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North Carolina: First Impressions

We’ve been here for almost a week now (hard to believe), and we have been able to experience enough of the locale to make a few initial observations about how life is down here.

  1. The people are just as friendly as everyone assured us they would be. Now we just have to work on not being the awkward northerners who don’t know whether or not to make eye contact.
  2. At 85 degrees today, it’s already a bit too hot for us. We’re slightly concerned about this, especially considering the woman working at our apartment complex described summers here as a ‘special kind of hot’. Gulp.
  3. The beer selection is varied and, so far, delicious. For the last few nights we have enjoyed a local brown ale called Old Town by Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. It is a bit darker than one would expect for a brown ale, but very flavorful and extremely tasty. Can’t wait to see what else the area has to offer in this department!
  4. The cheese situation as far as we’ve seen leaves much to be desired. Granted, we bought the generic Kroger’s brand, but that was only because we couldn’t find anything else! Will reserve judgment until this has been further investigated, but if the rest is like this ho-hum orange ‘sharp cheddar’, I’ll be bringing back bricks of Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar with every trip I make up to New England.
  5.  I have been doing mighty battle with an army of fruit flies since yesterday afternoon. The kitchen has not been dirty, so I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but the tides turned in my favor this morning when I bought a sticky fly catcher and then baited it with a raspberry. Muahahahahaha!
  6. Brandon and I have both been surprised by the forested areas we have seen; there is not much to speak of in terms of undergrowth, and the trees grow far enough apart to be able to walk comfortably between them. We felt like we could see for miles! Coming from the wild tangle of northern forests, this was not only interesting, but exciting as we considered the hiking possibilities.
  7. We’ve been told there is a lot of cheap furniture available in the area, which is good because we need all new furniture. As first-time furniture buyers, however, we are having a hard time distinguishing between ‘cheap’ and ‘junk’. All of the ‘cheap’ furniture stores I have looked into have had terrible reviews, and I am thinking there must be some secret gems I just don’t know about yet. Or maybe we weren’t aware of just how expensive furniture is elsewhere?
  8. Our introduction to the restaurant scene in our area has been extremely pleasant. Our first night here, we ate at a little Italian place right across the street from our apartment complex called Bocci’s Trattoria and Pizzeria. Even before I got my meal, I thought the prices were pretty reasonable – $17 for the Seafood Fantasia, which contained three different kinds of seafood plus your choice of pasta, all in a pink brandy cream sauce – but once I received my plate, completely filled with pasta and swimming in seafood, I couldn’t believe they didn’t charge more! It was delicious, and the leftovers lasted me for two more meals the next day. Oh, and did I mention their excellent wine selection? The other place we tried was also a hit – California Pizza Kitchen at the Streets at Southpoint mall (one of the nicest malls I have ever seen). The pizzas were around $9-$13 for a 10″ pie, they had really interesting, tasty combinations, and their avocado club egg rolls were out-of-this-world yummy. I will probably be returning there just for those egg rolls. Oh, and get this – we asked for seating on the patio because it was around 65 degrees and beautiful outside, and the hostess said, “don’t worry, the heaters above your table have been turned on.” We tried not to let her see us giggle.

There is so much to do and see here, I don’t see how we could ever get bored. This spring/summer, I’m looking forward to getting more into the music scene in the area, as well as exploring any farmer’s markets and summer festivals that might be around, and gearing up for college sports in the fall!



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Sun, Space, and Moving South

My eyes snap open at 8:33 am, and it takes me a moment to remember why I feel so happy and excited. Why there is bright sunshine streaming in through the window and birds chirping outside in early April. All of a sudden I remember, and then cannot wipe the smile off my face as I lie on my air mattress, taking it in all over again.

I moved to North Carolina yesterday.

