Monday, December 31, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Circles and Affirmations

It is traditional in the Philippines to have circles all around you on New Year's Eve: oranges, grapes, buns, pastries... You wear polka dots and bracelets. They symbolize the cycle of the year, the continual renewal of life.

It is also traditional for many cultures to think about the things we want to accomplish in the new year. This year, I've decided to note down the things I've learned and wish to continue to affirm in the future. So, in no particular order:

  1. There is yet to be a big, difficult task that could not be broken down into a series of small, simpler ones. This means that all things are possible if you just buckle down and get to work.
  2. In this part of the world, there will always be more food. You can always have more tomorrow.
  3. The moment you think you are better than someone else, prepare to be squashed.
  4. If the dentist says you should wear a mouth guard when you sleep, wear the frigging mouth guard.
  5. The hardest person to forgive is in the mirror. Cut that person some slack.
  6. People are usually kinder than you think they are.
  7. Everyone is fighting some sort of personal battle. That means they deserve your kindess.
  8. If you want to get knitting done, get knitting done. Same goes for spinning, crochet, and laundry.
  9. Cookies are not fuel for your body. Do not attempt a workout if you have eaten a bunch.
  10. Stretch.
  11. Sleep. If you can't sleep, at least rest.
  12. Walk your dog everyday. Not only is it good for you and your dog, but you have no idea how happy it makes your lonely neighbours to see you go past.
  13. Be kind to your spouse, even if they break stuff. You're bound to screw up, too.
  14. Smile, even if you don't feel like it. But if you really can't, at least shut the door so the others around you don't get dragged down by your grumpiness.
  15. Be grateful for every single thing you get, even if it's not what you wanted.
  16. Worrying doesn't make stuff happen. Only work makes stuff happen.
  17. Say thank you every single day.

Speaking of, thanks for visiting my blog. Happy New Year, and enjoy the start of a new circle.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Vacation Mode

I'm taking a break from the blog for the next week or so to give myself a chance to recharge. I'm nearing burn out, and I don't want to take you all with me. Until then, I'll be doing what Rascal is doing...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Capable vs. Cocky

Today, we will demonstrate the difference between the words "capable" and "cocky."

Case 1: The Steek

I've been working on altering some of my previous projects so that they fit me better. Since my first adventure in steeking, I felt that I was armed with enough information to steek my burgundy cardigan with little to no difficulties.

Steeking, for those who don't know, is where you sew stitches into your knitted fabric to hold them from unravelling, so that you can cut the fabric without worry. It is often used in Norwegian sweaters that use a lot of strands of yarn. Handknitters will often knit it as a tube, then cut holes for the arms to be added. It works well with wool, because the cut ends will eventually felt themselves together to create a firm edge.

I've learned that you get a tidier finish if you hand stitch a running backstitch along the fabric where you intend to cut it. This allows you to line up the stitches on the right side neatly. Then, I ran a zigzag stitch right next to my backstitches to create an even more secure seam before I cut it.

Voila. It fits. I feel capable.

Case 2: The Dress Alteration

This is a dress made of a jersey knit fabric that I picked up at a consignment store during the summer. I love the animal print and the Madmen-esque neckline, but the length bothered me. I'm a tall person (5 foot 9 inches) and this thing nearly reached my ankles. I was thinking it would be nice to wear it to our company Christmas party, but I wanted to hem it to make it shorter.

I thought about how I would do it for months and months beforehand. I am not a seamstress. I have little to no experience with working with such a stretchy fabric. I can barely cut fabric in a straight line. And yet, I felt pretty confident that I could do it.

Confident... and cocky.

One evening a couple of weeks ago, I jumped up from the couch, picked up the dress, laid it on the floor, and started pinning it. I was going to take a good five inches off the length, and since it's a wrap dress, I had to figure out how to maintain the roundness of the hem. After I pinned it, I tried it on (trying not to swear as the pins pricked me), and it looked pretty good. I thought about pressing the fold I'd created to use as a guideline, but no... cockiness got the better of me.

I sat down and started cutting, leaving an inch of extra fabric just in case. It was a jagged, messy cut, but I figured I'd be sewing it under anyway. I tried it on. Not bad, I thought. But it's a little longer on the right side. I better cut a bit more off there.

Cut, cut. Tried it on again. Hmm, it's a little long on the left side now.

