End of summer cowls and triquetrums

IMG_6029Just like with trashy thrillers and Trader Joe’s chicken taragon wraps, I have a love-hate relationship with lace weight yarn (also with hearthstone, criminal minds marathons, and this guy in my class named cj). I’m always really excited when I get it, but then I get started and realize that it will take me freaking forever to knit anything appreciable out of it. So, what was supposed to be a summer cowl is now an end-of-summer cowl. A 2-month long endeavor that I almost rage-knit on multiple occasions, and the time commitment equivalent of 6 seasons of 30 Rock (also like 3 of the underworld movies).

IMG_6031Sadly (though not surprisingly), I did not make this pattern myself. Rather, I capitalized on the creativity and generosity of others and adapted it from this free lace shawl pattern on Ravelry, repeating the main motif between rows of stockinette. So check it out if you’re looking for a good lace project!

This is a picture of a stone bench wearing my cowl (quite fabulously in my opinion), because I was having trouble finding a human to model it for me. I know what you’re thinking: Really? A bench? Anyone can wear a scarf better than a bench!

I thought the same thing, too.

IMG_6052And then I ran into Caroline. Despite being among the top 5 best dressed (with celiac’s) in our class, she struggled a bit in front of the camera. I took a few pictures (mostly for show. my camera was off for most of it), but could tell almost immediately that it wasn’t going to work out. She lacked that natural ease that comes so effortlessly to benches. In the end, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was passed over for a seating fixture.

IMG_6038But to be fair, that is one good looking seating fixture.

Like I mentioned earlier, this cowl took me 2 months to complete, which is a long time given that my summer was relatively relaxed and free (i bought a human head). I would have actually finished much sooner, had I not broken my wrist.IMG_1948My right triquetrum, to be specific (for those curious and/or anatomically inclined). Thus, I was put in a short cast for 3 weeks, which put a real damper on my knitting. Not to say I didn’t try, which I did, holding the yarn between my knees (kneeting?), but ultimately I just had to accept that I’d be taking a break from knitting. I was forced into a yarn sewbattical, a knittermission, a suspinsion (okay i’ll stop).

It was shawlful (sorry last one).

So for 3 weeks, I had a lot of free time, and I ended up spending most of that time lying on my couch, shoving carrots and hummus into my face while letting Netflix count down all the way to 0 before autoplaying (#rockbottom). I was a little surprised at how bad I felt and how shamelessly I wallowed in my invalidity, so between games of Hearthstone (the one thing my cast couldn’t take away from me), I thought about why that was.

And I think it’s because I broke my wrist falling off my bike.

Anyone who knows me or has seen me attempt to ride anything with 2 wheels knows that I am a terrible biker, which is ironic, because my dad is such a phenomenal one (his email address is bikes2work not even kidding). I fall, constantly. In the short 5 months that I’ve had my bike, I’ve fallen trying to avoid potholes, street lamps, other bikers, and cars (both parked and otherwise), most often unsuccessfully so. I’ve fallen on multiple occasions all by myself, tripping over the pedals before I’ve even started biking. I’m so incredibly inept that I’ve managed to make a joke out of it, much like my devotion to The West Wing (my summer project was making a stencil of martin sheen’s face) or my limbiness (2015 pritzker limbo champion whaaaat). But in truth, I’m kind of devastated that I’m a bad biker, because I think part of me always assumed that I was going to be an amazing one. Just like my dad.

In recent years, I’ve noticed my interests gradually converge with my father’s. I’ve developed an ear for This American Life and a disproportionate joy in finding things on the street (order by level of excitement: earbuds, flashlights, doorknobs). I’ve begun small home improvement projects (my next summer project is to decorate the living room with a stencil of martin sheen’s face) and, in the rare instances I succeed in bicycling accident-free, my go-to destination is always a cafe that I can sit and read at for hours (actually it’s bang bang pie shop. and then g&i donuts. and then a cafe). People used to tell me that I’d end up like my father, and that always brought me a sense of relief and security. It might be an Asian thing, or an ISTJ thing, or something else, but whatever it is, it started slipping away as I scraped my shins, bruised my palms, and came to the injurious conclusion that not only am I an abysmal biker, but I will never be my father.

I think I’m old enough where I can actually start being things–a doctor, a writer, a father and husband–and it is terrifying. It implies an ownership of an undetermined future, learning from mistakes and decisions, but only after I’ve made them. I’m the first in my family to move out of California and the only one to pursue a career in the medical field, and I’m just starting to realize that my life will look nothing like my parents’.

It’s weird, acting outside the comfort of precedence. Liberating, I’ll admit, but also unnerving and wrought with doubt. To be honest, I don’t know how people live with such uncertainty, or thrive for that matter. I can only hope it’s kind of like riding a bike, a skill built with time and patience and maturity and, most important of all, incessant falling (because god knows i know how to do that).

***Penny-farthing bicycles are named so because the two tires resemble British coins (a penny and a farthing), with a larger wheel leading a much smaller one.

Bun hats and birthdays

I’ve never been much for trends, which isn’t to say I don’t follow them. Because I do, religiously (kale and quinoa. all day errday). It’s just that I’ve always been really bad at them, more often than not miscalculating what the next ‘big thing’ would be (welcome to my knitting blog). Well, no longer. I’ve decided to get ahead of the curve and become a trendsetter. And as everyone knows, the defining characteristic of a trendsetter (other than ombre and succulents) is thinking outside the box.

Or in my case, thinking outside the… bun.


Manbuns are on the rise (here as well as in china), quickly becoming the next hottest updo for men (updude). But while everyone is eager to hop on the bundwagon, I’m already looking ahead to the next trend the manbun will trigger. After 50% of our population begins sporting buns (a reasonable estimate), what accessories will they have for their buns? How will they keep them perfectly coiffed throughout the day? What will protect their buns from rain or snow or rogue scissors?IMG_5031I present to you: the bun hat! Essentially, a cod piece for hipsters. Because why would you want a hat that covers all your hair when you could have one that only covers the last 6 inches?IMG_5001It’s like a bonnet and a yarmulke had a love child who was infinitely trendier than both of its parents.

