Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Knitting

Last weekend I realized I only had two weekends to finish knitting my mom's socks before our holiday party. Not so bad...but then I picked up the socks and noticed that I'd only knit about an inch. Um, NOT GOOD!

As I was knitting away, I looked over at my mini tree and the light through the window was so nice that I got off my lazy butt and took some pictures.

socks2

One thing I have yet to figure out is where the best picture taking spots are in our new house. Like, what room gets the best light? And at what time of day? Sunny? Cloudy? Should I go outside?

I haven't been in the picture taking mood so it hasn't been an issue. But since I was thisclose to going out on the balcony in -1 degree weather to take photos of socks, I think I may be over my slump. Which is exciting because I miss creating and blogging and talking with you all.

socks3

So, back to socks. As of last night, I'm at about 8". I think I'm about 10-12 hours from finishing them which is totally do-able. Of course, I keep forgetting that I have other gifts to make...so it'll be close.

socks5

Are you making gifts for the holidays? What are you making? Are you scrambling at the last minute like I am or have you finished everything already?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

They're Coming To Get You, Barbara

I have so much to tell you guys!

First, I totally watched Halloween movies with Ian this year. Scary ones. Like, Night of the Living Dead scary. You guys, I'm terrified of zombies but I watched that movie anyway. And was terrified..and still am...and can't stop saying "They're coming to get you, Barbara" at pretty much any time when a catch phrase like that would be funny. Just so you know, it's funny ALL the time! I'm telling you, it's impossible to over-use it...it works for pretty much everything! Ask Ian...I'm sure he's totally NOT sick of it yet.

Also, I've been walking to work every day. Today it was 13 degrees out! OMG, that's cold! It was so cold that I didn't even care what I looked like! It has to be REALLY cold for common sense to win out over vanity. I'm so very, very proud of myself, not only for walking in the cold but for wearing my own knit things. I knit a hat (that accidentally cost me $70 to make so I have to wear it for, like, forever now) and a cowl that is big and puffy and teal and warm. I want to make mittens too but I'm not sure how to make really warm mittens...the kind that are needed when it's OMG 13 degrees outside! But that's okay because I already have warm (store-bought) mittens and I don't really have time to knit mittens anyway because:

I've been knitting socks! I knit a pair of socks for me as sort of a practice pair...and I totally finished them and they are amazing. No pictures yet because I've been so lazy about taking pictures of things. Also, I want to buy a sock blocker so my socks look nice for pictures. If you want to see some pretty socks, check out my favorite sock knitting inspiration blog.

lily pond
I made socks out of this yarn!

And now I'm knitting a pair each for my mom and aunt for christmas. We all have the same size feet...convenient! Each pair is taking me around 30 hours to finish...that's nothing compared to a quilt but I feel like it's way too much time to knit a simple pair of socks. I'm beginning to suspect that I'm a very slow knitter!

So, anyway, that's all I really wanted to tell you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bees!

So, this weekend I was going to make curtains...but then it was HOT and we don't have central air. So, instead, Ian and I went to Ikea to buy more bookshelves and a tv stand. Then we built them in the only room that has a window air conditioner. Then we spent all day in there putting stuff on the shelves. We managed to empty a bunch of boxes and I have lots of space to move around in my sewing room!

9.4.13.11

Yes, I can walk in there but I still haven't set up my sewing machine. It'll only take me a minute but curtains are annoying to sew so I'll probably put them off for another week.

9.4.13.12

And since I don't have any sewing to show you, you get pictures of bees. Lovely, fuzzy, oh-so-busy little bees. Don't worry, we have both kinds...honey and bumble. Nothing is too good for you, gentle readers!

9.4.13.13

Friday, September 6, 2013

In Bloom

Before we moved to our new neighborhood, I couldn't wait to get to know the very old and very grand houses on our street. I want to show them to you but so far the photos I've taken do not do them justice.

9.5.13.2

While I work on getting over my fear that people will think I'm a stalker because I'm taking a million pictures of their houses improving my photography skills, I'll show you some of their beautiful gardens.

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Some are quiet and well groomed, some are showy and riotous. I love them all but there is a special place in my heart for the ones that are growing just a bit wild.

