Spontaneous Craft Acquisition

So a few days ago, I quite suddenly decided to take up crocheting. It wasn’t completely out of the blue, because I’ve been wanting to learn to either knit or crochet (or both, which has become my long-term goal as far as fabric arts goes).

At my house, there is a blanket on the couch year round. It simply feels wrong for one not to be there. I get so cold. That night, I curled up on the couch reading when I realized my toes were peeking out from beneath the blue blanket I was cocooned in. Lack of toe coverage is a serious, serious problem.

As I sat and read and struggled to keep my toes a comfortable temperature, I began thinking: I don’t really have a blanket these days that I really, really like. The blue one comes close, but it doesn’t always cover my toes. It’s getting colder, too. When I move, I wonder what kind of blankets I would have all to myself. I could try making my own.

Maybe I should try making my own right now. Practice, you know?

And thus, a hobby was born. That night I immediately began watching Youtube how-tos on crocheting for beginners (ah, the wonders of the internet!), and by the next day, I had already begun my own granny square.

Not bad for a first try, right?

The mistakes are woefully apparent, but I don’t mind. In seeing where things went wrong, I figured out how to do things correctly. The yarn you see wasn’t my first choice of color. It’s actually from another project of mine from years ago, and I figured it would be good to practice on before beginning my actual blanket. I don’t know how much further I’m going to get with this square though, because…

...Yeah.

…The rest of the “ball” of yarn is completely tangled. Things were okay for a while, but I’ve gotten to a nasty knot, I don’t know if I’ll be able to fix that mess. I may have to cut this practice session short and buy another bundle of practice yarn.

J10, or 6mm.

This is the crochet hook I’m using for the blanket. I picked it on a whim (I know, bad way to approach the situation) because I wasn’t sure what size hook I needed. I learned later that yarn bundles have a hook size suggestion on their labels. Amazingly, I wound up picking the right size hook for the yarn I chose.

See the hook suggestion?

It’s nice yarn, but it’s eight bucks a pop. Even though the wool and acrylic yarns are LOADS less expensive, I won’t use wool, and acrylic rubs me the wrong way– it’s basically plastic fiber, isn’t it? What goes into producing that stuff? By the time I’m done with my handmade blanket, it’s probably going to have cost me the amount a quality store-bought blanket would have.

I’m satisfied though. It smells good. Like the craft store. I could totally curl up on the couch with that.

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It wins opening!

Okay! So I said I got two new crown caps. They come from a pair of Mexican sodas I purchased for cheap at a nearby Food Maxx. I’ve only opened one thus far, so here it is:

I used Yahoo!’s Babel Fish translator to figure out what “gana destapando” means. I had the feeling that ganar is the infinitive for “to win” (so much for those three years of high school Spanish, right?), but other than that, I was lost. Yahoo! gave me, and I quote, “It wins opening”. Wow. Thank you? I know that not everything translates from language to language all that well, but translating a phrase so literally (or just poorly) that the English phrase loses all meaning is kind of appalling, really. I tried Google Translate and got, “uncovering wins”, which makes about a kajillion times more sense.

Anyway, I dislike purchasing drinks in order to obtain interesting caps, because as I mentioned, I don’t drink soda or alcohol, so I’m not actually interested in what’s inside the bottle. That ultimately becomes a pretty wasteful habit. Plus, it takes all of the adventure and excitement of finding a cap at random on say, a park bench, or a college library carpet.

In case you were wondering, I did drink some of the soda inside, because I can’t bring myself to waste the whole thing, even though I don’t like soda. No matter how cheap they are (they were around sixty-something cents each), I just can’t pour them right out.. They are both supposed to be apple flavored. This Topo Sabores bottle didn’t taste like apple in any way, shape, or form. It tasted and smelled more like cream soda. That’s delicious and all, but it’s not apple. It still tasted about a million times better than the “orange” soda I purchased in order to get my first Topo Sabores cap.

I’ll talk about the other one when I drink it, ha.

Empty Bottle Blues

Happy Father’s Day, all! Love you, Dad.

I actually planned for Sundays to be Fiction Update days (or other regularly scheduled stuff) and Thursdays to be random, but darn if being all off schedule with my posting hasn’t screwed around with the order of stuff. My last entry was a FicUp, and since I’ve still made no progress, another one would be redundant and boring. I would talk about Father’s Day, but aside from the fact that this Father’s Day has been very low-key, I generally don’t have much to say about it this year. So instead I will talk about an obsession, because obsessing about things is what I do best.