Wearing the first ever bun hat is my be-manbunned friend, Sam. Now, I know I have mentioned before how my class is made up of a diverse set of people, some with fascinating backgrounds prior to starting medical school (the armed forces, deloitte, minnesota, etc.), but Sam is truly unique. I mean, who would expect a male model to just quit his job and become a doctor?

IMG_4702If you thought you recognized Sam, it may be because you saw his work in the October issue of Outside magazine back in 2013. Impressive, right? Sam was gracious enough to lend his modeling expertise to the photoshoot we had, and he even gave me some pointers as the photographer (‘use the rule of thirds’).IMG_5028Convinced that the bun hat is going to be the next big thing? Perfect! Download the free pattern here! Your friends and their naked manbuns will thank you.IMG_5023Now, as my 947 (a number i check daily) Facebook friends are aware of, I recently turned 25, and it’s been a pretty confusing time. I go back and forth between loving my fortified status as an adult (last week i played craps and it was the literally the best feeling i’ve ever felt in my entire life) and panicking over my newly developed quarter-life crisis. And while I was never the kind of person to make New Year’s resolutions or 10-year plans, I started to think about the kinds of things I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my 20’s and what skills I wanted to refine.

Writing. I decided it was writing and that I want to be a writer. And I know I already write here, but I mean like real writing (personally, any forum that contains ‘fart’ and ‘yoga’ in the same parenthetical has definite room for improvement). So for the past week, I’ve been putting aside time each day to write. About anything. It was rough at first, with a lot of typing and backspacing and long stretches of time when I was just staring at a blank page. But then I imagined that I just received a voicemail from Ira Glass saying, ‘Daniel, I heard about you from my niece who loves to knit. First of all, love the blog. Hilarious. Can’t get enough of it. Also, I need a piece by next week. I asked David Sedaris, but he said I should ask you. Can you write me something?’

And this is what I wrote:

I don’t like birthdays, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t mind the unrelenting reminder of time passed, the steady crawl towards death and the loss of memories and all material things. Nor am I alone, without friends to flood my Facebook wall with congratulatory notifications. I have no devastating character flaw that surfaces each year to remind me that, while my age and body may change, I remain the same selfish, hypocritical self that I’ve always been. I also did not kill a hooker on my last birthday in a drunken rage and haphazardly dispose of the body, the guilt of which drains the very life from me and torments me as I wait for the cops to knock down my front door.

I don’t like birthdays because I’m me, and people are people.

Birthdays are complicated, which might explain why, while my friends’ celebrations included everything from sushi making to rock climbing, I was content with having the same birthday party 6 years in a row. From the ages of 8 to 13, every July 10th, me and a close set of friends and family would meet at Presidio Bowl to enjoy a couple hours of bowling fun. Bowling. Life’s most inoffensive activity. Bowling followed by ice cream cake (life’s most indecisive dessert). By the time I started middle school, it became a sort of mindless tradition in my family, like spring-cleaning or piano lessons. My parents would call the bowling alley, I would invite my friends, and then we would all go bowling and eat ice cream cake afterwards. It was simple and expected, which, as it so happened, was the birthday present I wanted most of all.

I was an anxious kid growing up. I thought. A lot. I scrutinized everything, discerning subtext and implications, playing and replaying old conversations in my head. Was it weird when I said that? What did she mean by that? To me, every opportunity to speak was an opportunity to say so much more, and I wanted—needed—to figure out exactly what everyone was saying, including myself. As you can imagine, this led to more than a few social phobias as well as an unhealthy need for predictability. But fortunately, like most other kids I knew, I grew up. I figured out how not to read too much into things and to trust that people said what they meant and meant what they said. And years later, I was able look back at that unseasoned, immature teenaged me as just an embarrassing memory, a version of myself that, thankfully, I was no longer.

But then I turned 25.

For fear of losing the few friends I have, I first must say that I had a very happy 25th birthday (almost as good as my 4th bowling and ice cream cake party). I was surrounded by laughter and good conversation, and it was over far too soon. But in the events leading up to it, my birthday had cracks, moments where misalignments of social expectations—what, if anything, one should bring to a potluck, how obligatory attendance is, etc.—had been exposed. And this time, there wasn’t a sense of routine, an overriding ritualism, to cover them up. In other words, this wasn’t my 7th bowling and ice cream cake birthday party. By the end of the night, I found myself not so much frustrated as overwhelmingly unsure, and I began to think. A lot. Was I the host or recipient of this celebration? Were these people with me friends throwing a party or guests intent on enjoying it? What do I do now?

When I was in the 7th grade, I came to the conclusion that we were all just square pegs and round holes. That everyone’s actions could never truly capture their intentions. Something was inevitably lost at the synapse, from mind to mouth, no matter how hard we tried. Human communication, according to my young, adolescent mind, was messy and inherently flawed, prone to misinterpretations, social gaffes, and, ultimately, hurt feelings, so we should all just wait around for telepathy to become a thing.

7th grade was a long time ago, of course, but there are times when I rediscover that same paralyzing uncertainty and feel like I haven’t changed at all, like I’m that same scared little kid again, hiding behind 6 identical birthdays just to avoid the slightest chance of rejection. But I have changed. And while it may be true that communication is innately flawed, I have realized that it is not irredeemable. It is a fixable machine. We try, we fail, and we learn. We make friends and hurt them and spend forever making it right again. We are at once fragile and indestructible, masters of apologies and products of forgiveness. And perhaps it is this very trial-and-error nature of human relationships that makes them so unique and invaluable, and things like a happy 25th birthday nothing short of a miracle.

***Craps comes from the French word, ‘crapaud,’ meaning ‘toad,’ which refers to how players used to crouch when playing on the floor or sidewalk.


Toe-up socks and Arnold Palmer

Quick life update: it’s summer where I am. And so before it gets too unbearably hot to even think about knitting, I decided to sneak in one last cozy wool project: toe-up socks!


If you’re rolling your eyes thinking, ‘great, ANOTHER pair of socks,’ you’re wrong! These are toe-up socks (not to be confused with to’ up socks, of which i have several due to how vigorously i pull the heel of my socks when they slip), meaning that they were knit from toe to cuff rather than the other way around. The main advantage to this method is you avoid the dreaded gusset hole that results from picking up stitches from the heel (*knitters collectively shudder*). And as someone who abores holes and was bhored of the typical sock pattern, I thought I’d give it a try.