9.5.13.1

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Settling In

It's been a few weeks since Ian and I moved into our new house. We're slowly settling in, unpacking the essentials and getting to know the house and our place in it.

9.4.13.8
(This is not our apartment, I just like the ivy.)


It's an old house and I feel like a bit of an intruder...but that's not exactly right. I feel like this house is...wondering about us, not quite sure if we are kindred spirits. But we are! Oh, I can just feel it! But there is much more settling to do before we both come to agree about that.

9.4.13.7

The one thing we have left to unpack is my studio. It's the room where all the miscellaneous boxes ended up. In the course of packing, I found so many unfinished projects. I'm excited to work on them, to finish them up and put them to good use. And I'd like to make a Liberty backpack for my walks to work.

9.4.13.9

But all that will have to wait until we make some more room, unpack some more boxes. I'm okay with waiting. I'm storing up inspiration and know it will come to good use.

9.4.13.6

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Her Eyes were Brightened by the Exercise

Good day to you, gentle reader. Quite a few things have happened since I last sat down to write a post here. The biggest news is that we moved back to the city. It's been my greatest dream for a few years and I can't believe it's finally happened.

We are so very close to restaurants and coffee shops and friend's houses and everything wonderful!

8.27.13.3

In addition to that, I now live less than 2 miles from my work and I try to walk there and back as often as I can. I don't like walking...it's not something I ever used to do given the choice. But now, in our darling neighborhood, walking is pure joy!

8.27.13.4

The mornings have been lovely, peaceful. There are birds and flowers and sunshine and beautiful old houses. I pass a church and hear the bells ringing, telling me I'm right on schedule and reminding me not dawdle. People are out walking or running and sometimes we say good morning.

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I notice new things and wonder at how many people walk by, not looking at the world around them.

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I see familiar sights and am filled with with new appreciation.

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I feel my eyes have been brightened in so many different ways.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Goodbye Jane

So, um, do you remember when I decided to start a Dear Jane quilt...again? You know, for real this time?

Well, it was probably pretty obvious to everyone but me that I would give up on this quilt, pretty much right away. I think it's time to accept the inevitable: after starting this quilt 3 different times, I'm saying goodbye to my dearest Jane. I have over a dozen blocks finished and quilted and I'm looking forward to turning them into a mini quilt. That way Jane can always be with me.

I have more thoughts about what draws me back to this quilt and why I lose interest so quickly...and all those thoughts are leading to new, more fulfilling quilt-related plans. More on that later.

For now, I want to show you what I made from all the Liberty triangles I'd already cut for the border of the Dear Jane quilt:

Liberty Triangle

I'd saved all the triangle scraps leftover from cutting the large triangles and thought it would be fun to sew everything back together. I love the crazy, slanty triangles and the mash-up of these tiny Liberty prints. I can't wait to finish this little quilt and get better pictures...it looks so much better in person.

Liberty Triangle2

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two Little Toes

So, I was working away on my seawash socks but it wasn't long before the combination of tiny stitches and slightly sticky needles started to hurt my hands. Perhaps I knit too tightly, perhaps it was the hours upon hours I spent binge knitting...but whatever, they hurt. I decided to try a pair of Addi Sock Rockets to see if the super slippery nickel coating helped at all. And it did! These are my absolute favorite needles so far. The cables are soft and the needles are slippery and pointy.

And while I was trying them out, I started a new pair of socks, of course! Check it out...two little toes knit at the same time!

sock3

The yarn is Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) in 306 and 704.

koigu1

Also pictured are 516 and 701. Just a heads up...701 (the purple skein on the right) looks nothing at all like it did on the website. What's up with that?

Each skein makes only one sock so I'm going to make two mis-matched pairs. I like getting to sample lots of yarn and I know I'll never get bored knitting these socks. I love the colors!

sock5

For those of you who are sick of all this knitting talk, I'll have a real quilting update soon. Hint...it's made of Liberty but it's not a Dear Jane block...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's Just Like a REAL Sock!

You guys, check it out: I'm knitting socks!

seawash sock

Well, one sock...but it's my new favorite thing! When I first started knitting a few months ago I briefly thought about and then quickly dismissed the idea of knitting socks. They mostly seem fussy and difficult and I don't even wear colorful socks anyway.

But then I saw knitted socks everywhere. And they were so cute and bright and pretty and maybe I could just give them a try once and maybe I could wear them with pajamas or something.

But then I remembered how I never want to use double pointed needles ever again. No thank you, socks!

But then I saw Amanda's super cute pair of pink sock-toes and my whole world changed. You don't need to use dpn's to knit socks. And you can knit them from the toe up! And you can knit two at a time!!

Absolutely every one of my reservations fell away and I immediately bought a book, a bunch of gorgeous and super flippin' bright sock yarn, and a pair of circular needles.

sock yarn

So far I love making socks! Do you? Tell me all about it!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shrew Steals Show...and Hearts

I know most of you don't live in England, Italy or Spain...but just in case you do, I have to tell you about the Propeller Theater Company, currently on tour (all the way from a little town called London, England).

You all know (although since I don't talk about it much, you probably don't really know) that I'm a huge fan of live Shakespeare performances.  I think I've seen just about every Shakespeare play that's come to town in the last couple of years including one at the Globe Theater when I was in London.  I'm certainly no Shakespearean scholar but I do enjoy a play, whether it be of purist or modern interpretation.  I try not to find out too much about a production beforehand...I really love discovering its secrets as the play goes along.

It was with such a mindset that I saw Propeller's The Taming of the Shrew.  As such, I was absolutely not expecting (yet absolutely thrilled to discover) the beautifully crafted and oh-so-intoxicating interpretation of this play as performed by the boys of the Propeller Company.  I find myself absolutely heartbroken that they're not a local group...they have completely stolen my heart and deservedly so.





















Propeller is an all male Shakespeare company, dressing as men and/or women as the roles demand.  Sometimes they even play men dressed as women dressed as men!  Not only are they superb actors with amazing physicality and timing but they play instruments, sing and are all, omg, so totally cute!  In addition to cuteness (which, is obviously v. important) they offer an interpretation of Shakespeare that is inclusive and welcoming.  I saw Twelfth Night once and The Taming of the Shrew twice...and each time felt like spending the evening with all my dearest friends.

Would you mind if I shared a few thoughts, a few fleeting moments?  As is commonly done in the Forest of Arden, I too shall hang here my verse, in witness of my love:

To start, Ben Allen was simply stunning (not to mention drop dead gorgeous) as Olivia.  One moment under his commanding yet vulnerable gaze...well, were I Viola, the play would have had quite a different ending.  If you're interested, he's written a thoughtful essay about what it's like to play a woman on stage.



Praise for his other role as Lucentio's servant Biondello is harder to put into words.  Let's just say that if there were a play called "Biondello" (staring Ben, of course) that simply followed Biondello around town all day, doing whatever he does in a normal day, which I'm not sure is much of anything besides being a servant  which, according to the play, seems mostly like a lot of standing around and conveying a few messages, I would pay almost any price to see it.  I'm absolutely 100% not kidding...someone needs to write that play!

In Twelfth Night, Joseph Chance played a charming Viola/Cesario.  Watching him (a man) play a woman who is disguised as a man gave so much depth to the character and, really, the whole play. 


Orsino likes Cesario...probably just as friends?  Or perhaps more than just friends?  Who can even know...but the point is that he likes him and once he finds out he's actually a she, he's excited that he can totally date her.  But what was stopping him from falling in love with her when he thought she was a man?  He/she was the same person all along, he/she had the same thoughts, feelings and personality.  There's so much to think about here, mainly due to the modern (yet oh so traditional) casting of a man playing a women.

So, Vince Leigh as Petruchio...I just have to say: what an ass!  And also, what an ass!  (I hope you all caught my double meaning...it was quite clever.) 


I don't especially want to talk about domestic violence right now but I would be remiss if I didn't point out Vince's absolutely spot on performance.  It's disgusting to admit but when (Vince's) Pertruchio is at his most charming, even knowing what he is, he's intoxicating.  I saw this play from the front row (much, much too close for comfort) and could feel (almost physically) the magnetic duality of attraction and repulsion.  It's always bothered me that Taming of the Shrew is a "comedy" when it is so obviously not.  It's funny, really funny at times but as Vince and the rest of the cast so brilliantly makes clear: this play is cruel and disturbing and really, really powerful.  My stomach still hurts when I remember Vince's blistering stare during Kate's final speech.






















So, on a lighter note, imagine this: Gary Shelford...in drag...carrying a huge fuck'all guitar. h. o. t. HOT!


Gary was funny, not only as Maria but, my favorite, Hortensio...well, Hortensio disguised as Bianca's music teacher Litio.  I laugh every time I remember his reaction to Bianca reaching to touch his guitar.  I've already used his line a couple of times in casual conversation...I think it makes me even more charming.























And speaking of Bianca!  In Arthur Wilson's capable and demurely gloved hands, Bianca is kind of a B.  Such expert fake crying and flipping of the bird!  She's got sass and a couple of really mean lines...not at all the sickly sweet Bianca I was expecting.  I loved her and Kate's sisterly fights!

During intermission, the cast sang a few songs in the lobby, partly as an excuse to show off more of their many talents and partly to raise money for Target Ovarian Cancer.   They kind of rocked my world a bit...especially during Brown Eyed Girl because, you know, I have brown eyes and they were obviously singing to me.

And finally, forgive me for playing favorites but Dan Wheeler as Katherine was magnificent.  I still find myself tearing up while thinking about Dan's performance.  In the beginning, Kate is shrewish to be sure...but she in no way deserves the abuse she suffers at her husband's hand.  When not stomping, slapping or being otherwise curst, Dan plays the part with such subtlety.  I sat amazed watching the simple motion of his hands wringing the skirt of his dress...first with awkward uncertainty, later with desperation.


I still feel sick when I think about the physical (and, of course, the not so physical) interactions between Katherine and Petruchio.  I'd never given any thought to how an all male cast would change the feel of a play.  In the past, I've always sensed some aspect of "stage fighting" between men and women, no matter how good the actors.  The fault lies with me, I'm sure...I cannot suspend my disbelief.  But watching Vince overpower Dan, restrain him, throw him to the floor...it was just so absolutely real.  I waited for Dan to look at the audience as Katherine fell, to plead for their help or condemn their inaction with his eyes.  But he would not.  He stared at the floor, broken and alone.  I've felt such heartache since then...for her, for him, for everyone afraid to seek help, for those with no help to seek.



I've had this post written for a few days but I'm having a hard time bringing it to an end.  I've felt such a range of emotions since first seeing these plays and my simple words cannot do either justice.  It's hard to imagine there will be another play by another company of players that will speak to me as these have.  But even if the Propeller boys have ruined me for all other plays, I'm so thankful for the tiny bit of fate that brought them to me for this brief moment in time. 

And now that's all one, our play is done.

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Knitting

So, knitting. I guess it's all I've been talking about lately. I'm just as surprised as you by my current obsession.  I don't expect this to turn into a knitting blog (um, how can it if I'm too lazy to take pictures of my knitting projects) but for now, I'm just really excited to be learning a new skill.

Looking back, I've learned a lot in the last month and wanted to share some tips and projects that have really helped keep me from getting overwhelmed.  Maybe if you're a new knitter, they will help you too:

1. Start small. I mean, small in size. Like, don't go all out nuts and start a queen sized blanket or something. Knitting takes a long time and it's easy to get overwhelmed when a project feels never ending. I'm definitely sticking to small projects until I work up some speed.


2. Make something useful. I mean, maybe there will come a day when I'll totally need a knitted halter top with pom-pom trim...but that day is probably a long ways off. Knowing that I'll be able to use my knitted item right away helps to keep me inspired. Right now, the only small useful things I can think of are mittens and hats...and you probably already own some. I say make new ones anyway...replacing store-bought with hand-knit is the best! This is the hat I'm making...I like this pattern because you don't have to use double pointed needles:


3. Learn something new, one project at a time. While I'd love to jump right into making the perfect "drinking hot chocolate at a cozy ski lodge cable-knit sweater", I think starting one right now would actually fry my brain. Instead, I'm choosing patterns that are mostly familiar but have a few stitches or techniques that I don't know.  If I keep learning a few new things with each project, that complicated sweater won't be complicated for long.

