It Was the Shawl That Wouldn’t End…

shawl

So I made a Boneyard Shawl (ravelry link). I went with the YO options to create a perforated edge and middle, and I LOVE the way it turned out, but oh, em, gee did I get bored with this pattern fast.

It’s a super easy knit, but the bigger it gets, the more tedious the knitting was for me. It’s super mindless, which is GREAT if you’re someone who can like, knit without looking at your stitches? But I still can’t really do that. I’m in awe of people who can read while they knit, or even watch something on TV that’s visual heavy, because I can basically only do documentaries which are more about listening than seeing. As a result, because of how easy and mindless it is, I spent a LOT of time – as the repeats got longer and longer and as the shawl got bigger and bigger – just wishing it was done. There was a lot of attraction/avoidance going on with this project, for over a year really, and it kind of became a big source of knitters block for me.

But I finally buckled down and just FINISHED it. In the end, do I love the result? Totally. It’s big, and cozy, and comfy, and looks great. Do I think I’ll make this pattern again? Probably not. Not until I can knit without looking reliably, anyway. But in the end I have a nice new office wrap, so that’s good. And I can finally move on to other knitting!

(here’s the link to my ravelry project page)

Closeup

Book Review – Dragon Age: Asunder by David Gaider

Asunder

So I finished this book earlier last year, but never got around to posting about it.

Asunder is a book from the Dragon Age universe – a video game world which, if you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ve probably learned that I have have an unhealthy love for. I love the setting, I love the characters, I love the stories (mostly) and I even love the flaws because of the discourse it creates.

And Asunder, like The Calling before it, is a nice little romp through a world I love. It serves as an origin story for the character of Cole from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and it does well at filling in his background a little more completely. It also introduces two characters that I wish we saw more of in the game – Rhys and Evangeline. They’re an interesting and multifaceted pair which I’d like to see more development of in the future – particularly because of their connection(s) to Wynne from the first DA game (I’m trying not to spoil anything here, but it’s REALLY HARD to talk about this without doing so!).

As with The Calling, some of the fight scenes did drag on a little too long for my tastes, crossing the line from exciting into slightly tedious – but it was really nice to get a little more background not only on Cole, but on the Mage Rebellion as a whole, and how it went down in places other than Kirkwall.

To Summarize: Like The Calling, it’s no great work of literature, but it’s a fun little read if you’re into DA. If you’re not a DA fan, you might not have ANY idea what’s going on (I can’t really speak for how well it sets the world up for people not already acquainted with the DA world), so take that for what you will.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Would Recommend To: any fans of Dragon Age.

Book Review – Attack on Titan: Lost Girls

The Lost Girls

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls is an English Language translation of the Japanese Light Novel of the same title. Those of you who have been around for a while know that I really enjoyed AoT as an anime series, and since watching I’ve been keeping up with the Manga pretty consistently. The story is just so well crafted and suspense laden!

But anyway, Jim picked this up for me as part of my Christmas present, and I sped through it pretty quickly over the course of Christmas eve and Christmas day. Being a light novel, it’s a rather quick read – I think it took me maybe two and a half or three hours in total – and overall I enjoyed it.

Now, this is definitely not something you can use as an introduction to the Attack on Titan series. The book itself consists of two short stories, both of which are kind of character studies and both of which require familiarity with not just with the world, but with the entirety of the anime series (as released so far, which takes you to the end of Volume 8/ Chapter 34 in the manga). Without that familiarity you won’t know what in the world is going on, PLUS you’ll spoil some main plot points for yourself without even realizing it. But if you’re up to that point in the series, I’d recommend it as a quick little read.

The first story deals with Mikasa, and honestly was the less enjoyable of the two. It’s a little less plot driven, and sort of presents a vision of an alternate history in order to give some extra insight into her character. It’s effective, but sometimes the narrative beats a bit around the bush. That kind of flowery approach has never really quite been my bag. The second story, which revolves around Annie, was much more engaging to me. It read kind of like a noir mystery, while still providing the same level of character insight – if not more.

The book rounds out with an epilogue of sorts that ties both of the stories, and both of the girls together, which honestly was a nice little touch.

In summary: Very quick, fun little read, but only for a very specific audience – AoT fans.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Would recommend to: anyone who enjoyed Attack on Titan and has finished either the first season of the anime, or the manga through chapter 34.

2017 Bullet Journal Setup

header

I’ve done a detailed Bullet Journal Set-up post the last two years, but as I started to set up this year’s, I realized that over the course of those two posts, I’ve really sort of settled into the system that works for me. So this year, I’m not really changing much up from last year, and as a result this post will be a bit more brief than prior years.

