Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some New Socks

The long and the short of it is this: I decided to take a summer class so that when I took the fall semester off to go to Bhutan, I could be ahead of the game. The summer class is a pre-requisite I need for two spring semester classes. So, I’m in week five of a double-time, eight week course. And then I found out last week that the Bhutan trip will be postponed a year. Hmm….

Miraculously, though, I’ve been able to do some knitting. Some really fantastic knitting, on a project I’ve been dying to make since I saw it last year on Ravelry: Becca Compton’s Vinnland socks. I love the way the leaf motif sort of twists and weaves down the sock, and I searched high and low for the perfect yarn, which just happens to be Sundara’s sock in Black over Emerald. I am officially obsessed with Sundara’s yarns, after discovering them late last year. Absolutely obsessed!
This was my first time doing toe-up socks, socks on two circulars, and of course, using Sundara’s yarns. I loved everything and am converted! The toe-up construction is really neat, because you can get a perfect fit, and try them on the whole time without much trouble. The two circular method is fantastic, and while I even tried the Magic Loop for a few rounds, I prefer the two circs. My next lesson will be knitting two socks on two circs, although I will say with this pattern and yarn combination, Second Sock Syndrome was never a problem. In fact, I knit the second sock faster than the first.

I couldn’t really figure out the short-row toe, and the links on the Ravelry page for the Vinnland’s didn’t work, so I just did a Figure-8 cast on, which was really easy to figure out. The only problem I encountered was in the cast-off, because you need a REALLY stretchy end to the cuffs. After three separate attempts, I finally found the Modified Russian Bind-off, which was the perfect trick.So, today is June 10, and we’ve been having all sorts of freaky-cold weather. In fact, there is actually snow predicted for tonight. At least I’ll be able to wear my toasty-soft Merino socks!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Grad School is Sucking the Life Out of Me

Oh wow. Doing my undergrad was never like this. I never had to study and stuff. Now? Heavens. There is no time for anything else!

It probably doesn't help that I've completely overbooked myself in many areas, I suppose. But there are only two more weeks left, and then I'm done for two semesters. I'm taking the fall semester off so I can go to Bhutan.

I have been knitting some, and I've been organizing a lot. Good things! More to come next week, I promise!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Urge to Purge

Is everyone in the world suddenly getting the organization bug? It sure seems like it. Or maybe it’s like when you buy a new car, and suddenly it seems like the whole world is driving the same thing. The more I get on with my organizational aspirations, the more I notice others’ blogs, books, magazines, articles, etc. about the same.

This weekend, I am tackling one of the biggest issues hanging over my head: all the stuff I moved and never unpacked. Well, never officially unpacked—I’ve been trying to find things here and there and it’s become a big disaster. A big disaster that is supposed to be my knitting/studying/office area, except that you literally can’t walk into it.

I’ve had really good intentions. I’ve thought about it a lot. Maybe I just needed that little carrot? Well, the carrot found me, in the form of a gorgeous black lacquer desk. Here's a photo, from a magazine:
I was browsing/shopping a couple of days ago in lieu of studying for my math exam, and found this amazing desk. It’s a secretary style with a pull-down panel, and the inside is full of little drawers and cubbies all in the most brilliant RED! I knew from the moment I saw it I had to have it. I talked to the saleswoman about it, and she mentioned offhand that it was a really good deal. I went home and looked it up online… It was originally $2400—yikes, this one was $249. I bought it, and we’ll pick it up sometime this weekend.

As soon as I (ahem) make some room available for it. And so, my weekend of de-stashing, purging, de-junking has begun!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I promise I have some knitting and adventures to show you, and if the sun would just come out for a few minutes, I could take some pictures of the knitting! Until then, a little wedding inspiration for Åsa, who wants an American-style wedding in Sweden. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, Åsa!

September 30, 2006
Mountain River Ranch, Idaho, USA

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Knitty: Sophisticated Spring

Amy published the Spring 2008 issue of knitty.com today, and I have to say, this may be one of my favorite issues yet. The designs are so sophisticated and polished. I think that knitwear design is really starting to come into it's own lately. The bar seems to have been raised quite a bit in the past several months as knitters want more and more wearable designs, current but classic pieces in luxury fibers.

I've also never been one for a lot of summer knitting, preferring rich wools, cashmeres, and tweeds for fall on winter to settle on my needles, but lately, I'm getting excited by some of the possibilities in design as well as some of the fantstic yarns. I'm considering a few of knitty's newest:

Yosemite is a very sexy, form-fitting little knit, isn't it? The mini faux-cable/rib is nice and looks like it would have a lot of stretch (and designed with seven inches of negative ease, I suppose it would!).

