Blog Envy

Warning: This post is completely and utterly self-indulgent. I’m whining, and I know it. If you don’t want to read my whining, please close this window/tab.

It’s time for a confession, dear reader(s). If you know me well, you know that I like to read blogs, and I enjoy writing my own blog. But I have to admit that sometimes I get blog envy. I find myself jealous of those women who have hundreds of blog followers who hang on their every word/picture/Instagram post and they get asked to write guests posts (that they’re paid for!) for other bloggers. Their Twitter feeds have hundreds of followers, and when they post a question on Instagram, they have 28 answers in 9 minutes. At the very least, it must be interesting to have that kind of a loyal following.

But I know that my blog is never going to be one of those blogs. And the thing is that I’m okay with that. I might occasionally get blog envy because I wish that I got more hits or more comments. I might wish that my blogging brought in money or that my blog was prettier to look at. But I don’t think that I’m meant to be that blogger. For one thing, I’m not sure that I’m committed enough to my blog to be one of them. I’m not sure that I want to let you in to every area of my life. I’m pretty honest with my readers. I’m a teacher. I’m in grad school. I’m single. I knit. I’m Byzantine Catholic. I’m open and honest about all of these things, and I don’t mind that. But I’m not sure that I want total strangers to know everything about me. There are some parts of my life that I’d really rather keep away from the internet.

Also, I don’t have fabulous photography or graphic design in every post. I can’t make my blog as aesthetically pleasing as other blogs out there, and I’m okay with that. My hair rarely ever looks perfect, and it is so much harder to manage than you think it is. (And let’s face it; my hair alone is one reason why I’m never going to be the next A Cup of Jo or A Beautiful Mess. Those are lovely and delightful blogs, but their writers do NOT have thick, frizzy hair.)

And I’m not sure that I want to write every day. Trying to write a post once a week (my vague goal for 2015) is hard enough for me. Granted, when I have a knitted finished object to flash that makes it easier, but I don’t always have one. I want writing this blog to be fun for me. I started this blog because I wanted my own corner of the internet where I could talk about my knitting, my books, my food, my tea, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I want to enjoy it; I don’t want it feel like it’s something that I have to do.

Also, I don’t find that there is enough interest in the kind of blog that I write for it to become popular. I don’t think that many people are interested the ramblings of a young Byzantine Catholic woman trying to follow her faith, teach the future, go to grad school, knit, read, and drink as much tea as possible. I’ve tried to write posts about cooking without dairy without any positive feedback, so that’s an avenue I won’t pursue in the future. And while Catholic mommy blogs seem to be immensely popular, there doesn’t (in my experience) seem to be room for or desire for Catholic single women’s blogs.

The purpose of this self-indulgent whine is this: My little corner of the internet feels very lonely to me sometimes. I see more successful bloggers writing books or hiring staff to help with the work that needs to be done. And my blog gets fewer than 100 hits most weeks. When I think about this, I can get frustrated.

But then I remember that I’m not writing for any specific audience. I write for me; I’m writing the blog that I want to read. I wrote my “I may never married” post because I wanted to have a post out in the great blogosphere about what I felt were valuable ways to spend time as a single twenty-something. That title that caused so much trouble among some folks? That was click-bait, my friends; I knew that if I used that title people would read that post. My “Why I want to get married” post was an explanation of why I view marriage as valuable.

I wrote my letters (back in 2012, I think) to my future sons and daughters because I wanted to have those letters in a place where I could find them again someday-and because I thought that maybe someone else would want to read them sometime. I write about knitting because I love it. I write about being Catholic because it’s my greatest passion. I write about the books that I read because I love to read and I like to share the things I love with others.

I’m going to write about trying to pair tea with books. For example, in the near future, I plan on letting you know whether or not drinking Elizabeth Bennet tea or Mr. Darcy tea improves my Pride and Prejudice reading experience. I might write about trying to create outfits that mix my handknits and my store-bought clothing.

I’m going to write about what I like. And if I only get four hits in a day, I’m going to live with that because at least my blog will stay true to who I am. I’ll probably never write a post for pay or write a book or have dozens of people who care what I think. But I’m okay with that. After all, my hair gets frizzy really easily, and I don’t want to be the frizzy-haired blogger. I’d rather just be me with my tea and my books.

