Friday Gratitude: Ain’t No Cure

“Sometimes I wonder that I’m a gonna do, but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” — Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues

The summertime blues have set in a bit (I’m BORED) … but, let’s focus on some good things about this last week.

I crocheted a mermaid using this easy pattern. I was inspired by the funkiness of the doll in the example photo, and decided I wanted my doll to have a Betty Boop look. I think she turned out okay (note: I think she’s actually much cuter in real life). Also, I ran out of yarn, but have since gotten more and will finish the fins for her tail.

crocheted mermaid

My (very kind and thoughtful) site mate brought me a bottle of wine from her vacation to Greece. I love a good port!

Greek port wine

And finally, here is what my new rug looks like in my current bedroom. Yes, this is the third photo I have posted of the rug. Because I love it and it makes me happy! 🙂

hand made rug kosovo

As far as media consumption this week, I saw the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and have been re-watching Breaking Bad. I also finished reading A Year in Provence, which I thought was pretty “meh.”

***

I continue to try to find ways to fill my time, now that I’m on a break from teaching. As I mentioned previously, I’ll be hosting a writing workshop next month in Pristina. I had wanted to host a different workshop at a nearby NGO, but they are closing for the month of August due to extreme heat/no air conditioning. So, that project will have to wait.

I had a meeting in Peja about helping out with a film festival next month. It’ll be nice to work on a project that has nothing to do with teaching English. I’m ready for a change.

Aaaand … it took almost 5 months, but my grant proposal has finally been approved. 🙂 I’ll be posting more about that project this fall.

***

The weather has been slightly cooler (though humid) this week. I took an evening walk with my host mother and 12-year-old host cousin. Along the way, we picked up a neighbor and her granddaughter. There was a wedding going on down the road, and the sound of traditional dance music filled the air. The sun was just setting and the moon was a sliver tucked among the clouds. Occasionally, someone at the wedding would set off a burst of fireworks. I told myself to remember the walk, because someday I won’t live in Kosovo anymore, and I won’t have nights like that to enjoy.

***

If you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed I made some updates to the sidebar. <—- I added links to my photography portfolio (non-Kosovo, non-Peace Corps stuff) and to my Vimeo video page (all are videos I’ve previously published within blog posts). I keep playing around to see how I like the layout and if I need to add or remove anything. Feedback is welcome!

Happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

The Island of Misfit Toys, and Other Adventures in Crochet

I haven’t posted about many crochet projects lately. That’s because most of what I have been working on have been gifts for other people (and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise). Now that I am back from my trip to the States (and have distributed said gifts), I want to share what I’ve been working on over the last few months. I have also included some small projects I didn’t bother posting earlier.

Back in the fall, I crocheted this small heart pillow for my host mother. I followed along with this YouTube video.

crocheted heart pillow

My sister asked me to make her a winter headband. I made two — one for her, and one for my friend Nicole (who I met up with in Paris for New Years). I followed along with this easy YouTube video.

I’ve followed this pattern numerous times to create different scarves. I crocheted this one for my mama, modifying it slightly by adding a single crocheted row of red for extra ridging.

crocheted striped scarf

My mom had sent me this crochet book in a care package. I used one of the patterns in it to create this cardinal for her. (I followed the pattern exactly … I have no idea why its head turned out so big.)

crocheted cardinal.JPG

I modified a “beaver” pattern from the same book to make this panda bear for my friend Chelsea’s birthday:

My parents have an inside joke about alligators, so I crocheted this toy, following along with the free pattern I found here. My critter did not turn out as cute as the one pictured … I thought this pattern was pretty difficult to follow.

crocheted crocodile
In progress and unstuffed …

Isn’t it funny when serendipitous things happen? My friend Lisa sent me this book, after purchasing a copy to support the Michigan Humane Society (which happens to be where I adopted my cat, Sweeney Todd). Then, my friend Christian asked me if I could crochet a hat and scarf for his kitty back home. I said yes, but I told him he’d have to wait until after my trip to the U.S. I wanted to use Sweeney Todd as a model for pictures.

cat crocheted hat
This is why cats don’t like humans …

Last, I followed along with this very easy YouTube video to create a series of crocheted purses.

purple crocheted purse
.
crocheted purse
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purple striped crocheted purse
.

crocheted beach bag

If you like to crochet, follow along with me on Ravelry at http://www.ravelry.com/people/hellofromkosovo.

Jax the Unicorn

I pay attention to my blog stats and lately, I’ve noticed a big spike in the number of times my post, Jennifer the Unicorn, has been looked at. It is by far my most popular blog post to date.

Around the same time, I noticed a big spike in blog traffic from Canada. (Hello, Canadian friends!) I don’t know if it is a coincidence, or if Canadians really like crocheted unicorns …

Anyway, I mentioned to my mom that I was thinking of doing another unicorn project, since the first one had been so successful. (Hey, I’m not above pandering to the masses.) She suggested I make my unicorn, Jennifer, a boyfriend. My mom also suggested that I give my new unicorn a “J” name to go along with Jennifer, so I chose Jax. (And no, I’m not a Sons of Anarchy fan. I just think it’s an interesting name.)

Processed with MOLDIV
Jax

I used the same crochet pattern that I did for Jennifer. It was much faster going this time. Jennifer took me weeks to complete, while Jax only took the better part of a few days. Maybe that’s because it was my second time using the pattern.

The only change I really made this time around was to follow a different pattern for the horn and mane.

Unicorn Mohawk

So now I have two crocheted unicorn toys. (Are you worried that I’m cracking up over here? I know! Me, too!) 😛

So happy together!

 

Guest Blogger: Andrew Bivins (Outdoor Sports and Ecotourism in Kosovo)

A while back, I asked my friends and family members to send me questions to answer on the blog. My Dad asked about sports and the outdoors in Kosovo. Since I’m not exactly Sporty Spice, I decided to outsource his questions to someone more knowledgeable than I. My friend Andrew has participated in a lot of outdoor fun since he moved to Kosovo. Without further adieu … –April

skiing kosovo
Andrew Bivins

Përshëndetje! I am excited and honored to be taking over April’s blog this week. Apparently I have gained a bit of a reputation for loving the outdoors, especially in Kosovo. In fact, the nature here is so beautiful that I started documenting it, which led me to discover another passion of mine, photography.

waterfall Kosovo
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bivins

Back in the U.S., I was just getting into hiking and kayaking before I moved to Kosovo for my service. I am from Atlanta, so it was quite common for my friends and I to flee the city for the weekend for some fresh air on the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t sure what to expect once I found out I was moving to Kosovo. I had read that Kosovo was mountainous and forested, so I knew there was potential, but I wasn’t sure how accessible outdoor activities would be.

rock climbing kosovo
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bivins

During my first year, I went on a lot of hikes with other volunteers and we usually found some great trails on our own through trial and error. The town I live in is pretty flat, so I usually relied on my friends who live in the more rugged areas to ask around and get an idea of where we should go. Unfortunately, unexploded landmines from the war are still a concern, especially in the mountainous border regions. It’s best not to get too adventurous, unless you really know where you are going and that the area has been confirmed to be free of mines. Luckily, there are many public and private organizations in Kosovo that are actively working to rid Kosovo of mines and other unexploded ordnance. There are also a lot of resources available, such as maps and local tour guides, that will allow you to safely enjoy the nature here.

mountain skiing Kosovo
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bivins

I was talking with a local friend the other day and we were discussing how we have both noticed the recent increase in opportunities to take part in organized outdoor events. It has been amazing to watch Kosovo develop in this way during my nearly two years of living here because I truly believe that Kosovo has an incredible potential for ecotourism. Seeing that potential slowly turn into reality is pretty cool. Every week you can see new tour companies popping up on your newsfeed, advertising organized group hikes, bike rides, rock climbing, cultural tours, etc. These offers are usually at a pretty low price and they include transportation, food, and an expert guide. I recently took advantage of one of these opportunities and I went snowshoeing for the first time. We started in a village called Restelica and walked 10+ km over a mountain to the village of Brod. This was in one of the most remote regions of Kosovo and I never would have felt comfortable to do this without a guide, especially in the snow when visibility is so low and avalanches are such a risk. It was certainly a challenge, my legs are still burning three days after the fact, but it was an amazing experience. The guides were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and I was able to learn the basics. My only disappointment is that it is the end of winter and I only just now discovered that I love snowshoeing. Next winter I plan to snowshoe as often as possible. I am also hoping to pick up skiing. I went once when I was in high school, but I would hardly call myself an expert. Kosovo is definitely a great place to learn! Depending on where you are, you can find slopes for beginners, or more challenging ones if you already know what you’re doing. I’ve also seen a lot of snowmobiles during my visits to Brezovica (the main ski resort in Kosovo) and I think it would be awesome to learn how to do that as well. With that said, PCVs aren’t allowed to drive cars or motorcycles, so I assume there is some sort of rule about snowmobiles. If you are currently serving, it’s probably just best to wait until you close your service before you give that a shot.

snowy mountain kosovo
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bivins

I think a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers in Kosovo will tell you that winter is tough. My first winter was the most difficult part of my service. I didn’t know how to deal with it and I spent far too much time sitting inside and feeling sorry for myself. My second winter has been the exact opposite. Yes, it was still cold, but I got out as often as possible, enjoyed myself, and stayed busy. Winter was still there, it didn’t change, actually it was colder this winter, but my perspective changed and it made all the difference in the world. My family and friends back home have been shocked to see me enjoying the snow so much. I was never really a winter-type of guy, but I suppose you can count it among the MANY things I have learned to love during my almost two years in Kosovo.

April’s Note: If you enjoyed Andrew’s beautiful pictures, please follow him on Instagram: instagram.com/seekosovo

Read posts by other guest bloggers:

 

Friday Gratitude: Madness

Here are some things that are making me happy this week:

  • I bought plane tickets this week. Buying plane tickets makes my bank account sad. But it makes me very happy!
  • I finally decided to stop being lazy and upload my crochet projects to ravelry. You can see them here (not sure if you need an account): http://www.ravelry.com/projects/hellofromkosovo
  • I am heading to a language training for Peace Corps early next week. Good things: I’ll get to be in a city I like with friends I like. Bad things: I’ll be evaluated on my Shqip progress. *gulp*
  • I had a lovely dinner with another volunteer. You will get to “meet” him next week, when he guest blogs for me.

Media consumption:

  • I re-watched the movie Notes on a Scandal. It is one of the only movies I think is better than the book upon which it is based (the other is Revolutionary Road). In it, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett play teachers at the same school. The movie is told from the perspective of Judi Dench’s character, as she learns of Cate Blanchett’s character’s affair with a 15-year-old student. Though CB is the one having the affair, JD plays such a creepy, evil character you end up hating her more.
  • I decided to treat myself to a movie and went to see Beauty and the Beast. It was the second time I’ve visited a movie theater since I’ve lived in Kosovo. I didn’t care for the movie much. But these days, I appreciate stimulation of any kind.

On a sad note … They say things happen in threes and I know three families in the U.S. who have lost loved ones within the last week. A lot of people are on my mind, and a lot of people are in my thoughts and prayers. I am sending love to you all.

Q&A: Life in the Peace Corps

My sister asked the following questions for this week’s video:

  • What hobbies do you have besides reading and crocheting? Are those your favorite things to do? (0:18)
  • Is there something you want to learn (craft-wise) while you’re there? (0:46)
  • How do you spend your days when you’re not teaching? (1:04)
  • Is there a crochet project you have in mind to do next? (1:15)
  • How have your feelings about being in Kosovo/Peace Corps changed over the last 9 months? (1:37)
  • What have you gotten used to that was a big adjustment for you? (2:10)
  • What adjustments are you still struggling with? (2:56)
  • If you could change something about your time there, what would it be? (If you could change anything, no questions asked, your wish is granted.) (3:36)
  • Is there something you would have changed when you arrived but don’t feel that way anymore? (4:10)
  • What has been your favorite thing about living in Kosovo? (4:47)

After watching this video, I realized I said “um” a bunch of times. I thought about re-recording, but laziness prevailed. Maybe I’ll practice my public speaking skills and try to do better next time. 😛

Thanks for the questions, Kris!

 

Owl Baby Bib Crochet Project

owl baby bib easy crochet project.JPG

Given my mood lately (which borders on “ugh” or “meh”), and the slew of half-finished crochet projects I’ve got lying around, I told myself last Sunday I would feel better if I started and finished a project.

I’d seen these cute owl baby bibs on Pinterest (where else?) a while ago. A close friend of mine is expecting her third child this summer (good Lord, when did I get so old?), so I decided to make this bib as a gift. It was ridiculously easy.

You can download the free pattern here. As an added note, I used a size J crochet hook for this project.

I’m not exactly sure what size baby this bib will fit. Hopefully it isn’t too big for a newborn, otherwise, my friend’s new son or daughter will have to wait until they’re older to enjoy his or her owl friend.

Also, at the suggestion of my friend Katie (thanks, Katie!) I joined ravelry.com. You can follow me here. I don’t have all of my projects loaded on the site, but hope to at some point.