IMG_4705Turns out, toe-up socks are amazing! Not only is the cast-on ingenious and completely invisible (i used judy’s magic cast-on and can attest to its supernatural properties), but I ran into absolutely 0 holes when I turned the heel! For those of you looking to try some toe-up socks yourself, I found this pattern to be helpful, though nota bene I adapted it for a larger shoe size and took out the cables.

IMG_4938Here’s the recipient of my first ever toe-up socks: Eli, my friend with simultaneously the largest feet and smallest mouth of any man I’ve ever met (seriously, i could’ve made like, 50 booties with the amount of yarn i used on him).


IMG_4928And in return, Eli made me a bowl. That’s right, MADE me a bowl, like out of clay and a wheel and a kiln (i believe in that order). The last time I tried my hand at pottery was in 6th grade, when I planned to make a really nice jug for the dinner table and instead ended up with a 4 inch tall bright green tube-y thing (more of a thimble, actually), and then it broke into several pieces, which my sisters perpetually gifted to me for my birthdays thereafter.

IMG_4947Definitely better than a 4 inch thimble.

IMG_4791As most of you know, last weekend was July 4th (more commonly known as 6 days before july 10th). But more pertinent to me, last weekend was also a gloriously free 3-day weekend. And I love gloriously free 3-day weekends. If you’ve ever talked to me about the art of cafeing, you know how I relish huge swaths of unscheduled time. It’s like Tetris, and I take all my favorite activities–crosswords, biking, knitting, Hearthstone (jedbartlet#1497 add me)–and arrange them into a neat little grid.

So you can imagine how unexpected it was when I found myself driving through Bemidji at 4am Friday morning, because in a brief lapse of character, on an adventurous whim, I decided to spend Independence Day with my friend’s family, on their farm, in northern Minnesota (by far my tamest moment of spontaneity ever. next to that time i bought 9 pounds of wheat germ on amazon.).

IMG_4779I’d be lying if I said I went the entire 15 hour drive without any reluctance (or a rendition of my critically acclaimed poor unfortunate souls). Being with a ton of strangers who love each other more than they love me isn’t exactly my ideal social scenario, and while I always wanted to visit the romanticized rural life I had imagined in my head, I’m a city boy at heart, and I knew I’d be so much more comfortable walking through a used bookstore somewhere down the street from some mom-and-pop coffeeshop. I even packed my cafeing materials (crosswords, book, a small knitting project, and iphone charger for extended hearthstone pwnage) in case the opportunity arose, a spare moment away from awkward introductions and debilitating conversational pauses.

IMG_4796So, the weekend came and went, and as a retrospective optimist, I’m happy to say that things didn’t go all that bad. As luck would have it, sheer curiosity of the novel environment superseded any potential social anxiety. I was so fascinated with grain bins and augers (hands off the pto) and the fact that people have beer and pie for breakfast (my body demands granola) that there was little time to worry about anything else. And on July 4th, when the onslaught of white, conservative strangers arrived, things went off without a hitch (save one questionably racist conversation, but i’ll let that slide). We sat around and ate (i met a man named dellbert), enjoyed a hay ride and a bouncy castle, played cornhole (dominated) and cribbage (also dominated), and before I knew it, the day was over. People left, and, surprisingly, I was sad to see them go.

IMG_4776As a San Francisco native and Chicago resident, I innately thrive in a city. I’m used to crossing crowded streets with my headphones on and walking from shop to shop with just a backpack and phone for directions. And though it was my first time stepping foot in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, there was something familiar about this past weekend. I spent it sitting on the porch talking to people, and then sitting on the porch not talking to people. I learned to ride a tractor (dominated), and then when I was done with that, I burned tics for a while and played with a dog. And then after that, I sat some more, drinking Arnold Palmers and listening to Dellbert talk about social security. There was an abundance of slow, low-stress (and often high-caloric) activities to do, and an even greater abundance of time to do them. All I had to do was Tetris them together.

I was in Minnesota for a measly 72 hours, in which time I did no actual farm work (except the tic burning, which i consider a husbandry must). But from the little I’ve experienced and seen, I’ve concluded that my affinity for the state–or at least the reason why Independence Day 2015: Roseau Edition was such a whopping success–stems from the fact that Minnesota is, in a way, a cafe. A great, big, Republican, cafe. Or maybe cafes are just hip, Wifi enabled microcosms of Minnesota. Either way, did I gain 10 pounds in rhubarb pie? Probably. Will seeing another Dairy Queen make me sick? Definitely. Am I glad I went? You betcha.

***The state motto of Minnesota is ‘L’Étoile du Nord,’ which is French for ‘The Star of the North,’ and its state bird is the common loon.

Brioche beanies and Palmieri

So last week, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit me. But more importantly, some good light came into my apartment, and then this happened:

I know. I thought I was a better photographer, too. I did my best to channel my instaproficient friends, keeping in mind converging lines and the rule of thirds (and subtle indications of a sophisticated literary palette). But, as it turns out, I’m pretty crappy at stylizing. Or I need cooler sunglasses. 
IMG_4523It’s probably the sunglasses.

But anyway! A few years ago, you may remember me toying with the particularly elusive brioche stitch and ultimately making a brioche infinity scarf and writing about it (that post was temporarily redacted while i applied to medical school due to some disparaging remarks about etsy users and also because i ended the post with ‘suck it’). Well, ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to adapt the brioche stitch to be knit in the round so I could make brioche hats or sweaters. All to no avail, sadly.

Until last month! When I found this post on craftsy with instructions on how to knit brioche in the round. That, in conjunction with purlbee’s instructions on how to brioche decrease (i’m in a bit of a creativity dry spell right now…), gave me just what I needed to knit up my very first brioche beanie! Here’s my friend, Shirlene (a brand spankin’ new american #goamerica), attempting to look as fabulous as the beanie on her head.

IMG_4615IMG_4619Well, she tried.

IMG_4643One of the reasons why Shirlene is so visibly happy (other than becoming the best kind of citizen ever and having someone shake a tree to shower you with flower petals) is because she is both model and owner of this grey brioche beanie. As the fifth installation of my ingenious art swap idea (knitschange? knit for tat? quid pro knit?), I agreed to make Shirlene a hat in exchange for a work of her own.