(And if you’re wondering why I’m not reading very much these days, well, I am reading. But I don’t think that you want to read book reviews of my grad school textbooks. And I don’t really want to write those. Like I said, I don’t want blogging to be a chore.)

FO: Sparkly Lifesavers

When Tanis Lavallee started posting sneak peeks of what would become the Lifesavers cardigan last summer, I knew that I needed that sweater. When the pattern came out, I wanted one RIGHT NAO. I cast on a few days after the pattern came out, and then it took me nearly three months to knit the sweater. It’s not a hard knit. The pattern is well-written and easy to follow. My problem was twofold: firstly, I was knitting it at the same time that I was working on other projects that were a higher priority for me, and secondarily, it’s a fingering-weight sweater and it went slowly.

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But it’s done now! And it’s lovely. The thing that makes my sweater unique is the fact that I used TFA’s Cosmic Blue Label for my three contrast colors. My main color was TFA blue label (80% wool, 20% nylon), but my contrasts were blue label (84% Merino, 16% Nylon) in Chris grey, blushing mauve, and dove. They sparkle, and it’s gorgeous. The sparkle is subtle but perfect. I love the little detail/delight that it adds to the sweater. I love it. And I highly recommend using Cosmic Blue Label for another Lifesavers cardigan.

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The sweater is a nice, lightweight option for spring. The yarn isn’t too heavy. (And okay, aside from the photoshoot for this post, I’m probably not going to wear it in 80 degree weather, but you know…) It’s soft, and it fits well. The thing that I really like about it is that I can wear it with a variety of different kinds of outfits. I could wear it with a skirt or over a dress, and it would look great. I could wear it with jeans, and it would look casual. Today (as you can see) I’m wearing it with my purple pants, and it looks fabulous. I really love this sweater. IMG_2286 IMG_2294 IMG_2295 IMG_2304 IMG_2309 IMG_2311 IMG_2314 IMG_2319 IMG_2337

FO: Midnight Pullover

In August of 2013, I picked up my knitting needle and some scrumptious Tanis Fiber Arts purple label yarn in the gorgeous Midnight colorway and started knitting a sweater. It was going to be a ¾ sleeved cardigan with a lovely lace motif in the upper back. I knit the sleeves and I started the body, but I quickly realized that this wasn’t what I wanted. So I threw it all aside with the intent of coming back to it later.

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Occasionally, I would pick it up and work on it a bit, but it wasn’t much of a priority for me. Somewhere in the winter of 2013-14, I decided to move it from the original size 4 needles unto a pair of size 6 needles and take it from being a cardigan to being a pullover. I dabbled with that pullover when I was bored with everything else until late March of this year. Then, I decided that I was going to focus on this pattern in earnest. I was going to finish this pullover so that I could wear it this spring. My goal was to finish it before I went to Holland in late May because I had this weird goal of wearing it by Lake Michigan. (Please note that it is not yet late May; I have accomplished my goal.) IMG_2251

I worked the sweater up to the row before the sleeve join on the size 6 needles. Then I switched the whole thing back to the size 4 needles. Here, to give the piece a little more visual interest, I worked two rows in aurora (one on 6s, one on 4s). Then I went back to midnight when I joined the sleeves. The rest of the sweater was worked on size 4s.

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After the sleeve join, I worked a three-stitch diagonal line in aurora on the right side of the back. It gives a little more visual interest, and I think it makes the sweater more fun. I ended that diagonal line with a single row in Aurora across only the back. Two inches above that row, I worked another row in aurora. I think that this makes the sweater unique and more “me.”

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I bound off with an attached i-cord. After a good soak, the part of the sweater that was knit on size 6 needles grew, turning the sweater into a tunic. The yarn is soft, comfortable, and gorgeous. I am very pleased with the results.

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Raveled here.

Dairy-Free Eating at the Macaroni Grill?

Yesterday evening, I went to Romano’s Macaroni Grill with a friend for dinner. I’ve been to the Macaroni Grill before-although it’s been well over a year since my last visit, and in my experience, Mac Grill is reasonably safe for me. It’s not P.F. Chang’s or any of my favorite Middle Eastern joints. But it was a central meeting point for us, they serve Italian food, and I’ve never had dairy issues there before.