I also really like Honeycomb, though maybe for something to knit for the fall. I am in love with Silky Tweed and Silky Wool anyway, so this could be another possibility and looks like it would be a quick weekend knit.

The Salto socks are interesting...still trying to decide if the pattern grabs me. They'd be great with some really tweedy yarn. Again, more for fall than spring.

I think I really like Marjorie, too. For my body type, this would provide all-important waist shaping that sometimes gets lost with boxier designs. I like the slight throwback to retro without seeming too "costume-y" and the alpaca looks so soft and luxurious.

Well, these will all have to be on the back burner for now. I have a big weekend project planned, and in the meantime I also have to study for a math test (ugh). Besides that, I have a few lingering UFOs that really need some TLC.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Two Lipsticks, a Lover, and Don’t Forget the Matching Knickers

I recently had the opportunity to interview Helena Frith-Powell, author of, Two Lipsticks and a Lover, Ciao Bella: In Search of My Italian Father, More More France Please, Armas De Mujer/ Be Incredibly Sexy, and Everything You Need to be Impossibly French. Helena has a new book coming out soon, entitled, To Hell in High Heels, which will be released soon (and can currently be pre-ordered on Amazon).

Helena began her career at a young age in modeling and fashion design, later working as a journalist for a financial magazine and then as a recruiter. Helena began writing again after her move to France, and Is a regular contributor to The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, and other magazines and newspapers.

While you may recognize her as a best-selling author, what you may not know is that Helena has just opened a rejuvination spa in the south of France, aimed at providing a restful retreat for women. The spa, called Renew Retreats, caters to a vacation-style setting, and is the result of Helena’s partnership with yoga teacher and psychotherapist Anna Cooper and holistic dermatologist, anti-ageing expert and nutritionist Tina Richards.

Helena says about the spa, “This is a different kind of retreat because it takes into account not just your looks, but your diet, your mindset, your everyday skincare routine, your style, grooming and exercise. It is designed for your well-being on a mental and physical level. But unlike superficial anti-ageing treatments like Botox, these therapies go deep under the skin to renew and revitalise.”

Given that Helena and I live about as far apart from each other as two people possibly can, we conducted our interview via email. Even over the written word, I could immediately tell how witty and funny Helena is, and how calm and centered, too. It did make me wonder if this part-time Pilates teacher needs to leave to full-time rat race and work in a spa, too. Below are the results of our interview:

Q How has your perception of French women has changed since you wrote your books, “Two Lipsticks, etc.” If you were to write the book today, what would you add/remove?
A Yes, my perception has changed in two rather different ways: One, I realise that they are even more perfect than I first thought they were in the major cities, but also that they most of them simply couldn't care less in the countryside. They even wear slippers to the shops!

Q Is it really that difficult to make friends with French women? How did you meet with the French women she knows today? What do they do when they get together?
A It is very difficult. Where I live, I have one French friend. I met her through her husband who makes a wine I became addicted to and wanted to introduce to a friend who runs wine bars in London. French women don't tend to get together in the way we do, they don't really seem to enjoy each other's company on the same scale.

Q Have French women approached you about your books? If so, what have they had to say about her description of them?
A All the criticism I have had has come from French women! They don't like to be pigeon-holed and hate the cliche that they are faithless and obsessed with they way they look. But as I always point out, cliches start somewhere!

Q What would you say the biggest pitfall or misconception American and British women have about French women?
A That they are rude. This is of course true of some of them, but really at worst they can be described as haughty.

Q How would you define that certain je ne sais quoi that French women seem to possess? Can it be taught? How (if at all) can it be achieved outside France ?
A I would define it as an inner confidence that comes from growing up in a country where women are revered. The symbol of France (Marianne), is a woman, for example. I also think it comes from knowing you are making the best of yourself, mentally and physically, and yes of course anyone can do that.

Q What misconceptions do women outside of France have about the slimness of French women? How do you feel about this slim reality/ideal?
A The slim ideal is changing, sadly. But still, French women are much thinner than their UK counterparts. I once asked an Englishman who lives in Paris what the main difference between a French and an Englishwoman is and he said "about 10 kilos."

Q This is the “desert island” question: if you had to leave France for an extended period, what would you stock up on before you left? What types of skin care, food stuff, clothes, underwear, something else?
A Matching underwear! That's the first thing. Then some of the wine mentioned above, lots of sunblock, moisturizer and bath oils. As I write about beauty, the products I use are not by any means exclusively French. My total favourites are both American: Philosophy and Laura Mercier.

Q What is your favorite piece of clothing or outfit? How has your wardrobe changed since moving to France ?
A My favourite piece of clothing at the moment is a small furry waistcoat my husband bought me in a local underwear shop for Christmas. I think you're meant to wear it in bed over your pyjamas but I wear it all the time. Yes my wardrobe has changed radically! I was told I was eccentric when I first came here so I think I am more classic now, I tend to look at Elle every week to see what's going on.

Q What are the advantages for her children of attending French school? what are the disadvantages?
A The advantage is discipline, the disadvantage is that they grow up thinking Napoleon was a good bloke!

Q What are your favorite French film(s)? French actress, actor and/or director?
A I have to admit I find most French films totally incomprehensible but I do love Jules & Jim and Belle de Jour. I think Juliette Binoche is my favourite French actress, she is so naturally beautiful and difficult to deal with - very French.

Q What French traditions have you and your family taken up since moving to France ? What traditions have you dropped? What French traditions do you not bother with/understand/ dislike?
A We always eat at midday now and we have bread with every meal. We no longer have a traditional English Sunday roast every Sunday. I quite like the French rhythm of life, how everything shuts for lunch, some expats find that infuriating but I think it's very civilised.

Q What are your favorite Parisian shops/department stores/food havens? What do you buy when you visit them?
A Galleries Lafayette - the biggest underwear space in the whole of Europe and thousands of creams. Chantal Thomass (also underwear) very Parisian and intimate. The classic food haven Hediard near the Place de la Madeleine, an Aladdin's cave of goodies.

Q What do you miss about the UK/British culture?
A The sense of humour, flexibility, friends, M&S, Waitrose.

Q How difficult was it to move to France? In general, the logistics of it. Is it easy to be a resident of another country and take up residence in France ?
A Very easy, now it is even easier, there is no need for a carte de sejour even.
™ ­ ˜

You can find out more about Helena’s spa here:

Helena’s blog and more information about her can be found here:

© Anna Larsen 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Au Revoir, February!

I do not heart February 2008. It was a bad month. I think I had five separate floods at the Pilates studio to deal with, the furnace at our house went out (on a Saturday night, no less, when they charge $120 just to pick up the phone), work was completely overbearing, graduate school is kicking my butt, and an old friend from college passed away.

I found out about my friend in a strange way: she works for the University, and as I was downloading some slides for my Operations Management class, I saw an announcement that the flag had been lowered for the students at NIU, and also for the woman who was one of my best friends when I was an undergraduate. It was quite a shock, and I have to say, I didn’t fully believe it until I found her obituary. Our lives took different directions in the years since, and I hadn’t actually talked to her for a long time.

It’s a strange thing to have an old friend suddenly die, especially one who is so close in age. These kinds of things always make you think a little, about your own life, where it’s going, and wondering what her life was like in the past few years as well.

Turns out that she and her husband (I knew them both in college) were in the finishing stages of what could only be described as building their dream home. I found the house after a Google search, and it was remarkable, especially for two people with rather modest jobs. Absolutely no detail was left to chance; you could see that every room, door, wall, floor, and fixture was carefully planned around their tastes and styles. With a fantastic view and special touches, it will be a beautiful house.

I am so sad for her husband; what a tragedy to suddenly find their dream shattered. As I said, the circumstances have really let me reflect on my own life. Not so much in that “I must start living” thing, because I really do feel like I live my life to the fullest extent, but in the way that I want to think about how I live, and be somewhat more purposeful about that. I know that I wouldn’t want that particular “dream home,” because for me, part of the dream is not being at home so much. My tastes are really much simpler-sparser- than those of my old friend. When I really think about where and how I want to live, I feel more comfortable in monastic surroundings. I like whitespace. Or maybe just space.

The problem with this scenario is the fact that even after multiple moves (and subsequent purges) to increasingly smaller living spaces, I have so much stuff. Maybe it’s a symptom of being so busy and doing so many things (I think we have seven or eight pair of skis between us, not to mention equipment for beer making, cheese making, soap making, all the accoutrements for knitting, sewing, and other hobbies and enough of my clothes to outfit a village), maybe it’s that my mom keeps giving me stuff or I keep getting stuff, but whatever it is, it doesn’t fit my preferred style of living.

So, I’m giving myself a deadline: I really need to get rid of everything I don’t want or use anymore by June. Considering that school is on overdrive until the first part of May and we have a major audit coming up at work in June, the next three months are going to be crazy. Hopefully I’ll have some spare time for stress-relief knitting!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Valentine Tradition and New Project!