As it turns out, Shirlene happens to be a pretty fantastic artist, so I asked her to draw me the single (i wish) most undeniably perfect female companion: Jessica Chastain.JC2softlightBtw I’m not usually the type to obsess over people; Other than Ed Sheeran (sheerio4life) and that Indian guy in high school who stole my crossword puzzles, I tend to keep a healthy separation from people not actually a part of my life.

Except for Jessica Chastain.


So as I mentioned earlier, my sister and BIL (brother-in-law get with it) came to visit last week, and they were actually the tail end of a string of family visitors coming to see me. It was great having them all here–introducing them to my diverse friends (in a recent family contest of ‘who has the most white friends’, i won hands down) and showing them around Hyde Park–but it was also kind of weird (and not just because i gave them all the same shower towel to use). Because for the first time, I was able to see myself as who I am in light of who I was, noticing all the things I’ve changed or kept the same since moving away and finally realizing that I actually really live in Chicago now. For like, my life.

And then they all left and I returned to my routine of Microbiology and reading Jessica Chastain’s bio on Wikipedia, but I started seeing the ways I had really made this place my home. I can bike now (debatable), and I know where to get groceries and what an alderman is. I’ve even learned how to play cornhole (as it turns out, i am a cornhole prodigy).


But then there are times when it’s like I just got here and everyone can see the San Francisco on me (hecka awkward). Like when I ate kale and granola with a dozen Chicago firemen (thankfully they were too busy watching ultimate catch to judge me). Or when everyone’s upset when the Blackhawks lose to the Ducks because of how good Palmieri is (i had to google every single proper nouns in that sentence). Or when someone uses the word ‘salad’ incorrectly and my heart gets sad.

I have been in Chicago for almost twelve months now, where it has been A Most Violent Year, but also a most eventful one, what with the start of medical school (and The Debt that comes with it…) and leaving my family (including Mama, et al.) back at home. But with The Help of my new community here, I’ve learned to Take Shelter in the fact that I have less changed than matured, adapting to circumstances and learning from mistakes ranging from minuscule to Interstellar (reading while walking is NOT something you can do here). Because I figure I’m not different, but more than who I was before, growing steadily on The Tree of Life, adding to myself with each decision.

Zero Dark Thirty.

***Jessica Chastain was born in Sacramento, California, and is currently is in a relationship with Count Gian Luca Passi di Preposulo, though prospects look bleak.

Scottie socks and Sensodyne

IMG_4345Yay socks. Yay scottie dogs. Yay scottie dog socks. For those of you thinking, ‘that’s it?!’ 1) rude and 2) I actually made two pairs. Well, technically, I made this pair once, unraveled it, and then knit it again. At two separate times while making these socks, I noticed how egregiously large and disproportionate they were and hoped that the combined power of prayer and blocking (mostly prayer) would be enough to fix my mistakes. Alas, the knitting gods did not look favorably upon me (likely due to my idolatrous relationship with the neighboring granola gods, who have showered me with an abundance of wheat germ), and the socks ended up all sorts of wrong. So, I tried again, this time with a little more thought and preparation before starting (along with an animal sacrifice), and out popped a perfect (well, almost) pair of two-toned scottie socks!

IMG_4365If you’re wondering what misshapen canine I based my pattern off of, let me direct you to the below x-ray:scottiedogscottiedogscottiedogyeeeThat’s right! This is my very first medically inspired knit! The scottie dog (which is legit enough to have its own wiki page) is identified on radiological images, and a break in its neck is indicative of a pars interarticularis fracture. BAM. medical knowledge. 8 months of medical school finally paid off.

Anyway, my initial plan was to have scottie dogs running all over the socks, but I hugely overestimated my fair-isle proficiency, so I knocked it down to one each and added a nice and easy contrast color toe.

IMG_4406Here is my friend, Soo, chilling on the couch and totally rockin’ the scottie socks with a three-quarters smile. Props to her and her shameless feet for bearing through the long and awkward photoshoot and pretending to believe me when I said I didn’t have a foot fetish.

So, I kind of wish I had finished these socks a bit sooner, because then I would’ve been able to write about some of the things that happened this past month, many of which were masculiknable. For example, I could’ve written about my trip to South Dakota (scottie socks and john-lancaster) and our stop in Mitchell (population: corn), or my new bike (scottie socks and annie c.) and the fortuitous way in which I stumbled upon her (and the many un-fortuitous ways i stumbled off of her). Or, I could’ve written about my latest J. Crew Factory purchase, which, we can all agree, deserves a post all by itself. Unfortunately, all of these have come and passed (except j. crew factory, that’s more of a lifestyle choice), and the only eventful happenings recently have been my PT appointment and receding gums.

That’s right. PT. physical therapy. For my back, which, after 3 months, is still sore and stiff. And then there’s my lower right premolar, which is now hypersensitive and requires me to use Sensodyne toothpaste and enamel-restoring mouthwash twice daily. Knitting (and crosswords and West Wing and fiber consumption) aside, I’m starting to feel old (for you crotchety 25+ folks, know that i am exaggerating. kind of) and, in a sense, cheated.

I think somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that good health was one of the ‘perks’ of being a doctor, that I somehow deserved (medical gods willing, of course) a body that ran like clockwork. Some part of me thought (thinks, to be completely honest) that with all the time spent learning what constituted a healthy body, knowing it and being it couldn’t be too far apart. But, as my erector spinae muscles remind me each morning, that is not the case. And I was so, very childish to think that it would be.

Maybe the real perk of being a doctor, rather than the fountain of youth (that’s not too much to ask for, is it?), is more like an understanding, a language that we use to shed light on the things that ail and scare us. Now, I admit that there is so much that medicine can do and restore (i most certainly wouldn’t be in medical school otherwise). But for someone like me, with a bad back, a strong propensity for falling off unstable things (e.g. human totem poles, bikes, etc.), and diabetes/glaucoma/heart disease (pick 2) in my not so distant future, knowledge has become a fast friend and an appropriate medicine for the things that afflict me most: time and pure, dumb luck.

