comes first), we’re gonna be hitting that up.

Okay, so I know I talk pretty openly about my knitting and I use flamboyant language quite freely (#obvi), but to be honest (realtalk here), I’m actually quite insecure about my masculiknity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve accepted my effeminate skill set (of which includes crocheting, macrame, and reciting Sandra Bullock’s lines from Miss Congeniality) and don’t ever plan to stop knitting, but part of me has always wished that I could get into basketball (DUB NATION), xbox360 (is one of the x’s capitalized?), Starcraft (xboX?), or all you can eat korean BBQ (looked it up. it’s Xbox). And either God has a funny sense of humor or I’ve hit second puberty, because as of 3 weeks ago, I’ve discovered my testosterone-lathered passion (also: calling, call, urgency, fervor): woodworking.

Yes, woodworking, the thing where you chop down a tree and use its parts to decorate your house with rocking horses, gun racks, and benches (where you can do things like “shoot the breeze” and “chew some cud”). It sort of came out of nowhere, but a few weeks ago I decided to get into carpentry with my dad (it was like Christmas day for him). I spent a good week looking up the differences between hardwood and softwood, dovetail and dado joints, routers and drill presses, and bandsaws and circular saws. And after a few nights in our workshop/basement/ping pong table storage room, we came out with this:

IMG_1644I present to you my very own rectangular piece of oak cut with a 7-1/4 inch circular saw out of a much larger piece of oak, and it will be part of the box I am making with my dad (this may be the manliest sentence I’ve ever written on this blog), a box that will hold all of my knitting needles and supplies (whoops, ruined it).

It was odd hearing peoples’ reactions when I told them that I was carving a box (“wow, that sounds really cool!”) to hold my knitting stuff (“oh. you knit?”)–how one hobby was admirable while the other was just quirky. A more articulate man could say something about how my situation makes a larger statement about oppressive gender roles, but in all honesty, I just found it funny. Currently, my inbox is littered with emails to lumber mills from Minnesota (apparently all of our wood comes from there) as well as updates on my Malabrigo Worsted shipment. My watch list on eBay is lined back-to-back with wood blocks and Addi Turbo needles and Ravelry.com and northernwildwoods.com are both in my recent browser history.

I’m not exactly sure what’s masculikne and what’s feminine anymore. Cool trends for men and women change as fast as Taylor Swift’s boyfriends (BURN). Knitting used to be a girl’s thing until recently, and I’m pretty sure the ball vise I just bought was from a woman. And while I could spend all my time chasing down these elusive social norms, for some reason, becoming a knitting woodworker (or is it woodworking knitter?) sounds so much more fun.

***For beginning wood carvers, basswood (also called lime wood) is highly recommended, as this wood is incredibly soft and close grained, making it very easy to work with.

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