Wednesday, October 28, 2015

a sweater in six months

I started knitting this sweater almost exactly six months ago. The yarn was purchased with a gift card from my friend Kathy during one of my first excursions from the house back in February. It even received a little mention in this blog post. I'm sure everyone has been on the edge of their seats since then, waiting to see the final product (ha ha).

cozy birdhouse | handknit breakwater sweater

I chose this pattern, Breakwater, because of the pretty woven stitch detail around the wide neckline. I also selected the yarn, madelinetosh tosh sock, because the variegated color shows off the woven stitch and adds interest to the hours and hours of plain knitting while working on the body and sleeves. I absolutely love the little bits of emerald, gold, rust, and teal dotting this colorway called Shire (Shire! Hobbits!). Before I worked the sleeves, this sweater was a somewhat shapeless green tunic and was very hobbit-worthy indeed. Dan said I looked like a Celtic warrior when I tried it on.

cozy birdhouse | handknit breakwater sweater

I made a few small modifications to the pattern, including full length sleeves instead of three-quarter and a longer torso. The sleeves lengthened quite a bit after the sweater's first trip through the wash, so I actually undid a few inches and reknit the cuffs to a more reasonable length. The longer sleeves should make this sweater wearable longer into the winter, despite the relatively thin fabric.

cozy birdhouse | handknit breakwater sweater

More project details are available on my Ravelry page.

Friday, October 23, 2015

mile(s) high

I really can't complain about having to travel half way across the country for a wedding when it gives me an excuse to visit beautiful Colorado! Earlier in October we flew to Denver for the wedding of one of Dan's college friends. On Friday, we met up with his friends in Boulder and explored the town until the rehearsal dinner at the gorgeous Chautauqua Dining Hall. Instead of staying in Boulder with most of the other wedding guests, we booked a hotel in Estes Park for easier access to Rocky Mountain National Park Saturday and Sunday. I'm not going all the way to Colorado without doing some hiking!

Saturday morning we drove into the park and followed Trail Ridge Road all the way up to the peak, stopping many times at the scenic overlooks to take in the purple mountain majesties and snap a few photos. From the Alpine Visitors Center near the top, we walked up a steep stone staircase (panting heavily from the altitude, not just because we are out of shape) to 12,005 feet above sea level!

cozy birdhouse | 12,005 feet up on trail ridge road in rocky mountain national park

cozy birdhouse | 12,005 feet up on trail ridge road in rocky mountain national park

We continued along the road a short way to the Continental Divide, the invisible line where water to the east drains to the Atlantic and water to the west drains to the Pacific.

cozy birdhouse | at the continental divide in rocky mountain national park

On our way back to Estes Park to get dressed for the wedding, we stopped again to photograph the beautiful Aspens in their golden autumn glory. The fall colors of the park are actually surprisingly limited as most of the trees are conifers.

cozy birdhouse | beautiful fall foliage on the aspens at rocky mountain national park

Although the scenery was incredibly beautiful, I did leave the park slightly disappointed Saturday afternoon because we saw NO ELK. I was promised elk!

Saturday evening we attended Paul and Colleen's beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony. After dinner under a white canopy, we danced outside, illuminated by stars, campfire, and globe lights strung from the trees.

cozy birdhouse | paul and colleen's wedding

Sunday morning, we woke up early for a day of hiking at the park (and determined to see some elk). Less than a mile past the entrance... BAM! Elk! We hopped out of the car to see a hulking male elk herding his harem along next to the road. He was quite vocal with funny trumpeting sounds when the ladies weren't moving fast enough for his liking. As they walked away through the trees, we joked that we could just turn around and go home, since I'd accomplished my main goal of elk sighting.

cozy birdhouse | elk at rocky mountain national park

We continued our drive along to the Bear Lake trailhead and started with a relatively strenuous (for us) hike to Emerald Lake, also passing by Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. It was incredibly windy, but we stayed warm enough when protected by the trees. We saw lots of little chipmunks and a curious little Stellar's Jay who came so close I could almost pet him!

cozy birdhouse | hiking at rocky mountain national park

cozy birdhouse | emerald lake at rocky mountain national park

cozy birdhouse | stellar's jay at rocky mountain national park

After our morning hike, we lunched on PB&J sandwiches (which we had to guard carefully from aggressive chipmunks) and then walked around Bear Lake. Finally, we finished the afternoon with a short trek to Alberta Falls where I finally caught a nice photo of a Gray Jay after many unsuccessful attempts on our morning hike. (These birds are also known as Whiskey Jacks, which I much prefer to the boring name Gray Jay.)

cozy birdhouse | gray jay at rocky mountain national park

Monday morning drove to the airport for our flight back home. On our way out of Estes Park, we saw a lone male elk out for a casual morning stroll along the sidewalk... a hilarious farewell for a great mini-vacation. I have to point out a downside of this trip though: Dan has now gained a state on me, since I had already been to Colorado but he hadn't!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

pigskins, puns, and planes

Just a quick update about some fun weekend activities! Two weeks ago we drove to Notre Dame stadium to see the Fighting Irish steamroll the University of Massachusetts. We arrived a little early so we could watch Kelsey's tennis match at St. Mary's before heading to campus for tailgating with Julie, Dave, Phil, Bethany, and Justin.