Bottle caps.

Question: How do you collect beer bottle caps if you don’t drink alcohol?

Continue reading “Empty Bottle Blues”

Plants in Pots: The Story Thus Far

So this is what my container garden looked like in its prime, around early July of last year:

Basil, cilantro, and rosemary…
…Okra and spinach, jointly, just barely sprouting up.

And this is what it looked between last August and this past February:

Uh, yeah. Lord knows what was living in there.

I went on a three-week trip out of the country last summer, and that is essentially what I returned to. I figured I should throw in the all-purpose gloves and plan more thoroughly for next spring. Well, next spring is here!

I did manage to reap a bit of produce for all my hard work. Four okra pods.

Four!

I’ve spruced up the containers for this year, and added a couple more smaller ones. This year, one big container’s got carrots, and the other one’s got a Roma tomato plant in the center surrounded by spinach (don’t know if that’ll work. Alas, I’ve got to conserve space). The smaller containers hold basil, bell peppers, a second tomato plant I got for free (Early Girl variety), rosemary from last year, and thyme. The rosemary confounds me; it died, then sprouted again out of nowhere despite the fact that I did nothing to it. Now that I’ve transferred it to another pot and care for it, it decides to shrivel up and die. What?

When I get pics off my camera, I’ll be sure to put them up, not that there’s a ton of activity going on in those pots thus far. The carrots are sprouting some, along with the bell peppers. The Early Girl plant seems to be doing the best, but that’s probably because it was a started plant to begin with.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that this experience continues to be fun and rewarding this year.

Small Obsessions…

I love bottle caps.

There’s something so alluring about them. They’re like little metal gems. So varied, and often so artistic. I don’t think any two collections could be exactly alike. Some people collect paintings. I would, if I had the money, I guess. I’ll always collect bottle caps. Somewhere out there, a graphic artist put her or his time and brainpower into designing that cap. I appreciate that. We spend a lot of our time surrounded by art that we don’t even think about. Some people downplay it because it’s commercial art, intended to visually buttonhole us and ultimately weasel us out of our hard-earned dollars. I don’t think that’s completely fair.

It’s one thing if you bought the drink with the cap, but when you find one out on the street or in the grass, or best yet, someplace completely unexpected, then you start thinking about the story behind it. Where’d it come from? Who threw it away? Every bottle cap, whether you bought it or not, has a story, as hokey as that sounds.

I considered collecting them seriously once when I was ten or so. Maybe younger, maybe older, I honestly don’t remember how old I was. I had a gigantic brown shoebox in the hall closet filled with maybe thirty or forty old beer caps from brands my father drank. My father has always been an adventurous beer aficionado— every so often he likes trying small breweries for interesting flavors.

Most of the caps I collected were typical, ubiquitous brands you can find at the grocery store—Heineken, Miller, Michelob. Dad rarely had American beer, though. He never did, and still doesn’t buy Budweiser—can’t stand the stuff, ha. Yeah, there were a lot of typical caps there, but a few of them were real finds—stuff from tiny labels my dad purchased on a whim and would probably never try again.

One evening I looked inside the closet and opened up the shoebox only to find it empty. I scurried into the living room and called out into the house at no one in particular. “What happened to all the caps in that shoebox?”

“I threw them away,” Dad said.

I don’t remember exactly what he said after that, but he basically implied that I was being silly for keeping random crap in a shoebox in the hall closet. Yeah. That one still hurts a little, actually. Parents just don’t understand.

Now I’m older and I can collect caps without anyone threatening to throw away my precious cache. Still a little wary of being called silly, I generally keep my collecting to myself. This year, I decided to start collecting seriously again.

I was inspired by a family trip to Nigeria. I’ve never seen soda in a can in Nigeria. Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta, malts*—all of them in glass bottles, with metal tops. The metal tops are interesting, because they’re made right there in Nigeria by the local bottling company, under the authority of the Coca Cola Company. The local bottling company also makes caps for British beverage company Schweppes. I have several caps from bottles of Schweppes Bitter Lemon, which tastes exactly like its name implies. There’s a stamp all around the edge of the caps that states this, thus making these caps unique to Nigeria and possibly the only place in the world you can find them, even if some of the designs themselves might be found elsewhere.