Sad to say, I am getting older. Fortunately, this seems to be not an uncommon phenomenon. So, while I could obsess over the Adonis that I once was (high school mile time: 8:25), I think I’d rather lean back (with proper lumbar support, of course), put up my feet, and enjoy the ride.IMG_4398***Chicago’s nearest J. Crew Factory is in Rosemont, IL, 23 miles away and a 36 minute drive without traffic.

Triangle scarves and Knitzker

IMG_4266First off, let’s just take a moment to fully appreciate how amazing these colors are.

aaaghagh gorgeous. so much

okay, I’m done.

Anyway, I am happy to report that spring has sprang (though i am told it will unspring and respring on and off until mid to late april) and I am currently enjoying my first 40º+ day in who knows how long. Though I am well aware that this is a good 25º colder than how I lived the first 23 years of my life, it basically feels like home. For example, today, I left the apartment in under a minute, since I didn’t have to worry about which jacket, scarf, hat, ear warmers, and gloves to wear (i will say this winter has done wonders for my accessory game). Also, I no longer get blood when I blow my nose, so that’s good. I will admit, though, I was getting used to the frigid cold and will almost miss it, stomping through the snow in my boots and having a good excuse to lounge around my room in just my long johns (i totally get yoga pants now).

But oh well, winter is over(ish), which means it’s time to put away that chunky alpaca wool and bust out some spring knits!

IMG_4268Full disclosure: I’ve never made a triangle scarf before, mostly because I didn’t see the point in them. They seemed to have an inferior shape to the traditional scarf and were always made of too light weight yarn. Well, as luck would have it, due to an eBay bidding binge, I found myself stuck with 500 yards (approximately the length of 19 tennis courts) of extra fine merino and 2 unwatched seasons of The Fall. So, I tried my hand at some triangle scarves and, needless to say, I’m now hooked.


IMG_4308This is Brooke, powerpoint slide master and Harvey ball enthusiast. She’s also a professional triangle scarf wearer, clearly.

IMG_4324But wait, there’s more! Mostly on a whim but partly because I found that Notability has a graph paper function, I decided to write up an alphabet pattern so I wouldn’t have to knit letters ad hoc anymore. I thought I was being very clever when I did this, but then I googled ‘knit alphabet’ and it appears everyone and their mother have made alphabet patterns, which was quite discouraging. So take your pick from the interweb, but if you like what you see, download my alphabet pattern here for free!

IMG_4314Some of you may have deduced that, with all of this knitting I’m doing, there’s absolutely no way I’m not knitting in class. Well, a) I promise I’m still listening and b) this has caused some of my classmates to suggest that I start a knitting club for our medical school. I was hesitant (and awkwardly avoidant) at first, but then I came up with ‘Knitzker’, which basically forced my hand (some puns are bigger than us all). So I said I’d do it.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting before the ~25 members of Dean’s Council (how intimidating is THAT name, right?!)–the dean of the medical school among them, surprisingly–explaining why knitting was so important and why we needed Knitzker. THE dean was there! My freakin’ dean (she sat right next to me. i almost reached out and touched her but then i didn’t #selfcontrol)! Obviously, I was anxious beyond belief with stress pains up the wazoo, and I blacked out for most of it, but from what I can remember of my stitch pitch, I found the whole thing very ironic.

Believe it or not, prior to medical school, I told myself that I’d never start/lead a knitting club (#nomoselfcontrol), because I never wanted to be ‘that guy’. ‘That guy’ who knits. I didn’t want to have assumptions made about my other interests (or the source of my clothing) based on my knack for knitting, and I didn’t want to be reduced to a single thing, especially not something so incredibly innocuous (i’d much rather be known for my crossword puzzle prowess). But while I was sitting there, trying to sell Knitzker, just a mere 2 feet from The Dean Herself, I thought about how crazy it all was–the fact that I was petitioning to (essentially) the president of my world for money and institutional recognition, just so I could teach people how to knit. It was both epic and laughable, but something that had to be done. Maybe not by anyone. Maybe just by ‘that guy’.

There are few things in my life that I’ve done longer than knit (been in school, had asthma, hated cauliflower), so maybe it’s a little bit right for me to be wearing a scarlet K, and that’s just something I have to accept. But so far it hasn’t been all that bad, really. Just ask ‘these guys’.

IMG_0523***Gatorade was developed in 1965 by researchers at the University of Florida and is named after the university’s mascot, The Gators.

Throws and luck

IMG_4193Winter is in full swing here, and with each passing day I can feel my credibility in all conversations meteorologic steadily increasing. Just in this last week, I’ve walked through Chicago’s 5th worst blizzard (only thinking i was going to blow away and die twice), helped push a stuck car out of the snow, and had 3 (count ’em, 3) spontaneous snowball fights (update from last post. can confirm, they are one of life’s greatest joys). Oh yeah, and I also made a serious dent in my unacceptably large yarn stash, making a quick visit back to my Gryffindor cowl, but this time representing the house of Salazar Slytherin (actually false. slytherin’s colors are emerald and silver.).

IMG_4202Fun fact: I bought this yarn with a blank check (the yarn store made a mistake and forgot to write in an amount on my gift certificate!), and it took literally weeks for me to decide whether or not I was going to buy out the whole store. Alas, I am nothing if not conscientious (in 8th grade i forgot to turn in a science project and lied and said it was because i had an asthma attack and then i got stress pains), so I restrained myself and only bought a few skeins of green and black Cascade superwash merino.

Speaking of theft, buy my Gryffindor cowl pattern for $1.

(because it’s a steal)

IMG_4206IMG_4232I also finally finished this purple/white/light brown/dark brown striped throw/lapghan thing (not one of my prettiest projects)! I actually started this project back in August, but I forgot how much endurance it takes to knit a blanket, so there were several times when I stopped and seriously considered ditching this project as an overambitious failure (to join my bullet hat and creepy rice bunny).

Some details about this throw: The pattern is adapted from this scarf pattern and knit from a hodge-podge of types of yarn. Also, in all, this took me through 5 seasons of The Good Wife, 2 seasons of The West Wing (18th and Potomac whyyyyy), and a smattering of episodes from Sons of Anarchy (can’t keep track of all the fat racist white men in leather).