cozy birdhouse | visiting kelsey

The game was good... the win was better... but the best part was seeing Officer Tim McCarthy's final appearance. Every game since 1960, his voice booms over the loud speaker at the end of the 3rd quarter: "This is Officer Tim McCarthy with the Indiana State Police..." The whole stadium quickly hushes as we listen to his reminder to drive safely after the game, followed by a pun about the dangers of drinking and driving. Officer McCarthy announced his retirement last April, but returned for this final live appearance. In honor of his 55 years as an icon of Notre Dame stadium, he repeated the pun from his first announcement ever: "Remember, the automobile may have replaced the horse, but the driver should stay on the wagon!" The entire crowd erupted into an amused groan, as always. Officer Tim McCarthy will be dearly missed by all! (Side note: my favorite pun was, "Remember, if you have one more for the road, you may end up with a cop as your chaser!")

cozy birdhouse | notre dame game

Finally, last weekend we went to a small air show organized by my group at work. I love watching little stunt planes, and the weather could not have been more beautiful. We are certainly enjoying the slightly cooler autumn days!

cozy birdhouse | air show

Saturday, October 3, 2015

jeopardy! exclusive interview

In honor of the one year anniversary of Dan's appearance on Jeopardy!, I have obtained an exclusive interview with him! The episode aired originally on Friday, October 3, 2014. Dan finished in 2nd place, bringing home $2000 which covered our travel expenses. We ended up with a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a free trip to California... Yay! Read on for our exciting interview:

cozy birdhouse | jeopardy, alex trebek and dan!

In a general sense, what is it the day like when you’re a contestant on Jeopardy?
It’s a very long, very stressful day that passes by in a complete blur. You start out by taking a shuttle to the studio from the hotel with the rest of the contestants at about 7am. Once at the studio, the next several hours are taken up with filling out a lot of forms, meeting the production staff, and getting some time to practice on the actual stage, with the actual buzzers. After that, they randomly pick contestants for the first game and the rest get to sit up in a sequestered area of the audience and watch. I was a bit surprised that I was allowed to watch all of the games that were filmed before mine, it was certainly preferable to just sitting nervously in a green room! Each episode goes by incredibly fast (they film pretty much in real time), and they manage to film five episodes in a day (my game was the last of the day). It’s a pretty exhausting and nerve-wracking experience, but it’s definitely worth it.

Is there anything funny or interesting that happened during filming that you’d like to share?
By far the most memorable thing that happened while I was there is something that unfortunately the audience at home will never get to see. In the first game of the day, during the interview portion, Alex asked one of the contestants about a time they fell asleep in the Tower of London. She then proceeded to tell a story about a time when she bribed a guard to let her and a friend sleep overnight in Anne Boleyn’s cell. When he then moved on to the next contestant, he realized that he had gotten the information cards swapped and asked the wrong question to the wrong contestant about the Tower of London! She had decided to just roll with it, and completely made up a story on the spot that turned out to be more exciting than the real one (which involved some jet lag and a nap during a tour). They had to go back, reset, and reshoot the interview for the show. Later on, that contestant actually got a question with the answer of Anne Boleyn; the entire audience in the studio laughed, and those watching at home had no idea why.

Tell us about watching yourself on TV. Was it weird?
It was incredibly weird (mainly because I’ve never liked the way that my voice sounds when I hear a recording of it), but also very fun. We were able to have a large watch party at the bar where we used to play trivia and joined by a large group of friends. They were great; cheering any time I got a question right, booing when my competition did, and overall being pretty proud of me. In all, it served as a great way to cap off the whole experience.

I think every Jeopardy! contestant walks away kicking himself about some error or misspoken answer. Your episode was rife with these from all three contestants. Now that you've had a year to reflect, what still sticks in your mind?
A year later, I’m still kicking myself over the two big mistakes that I made in my appearance: accidentally pluralizing the title of Sunday (not Sundays) In The Park With George and the flub over the acronym “DNA”. In both cases, it’s painful since they were questions that I clearly knew the answer to, but messed up either a tiny detail, or just didn’t fully understand the question.

Everyone who knows you even a little bit, knows how much you love television and pop culture. Our heads almost exploded when we saw your Final Jeopardy category "TV in the 2000s." What was going through your mind?
GAH! WHY AM NOT IN THE LEAD!!! Haha. It was pretty exciting to get a category where I was incredibly confident in my knowledge. I had hoped that they question would be an incredibly obscure one, but wasn’t too disappointed to at least get one that I was absolutely sure I knew the answer to. Having been able to talk the contestants throughout the day, I knew that the other competitor, Sam, did not that much about recent pop-culture and would likely answer incorrectly. My only hope was the Shawn had been too busy studying for law school to know too much about TV, but being around the same age as me, he was unfortunately familiar with How I Met Your Mother. Still, it was a nice relief to be able to put down a very confident wager for Final Jeopardy (much better than if the category has been anything poetry related).

We had fun looking for social media reactions to your Jeopardy! appearance. My favorite was seeing you on the "Jeopardy Hotties" Tumblr. What was your favorite?

cozy birdhouse | dan on jeopardy hotties

While it as certainly an honor to make an appearance on the “Jeopardy Hotties” Tumblr, I think that this might be my favorite:

cozy birdhouse | social media coverage of dan's jeopardy! appearance

In all honesty, I should have gotten that Provincetown question! My brother goes there for vacation in the summer! Other than that, it was nice seeing that other people thought I got a little bit hosed on the question about DNA.

Overall, how was the experience? Would you do it again?
I would absolutely do it again…unfortunately I can’t, at least not while Alex Trebek is the host! Sadly, one of the many forms that you sign as a contestant states that you can’t make a return appearance on the show as long as the host remains the same. Still, it was a really fun time, and I would encourage anyone to try out. What do you have to lose?