Well, that was a poor decision on my part. Feel free to check out their menu. Butter. Cheese. Goat cheese. Looking over this menu, the only safe thing (within my budget) for me to have eaten would have been “Create Your Own Pasta.” Instead, I ordered the chicken scallopine, which does contain lemon butter, but I really hate going to an Italian restaurant and not eating pasta. It’s like going to Thanksgiving and not having spaghetti. (FYI: My family DOES eat spaghetti on Thanksgiving. It’s a nice prelude to the turkey.)

Anyway…I went to Macaroni Grill, and I ordered the chicken scallopine. I didn’t want to spring for the pork/beef options because of the prices. So I ate a meal with lemon butter. I’m fine for the most part. Yeah, I had trouble breathing last night, but it wasn’t the biggest or worst allergic reaction ever. It was butter, which isn’t the worst thing that I could eat. I didn’t drink a gallon of cream. I just ate a piece of chicken coated with butter. (Oh, and they served it with spinach instead of pasta, which really didn’t sit well with me because the spinach tasted off to me and I wanted pasta.) But it wasn’t terrible. It was just hard to find the meal within my price range with the smallest amount of dairy, and I really disliked that.

In short? I won’t be going back to the Macaroni Grill unless they restructure their menu in the future. And I would never recommend it to people who are lactose intolerant or have dairy issues.

The Ten Best Things that Netflix has Brought into My Life

If you know me well, you know that I love movies. I’m fond of TV at times, but I don’t tend to watch much current TV. I watch Castle. I watch Downton Abbey when it’s in season. And I watch The Mindy Project. I used to watch 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother when they were on. But by and large…yeah, I’m more of a movie girl.

However, I’m a big fan of Netflix because it provides me with background noise while I’m grading or doing schoolwork or knitting. I’ve had a Netflix account on and off since the spring of 2010, and it’s brought many good movies into my life. So I thought I’d compile a list of what I like and recommend to others.

  1. Old movies: I was interested in old movies long before I ever heard of Netflix. I love Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and Netflix lets me see more of their movies than I can borrow from the library at any given time. The selection isn’t always consistent, but there are always a few new selections for my amusement and edification.

9. Psych: I’m not a huge fan of the later seasons, but I love this show. As a college student without cable, Netflix was the only way that I could watch Shawn Spencer torment Ghee Buttersnaps or whatever he had chosen to call Gus that week. And Pierre Despereaux is only an added bonus. Basically, it’s a hilarious buddy cop comedy, and I love it.

  1. Possession: The first time that I saw this movie, I was entranced. From the story line to the costumes to the acting…it was all amazing. I went on to read the book, and I loved it as well. It’s a brilliant, compelling story, and it was deeply moving to me both on the page and on the screen.

  1. Parks and Recreation: Everyone said that I’d love it, but I never got into it while it was on the air. A few weeks after it went off the air, I started watching it. And oh my lord do I ever love it! It’s quirky and ridiculous and charmingly flawed. Also, I like bacon. Please give me all of the bacon.

  1. The Grand Seduction: I’ve learned from my relationship with Netflix that I like quirky movies about people who feel real and who do things that have logical motivations that I can relate to. This movie about a small fishing village in Newfoundland that is struggling to adapt to the 21st century struck a chord with me. The characters felt real, and while their lives weren’t easy, I liked them and felt they were the sort of people I’d like to know.

  1. House of Cards: It’s not as good as The West Wing, but it fills a whole that TWW left in my life. I do love me some fictional political intrigue. I can’t watch it before bed because it gets me too amped up emotionally, and I can’t sleep. But while I don’t always like the characters, I want to know what’s going to happen to them and how it’s going to happen.
  1. Doctor Who: I’m a self-professed nerd, and I wouldn’t be half as happy as I am without Doctor Who. It’s smart (usually) and funny and all-around good fun. (If you’re wondering, David Tennant is my doctor.)

  1. Not Another Happy Ending: This movie was made for me. It’s smart and funny and entertaining. It’s a little dark, and it’s better if you don’t overthink it. It tells the story of an author and her complicated relationship with her publisher. It also sorts through the complexities of her (moderately dysfunctional) relationship with her father. Overall, it can be frustrating at times, but the end is so worth the watch.