Some highlights from the combined 30-hour trip:

  • In Pennsylvania, I heard the Third Eye Blind song Semi Charmed Life five times – a confusing occurrence, since that song was released in 1997.
  • In Virginia, a whiteout snow storm forced us to stop for the night at 8:30 pm, which, as two Vermonters moving to North Carolina, we found to be a pretty funny circumstance.
  • The Blue Ridge mountains, cloaked in fog and snow, were our companions on Friday morning when we got back on the road. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
  • There was a very definite moment when things turned from brown and grey to green and sunny. It was somewhere in southern Virginia, and it was a delicious, thrilling moment.

We arrived to a mountain of paperwork at our new apartment complex, which included a list of emergency maintenance situations that are the ONLY reasons to call maintenance after hours. One, in particular, gave us a chuckle: “If you have no air conditioning and the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, OR if you have no heat and the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Emergency. No heat. 60 degrees.

In our new place I have a room devoted just to my crafts (and Brandon’s computer. And guests who come to stay. But mostly the crafts thing.) We have more space than we’ve ever had before and we’re having a fun time figuring out what we’re going to do with it all. Between that and the sunny weather, I think we’re already half in love with North Carolina.

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April 8, 2013 · 1:51 pm

NaNoWriMo – Three Weeks In

Whew, it’s been a long few weeks since NaNoWriMo started, and a lot has happened. I turned 23 and enjoyed a lovely birthday trip to the Cape with my boyfriend. I helped to organize and participated in a massive pub crawl throughout the town of Burlington (for an embarrassing picture of me in a dress, tiara and gun, click here.) And, oh yeah, I’ve also written 28,694 freaking words of my story so far. For those of you who read books, that’s 86 pages. In two and a half weeks. 


Needless to say, it has been a marathon of writing, and without a doubt this week has been the hardest. I’m tired, I’m still not entirely sure where my story’s going, and it’s tough to sit down every single day and write for two or three hours after a long day at work. However, that being said, it has been extremely fun and rewarding too, and it’s gratifying to know that I enjoy writing enough to have stuck with it this far. Taking on any kind of big challenge like this is scary, especially when you’ve told everyone you know and some people you don’t that you’re doing it. There are a million reasons not to do it, to talk yourself out of it – your life is busy, you don’t have the time, you’ll try next year. But life is short and before you know it, six years will have gone by and you’ll still be giving yourself the same tired old excuses I’ve been giving myself for the last six years I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo.


There comes a point when you just have to look yourself in the eye and say, “you know what? You’re right, this is scary, and I might fail horribly. But it might be awesome as well, and I might find I’m made of stronger stuff than I thought.” Succeeding isn’t even necessarily the important part of a challenge like this one – yes it’s great if you do succeed, but even better than that are reasons like:

1. It’s fun.

2. It’s an adventure

3. It’s fulfilling

4. It’s something creative and challenging that is not sitting watching tv until it’s time to go to bed.


There are lots of reasons to participate in crazy, difficult challenges, whether it’s climbing a mountain, running a 5k, starting a business or writing a novel. We all have that dragon we want to slay, that hurdle we want to overcome, and the fact that we’re all unified in that is a pretty comforting thing. 


Below is an excerpt from my novel that I’ve had a chance to edit – please let me know what you think, whether you love it or hate it!


The men sat in a loose circle, and the sound of their raucous laughter reached her even from a distance. As she approached, she could see the thick bands tattooed around their wrists and throats like chains, impossible to miss in the bright sunlight. Some were the deep green of sea foam, a few the dark blue of the ocean before a storm, three were brown, and one was red as blood. None were striped. Criminals. She hugged Skoot close to her chest and then plopped him on her shoulders to leave her hands free, resting the right one lightly over the pocket carrying her knife. 

Where were the guards?

As she made to pass them, the men turned to look at her, abruptly stopping their conversation. She kept her head high and her eyes straight ahead as she walked, ignoring the tattoo her heart tapped against her chest. 

“Wot we got ‘ere?” growled a low voice. She glanced to the right. Brown bands – a child molester. “Pretty li’le fing, ain’tcha?” A few of the men laughed. Ava stiffened, her whole body rigid, listening hard, but keeping her eyes firmly set ahead and not breaking stride. Skoot bared his teeth, his fur standing on end.

“Wos your name, darlin’?” the man cackled, drawing jeers and laughs from his fellows. Ava did not answer, but continued on her way. “Oi!” he yelled, and this time she heard him get up. “I said, ‘wos your name!” She whirled around to face the group and forced all the authority she could muster into her voice.

“My name is none of your business, scum,” she said fiercely. She eyed the man up and down. He was dirty, wiry and strong looking. Not huge, but definitely bigger than she was, and with six mates behind him besides. “How long have you lot been aboard – four months?” she sneered. “That means I outrank you, so you’ll leave me be, or the guard’s’ll have you belowdecks so fast you won’t have time to take a last look at the sun.” The men whistled and laughed, and her harasser looked back at them with a smile. 

“Did you ‘ear that, boys? She outranks us!” He howled, turning back to her. “The guards won’t care ‘bout no jumped up brat like you. Looks o’ you, you don’t live much further up the hill from us. On’y ones gonna care ‘bout you is ol’ mummy and daddy.” She backed away.

“I warn you, I’m armed.” She said, her hand hovering over her pocket. He scratched his scruffy chin, considering her. Then he smiled, and reached for her. 

In a flash, Ava’s knife appeared in her hand and sliced upward. With a horrible cry of pain and rage, the man fell back, clutching his face. He lifted his hands and Ava saw the deep gash she had cut across his left cheek and part of his nose. Blood ran down his face and over his mouth, and he spat it out before standing up again. 

“Why, you li’le bitch!” he roared, starting forward. Ava backed away, her knife still in her hand. Her mind raced as she searched for a way out. The other men were standing now, some looking excited, others bored or nervous. There was no where to run. She squared her shoulders, preparing to fight. Suddenly, a shadow fell across her face, and she looked up to see the biggest man of them all standing in front of her – the one with the blood red tattoos. He was facing her attacker. 

“Enough, Asher,” he said.

Something in the giant’s deep voice seemed to stop Asher in his tracks. He glared around the man’s back at Ava, still trying to stem the steady flow of blood from under his eye. 

“Did you see wot that effing slut did to me face?” he yelped, using a dirty sleeve to mop up the blood. The man folded his arms.

“Yeah, I did. I also heard her tell you she was armed. Seems to me you deserved everything you got.” The man shifted his weight and Ava could clearly see Asher’s face, now as red from anger as from blood. He spat a gob of bloodied saliva, directly between the giant’s two green leather boots. Ava wondered where he had gotten boots like that.

“You lookin’ t’ rumble ‘ere, Nord? You think them tattoos makes us scared o’ you?” 

Nord smiled.

“‘Us’?” He said. “Exactly which ‘us’ would you be describing?”

Asher glanced to his left and right. The other men remained seated, leaving him alone in the middle of the alleyway to face the giant. He turned back, less certain now, but not ready to back down.

“It seems to me,” Nord continued. “That there is no one here but the two of us. So this is what is going to happen. The girl is going to leave here with me. You all are going to stay.”

An ugly look twisted Asher’s already gruesome face. His cheek and eye now looked puffy, and the cut had developed a dark crust. “Why do you get t’ keep th’ girl?” he pouted. “She’s got a lot of fight in ‘er, and I’d love t’ teach ‘er some proper respect.”

Before Ava could think to be afraid, Nord had flexed one humongous fist and connected directly to the side of Asher’s face not covered by Ava’s cut. He landed on his knees, and a tooth skittered away across the uneven ground. Blood flowed afresh, this time from Asher’s mouth. He still managed to spit out a string of impressive swear words. Nord leaned down so he was inches from Asher’s ruined face, forcing him to look him in the eye. He quailed.

“You don’t get to take her because she’s not yours to take. I’ve claimed her now, and if I ever see you near her again, you lose more than just a tooth.” He looked up at the other men hovering nearby, watching. Nord raised his voice, “and that goes for all of you.” He straightened up and turned, leaving Asher in a messy puddle on the ground, cradling his aching face in his hand.

“Come, follow me,” he said to Ava, and, not knowing what else to do, she obeyed. As she followed him toward the end of the alleyway, she looked back at Asher. He glared at her.

“Your li’le friend won’ always be around, bitch,” he called. “An’ the mo’ ‘e’s not, I’ll be there.” Ava shuddered, and hurried to catch up to Nord’s long strides. She had no idea what to say to him, still unsure whether he meant her harm or not. He was new to the island – she would use him to get her safely away from the thugs, and then, if need be, she would lose him in the labyrinth of the city. Though he was larger and definitely stronger, no one could match her knowledge of the island. 

After about ten minutes of walking, they had left the alleyways and come to a more secluded part of the city. Nord turned. “The name’s Nord Bastrom. Do you know how to spit?”

Ava stared.

“What?” she asked blankly, still not sure if she should be running now, or not. Was this some kind of trick?

“Spit,” he repeated clearly. “Do you know how?”


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All The Updates!

Update #1: My shawl won a blue ribbon at the Champlain Valley Fair! I couldn’t believe it when I saw it, all folded up and looking pretty under the Winner’s Circle banner – I felt like I was dreaming! I took my $6 winnings and had a grand old time at the fair with my friends Liz and Patrick, hanging out in the beer tent, eating all the foods on sale that were bad for us (this took up most of our time), and going on the ferris wheel which was definitely not terrifying.


Photo Credit: Hillary Turner


Photo Credit: Elizabeth Crawford

Update #2: My shawl won a blue ribbon at the Tunbridge World’s Fair! This fair is a little bit different because they don’t give one blue ribbon per category, and that is the best entry. Instead, they judge everything on its own, and a blue ribbon simply means it was of a certain quality. (Red ribbon would mean that a few mistakes were noticed such as the ends weren’t woven in completely, and a yellow might be a bigger mistake like the seams were crooked or the blocking was poor.) My winning check (yes, check) for four whole dollars still sits, uncashed, on my dresser – I should probably head to the bank, get that puppy cashed, and go out and have a rip-roarin’ good time!

Update #3: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins in 24 days, and I think I may pass out from fear/poor preparation. NaNoWriMo is a worldwide self-challenge where you try to write an entire novel of 50,000 words (150 pages) in one month, which means an average of 5 pages per day. This insanity occurs every November and has hundreds of thousands of participants from all over the world. The neat thing about it is the community aspect – you get emailed pep talks from prominent published authors every week, can be ‘writing buddies’ with fellow participants, and most regions have their own chapters that host all night write-ins at local libraries, or other kinds of group support. The purpose is not to have a finished, polished novel at the end, but to have all of your ideas down on paper, that can then be edited and spruced up later. I have wanted to participate in this for six years now, but decided I couldn’t commit to it until I was out of school and had more time. So this, being the first November that I’ve been out of school, will be my first attempt! I am very nervous/excited, and if anyone would like to join me in this “thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” a link to the NaNoWriMo website can be found here, and a link to my personal profile here.

Update #4: The Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival was so fun! It took place last weekend in Tunbridge, VT, at the same fairgrounds where the Tunbridge World’s Fair and my shawl were held last month. It was a bit rainy and muddy, but a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a good raincoat took care of both of those pesky little problems, and the rest of the fair was awesome. I used my usual method of taking a preliminary sweep through the whole place, jotting down items/prices I liked, and then at the end mulling it all over with my wallet and going back to pick up the things I couldn’t live without. This time that included some absolutely scrumptious yarn from Nightingale Fibers that was 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk and 10% cashmere, 1300 yards of lace weight for $32. I nearly fainted at that quality and quantity for that price. The stuff is soft as a cloud and comes in many gorgeous color ways – and if you’re not into knitting lace, they have plenty of worsted, sport, and bulky options as well, in addition to their heavenly roving. I chose the color Bluebell, and I can assure everyone that I will be paying these folks a visit again – one skein for an entire shawl!

I also got a wool/mohair blend for a Christmas gift I’m working on, and then walked by a booth at the very end that stopped me in my tracks. Looking down at me from all over the booth were dozens of gorgeous needle felted ‘paintings’, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I bombarded the woman behind the table with excited questions for over a quarter of an hour, and then raced off to find myself some colorful bits and pieces of wool roving for felting purposes, which I found at Frosbite Falls Farm’s booth. They don’t seem to have their own website, but their information can be found here. The booth with the needle felted ‘painting’s’ belonged to Heartbeet Lifesharing, which is a farm in Hardwick, VT that works with residents in their community with special needs, part of which includes creating and selling the artwork. Which leads me to…

Update #5: I made this.


Photo Credit: My crappy computer

I apologize for the terrible quality of this picture – my camera is currently dead. :/

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Filed under Crafting, Exodus, lace, Lost shawl, novel, shawl, The Cap Shawl, The Novel, Uncategorized, Writing

No Regrets

No Regrets

I saw this photo on today, and it really moved me. I try to live my life in such a way that I won’t have regrets at the end of the day, and it’s not always easy. Sometimes it means doing things like going to college away from home in a bigger town than I was used to, even though I have anxiety. Other times it means taking a leap of faith, like trusting in a relationship even though it’s scary. So do it – take that vacation you’ve always wanted to but somehow never found the time for. Write that novel that’s been kicking around in your head all these years but you’ve been too afraid to fail. Take a risk. Tell that person you love them, and go to sleep tonight knowing how it is instead of wondering how it might have been. What are you waiting for?

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September 13, 2012 · 1:22 am

JP’s Hobby Horse!

The hobby horse for my nephew is essentially done! And by essentially, I mean that I still need to finish stuffing it, weave in two ends, re-sew up the ears, and find a cane/dowel/broom handle to use as the ‘body’ of the horse. But that’s not really so VERY much left, is it? Right.

I do not have all that much experience knitting fair isle, so this was a really fun opportunity to experiment with color and tension while carrying yarn around back. My approach was to twist the two colors I was using around each other after every two stitches, to keep things nice and even. This worked out well, and now the ‘horse’ feels very thick because there is a double layer of yarn, so to speak. The pattern called for eyes to be sewn on using duplicate stitch, but I thought that buttons would be more fun and really pop.

I also changed the colors a bit. The pattern uses a full rainbow of colors, with an oatmeal/tan color as a neutral. While my nephew is turning two next month and might not mind a rainbow-colored toy now, I worried that in a few years he might feel like he shouldn’t have toys with rainbows on them, or be made fun of for playing with one. I struggled with this decision, because these kinds of stupid social pressures that we put on children (or really people in general) bother me a great deal, and part of me said, “I should teach him that it’s ok to be a boy and play with a toy that is rainbow-colored.” Ultimately, however, I concluded that he is two years old, this is a gift for him and not a political/social statement, and it is more important to make something that I think he will like than to ‘teach him a lesson’ with it. So I compromised and switched out purple for chocolate brown. The effect is to make the horse look more colorful than rainbow-y (I think, anyway. I don’t know, you guys let me know if I’m just being crazy here.)

Brandon thinks I should make the mane a little bit fuller than the pattern called for, as right now it looks a little like the horse is balding, or maybe like he has a mohawk. I’m still debating whether to add more or not, so if you have an opinion on the matter, please leave it in comments!

After working on my lace shawl for so long, this project felt like it knitted up in seconds, and my size 10 needles felt ginormous in my hands. I loved everything about this pattern – it was complex enough to be interesting and fun, but simple enough to not be frustrating. It is a very adaptable pattern, with a lot of room for experimentation with color or form. I considered doing something else for the ears besides knitting them on, for instance – maybe a piece of soft leather sewn on? – and there are plenty of other places for extra little touches to be added, such as the button eyes. The sky is the limit with this pattern!

I used Lamb’s Pride worsted weight yarn, 85% wool/15%mohair from Brown Sheep Company. One skein of each color was way more than enough, and I am now using the leftovers for a few fun little projects that I will be blogging about at a later time. The one thing about using this yarn that was a little annoying was that it is variable in its thickness, so at some parts of the horse there are little gaps where the yarn is thin. Other than that, I absolutely loved working with it, and I am planning to buy more for other projects in the future. If you are interested in buying some, there is a link to the company’s website here.

The pattern I used was in the Fall 2012 issue of Interweave Knits, my favorite knitting magazine, as discussed in a previous post. A link to pictures of all of this issue’s projects – and to subscribe to the magazine if you would like – can be found here. Finally, here is a picture of the magazine’s original hobby horse, which can be compared to my own take on it.

So, what do you guys think?


Filed under Crafting, goals, knitting, projects, Uncategorized, Unfinished Projects

Moving Away, New Adventures, and Potential Failure

As promised in an earlier post, it’s time for a rousing game of “Where Will Hannah Be Living In Six Months!”

Will it be:

A. Western Massachusetts

B. The Boston area

C. Montreal, Quebec

D. Austin, Texas

E. Seattle, Washington

F. Madison, Wisconsin

G. Somewhere in North Carolina

H. Vancouver, Canada

I. Los Angeles, California

J. San Francisco, California

K. Frankfurt, Germany

L. Somewhere in Poland

M. Burlington, Vermont

N. Some other, as yet undiscovered location.

O. Any of the above

If you answered, ‘O’, congratulations, you’re right! For those who are unaware, I will be moving to some sort of new location at the end of October, and I am very excited/nervous about it. Brandon currently has one job but is searching for a new one, and when he finds it we will be moving to that unknown place, which is potentially one of the above locations. I have been getting an increasing number of probing comments and questions about this from well-meaning friends and coworkers (yes, my work knows I will be leaving. :'(), most of which are along the lines of these:

  • Why are you following some guy around?
  • Why are you leaving a perfectly good job in this economy?
  • What do you plan to do once you get to this unknown place?
  • What if you can’t find a job?
  • Why are you leaving the most beautiful/wonderful/best place to live in the whole country? (subjective statement I know, please don’t hate me I love it here)
  • What about your school loans?

These are all legitimate questions that I find myself asking a lot as well, along with these ones:

  • How important to me is money/being comfortable vs. working on things that I love and that matter to me?
  • What can I afford to do right now?
  • Do I even really want a career at this stage of my life?
  • Is future me going to want to throttle present me if I have no retirement money because I was too busy pissing it away on ‘following my dreams’?
  • What do I really want?

I’m sure my friends and colleagues mean well with their questions, but this is the stuff that keeps me up at night. If anyone thinks I’m not considering this stuff, they are wrong – I think about all this pretty much constantly, and I have come to a few conclusions.

The fact of the matter is, this all may totally fail. I might come crawling back to my job after a miserable six months away, begging them to rehire me and telling everyone how right they were about what a terrible idea it had all been. Or…it could not fail. It just might be possible that I could end up going on an excellent adventure with my best friend, seeing new places and trying new things, and getting the chance to see if I can make a living (or part of one) with my writing. Maybe I’ll have my strength tested, and find out I am more capable than I ever thought possible. It could be that, 10 or 15 years from now when I’m ready to settle down and have a family of my own, I could return to Vermont, the best place in the country (that I’ve seen so far), and make a home here knowing full well that this is the place I want to be and where I want to live out my days. But, if that happens, I will settle down with the knowledge that I saw a lot of things and lived a full life, and wasn’t too afraid to try.

The bottom line is, I don’t want to live with ‘what ifs’ and regrets. I don’t want to stay here, stagnant, and then look back in a decade when I’m tied down with a family and wish that I had done something else first, something exciting and important and brave. I don’t want to look back and wonder what could have been. I want to know. And if it turns out that it’s terrible and I hate it and I run screaming back to New England, I am ok with that. That would not be a failure, in my eyes. If that happens, I would come back not wondering but knowing that this is the place for me, and where I truly belong.

Am I scared? Very much so. But I have never let that stop me before, and I don’t intend to start now.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.
-J.R.R. Tolkien


Filed under Brandon, General, goals, Life, New Journey, Stress, Thoughts, Uncategorized