When I first moved here, many people told me that one of the worst things about the winter (other than the cold eating your face off) is the fact that it forces you to hole up somewhere for days and you can’t go anywhere or do anything. Well, 1) it’s true about the cold, it really does obliterate your face, and 2) on the contrary, I’ve actually found this winter to be one of the most eventful seasons of my life (also puberty. that was pretty eventful), mostly because it was filled with an abnormal amount of good luck as well as a considerable amount of bad luck.

Here are some of the things that happened:

IMG_0452_2I went to Nashville and it was the best. Seriously, I mean it. Aside from an initial bout of misfortune (i.e. blown tire, nosebleeds, and 2 dead phones within 5 minutes), everything about my first venture into the South was oddly perfect. From strangers picking up our tab to free hot chocolates and Italian sodas (basically a ton of stuff was free) to shopping carts with what we needed already in them, everything we decided to do just seemed to work out (even my in-car performance of Poor Unfortunate Souls was especially on point). By the end of the trip, we were on such a high that we spent the entire ride back tallying up our life-wins and talking about how great we were and how no one would ever understand how great we were (7 hours and we didn’t stop talking about ourselves once).

IMG_0375I broke my back (kinda not really) and it was the worst. Seriously, the worst. For those of you who know me well, you know the relationship I have with my back. I love my back. I take care of my back. I judge people who don’t take care of their backs. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I threw out my back, and I spent the rest of the day hunched over leaning on my knees. The following morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. at all. It took about an hour, but I finally did get out to go to the bathroom (urinating has not been that painful since when my catheter was taken out). But then I overestimated my pain tolerance, and I fell in the hallway on my way back to bed and couldn’t get up (i have a thing with falling, i’m learning). That entire day has since become a blur of pain and shame, but loosely consists of army crawling to the area of my apartment with good reception, cold calling classmates for help, being pushed around student health services in a plus sized wheelchair, and downing ibuprofen like crazy (though as a future health care provider i must advise that only 600 mg ibuprofen should be taken every 6 hours and always with food).

That’s some crazy luck, right?! Well, as much as I’d like to say that I was the only one riding this roller coaster of ups and downs, that isn’t the case.

I actually roadtripped with 3 of my classmates, and it took the collective courage of all 4 of us to busk on the streets of Nashville (we earned 8 whole dollars and a cigarette butt!). And I absolutely have to mention Natalie, who I all but proposed to after she basically carried me to her car to drive me to the hospital. More and more, I have been realizing how often I am surrounded by friends, ready to partake in whatever (mis)fortune befalls me. And as someone who usually has few friends and always seems to get in awkward social dilemmas (everyone calls me dan and i don’t know how to make it stop), this relative popularity is surprising, but not altogether uncomfortable. Who knew getting free pralines (seriously, everyone in nashville just handed us stuff) was so much sweeter when you got them with others? And for some reason, after lying alone on my hallway floor looking for signal (and taking a quick selfie), I was so relieved to see my friends in the hospital waiting room, laughing at the irony of my situation and my complete ineptitude in operating a wheelchair.

As a hardcore, fundamentalist introvert, I uphold my love and need for cafe days and proclaim my aversion to phone calls, ice breakers, and blind dates. But friends are nice to have, too. As I’ve come to see it, they make good luck fun and bad luck, well, funny. So while I left my heart in Nashville and still get out of cars like an old man, I’m excited to see what luck I run into next.

***Most ‘thrown out’ backs are due to muscle strains and spasms, unless there is tingling in the legs and feet and loss of bladder control, in which case nerve damage is likely.

Fall cowls and gifts


First of all, I would like to say that I have officially survived my first week of sub-0 winterdays with minimal whining and my contact lenses not frozen to my eyeballs. So, success! To be honest, it’s really not that bad (except for the dryness. it once got so bad i had to rub chapstick on my face); it’s actually quite pretty, but I’m still honeymooning over the fresh blankets of snow and the anticipation of a spontaneous snowball fight breaking out (the #1 thing i’m waiting to happen in my life, next to getting waken up by a dog jumping on me), so maybe the worst is yet to come.

Anyway, while I was back home for the holidays, enjoying non-winter, cafes, cafes, and eating dim sum next to a Chinatown mob boss (I KNOW. RIGHT?!), I was finally able to finish a project that I had been working on since October. Now that it’s January and the coldest ever, though, it’s a bit out of place. But oh well.

IMG_0211IMG_3995I originally intended for it to be a fall cowl, because the colors are essentially the epitome of autumn (autumn incarnate. inyarnate.), but I guess now it’s a winter cowl. Regardless, let me just say that this yarn is effing gorgeous. I know that doesn’t really sound like me or anything I would say, but it’s true. It’s spun and hand dyed by Three Irish Girls (the same company that made my chevron beanie), and when I saw the rich tones of red and green, it just blew me away (#onechineseboylovesthreeirishgirls). Seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a visceral reaction to an inanimate object before (except that time i tried kombucha).

IMG_4019Aggghhhhh, it’s so beautiful!

Oh yeah, and Katie looks good too. (but seriously props to Katie for standing in 10° weather without gloves, a jacket, or pants)

In fact, I liked this yarn so much, that I decided to immortalize it by writing up the pattern I made, which is available here for FREE! The pattern will be on Ravelry shortly (i tried earlier but i messed up and then the lady in the online help chatroom got mad at me so now i’m scared to try again), maybe.


Okay. Last picture. I promise.

Anyway, Christmas tends to be a busy time for me (not an uncommon sentiment), since I alternate between knitting/Netflixing in hyperspeed and catching up with (what are now long distance) friends, but usually I find the time to write about all of the things I’ve knit for people as presents, lengthy posts complete with humble brags and (not so) self-deprecating parentheticals. Unfortunately, December this year seemed to slip past me, and I find myself writing this 12 days shy of the holiday season.

So, to make up for my Advent absence, here are all my gifts at once: 4 beanies (as you can see i couldn’t avoid dabbling with the Herringbone again) and 3 headbands (including 1 specially made menstrual headband at the behest of Katie. weird girl.)
IMG_3959But when I think about it, maybe it’s a good thing that I wasn’t able to write anything until now. Had I documented these presents in December, I would have probably spent a good 2-3 paragraphs writing about my own craftsmanship, going through each one with punny quips, somehow linking it all together to my Christmas activities (‘Hats, Headbands, and Trivia Crack’). I’d have also made more jokes about Katie.