I’m using a different size notebook this time – last year I tried to stick with the standard Moleskein size, but without actually using a moleskein, and I ended up rather unhappy with my selection, and ultimate choice. It was cute, but kind of boring, and I didn’t end up using it as much as I should have as a result. Because I’m fussy like that for whatever reason.

This year I went with a slightly larger size journal from Design Works Ink and I am in love with it. The size is perfect for me, I love the Month/Day listing at the top of the page for daily to-do lists, and the paper is thick enough that I can even use my sharpies and heavy duty markers with minimal bleed through.

monthly

As for the setup, I have some pictures for you, but it’s pretty similar to what I’ve done in the past (>here’s 2015, and here’s 2016). Once again I used the free monthly calendar pages from The Handmade Home’s 2017 Planner. They’ve worked very well for me over the years, and I suspect this year will be no different.

Bonus of the larger notebook size, I didn’t have to fuss with folding and getting the pages to lay flat like I did in the past. I printed them at 93% of full size, and they fit perfectly at one to a page.

Yearly goals

Next up, I’ve got my yearly goals, which you can read more about here

accomplishments

And then the one actually new page for this year is this monthly accomplishment tracker. Basically I’m trying to be more positive, and I think if I go back at the end of each month and list my overall accomplishments, at the end of the year I might feel a whole lot better about how things went than I did this year. I hope, anyway.

book and savings log

Next I’ve got my book log, and a savings tracker (as per my 2017 goals, I have to get my savings happening again).

monthly goals and habit tracker

Following that, I’ve got my individual monthly goals (I suppose that this is a new-to-the-blog feature, as I only started including it AFTER I posted last year’s set-up) and habit tracker.

daily

And then I’ve got my monthly detail calendar for more nitty-gritty planning purposes. (See either my 2016 or 2015 post for why I need the printed calendar AND this).

I’ve enjoyed experimenting a little to match my writing styles with the overall more polished look of the notebook itself, and I think planner-wise, it’s going to be a good year!

How about you? Do you use aspects of the Bullet Journal system? Any fun new spreads you’re using this year?

My 2017 Goals

Yearly goals

So it’s January, and of course, that means it’s resolution time. I’ve spent a lot of time these last two weeks really putting thought into what this year’s goals should be, because I feel like I’m very much at a crossroads of sorts. I’m turning the big 3-0 this May, and there’s a lot of things in my life that I feel like I need to address before I cross officially into the realm of “Thirty-something.”

The resulting list is a lot more conceptual than my goals have been in the past. More overall lifestyle changes than specific, quantifiable goals. And while that made coming up with photos to break up the wall of text in this post almost impossible, I feel like overall this is a list of goals that has some real potential to up the happiness factor in my life as I cross this major milestone.

And so without further explaination, here are my goals for 2017. Hopefully you’ll all be able to follow along and see the changes along with me.

Magpie’s Goals for 2017

1) Limit my video gaming.

One of the big byproducts of my anxiety problems over the last two years has been an excessive gaming habit. When my anxiety got bad, and as my work schedule became more and more consuming I turned more and more to video games as the only way to effectively “shut off” my brain and my anxiety. They are an easy refuge – no materials or supplies to pull out, and I don’t need the concentration level that reading requires… just press a button and BAM, I’m in Thedas. Or Tamriel. Or the Wasteland. Somewhere far far away from the constant juggling of responsibilities that is my life.

And sometimes, that’s not a bad thing. But over the past few years I also feel like it’s become a bit of a crutch. I’ve spent far too much of my already precious free time on video games, and all my other hobbies have completely fallen by the wayside. Reading, knitting, crocheting, my photo albums… pretty much everything. And I miss my other hobbies.

2) Spend more time on creative pursuits.

An auxiliary to goal number one – I want to use what little free time I have a little more productively. I did not finish a single knitting project in 2016. I’m well more than a year behind on my photo albums. And basically, if these are hobbies I’m not going to pursue, why am I storing all these supplies here? Which brings me to my next goal:

3) Purge stuff.

I have too much stuff given my current living situation and constraints. And it very much is a problem for me – for my mindset, for my productivity, and for my ability to stay organized and on top of things. And so I need to spend 2017 fixing that. Getting rid of things, putting things I can’t get rid of but don’t use regularly given my current situation into storage. Basically just simplify. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

4) Develop a more consistent routine.

I don’t have one. And I should. With all the jobs that I’m juggling, as much as the “free spirit” side of my personality may hate it, I need to be a little more regimented and disciplined in my routines. First on the docket will be a morning routine, then once all four jobs are back in swing I’ll tackle a meal planning routine. Hopefully, anyway.

5) Be more disciplined.

I give into my whims far too easily these days – and it’s not a freedom I really have room for. Whether it be snacking when I know I shouldn’t, or impulse purchases when I know I need the money for other, more important things down the road – I’m just not disciplined enough. A lot of that comes from fatigue. I’m tired all the time, and the more tired I am, the more likely I am to say, “let’s just order in” or “McDonalds is right there” or “just five more minutes of sleep – I don’t need to put on makeup today.” The result is that I feel bigger, less productive, and less on top of things than ever, and it’s not good.

6) Retool Blogging.

I like blogging as a hobby. Its one I very much enjoy and very much miss when I end up going on my little radio-silences. And I want to try to avoid that this year. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do it yet, and I’ll probably make another post throwing around ideas at a later date, but bottom line is I need to come up with a better system for here, so that I stay inspired, stay consistent, and all without making this feel like a chore. That’s a lot packed into one goal, eh?

7) Avoid overeating.

This goes hand and hand with #5. I don’t eat particularly unhealthily. I try to get my veggies in, and even when we eat out I try to avoid super fried or unhealthy stuff. My big problem is not WHAT I eat – it’s HOW I eat. I overeat far too frequently and my portions are just WAY too big for the size I’m supposed to be. I also eat super quickly – probably a byproduct of my hectic schedule – so I don’t realize exactly how full I am until it’s too late and I feel miserable. I’ve gotta stop this. Both for the wellbeing of my waistband, my wallet, and my state of mind.

8) Move more.

Again, hand in hand with other goals, this time #1, #4 and #5. I don’t move enough. It’s that simple. My life has become increasingly sedentary and it’s not good. I’ve tried specific exercise goals in the past and they never work for me, so this year I’m starting smaller and I’m just going to try to move more, in whatever manner I can.

9) Eat out less.

This is as much a money thing as it is a portion control thing (see goal #7). I need to start saving more efficiently. I used to be really good about it – but when I had a few unexpected financial catastrophes last year, it set me back like, six years worth of work in the matter of a week. And that was… discouraging? Demoralizing? Dispiriting? Motivation killing? Gutting, really. But anyway, it’s super stressful not to have an emergency fund. To know that the next unexpected financial stress could mean ruin. And I’ve gotta get back on track with some SERIOUS belt tightening.

10) Make progress with language studies.

I’ve been trying to learn another language on and off for probably six years. My biggest problem is consistency. I’ll make a lot of progress for like a month, and then by the time I get back to it a month and a half later it would all be gone. I want to see concrete progress this year. Which means consistency.

11) Take better care of myself.

In many ways these last two goals seem to be the underlying theme of this whole list. Bottom line is that I’ve let my own wellbeing, both physically and mentally, fall to the wayside as I juggle four jobs. And it’s not good. It’s not healthy. I have to fix it.

12) Advocate for me.

I’ve become super super bad at prioritizing myself, and prioritizing my own wellbeing. And it’s begun impacting my ability to enjoy things. So I’ve gotta cut that out and start being my own best advocate.

What are your goals for 2017?

Book Review – Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Mary Roach Grunt

Can I just tell you how much I love Mary Roach? Because I love Mary Roach.

I bought her newest book Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War a few months back as a father’s day present for my dad. My dad an I share a common interest in military history, and this seemed like it would be right up his alley as well – seeing as how he is also a scientist. I’ve read a few of Roach’s books in the past (Stiff was particularly fascinating), and I knew I too would love this book. My original intent was to wait until it came out in paperback to get a copy for myself, but ultimately I ended up lacking the self-control to manage it.

It was worth it. The book’s jacket claims that it will “tackle the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries – panic, exhaustion, heat, noise – and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them.” And sure, this book does all that – but it does so with a personality. Roach has such a funny, relatable writing style, and she manages to approach even the most gruesome topics with a perfect balance of reverence and wit. Despite its sometimes gross, sometimes tragic, and oftentimes absurd content, Roach keeps things just light enough, and always engaging enough, to keep the reader both interested, educated, and entertained.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars.

Would recommend to: Anyone, really. Especially if you’re interested in science, in the military, or if you’re just interested in offbeat oddities – this book is really right up your alley.