  1. The West Wing: I started watching this show in September and finished it in January. It’s intelligent. It’s entertaining. It’s witty. It’s the best thing that I’ve ever seen. I love the dialogue and the character development. Overall, the show makes me wish for better things for my country. I wish that our country were led by the politicians on this show and not our current leaders-either side of the aisle. (Also, picking a video clip to accompany this was one of the hardest things that I’ve done today. I chose two and an image with one of my favorite quotes because y’all need to love and appreciate them.)

  1. The Decoy Bride: This might be my favorite movie. I relate to Katie so much. I jokingly call my church the Isle of Hegg because the two are not that dissimilar. The movie speaks to me. I wish I could go “man-vegan.” And I swear I am a “whole lot hotter than I look.” Now I just need my own personal David Tennant…

What movies or TV shows has Netflix introduced you to? What movies do I need to see?

Gilbert Blythe

True Confessions: I spent far too much of my young life wanting to be a redhead. Because I (like many girls, I think) wanted to be this girl…

I first encountered Anne Shirley and all of Avonlea when I was nine. And I fell head over heels in love with that whimsical, overly dramatic redhead and the whole eccentric town. I often tell people the first guy I ever fell for was Christian Bale when he played Laurie in Little Women, and that’s true. But my first real literary crush was this gentleman.

Gilbert Blythe, ladies and gents, Gilbert Blythe…I was that nerdy girl who wanted to marry Gilbert Blythe. He was smart, he was handsome, he was sweet, and he was good. He was unbelievably good, and I loved that. He rescued Anne from her ridiculous Lady of Shalott escapade. And he told Charlie Sloane (in front of Josie Pye!) that being smart was better than being good-looking. He also told Charlie that Anne was the smartest girl in the class. Gilbert was a good man.

(I also named a car after him once. It was a good car, a noble car.)

And for me, Jonathan Crombie perfectly captured my literary crush on the screen. He was impish and handsome and sweet and…he was Gil.

Jonathan Crombie died this past Wednesday. And I’m gutted. I never met the man. All I know of him is that he was in three movies that I loved, and apparently he loved those movies and being associated with them. But it’s so sad to me. He was young. And he’s gone…so suddenly. I feel like he’s taken a part of my childhood with him.

And at 26, I’m not okay with that. I’ve accepted that I’m an adult. But this somehow hurts in a way that I hadn’t expected. I know that he wasn’t Gilbert, but it somehow feels like Gilbert has died. I know that Gilbert is a fictional character and all, but I still feel this bizarre sense of loss.

Now, I suppose I’ll have to reread those books. And maybe I’ll rewatch those movies. And I’ll remember that while Jonathan is gone, Gilbert will always be with us in those books. Jonathan may have (beautifully) given him life on screen, but Gilbert can always be found in the pages of those beautiful books.

So rest in peace, Jonathan. Thank you for sharing your gift with us and for giving Gilbert life. You will never be forgotten.

Allergies and Friendship

Last month, Verily posted a great article called “How to Make a Friend With Allergies Feel at Ease.” At the time, I meant to post it on my Facebook feed, but then I forgot. However, it also inspired me to write my own post about living with allergies.

For those who don’t know, I have some common allergies such as pollen, dust, and mold. I also have a dairy allergy that was for many years incorrectly identified as lactose intolerance; many people in my life tend to mistake it for lactose intolerance still. And then I have some odd allergies such as an allergy to cotton. (Yes, I take allergy meds so that I can wear pants. Please don’t ask me about how I discovered this allergy.) I’m also allergic to most scented products. For example, even going into Bath and Body Works means that I will be spending some quality time with my inhaler that day. That scented lotion or perfume that you just love may well leave me with a constricted airway and a headache/dizziness. Most of my allergies are based in/around my respiratory system, and it’s probably no surprise that while I’ve had allergies for years, they became much worse after I had atypical pneumonia when I was 19.