Instead, I enjoyed December in full, and I waited until after I got back to Chicago, and after I received the following:

IMG_4044A cloth case for my knitting needles, sewn by Connie, who, aside from being an expert seamstress, also paints, swims, and lies about having seen TV shows that come up in conversation (‘there’s always money in the banana stand’).

IMG_4020Flight of the Conchords, painted by Viktor, whose glasses I once knocked into an open cadaver and who always compliments my clothing decisions and makes me feel like the belle of the ball. Why Flight of the Conchords? Because 2 minutes in heaven is better than 1 minute in heaven. Also, because we really like Flight of the Conchords.

Maybe it’s the fact that I often isolate myself as a guy who knits, but I sometimes find myself thinking that I am the only one that is surprising, unexpected, that an eclectic set of interests is somehow a rarity reserved solely for me. I don’t really believe that, of course, but I don’t really not believe that either (welcome to my blog). Having been knitting for 11 years, I have knit a lot of presents for a lot of people (except Brennan, who never lets me forget it), to the point where I know what their reaction will be. And as a man without a shortage of insecurities, that shock of being made out as a male knitter is euphoric and reassuring, something I thought I never wanted to lose. But now that I am where I am, and I can admire Bret and Jemaine spray painted on a grocery store crate lid in my living room, or fearlessly bust out my most masculine knitting accessory ever, I am so exceedingly glad and grateful to not be the only one giving gifts.

***In the U.S. armed forces, those who are ‘at ease’ may move everything but their right foot.

Headbands revisited and Uniqlo

IMG_3725For the longest time, I’ve been looking for fast and easy sub-100 yard projects to eat up all of the scrap yarn I’ve accumulated over the years. And after some time gravitating halfway between half rest hand pillows and fugly amigurumi, I think I’ve finally found it: headbands. If you were a patron of my blog during Christmas 2012, you’ll know that I’ve discovered knit headbands once before, but that was forever ago and twenty-two-year-old me was such a knoob (and inept photographer). I have since honed my craft (and stopped taking pictures in my neon green room) and perfected the knit headband, and I am now in the process of knitting away my leftovers by making as many of these bad boys as possible.

IMG_3711The pattern I used is 100% origiknal, but that’s not saying much, given that the entire thing uses the same stitch. The main motif is a basket weave cable (which I creatively googled and copied and passed off as my own design whenever people asked) with a modified seed stitch border. As you can imagine, these headbands knit pretty fast (i.e. 2-3 days), depending on the yarn weight you’re using and how into The Good Wife you are (24 episodes in 6 days. no shame). The basket weave stitch can get a bit redundant, but I will say, for any of you who are irrationally insecure about cables, knit just one of these headbands and you will instantly turn into a cabling fiend. And for those wondering how sartorially successful these headbands turned out:

IMG_3695I present to you Leslie, a classmate of mine from Minnesota, who taught me that a ‘salad’ in the Midwest is very different from what the rest of the country considers it to be (in that it can very possibly contain absolutely nothing nutritious for you whatsoever) and is fabulously sporting my green headband in twenty degree weather while only looking mildly uncomfortable. Good job, Leslie! Also, she thinks corn on pizza is absurd (hate her).

IMG_3700Unfortunately, this particular green headband has already been spoken for, but the gold and white ones are still up for grabs on my etsy (as are some insanely cheap knitting patterns). Alternatively, if you are like me and a member of the i’m-a-broke-twenty-something society, then know that I am not beneath bartering my knits for other types of goods or services (i love pecan pie and baklava).

Okay, so I hesitated to make this next part my ‘Thanksgiving post’ — and it wasn’t due to a lack of embarrassing anecdotes (i once accidentally led my college small group in making construction paper penises). Rather, it was because there have been so many new things in my life recently, and I hadn’t yet had time to figure out what I was truly thankful for (my 89 new friends? getting to go home for Thanksgiving? the two for one hummus sale at Hyde Park Produce?). However, something marvelous happened last week that, to me, takes the cake.

As many of you know, I am absolutely no good at shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy clothes, and I like to think that I have a viable fashion sense (my legs were basically made for chinos), but I have never been able to thrive in the shopping atmosphere. First of all, there are way too many options. Secondly, lighting is almost always inadequate (one time at Express it was so dark an employee scared me and i screamed). And lastly, there are so many people walking around and talking about different things that I constantly forget what I came to buy. Mind you, this is all during normal shopping conditions, so you can imagine what happened when I went Black Friday shopping for the first time a few years ago. And if you can’t imagine, let me just tell you.

9189789752_e92c46cba2_zI fell. at Uniqlo. I fell down their stupid rainbow stairs that are constantly changing colors and reflecting every which way. What’s worse, it was so busy and crowded that no one tried to help me (all i got were weird looks from groups of fashion forward high schoolers), so I had to pick myself up and leave with my bruised ego and shins as fast as possible (after getting some $19.99 colored jeans of course, cuz that’s a steal). It was so sad. I also tripped on the same set of stairs a few months later when I went to pick up some more colored jeans (i really like Uniqlo colored jeans). After that, I basically boycotted Uniqlo’s physical manifestation and resorted to buying my colored jeans from their website instead (it’s not my fault i look amazing in them).

So, I staved off Black Friday and other manic holiday shopping environs since then, afraid of repeating my Uniqlo-apse.

That is, until last Thursday at midnight, when I went shopping at Macy’s along with the hordes of fobs (not sure why that was) and remained upright the entire time (i.e. 60 minutes)! To be honest, it was still overwhelmingly stimulating (i got lost on the escalator for a bit), but I walked in and I walked out just like everybody else, so I consider it a win.

All this to say, I’m thankful for my sisters (who shop for me because they know I may very well get hurt if I try to do it myself), my mom (who dropped me off at Macy’s knowing I had a bone to pick with Black Friday), my dad (who wrote my initials on all my socks in pink Sharpie to distinguish them from his), and my friends, old (who didn’t make fun of me (too much) when I built up the courage to wear my first V-neck) and new (who assured me that it is possible for asians to look good in yellow).

Oh yeah, and I’m also thankful for my colored jeans, because, c’mon, who isn’t?