In Nigeria, I very discreetly took the caps from all the beverages I was politely offered. I felt pretty slick actually, ha. Luckily for me, most of the people who offered drinks actually opened them in front of me and left the cap on the table. And amazingly, they didn’t warp the caps beyond recognition.

*I mentioned malts. Malts, or maltas, are beer-like but non-alcoholic beverages. And they. Are friggin’. Crack.

At first I didn’t like the stuff—the first brand I had tasted like a combination of chilled soy sauce and dissolved malted milk balls (I assure you, not every brand of malt tastes like that, and even that brand has redeemed itself in my book). But wow, did these things grow on me. As far as I know they’re not popular in the states, but they’re consumed a lot in West Africa, Latin America, and some island nations. I’m finding that a lot of these brands are imported from places like Denmark, too, and I know Guinness makes a variety of malt, so I guess you can find them in Europe, too. We buy ours from ethnic markets, considering the fact that we’re, well, “ethnic”.

This is the most badass malt I’ve ever seen. First of all, it’s one of the biggest bottles of malt I’ve ever seen. That’s a lot of tasty beverage, right there. Secondly, it’s imported from Barbados. How awesome is that? I may never visit Barbados… but I’ve got one of their malts. Thirdly and coolest of all, it’s got a friggin’ tiger on it. A tiger! And check out the cap! Now that’s a purdy addition to the collection. I’d been holding out on drinking it just to take these pictures.

It’s kind of funny, because I never really stopped collecting crown caps. Over the last twelve years, if I found a really cool cap, I’d keep the darn thing. Sometimes I’d lose it, because I didn’t really have an organized place to put them, but I’d try to keep it. In fact, I have a little box of treasures. It’s a colorful tin box from Sanrio I’ve had since the third grade. Inside of it I have what’s left of a marble collection, hand-written original drafts and omitted scenes from my past fiction works, old holographic Pokemon stickers from their heyday, iron pyrite… stuff like that. Treasures.

When restarting my collection, I looked all over my bedroom for caps I might have stowed away. And what do you know? I found three in that special box. I was amazed at their age– the oldest of the three I traced back to the year 2000. Yeah– I’d had it for nearly a decade.

Well, in the mean time, I’ll keep hunting, and if I find anything particularly striking, I’ll be sure to share it here.


P.S. – Obviously, I’ve solved the iPhoto problem! Sweet!

Hands.

I’m still stuck on how to access the pictures that I took to accompany this post (and several others). That’s primarily what’s been keeping me away from posting. I hate being absent though, so here’s the post anyway, sans pics.

*EDIT: Okay, obvious I fixed my picture issue. Here it is!

Before I could start attempting to learn the guitar again, I had a few things to do. I needed to fix my broken string (little high e was the victim of a terrible tuning accident) and get the sucker tuned. Now it’s in tip-top playing shape, seeing as it hasn’t really been touched for a number of years.

I also needed to pick up a simple book on learning, and a book of chords for support. Check and check. I still need a plectrum, but I’m not really playing anything at the moment, so I can wait a little and strum with my fingers. They were cheap, cheap, cheap, but they really do help. I should have bought these years ago.

But I sat around strumming a few simple chords, and I learned something—or, at least was reminded of something—that has completely changed the way I think about learning this gorgeous instrument.

I have some seriously small hands.

Seriously small hands.

Measuring from the knuckle on the back of my hand, my middle finger, the longest finger on my hand, is barely three and a half inches long.

Fretting is difficult and painful—as it supposedly should be in the first several weeks. I know the pain will eventually subside, especially once I develop some calluses, but there’s nothing I can do about the anatomy of my hands. I have thin, short fingers that don’t arch well. I haven’t developed any muscle or flexibility yet, so it’s going to take time before I can even attempt to reach some chords. Simply holding down the steel strings is a challenge— one string or another is always buzzing a little because I’m physically not strong enough yet to keep them down for very long.

I know that tiny hands and short fingers aren’t as tragic as it sounds. For one, there are lots of players out there with smaller hands out there, so it’s not at all unusual. There are also blind guitarists, guitarists that are missing fingers, at least one guitarist who plays with his feet… wait, why did I even bring this up again? Of all the pain-in-the-rear situations a player could fall into, I think I have the least painful situation possible.

