Thursday, January 29, 2015

Because She Is, After All, My BKB!

Five or six years ago my friend Jenn stopped by a knitting class I was teaching so that she could do me the great favor of ripping out the entire back of a sweater that I had just determined wasn't going to work.  I was annoyed and dissapointed.  It was one of my first attempts at a sweater for myself, and while ordinarily I would have been rather mercenary about the need to start over, this time I was heartbroken.  Having no such compunctions, Jenn sat down in the corner and started to pull the thing apart with a smile on her face.

As my students looked on with amazement at this seemingly crazy act of destruction (They were all newer knitters who didn't yet know that this was just part and parcel.), I laughed and introduced Jenn to them as my "Best Knitting Buddy."  It was a spur of the moment phrase that just popped out of my mouth...and it stuck.  Jenn has been my BKB every since.

And years later, I finally have a way to repay her for her kindness that day.

You see, Jenn started knitting Ysolda Teague's beautiful Ishbel scarf/shawl some time ago, only to discover that lace really isn't her thing.  She made a valiant attempt, but ultimately decided she wanted the finished scarf a lot more than she wanted the process of knitting it.  Her knitting time is limited these days, and she'd prefer to spend it on projects that she enjoys.  She sent it home with me last fall, and I finally had the time this week to finish it up.

As it's not *really* my project, I won't do a formal finished project post...but it did deserve some blog love.  Ishbel really is a lovely pattern, and the yarn - Malabrigo laceweight - is divine to work with.  I did have to take a bit of time to figure out where Jenn had gone wrong.  (In her defense, the pattern is not nearly as simple as it's advertised to be, with a couple of little details that are easy to miss.)  I then had to frog and reknit one small section before moving on to finish it.  It only took two days to finish, and it's now washed and blocked and ready to go home.

I don't get to see Jenn that often anymore, but she'll always be my BKB.
Love you, Jenn!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Monday List!

I wanted to share a favorite old picture of one of my orchids because it's getting ready to bloom again, and I'm very excited!  My orchids are thriving now that I've found them their ideal habitat in my home - my bathroom - and I believe this is the fourth time this one has flowered.
The truth?  Yeah...I was still sick for most of last week, so my list was once again not well attended to.  I am largely unconcerned about this...but I am also happy to say that I'm feeling a LOT better as of yesterday, so hopefully I'm now getting back to life as normal!
Briefly, last week I did finish rebuilding all of my playlists (so happy!), I finished the center of the Hap shawl, and I reluctantly began to deal with the tap and winter shoe problem.  Ugh.  That's it!  Oh, I did lots of other mom things, so it wasn't as lost of a week as the one prior...but I'm not going to bore you with any of that. 
This week's list:
  1. I actually started working on the yarn ends on my husband's sweater this AM.  Let's see if I can get it done before the weather gets cold enough (if it ever does) for him to want it!
  2. Speaking of my husband, I am going to sew labels on his sweaters this week.  He's been asking for years, but I've been lazy about it.  He wore one of them backwards to work last week.
  3. Also speaking of my husband, I did promise him that once I was finished with his sweater I would get back to editing his book. 
  4. Over the weekend I started working to do some repair work on a shawl that my BKB had started for herself.  As it turns out, lace is not her thing so I'm going to go ahead and finish it up. 
  5. Likewise, I have a special request....more on that later.  It's kind of exciting! 
  6. And...another gift project that took a backseat during the sweater knitting needs some attention.
  7. If - and this is a big if - I have some spare time I will be working on my Lisianthus shawl.  I need the needle to do the borders on the Hap.....
  8. Actually, my big task this week is going to be to figure out how to rebuild my journaling practice, which took a big hit this year because of my eldest child's super early school schedule.  I miss it, and I need it.  (And maybe I've decided what to do about the journal question....maybe.)
  9. This isn't so much a to-do item as a publically stated intention, but it's back to full compliance for foods for me as of today.
  10. Along with that, it's time to start rebuilding my exercise schedule post-illness.  Don't worry, I shall listen to my body.  Tired of feeling sluggish, though.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Five Good and One Bad

Friends, I confirmed this afternoon a harsh truth that I've suspected for a while.

As you know, since my allergy diagnosis I've relied on 70% dark chocolate as a fairly low-consequence treat.  Chocolate has been one of my favorite things for my entire life, and so long as I stuck with better quality products made with just the three simple ingredients it seemed as if I could continue to indulge once in a while.  (Or, ok, more than once in a while when I'm not doing so hot with compliance...)

Well, no more. 

This afternoon I ate some dark chocolate and promptly got sick.  It was pretty ugly, but not entirely unexpected as I've had similar, but less serious, tummy distress a few times over the last couple of months after eating chocolate.  I had tried to dismiss those experiences as something - ANYTHING - else, but today the cause and effect was instantaneous and obvious. 

The curious thing is that I really don't want to look at this as a great tragedy.  My body is doing it's best to protect me against a harmful substance...and it's doing that by making it clear that it doesn't want me to eat it any more. 

The fact of the matter is that this last week has been a good one, so rather than focus on that one bad thing I'd rather shift my perspective so that I can focus on the positive.  To that end, here are five GOOD things that happened this week that go a very long way towards making the one bad thing insignificant in the long run. 

  1. For the first time in years, I'm feeling contentment with regards to my home.  What's changed?  I've been making it a point to actually use my basement nook...and I'm finding that it's making all of the difference in the world. 
  2. I'm completely free of the shingles yet...but the symptoms are dwindling, and every day I feel better than the day before.  I don't think I can even begin to tell you what a blessing this is.  Curiously enough, the shingles did bring about a blessing through some insight shared with me by my acupuncturist during a treatment last Friday.  It's given me food for thought, and some ideas for how to fine tune my journey towards better health.  Once again, I'm amazed by this woman...who knows more about health, and about the connection between the emotional/spiritual and the physical than anyone else I have ever known.
  3. I discovered last week that the principal at our middle school is truly amazing.  She responded to a specific concern we had with the perfect combination of sympathy, concern and action.  It's good to know we have such good people looking out for our kids. 
  4. Yesterday I traveled to St. Louis for a meeting with the Mission Center Council for my church.  It was an amazing meeting that reconfirmed for me the fact that we have some really wonderful people working to face the challenges our church is currently facing.  I find myself reinvigorated and once again excited about my ministry. 
  5. I reconnected with an old friend this week, and it was a wonderful, and overwhelmingly positive experience that has pushed me towards making some changes to end the social isolation I've created for myself.  Powerful stuff. 
So you see, I'm not going to let what happened today ruin anything for me.  Life is better than that. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Monday List

First up - a review of how I did on last week's list....or in this case, the list I made two weeks ago before I got sick and life went to heck for a while.

1. Knocked those phone calls out on the same day that I wrote the post.  Excellent.
2. As you know, the knitting of the sweater is done...
3. ...but I haven't yet started on the ends.  When I got sick (It's secret.) one of the things that happened was that my eyes became extremely light sensitive.  Unfortunately, my right eye was also affected, making close work pretty impossible. 
5.  I did blog about that new project, and I did play with it a bit.  No resolution yet, though.
10.  I did think about the yoga question a bit, and the answer is that it's just not time.  Maybe later.
11.  Most of the decorations were put away.  Those that remain usually stay up through the end of January.  I love my glitter balls so much they might stay up through February!
13.  I spent some time wondering if I really wanted to mess with it, or if I could live with new playlists.  Yeah, no.  I'm a creature of habit, and I wanted my playlists back.  I spent yesterday working on it.  I'm not in a huge hurry, so it could take some time.  (Big nerd alert...I keep my Glee music in playlists by year, and that's a major organizing job for this OCDish woman.  I also have playlists for all of my musicals...a LOT of musicals.)

Numbers that aren't listed can basically be considered victims of the shingles.  The less said about that the better.  I've done all of the complaining I really want to do, and as I'm recovering it doesn't really matter anyway!

So here is the plan for THIS week:
1.  Weave in the ends on Sean's sweater so that I can wash and block it and see what it looks like on my handsome husband. 
2.  Finish the middle of my Hap shawl and get it set up for the stripes.
3.  Finish at least the Glee playlists (I had some quiet time this morning while the rest of the family was in bed, so this is already done!  Yay me!)
4.  Back to tap tonight (yay!) so order possible new tap shoes.  I really MUST find something that fits better than the shoes I borrow from my daughter.
5.  Also deal with the winter shoe issue. 
6.  Thank you notes.  My daughters have done better than I this year.
7.  Update my Goodreads page...yikes.  I bought a lot of books in December....

You know...sometimes these lists are long, and sometimes these lists are short.  Having started out with a giant list, and then having had life throw me a curve ball, I think I'm inclined to keep it simple this week. I'm also aware that even though I'm feeling better I probably do need to take it somewhat easy until I'm back to 100%.  So...this is it for now!