IMG_2511***Contrary to popular belief, Adidas does not stand for ‘All Day I Dream About Sports’, but rather comes from the name of the brand’s creator, Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler.


ASOS cardigans, lazy chevron beanies, and shameless

IMG_3497Well, I did it! I finally finished my first knitting project here in my new home! It kind of feels like how I felt when I finished my first anatomy exam, except that I didn’t stuff myself with Chipotle and binge watch CW shows afterward (i had a rough start). But it’s a milestone nonetheless, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out, considering that it’s my very first origiknally designed cardigan.

IMG_3482So some background on this cardigan. A few months ago, a friend from college asked me to knit something for her (what else is new, amirite?). And since I never really liked charging friends money for stuff (let’s be real, though, she couldn’t afford me), we decided to do more of a barter than a sale. As it turns out, my friend is sort of kind of an amazing graphic designer (christine you owe me for this free publicity), so in return for one knitted item of her choice, I was given one graphically designed item of my choice. Well, actually, her choice, because I can never decide on what I want (seriously, my old roommate offered to 3D print me anything and it was the worst). So Christine, never one to ask for too much, sent me this picture from ASOS and told me she wanted a cardigan. And then for the next three months (interrupted by a bout of hand-foot-mouth disease, food poisoning, and moving halfway across the country) it was off to the races as I figured out how the heck I was going to make a freakin cardigan just from a picture.

Okay, so to be completely honest, I didn’t design this sweater entirely from scratch. I did have somewhat of a template. After scraping the bottom of my creative juices, I took out an old knitting book someone gave me when I was in middle school (it was sandwiched between my Golden Sun strategy guide and my other Golden Sun strategy guide) and found this unfortunate sweater:


I know. Yikes. But once I got over the initial shock, I found that it had the same neckline as the ASOS sweater, and the actual pattern wasn’t too bad. So after finding the right yarn (Berroco Vintage ftw), knitting up a swatch, and calculating the dimensions based on Christine’s measurements (by this point, i’m pretty much whatever about asking girls for their bust sizes), I adapted this book’s pattern into something (hopefully) a little more modern.

IMG_3491Also, this cardigan gave me the chance to try buttons, button holes, and pockets for the very first time! Well, I did pockets once before for my grandma’s last vest, but never from scratch. For those of you tickling the idea of adding buttons to your latest project, I recommend this tutorial accompanied by this youtube video (start at 9:53).

On a side note, I was hesitant about using the above picture because it looks like someone was lying on my couch wearing the cardigan, and then just disappeared.IMG_3582But wait, there’s more! After accidentally knitting two right sides of the cardigan instead of a right and a left, I got really frustrated and decided to work on something else for a bit. So, I hopped onto the L and picked up some superwash merino that I had heard about and always wanted to try (the brand is called ‘Three Irish Girls’ and a single skein gives you a honkin 270 yards!). Coincidentally, a female classmate of mine announced that she was going to shave her head just months before winter in the polar vortex capital of the country, so I thought it would be a good idea to graciously knit myself a nice, warm beanie (yay me). The pattern is 100% daknielknit and, as per my usual money mongering ways, can be purchased for $1 (chipping away at those med school loans) on either my etsy or Ravelry store.

IMG_3665As you can tell, I have not yet found someone willing to model my stuff, so I’ve been forced to take on the role myself. I forgot to hide my skeletor hands, but I’m hoping my overall hipster ensemble will distract from them.

With all this knitting, you may be wondering if I’m actually in medical school at all, or if I just moved to Chicago to knit in a place that’s not my parents’ living room. Well, believe it or not, I actually have not been knitting as much as I normally do because, much to my surprise, med school is sort of time consuming. For the better part of 7 hours a day, I sit (or stand) in a room learning about human anatomy. And while I could spend the next paragraph talking about the two heads of my sternocleidomastoid made so evident in the photograph above, it’s what I’ve learned about my 89 classmates that’s worth discussing.

Over the past 2 months, I’ve gotten to meet some pretty interesting people. For instance, I now know a girl who owns a cow. And there’s also a guy who’s hipster enough to make me nostalgic for home (he wears a beet pin. need i say more?). I have classmates who were in the armed forces and there are others who are poets and bankers and there is an alarming number of people who have never heard of pad see-ew before. I even met a bald man. He is my roommate.

Of course, they know me as well. They know about my knitting and my ignorance of all things Midwest. They know about my (less than) secret agenda to make The West Wing the most quoted television series among our class and they even know about this blog (shoutout to Connie who read through my blog instead of studying for Head & Neck #priorities). But one thing I did not tell my class–something which only became an issue last week at our celebratory ‘we’re 71% done with anatomy’ boat cruise–is that I cannot and do not dance.

Well, kinda.

It is widely known among my friends and family in California that I am not the most kinesthetically kreative kid in the klass. I have never been to a club or a rave, and there is not a beat of EDM or hip-hop or dub step on my iPod (though I Knew You Were Trouble could be considered somewhat of an homage to dubstep). I have consistently been the party pooper at weddings and proms, and I’ve successfully avoided all things dance since the 8th grade through strategic bathroom breaks and enthusiastic head bobbing. Until last week. When I joined my class on the dance floor and (gasp) actually had a very very good time.

There’s a degree of shamelessness that goes into dancing, which makes my aversion to it quite ironic when you consider that I spent a good portion of my high school years crocheting afghans and watching Everybody Loves Raymond. But as I experienced last week, there’s something about shamelessness that supersedes the tiny factoids that go into knowing a person, transcending the rehearsed one-liners that goes into every small talk conversation. It turns acquaintances into friends and experiences into memories. It transforms ‘my hipster classmate’ into just Sam and ‘my bald roommate’ into Chester (and ‘the class spaz’ into Leslie).

Having mistaken a Washington Nationals cap for Walgreens swag, knocked my friend’s glasses into an open cadaver, and danced horribly in public on a boat, I have a lot of things to be shameless of, and I’m certainly not the only one.

IMG_0085This is Victoria and Katie. Victoria is bald and brave and shameless. Katie is other nice things.

***St. Baldrick’s Foundation was founded in 2000 and has raised over $118 million for pediatric cancer research. You can donate here.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers