Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Four Things

I may truly be the last one to get around to this, but here goes:

Four jobs you have had in your life

1. putting the magnetic strips in library books
2. English teacher to adult students in Chile
3. substitute teacher in a public high school
4. risk analysis research intern for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Four movies you could watch over and over

1. Return of the Jedi
2. The Princess Bride
3. Radio Flyer
4. One Magic Christmas

Four places you have lived

1. Syracuse, NY
2. Northampton, MA
3. Santiago, Chile
4. Hereford, MD

Four TV shows you love to watch

1. Jeopardy!
2. What Not to Wear (BBC version only, thank you very much)
3. 24
4. Law & Order: SVU

Four places you have traveled

1. Peru
2. Japan
3. Ireland
4. India

Four websites you visit daily.

1. Idealist
2. Bloglines
3. Wikipedia
4. Google

Four of your favorite foods

1. cheddar cheese and beer fondue (with baguette pieces for dipping, of course)
2. Baigan Bharta with butter naan
3. pizza with hot cherry peppers, mushrooms, and pepperoni (especially if it's from here)
4. apple crisp

Four places you would rather be right now

1. in Philly with Taz
2. canoeing in northern Canada (but only if by "right now" you mean the height of summer)
3. digging for mussels on the beach in Chiloe
4. in India playing cards and eating

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Knitting? What's that?

Oh, you mean that thing where you wave around those pointy sticks and wiggle all that string? Riiiight. It's all coming back to me now...

Contrary to whatever impression recent posts may have left you with, I do still knit. No, I was not as prolific or speedy with my airplane knitting as I had deluded myself into thinking hoped I would be, but I have finished a few objects since my departure for India.

After all my agonizing over what WIPs to take with me to India, I only ended up finishing one thing:

The Live Dangerously Hat

I like it a lot, but despite the fact that the pattern's inventor says you don't need to swatch, there is still a point at which you have to figure out your gauge. Unfortunately, when I got to that point, I figured slightly wrong, and the hat ended up quite loose. It fits me very well when my hair's in a ponytail, though.

Next, we have the wristwarmers I finally knit for myself. Having knit so many pairs for other people (and I'm still not done filling all the orders), you might think I'd be sick of them. But while I may have committed the pattern to memory, I was excited by the thought of having my own pair, and this yarn was a pleasure to knit with:

Yarn thanks to my lovely Secret Pal. 70/30 Wool/Silk blend. Mmmmm.

No sooner had we arrived home from India, and I got a call from my mom that my cousin's baby had been born. For some reason I had thought the due date was in February, but I was wrong--she was on time, and she was in January. So even though I had been planning on doing a coordinated hat-bootie-blankie set, I decided speed was of the essence, and I whipped up this adapted version of the Umbilical Cord Hat:

Paige's baby hat

It was knit it Lion Brand Microspun, which, while brightly colored and easy to wash, is a pain to knit with, especially if all you have is bamboo. I actually went out and bought Addi Turbos just to end the torture of the acrylic squeaking and splitting on the bamboo dpns. Yes, I know I had vowed to boycott Lion Brand. Shut up. But doesn't Ben look cute in it?

Ben, the reluctant model

Finally, remember my adventures in crochet? Remember this?

Not yet done in this pic, but now it's finished!

Well, it's done. I stupidly forgot to take a picture of it, after trying to wrap it around one of the cats didn't work. But once I do take a proper photo, you can find it along with all my other 2006 FOs in my 2006 Finished Objects Album.

In other knitting news, I have made zero progress on the merino lace cardigan, but I have cast on for the merino lace shawl. I'm on row 10. Still 10 rows before I have to face my fear and tackle the lace chart. I'm also almost done with x-mas surprise #5, now that I finally have the yarn I need to finish it. And I've decided to participate in the Knitting Olympics. My entry will be Samus, in a teal color. I already have the yarn, and I'm hoping that knitting the cabled waist band counts as "swatching" according to Stephanie.

Also, as I'm sure you've read on many other blogs, there was a really fun gathering of knit bloggers at Claudia's place on Sunday. I drove up with Lauren, but I forgot my camera. Apparently some people are calling that camnesia, which could possibly be my new favorite word. Anyway, if you want pics, you'll have to visit a few of the many other blogs with posts about it. And yes, I'm sure I forgot to link to some of the wonderful people who were there. I'm sorry--there were over 40 people there, and I'd be coding all day if I tried to get everyone!

Las, but not least, my wonderful SP6 pal, Emily, sent me one last package (timed to arrive after my return), and it was huge! I haven't had time to take pictures of all the goodies yet, but the ones of the chocolate persuasion are nearly gone, so I'd better hurry up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Fasten your seatbelts, my friends. This is gonna be a long one. Even without the animal photos (Taz accidentally absconded with the CD containing those). I do plan to post lots of exotic animal pics very soon. Meanwhile, let's start out with a list of highlights from the trip, shall we? For you gossip hounds who are only interested in the juicy details of the engagement, you can skip ahead and read about it here. But despite how wonderful it was, it really truly was not the only cool thing about the trip. Anyway, on with the list:

India Trip Higlights

1. Finally meeting Taz's extended family (I had already met his mom). This included two sets of aunts and uncles, his grandmom, two cousins, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his niece, as well as several "honorary" aunts and uncles who are technically family friends. The verdict? They are all sweet, loving, generous, fun, and slightly quirky. Just like my own family. Within five minutes of meeting all of them, I already felt comfortable enough to tease them. I hope that didn't cause any of them to take permanent offense, but seeing as they came up with nicknames for me (such as P's favorite "Brrrr") and started teasing me as well, I have a feeling that I'm "in."

2. The food. YUM!! I was worried I'd get sick, but I really didn't at all. One or two days out of the whole trip where I felt a little "delicate," but no actual illness. And thank goodness, because if I hadn't been able to eat all the wonderful food, I would have cried. There was homemade food, snack food, sweets, Indian Chinese food, fish curry, mutton biryani, aloo gobi, tandoori chicken, kebabs, dosa, channa masala, garam chapatti, pani poori, pao bhaji, masala chai, cutting chai, coconut water (nectar of the gods), sugar cane juice, idlis with sambar, and even paan. I think my Spice Tolerance Threshold (STT) was raised quite a bit while I was in India, because last week I ate at an Indian restaurant in NYC and I found the food a bit bland.

3. The weather. Can you say high 70's and sunny? Every. Single. Day.

4. Playing lots of Teen Pathi (aka Indian Poker) with Taz's family. His brother in particular was determined to get everyone addicted to gambling. All I can say is, thank goodness we were playing for rupees, despite P's best efforts to make me and Taz pay up in dollars.

5. Seeing the countryside and rural villages in Karnataka and Kerala. Having grown up in upstate NY seeing cornfields, dairy farms and apple orchards, it was pretty neat for me to see rice paddies, coconut groves, and banana plantations lining the road.

6. Chuckling at Taz's identity crisis when people kept asking him where he's from. Since he was traveling with me, and he doesn't look south Indian, people assumed he must be a foreigner. One guy even guessed Germany, and would only believe he was Indian when Taz actually started speaking in Hindi! But the best moment was when we were at the Mysore Zoo and some young guys asked us to pose in a picture with them, just as if we had been another exhibit of exotic animals.

7. Taking part in the puja at Taz's mom's house. It was really neat!

8. The clothes. Being able to wear a salwar kameez everyday without getting weird looks is awesome. They are soooo comfortable! The sari was a little more awkward for me to wear, but it was still really beautiful, and I guess practice makes perfect with such things. And Taz's family is so generous, I'd estimate I only actually bought maybe 50% of the mountain of clothes I came back with.

9. Watching Hindi movies without subtitles and only Taz's translation to help me. He prefers to listen to ten minutes of dialogue and then give me a two-sentence "gist" of what was said. But I actually did enjoy myself quite a bit, and I'm pretty sure I understood the movies. I especially liked Kalyug, which has an interesting theme and a great sound track.

10. Going to the mall in India. I know there are some who would say that a mall is not an authentic Indian experience, but it really is. It's where all of Bangalore goes on Sundays, that's for sure! It was kind of surreal, because the mall felt very familiar, except that everyone was walking around in Indian clothes, and the McDonald's was serving a Maharaja Mac.

11. The traffic. Taz kept trying to get me to drive in India, but I think that was just because he was exhausted from all the swerving around auto rickshaws, bouncing over surprise unmarked speed bumps, navigating between potholes, and trying to avoid the oncoming traffic that had decided to use our lane as a passing lane. At least all the excitement makes it hard to fall asleep at the wheel!

12. Seeing all the places where Taz grew up in Bombay. I got to see his school, his childhood apartment, the cricket pitch where he used to play, the pool he used to swim in, the movie theater he used to visit, and the market where his family buys vegetables.

OK, so there were lots of other great things about the trip, but I think now it's time to tell you all about how Taz and I got engaged.

The Proposal

Apparently, on New Year's Day, Taz told his mom and his brother that he was planning on proposing to me. That of course meant that by the time we arrived in Bombay with her on January 2nd, the whole family knew. Except for me. So anyway, we stayed up quite late on the evening of the 2nd, playing cards (see #4 above) at Taz's aunt and uncle's house. Around 2:30am we finally headed out, and as soon as we pulled out of the apartment complex, Taz says to me, "Wanna go for coffee?" Considering that over the past two nights combined we had slept less than five hours, at first I thought he was insane. But then I decided that half an hour wasn't going to make much of a difference at that point, so we might as well have a few quiet moments together. So we went to a fancy all-night cafe and got some tea. We started talking about the trip and Taz asked me what I thought of his family and my India experience in general. Then he asked me, as he often does, if I'll be with him forever. And as I always do, I said yes. But then he paused and said, "Are you sure? Because I'm really asking this time." I burst into tears, but I managed to pull myself together enough to say "Yes, I will marry you." Then we chatted a little while more before going to get some sleep.

The Engagement

The first thing Taz's mom said to me on January 3rd was "Welcome to the family!" in the most cheerful voice I've ever heard. First thing after breakfast, we went to Taz's grandmom's house, where there was a little thing to welcome me to the family. Everyone fed us bits of sugar and blessed us:

A blessing from Taz's grandmom

Then we went ring shopping, went to lunch at a family friend's house, I went to the hair salon with Taz's mom, and everyone did a whole bunch of other errands. In the evening, we came back and Taz's aunt helped me get into my new sari:

My first time in a sari!

Then we sat on the couch and we each fed one another a piece of sweet. Then Taz put the ring on my finger and a bit of red powder on my forehead:

After that, family members took turns feeding us each a piece of sweet and giving me really beautiful jewelry. Taz's brother, who had flown in with his wife from Bangalore just for a few hours to be there with us, couldn't let everyone take things too seriously. So he took an entire sweet for each of us (these sweets were about the size of a large piece of sushi) and took our picture with our cheeks bulging:

Just a couple of chipmunks...

Then, after lots of hugging and more pictures, we all headed off to dinner at a great Thai restaurant, where we were presented with a cake. Taz's cousin felt it important that I end up with cake on my face:

Don't worry, Taz got "caked" too.

India was amazing, Taz's family was amazing, and it was all just perfect.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Flora (Fauna to come later)

This is not going to be a well-written post. And I don't have time to type out all the details of Taz's proposal and our engagement ceremony, much less a full list of highlights from the trip. I do promise to do all those things and more in the next post, when I will be at home unemployed with lots of free time on my hands. Meanwhile, to tempt you, I offer the following pictures of some of the more interesting flora I encountered in India. And don't whine that "plants are boring, they don't do anything," because I swear that these I'm about to show you add a lot of zest to life. And besides, plants have fiber. And fiber, as all good knitters know, is what it's all about.

First, something to wake you up:

Mmmmm, coffee...

And now, to liven up your morning eggs:

Black pepper.

If you need an afternoon pick-me-up:

Those bright green bushes? Tea!

And finally, well, I guess I can't really claim "flower" status, no matter how pretty I felt wearing this. But hey, it's silk!

My first time in a sari!

This was taken just before the actual engagement ceremony. Taz's aunt helped me put it on (a feat I fear I may never learn to manage on my own!). His sister-in-law and brother gave me this gorgeous sari even before they knew we were getting engaged. Everyone in the family is generous beyond words.

Next time: monkeys, elephants, meditating bears, the "Bryna Pose," trip highlights, and all the juicy details.

Monday, January 09, 2006

First things first

Yes, I'm back from India. So is Taz (luckily he had no trouble getting back into the country). I had an amazing time. I got to meet Taz's extended family, I went on jungle safaris, I shopped 'til I dropped, I drank a lot of fresh coconut water, I ate a lot of spicy food, and I learned random Punjabi swear words from Taz's brother. I promise lots of pics, and a link to an album of the trip. I also promise to regale you all with several stories of our adventures and lists of cool things I saw. But first things first.

OK, so it wasn't really the first thing that happened in India, chronologically speaking. Actually, it was one of the last things. But it was very important. Anyone who wants the details can e-mail me for them, but for the rest of you, I think a picture is worth a thousand words:

"Happy" doesn't even begin to describe it.

On January 3rd, 2006, at 3:00 AM, after dating each other for a little over 3 years, and after I had been in India for 3 weeks, Taz asked me to marry him. I cried. And I said yes. Of course.