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Great Journal Debate

 Tucked away on the bottom shelf in mostly hidden corner of my basement office/studio/work space is a treasure trove.  Here you will find 28 years of my life contained in my journals.
 After an initial - and rather clumsy - attempt at a handmade book, I switched to small 3 right binders with narrow lined insert paper which my mom and I found at a locally-owned office supply store in my hometown.  They were a perfect fit for me, and I would continue to use them faithfully throughout high school and college.
 The problem came when my OCD tendencies kicked into gear.  It became difficult to find just the right binder and just the right insert paper.  After spending an entire day driving all over town, hitting up every office supply store and every other store that carried such things, I knew I was defeated.
So if you look at that picture of the shelf, that's when you will see journals with different binders begin.  I tried a large binder once.  I went through two of Julia Cameron's Artist Way notebooks.  (I figured that gave the exact amount of prescribed morning pages space every day.)  Friends during my newlywed years talked me into trying some of the gorgeous blank journals that by that time had become popular and easy to find.  (Let me just tell's a sign of how nuts I can be at times that it was next to impossible to let myself use those pretty books at first.  Sweating bullets!)  They worked, but in some ways it added a level of stress to the process.
Then Moleskine notebooks started to become popular again, and when I stopped to examine them in the store my heart sang.  This was the modern equivalent of my little black binders...with a historical twist that helped to ensure they would never go out of style.  Everything about them felt good, so I went back, and have been using them faithfully for a while now. 
Then...a complication.   A year ago I decided to try a journal app on my ipad, and to my great surprise I actually enjoyed it.  So 2014 became the year of my first successful electronic journal.  ( I've tried a couple of times before, but they never lasted that long.)  I loved that the app automatically recorded not only the date, but also the time, location and weather during each writing session.  Together the iPad and keyboard didn't really take up any more space in my purse/bag than the original journals did (portability has always been key), so it was a win-win.
In one of my earliest iPad journal entries, I actually laid out a pros and cons list for an electronic journal v. a handwritten one.  The funny thing was that my logic brain could come up with a whole bunch of reasons why that electronic version was the clear winner....but even with that list my heart knew handwritten was best.  It didn't deter me from the experiment, though, and I have to admit that there are a lot of benefits to using a keyboard for journal input.  (Not the least of which is that my hands have a better chance of keeping up with my head...)
 A few months ago, though, I found this lovely thing.  I went back to look at it three times before I finally bought it.  I just couldn't get it off of my mind, and I've been carrying it with me since.

 Which brings me to this morning.  You may remember that included in my New Year Resolutions was a desire to rebuild my journaling practice into a more regular part of my life.  I've always done better when I'm actively using a journal on an (almost) daily basis, after all.  My plans were thrown off my by recent illness, but now that I'm feeling better it's time to get back to it!  I'm ready, I'm willing, and I have something to say!
The strange thing is that I don't know which format to choose....
Tradition, pleasure, or practicality?
They all have their merits...they all are equally appealing....
and I'm having trouble making a decision.
One I give them each a different purpose?
Inspiration and growth in the Tree of Life...
Regular journaling in the Moleskine...
Dreams in the iPad, where swiftness is a benefit as I capture fleeting images...
Or is that too much?  Do I roll everything back into one?
Clearly, I've a lot to think about.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Yeah, Baby!

So yesterday this happened.
 Oh yeah, I finally finished knitting Sean's sweater!
 Now this needs to happen....
But first, let's all take a moment to bask in the gorgeousness that is the backside.
These things are important!
My apologies for making some grand pronouncements about the blog....and then disappearing for a week and a half.  Promise, promise it wasn't my intent.  Life rather got in the way with some pretty significant headache/migraine problems.  I'm on the mend now, so will be back to regular posting asap!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

For My Gram...and For Me

Sometimes I need a quieter, more gentle project.
After months of intricate fair isle on tiny needles, my hands and my heart were yearning towards something simpler...something easier...something that I could work on while letting my mind go free.
For a long while I've had this yarn in my stash.  I purchased it as the Woodland Winter Mittens Kit, having fallen head over heels in love with both the colors and the mitten patterns. (I think I even got it on sale....I have a (not so) terrible habit of buying palette kits when they are on sale.....)  Much as I love the mittens, though, I eventually admitted that I'm just not a mitten-wearing sort of gal.

So then the question becomes, what do I do with this beautiful yarn when the colors go so very well with each other?  It seemed a shame to me to break the kit up....
The solution presented itself a year or so ago.  My beautiful basket of palette would be perfect for a Shetland Hap Shawl.
My first attempt ended in frustration and boredom.  Frustration because I thought I hadn't picked the right needle size, and boredom because the garter center can be rather tedious if you're not in just the right mood...and I'm rarely in the mood for garter stitch.  I wasn't even halfway through the center diamond when a flashier, more complicated project distracted me.  Back in the stash it all went, and I thought that was that.
Just after Christmas, though, it occurred to me that a Shetland Hap was exactly what was needed to provide the counterbalance to my husband's Christmas sweater.  (Which I will finish tomorrow...I'm so, so close.)  I pulled the yarn back out of the dresser that houses my stash, and got back to work. 
This time around it's true love.
Why am I dedicating this piece to my Gram?
She's been dealing with some health issues since Thanksgiving....problems which hopefully will find resolution today.  As you can imagine, she's been in my prayers and in my thoughts almost constantly since this began, and though I'm not one for 'prayer shawls' in their traditional usage, I do think that sometimes the work of my hands can help focus my thoughts and still my heart.
And so a Hap shawl...which combines the two elements of knitting that are the ONLY knitting my Gram has even done.  Didn't even occur to me until after I had started my Hap that I was mimicking her knitting.  The diamond center?  That is representative of the diamond shaped cotton dishcloths that Gram knits by the dozen.  The feather and fan border...well, my Gram knits the most beautiful feather and fan blankets.  In all of the world of knitting, those dishcloths and those blankets are the ONLY thing any of us have ever seen her knit.  Every time I pick up my needles I'm reminded of my Gram and I smile.
Which makes my Hap just about perfect right now, doesn't it.
Well...ok, no.  If it were red, than it would be perfect.