After only three projects I know:
-longtail cast-on
-binding off (nice and loose!)
-garter stitch
-stockinette stitch
-rib stitch
-knitting in the round (circular needle)
-knitting in the round (double pointed needles)
-knitting a thumb hole
-increase (knit into front and back)
-decrease (knit two together)
-knit in new yarn
-change colors with "jogless" jog
*bonus*
-how to correct a mistake that happened three rows down...(I figured it out without the help of the internet but if you want to know how to do it without tearing your hair out first, here's a great tutorial)

Most of these things felt really hard at first but I don't think they're hard anymore. I still have trouble holding my double pointed needles but that will work itself out eventually. I also started that hat three times before I got the ribbing right. It's okay to start over, fix mistakes or, if you're cool about this sort of thing, ignore tiny mistakes and just keep on going.


4. Use colors that you absolutely love. This seems obvious but it's amazing how many times I catch myself thinking "I should make something neutral so I can wear it with more things". And while that IS true, I would have much more fun knitting (and wearing things) in colors that are more "me". Like this gorgeous sweater...I'm planning to knit it up in cream and coral. While the grey is beautiful and could be worn with many different colored camisoles underneath, I probably wouldn't wear it much since I'm not really into light grey. Choose colors you really love and you'll be more excited to wear the things you make (which is totally the point!)


5. Use good quality yarn. In addition to creating a long lasting garment, whatever yarn you choose will spend a lot of time in your hands while you're knitting it up. Before last Friday, I'd never felt a non-scratchy/itchy wool. I didn't think they existed but they do! Find a yarn you love and just go for it...life's too short to knit with scratchy yarn. (Unless, of course, your project requires scratchy yarn...but I have no idea what such a project would be or why you'd want to make it.)

6. Make something you just can't stop thinking about. This can go against most of the above guidelines (of course, numbers 4 and 5 should still be applied). If you truly love something, chances are you will work hard to learn the necessary skills and will have the patience/perseverance to finish it. Here's a project that's super huge, not really something I'll use a lot, requires no new skills or techniques and will take forever to finish. But I LOVE it and will totally make it the second I can decide what colors I want to use.


7. Ask for help.  There are so many wonderful knitters out there who would be happy to help you, either online or in person.  I asked my aunt to help me figure out the pattern for my first project.  While I mostly wanted to watch her make the stitches, I ended up learning something even more important: how to hold the needles and yarn in a way that was SO much more comfortable for me!  If you don't know anyone who knits, there are a million youtube videos and blogs that can show you anything you want to know.

So, there you go...my 7 tips for a successful knitting project. Well, those AND the Purl Bee. Seriously, go to there. All their projects are gorgeous!

Also, if you have any tips or projects that would help out a beginning knitter, please feel free to post them in the comments. They will be much appreciated!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yarn...Not So Scary After All

I'm back from The Yarnery! The store was so nice and cozy and everyone was really friendly. Except...there was a lot of yarn and I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to yarn! I looked all around the tiny store trying to find something similar to the yarn recommended in the handwarmers tutorial. They don't carry MadelineTosh on their website so I knew this would be a bit tricky. After a while, someone came up to me and asked if I needed help (in a way that didn't make it seem like she KNEW I needed help, you know?)

I just sort of held out my piece of paper and mumbled something about needing a yarn to make this and she said "Oh, you're in luck...we just got a shipment of that very yarn! It goes really fast!"

You guys!...I'm never this lucky! I was in shock! I also think I was super annoying. I kept saying things like "These are SO beautiful! I can't believe you have this yarn! Oh, this one is the most beautiful of them ALL! I can't believe you actually have this yarn!" And so on...

They only had a dozen or so colors and I picked the very best ones. I think I'll use these (Antique Lace, Cove and Turquoise) all together in a handwarmer:


Tosh Merino Light Antique Lace
Tosh Merino Light Cove
Tosh Merino Light Turquoise

This one (Nebula) is lighter than in the picture and will make a beautiful handwarmer all on its own:

Tosh merino Light Nebula

And after all that, I was so excited that I forgot to buy needles. Thankfully, I remembered before I left the store and the same woman helped me pick the right kind. So, if you're ever in St. Paul, MN, and have a yarn emergency, check out the Yarnery...they're really nice and not scary at all!

Now I just have to figure out how to use double pointed needles and I'll be all set. Does anyone have any tips or things I really need to know? I'm totally new at this so any help will be much appreciated.

Yarn Terror!

I'm about to go to a real yarn store. If you've read my blog for a while, you know how terrifying this is for me. Last time just about killed me. Sadly, Borealis Yarn doesn't exist anymore so I have to go to another store that I've never been to before. OMG, so scary!

At least this time I feel a little more prepared. I'm looking for yarn to knit these darling hand warmers from the Purl Bee. I have a picture of the project and my shopping list all printed out. I'm prepared to ask for help in choosing a yarn. I will let them wind it into a ball if they offer. Deep breath...here I go...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scrappy Trip-Along

Just a tiny scrappy trip-along update today. I finished cutting out 1,296 2" squares from 216 unique fabrics.

scrappy trip-along

I've finished a few blocks and I love how they're turning out!

scrappy trip-along

I've been taking my time with these. I set up all the squares for a block and then when I'm sewing other things, I sew a pair as leaders and enders. Before I know it, I've finished what I'm working on AND finished a scrappy trip block.

scrappy trip-along

Sometimes I make a whole block start to finish but I actually prefer to sew them as leaders/enders. I like that I'm getting two things done at once...the thing I'm supposed to be working on and a scrappy trip block as a bonus! It'll take me much longer to finish the quilt this way but I don't mind. I'm focusing on the journey and it is so much fun!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crystal's Favorite Things!

Here's a list of things I super love right now and thought you might like them too:

1. First, I just have to tell you because I am so proud: Ian wrote a short story that will be published in a book coming out this summer. The collection is called This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death. It's the "sequel" to their first collection Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die. I've read the first book and a few stories from the second and I just can't get enough! It's so interesting to think what the world might be like if there was a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. Morbid? Perhaps. Fascinating? I think so!

Machine of Death

They have offered a preview of Ian's story so if you're interested in reading it, you can find it here. If you want to know more about the whole Machine of Death phenomenon including free pdf downloads and podcasts from the first book, check it out here.

2. I'm obsessed with this gorgeous "Seed Stitch Wrap" over on the Purl Bee. I've just recently learned to knit...like, I can do knit, purl and increase (just one kind of increase, I'm told there's more than one way to do it). Oh, I can also "knit in"...very impressive, right? Anyway, I want to make this wrap, like, so bad! Once I finish my current project I'm going to seriously consider making one.

3. I'm waiting ever so patiently for Alicia to release a kit for these adorable felt bunnies, complete with Liberty dresses and knit! caplets. She says we have just a week to wait...but a week is so long! I might not buy a kit since I have lots of felt and Liberty at home already but a sweet little kit all packaged up for me is very tempting!

4. I've mentioned this before but my brother makes gorgeous wire-wrapped jewelry. I have a few pieces that he's made and I wear them nearly every day (I'm even wearing one in my blog photo).

wire wrapped brazilian agate pendant

I mention this because he set up an etsy shop: Akua Hana. He and a friend have teamed up to sell his jewelry and her Venetian masks. I don't know much about the masks, never having seen them in person, but I can tell you that the pendants are gorgeous. They're even more stunning in person.

5. So, I was reading Martha Stewart the other day and found a tiny article about a couple who bought a goat farm. Did you know it's my dream to own a goat farm and keep bees and sell honey and cheeses and everything wonderful? And here these people are living my dream and it made me happy and then a little sad. And then I saw that they sell homemade caramels from their website and I suddenly felt it was really important to support a fellow dreamer. Now that they've arrived, I'll tell you that these caramels are SO good! Ian prefers the original sea salt and bourbon vanilla, I prefer the chai. A side note...I bought the "festive" gift set because it had lots of caramels, a blank card with a cute goat drawing AND came in a pretty dupioni silk bag that I can reuse. It's, like, win/win/win!

So there you have it...my five favorite things for February!