I don't remember exactly when this tradition started, but probably the second year that my husband and I were dating: he took me snow camping for the first time, and it just happened to be Valentine's Day weekend. Now most people proably wouldn't consider snow camping to be at the height of a romantic getaway, but we kinda like it. We go to our favorite hot springs, Gold Bug, which means that if you get cold, you just have to hike "upstairs" (it's quite a huff, actually) to the most beautiful hot pools.

Sadly, this year my knees just wouldn't cooperate. I thought I'd be okay, but three months and one day after surgery, I guess I expected too much. I couldn't even carry my backpack the whole way (and I'm sure having crampon's on my feet didn't help). Thank goodness for my wonderful husband who not only carried my pack, but stayed with me in the tent while I just slept and slept. Bummer, but at least it was a good hike and a fun time in the tent. This is Kodi and me, looking out the next morning:
And now, for some knitting. Well, as you might expect, there's been a fair amount of de-stress knitting going on amidst all the school and studio-flooding mayhem (I think I've had three total floods so far, although I'm losing count...not to mention a power outage and THEN the furnace in our house went out Saturday night...sheesh!). So, I've been doing a lot of knitting that I haven't told you about, and I've been buying yarn like there's going to be a shortage soon, but this is a much-anticipated project. Ever since I saw the Interweave Knits Spring Preview and the Auburn Camp Shirt by Chrissy Gardiner, I've been waiting no-so-patiently for the issue to come out.

I love the pattern, and was actually thinking of hand-dying some yarn especially for the project (see, there's something else I haven't told you about!), but when I actually saw the yarn, and saw the exact color I wanted, well, I was sold! The yarn is Naturally Dawn, a 50/50 blend of merino and silk, and is a soft, floppy, totally gorgeous pile of fingering-weight bliss that I'm about to use for a sweater. Well, leave it to someone who brilliantly designs socks to make a sweater out of the same weight! But, oh, is it lovely!
The color is so perfect for a summer knit--with a bit of a tan, it will make my eyes just pop. I can't wait!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where does all my time go anymore?

Oh my gosh, where does the time go? I have a few posts about the Bahamas almost written and the pictures almost ready, and it seems like old news now. I have a special present to show you, new yarns to share, and some exciting and fun adventures to tell you about, and still, it seems like there's no time!

Today was spent recovering from a fun weekend, only to find that my Pilates studio FLOODED due to a leaky roof. Apparently my landlord spent his weekend spreading ice melt all over the roof...brilliant. Darling husband wet-vac'd everything while I taught a class at the local college, and now I just want to fall into a hot bath and a soft bed. Sigh....

Monday, January 14, 2008

Breathless, but back!

Well, after a whirlwind trip to the Bahamas (I'm still trying to get all the photos in order), it's back to reality. Ugh. And reality it is: working a full forty a week again, and happily, teaching Pilates again; I missed my students! My MBA classes start again this week, too, which puts me in full swing.

I did some Bahamian-style knitting while I was gone (you know, on the beach, frosty beverage in hand), but I still haven't taken pics yet of the finished product. We ended up getting back Sunday night at midnight, then to work the next day...of course I caught the obligatory plane cold on the way back which put me out of it for the rest of the week. I'm finally feeling like myself.

There is going to be a lot of knitting going on, too. I've used some Christmas yarn money on a bunch of different stash-enhancements, and I still have a gift certificate for KnitPicks that I haven't made a decision about, but I'm leaning toward the options needle set. Maybe. It's so hard to choose, isn't it?

I do have a complaint about some of the sites I've been buying from. I placed three orders with three separate stores who showed stock on hand, but then came up empty. In this day and age, I think that's just lazy, and really irritating to boot. One company showed 72 of something I wanted for weeks...and then when I ordered 8, suddenly they'd sold out. They tried to tell me that they sold out that day--I doubt it. Of the eight separate lots of yarn I ordered, they only had one in stock...which they informed me about two weeks after I ordered. Grr.... Same thing with the two other places. I'm starting to get really grumpy about trying to order yarn.

In the meantime, while the yarn I was actually able to procure is on it's way, I've been making myself happy with a little scarf project. I've been seeing so many great versions of "My So-Called Scarf" that I just had to try it, and I found some great yarn while out doing some shopping the other day. It's just the thing to cheer me up, unfortunately, there's only about twenty minutes of light these days, so I'll get a picture posted tomorrow.

Don't worry, lots of great Bahamas stories to tell, and some more knitting coming, too!