The allergy that I want to most emphasize in this post is my dairy allergy. It is my most misunderstood, it has progressively worsened as I’ve gotten older, and it is my hardest to manage at a practical level. I go to many social events where the default food offering somehow involves dairy. Pizza is, for example, a quick and easy food offering. I know this well; in about a month, I’m actually hosting a party where I will be serving pizza-simply because it’s easy to get. However, I will also order Chinese food for myself so that I can eat. However, I’m providing myself (and anyone else who needs one) with a safe option.

At many of the social functions I attend, there is no safe option for me. My only options are to either go hungry or essentially poison myself knowingly. Last summer, I attended two weddings where the menu caused me serious issues. While my friends and family remarked on the sheer volume of food and felt that they may have eaten too much, I was near tears because of lack of options. Cream/cheese sauces on meat, on pasta, on vegetables…bread that came pre-buttered…mashed potatoes made with butter and milk…I was grateful that the asparagus was only cooked in olive oil. There were gluten-free options, but there weren’t real dairy-free options.

I realize that no one intended to offend me or hurt me. It is often largely a lack of awareness or understanding. While some people with food sensitivities can eat butter in baked goods, I cannot. (Cue story about the time that a friend very kindly bought me muffins thinking that I could eat them because he didn’t really that they were made with butter; I ate half of one and never told him that it made me sick.) Some people can eat pizza if they take the cheese off the top; I cannot. I spent three days miserable last month because I ate cheese pizza from which I had removed the cheese. That proximity hurt my digestive track.

What is my goal in writing this post? I have two goals really. The first one is awareness. I would like to make both my social circle and others I don’t even know aware of the dangers of food allergies. For some reason, I’m very sensitive emotionally about my food issues, and I tend to get upset/sad when there isn’t food that I can eat. Unfortunately, people tend not to understand why I’m standing outside a restaurant (or sitting in one) crying over a menu. The reality is this: If there is ONE (and only one) thing a menu that I can eat, that hurts. I feel left out. While y’all are debating between the pasta and the fish and the steak, I’m stuck with the spaghetti and meatballs. And while I like spaghetti and meatballs, I can make my own at home. If I’m eating out, I want something that I wouldn’t make myself.

The second is to encourage reflection and potential change. When you are eating with a friend with food allergies (either providing food or eating out), be mindful of what they can and cannot eat. Try your best to make sure that your friend will have options. Ask your friend what they can and cannot eat. At the party that I’m hosting next month, I’m going to buy myself Chinese food, but I’m also going to make sure that other guests know that if they need a dairy-free or gluten-free option, they should just let me know.

Talk to your friends with food allergies. Do your best to make them feel comfortable and welcome. Ask them what they would like to eat. Browse menus ahead of time so that you’re sure that friend will have options. One of my least favorite questions to be asked (which was also referenced in the Verily post) is “So what CAN you eat?” I realize that my food issues make me more difficult, but that remark makes me feel like I’m trying to be problematic. Trust me; I wish that I wasn’t such an issue.

When I go to a new restaurant, I try to check the menu online before going. (Admittedly, this is hard when traveling.) If I don’t have at least three options, I try to propose a new option. I read labels obsessively. I ask waiters annoying questions. I say “never mind” or “forget it” to more waiters than you could imagine-and I feel terrible about it. I also tend to tip those servers more generously.

One last suggestion: Try doing your own research. Ask questions. If you ask nicely, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. If you want a list of what I can and cannot eat, I’ll make it for you; just ask. A few of my friends have made or ordered pizza with goat cheese for me; I can’t eat that anymore, but when I could, it was the sweetest thing for me. The guy who bought the muffins? I really appreciated them because he was trying. Yeah, it wasn’t quite what I needed, but he made a genuine effort. He made me feel included. And that is the biggest thing that you can do for your friends with allergies.

Help us to feel included. Eating is a social activity in our culture, and if we can’t partake of the food, then we don’t feel as connected. Ask us what we would like to eat, what we like to make…we might introduce you to some new and awesome dishes. Consider keeping us company if we’re sick because of something we ate or if we step outside because we’re overwhelmed by a lack of “Cecilia-friendly” food.

And please try to be patient if we don’t want to participate in an event. I have been known to skip social events because I know that the food won’t be “Cecilia-friendly.” If I make that choice, please don’t judge/criticize/mock me. Please realize that I’m acting in defense of my own health. And ultimately, if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.