There are also apparently smaller guitars with smaller necks that I can look into buying—that’s going to have to wait though, because I currently can’t afford a new guitar. I mean, I’ve barely used my current guitar.

Things could have, and probably should have gone differently when I bought that guitar almost seven years ago. It was my birthday present on the day I turned fifteen. I’d been telling my parents for months prior that I wanted to take up the guitar, nearly to the point of annoying them. On my birthday, a balmy Saturday, they surprised me by driving me to the Guitar Center when I thought we were running random errands.

We went in, and the process was quick and painless enough—which was probably part of the problem. I had no idea how to go about purchasing a first guitar, and neither did my parents. They told a rather detached, barely post-adolescent salesman that we needed a guitar for a newbie—something sturdy but inexpensive. That’s all we really knew. He recommended a small Yamaha beginner’s model packaged in a box. I got the feeling that it was the only guitar he ever recommended to every beginner—or anyone—simply because it stated “beginner’s guitar” on the box, not necessarily because it fit the player. I didn’t strum it. I didn’t hold it. I just looked at it on display. It came with a case and everything. $100—not bad at all, right? All I knew was that I wanted a guitar.

And hey, it gets the job done— it sounds good, it looks good, it’s well built, and it’s small, so it fits the rest of my petite stature well. I can sling my arm over it comfortably. But even being a diminutive little thing, its neck is still a little large for hands my size. If I’d actually played around with it the day I purchased it, I might have learned that right away. I probably would still have bought it, but at least I would have known.

For inspiration, I’ll do some research on famous guitarists with smaller hands—there seem to be a lot of them. This is by no means an insurmountable obstacle. In fact, it’s not really that much of an obstacle at all. I’m just going to work my tail off, which is what I was planning on doing in the first place.

Topics of Interest

I mentioned in my first post that this blog would cover my long-term goals, my interests and hobbies, my thoughts, dreams, and other things. I figured that I should be more specific. To be included in the aforementioned topics:

Writing! I am a writer. At least, this is what I tell myself. At the top of my Writing-Related Things To Do List is, of course, to finish my contribution to the legend of the Great American Novel, (which I always thought was both funny and appropriate because I’m Nigerian American, and what’s more American than our nation’s whole “melting pot” identity, and the idea of a person from humble or foreign (or both) roots attaining her or his goals through hard work?). I’ve been trying to finish the same novel since I was seventeen, but trust me, you’ll hear enough of that story later on. In addition to my novel, I also write fanfiction and tv and movie screenplays (I’m a mass communications major, and writing for tv is my career goal). I’m also planning a documentary (the subject of which I will divulge at a later time).

Guitar. I’ve been trying to learn the guitar since I was fourteen. My parents got me one for my fifteenth birthday—it was a total surprise. I fell in love with it– a little Yamaha beginner’s guitar for $100 at Guitar Center. I still love the little guy, even though at the moment it’s sitting in its case, still waiting for me to learn how to harness its incredible, beautiful powers. I figure talking about learning might actually get me to keep practicing.

Bottle caps. Yeah. Like the little metal ones on the top of glass bottles. I’ve been sort of subconsciously collecting them since I was twelve. This year, I decided to pursue it more seriously again.

Photos. I took a photography class in both high school and the beginning of college, and I’ve always wanted to continue, even though photography is kind of expensive. I bought a fantastic film camera for my college class, but now I want to give digital photography a try. At the very least, I’m interested in taking pictures of my everyday life. I wish I had a better digital camera.

Gardening. I started a container garden last May, for Mother’s Day. After a while it kind of turned into my own personal project, heh, although both of my parents have shown interest in it. Unfortunately, I took a trip out of the country in July and came back in August. It’s amazing how quickly a perfectly healthy container of basil, rosemary, and cilantro can become a brown, weed-ravaged pot of “what the hell?”

Food. Seeing as I eat a lot, and spend a lot of time cooking for myself, there’s no way I won’t talk about what I’m eating or cooking or baking at least a few times. After roughly a couple years of vegetarianism, I became a vegan around the beginning of this year, so food is important to me—it’s a reflection of my lifestyle. Relax, omnis; while I encourage people to consider the impact of any of their actions on other beings and the planet, I’m not one to proselytize. Just sit back and enjoy the food piccies, yeah?

Well, that’s a good enough snippet for now. Until later!