Cut, cut. Tried it on again. Maybe I better use some other scissors and tidy up the edge.

More cutting. Tried it on. Ruh roh. I think it's too short...

I sat down and looked at the mess I'd made, and all the scraps on the floor. Oh crap. Now what?

I went and made a cup of tea, then I gritted my teeth and opened up my sewing machine and started sewing. And you know what?

I lucked out. It was wearable after all. But only just. Any more cutting and this would not be a work-appropriate outfit.

Mostly capable, kind of cocky. Lesson?

Put the frigging scissors down, Adriene. Just put 'em down...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: The Big Hill

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. -- Lao Tse

A couple of years ago, I went with a work colleague to a meeting at a museum about an hour's drive away, situated on the edge of a beautiful valley. We arrived at the site in the morning, and since the meeting was scheduled for the afternoon, we had the opportunity to explore both the building and the outdoor paths. After we wandered a while inside, we went out for a walk on one of the paths, thinking it would wind its way back to the building.

About an hour into the walk, we discovered that the path eventually disappeared in the scrub of the surrounding woods. Fearing we would be late for our meeting, we turned back and walked the long path back toward the building. My insides were a little knotted because I knew the last part was going to be a really steep hill... a really, long, steep climb for me.

When we finally arrived back at the building, I was severely winded, sweaty, wheezy... just not the picture of composure I hoped I would be. It was embarrassing. I hate appearing weak. After that day, I pushed the experience out of my mind, and hoped it would never come back again.

Two months ago, I ran my first 10k.

It started with a thought. Maybe I could do it. Then I opened my mouth and told someone. That was the start of a commitment. I registered. I started running for a few seconds at a time, then a few minutes, then I could run for an hour, and I could even run up steep hills. I know now that if I returned to the same hill, I could run up it, at least part of the way. It would not defeat me again.

I have several tough tasks ahead of me. All I can do is start thinking about it, start talking about it, start doing it, then keep doing it, until I can't imagine doing anything else. And I hope that other around me know that they can do the same. Knit it, write it, play it, draw it, sing it, do it, whatever it is.

If not now, then when?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Emptying the Brain

I prevented my brain from exploding this morning. It was no mean feat. There was a lot of pressure in there. I should have worn goggles, but luckily, it wasn't as messy as I thought it would be.

Sometimes, ideas jump around in my head like a bunch of puppies on speed. This often happens when I'm dreaming of projects, even ones that I already have some sort of plan for. I obsess over every step in my head so that, when I actually come to do it, I have some idea of how it's going to work. This time, though, I had no plans, just yarn... these three skeins, in fact:

I'd seen a dress with these three colours together last summer, and the trio had been in my head ever since. These are three skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca that I purchased on our yarn trip last weekend. Altogether, there's about 645 yards there, enough for... for what?

I really have no sense of how much yarn I need to make a garment for myself right now. My body has changed so much since this weight loss thing started that all my standard estimates are out the window. Apparently, this could be enough to make me a sweater, or at least a short-sleeved top... I think...

So, since last weekend, I've been thinking about what I could do with these three skeins of yarn. Another shawl? A skirt? A shrug? Throw in the 50% wool/50% alpaca content, and that makes it even more complicated, since alpaca is heavy and tends to grow. Well then... now what?

This morning, I figured that the only way to stop the cycle of images in my head was to draw them out. Since I am by no means a designer, my drawings would be doodles at best, but maybe they could help me make sense of these ideas. For starters, simple colour-blocked stoles. The one on the right is my representation of an ombre-effect in the transition:

Then I found Stephen West's Flagstone, which is a shawl that looks something like this:

Then I thought to myself, That kind of looks like the back of a hoodie. Do I have enough for a hoodie?

And then I started thinking about colour-blocked tees. In a wool/alpaca blend? Maybe...

I've been reading the comments about this yarn in Ravelry, and the consensus seems to be to make a swatch, measure it, wash it, and measure again to see if it grows (as you should with all your swatches). So maybe I have to do that before I decide anything. I've got a few other things I need to swatch for, so they may as well all get in the bath together.

Regardless, it felt good to get out the pencil crayons and empty out my brain. It sounds weird, but there I feel relieved to get some of those ideas out of there. And while the journey to the finished object is by no means over, perhaps I've hit upon something that could help me get through a lot of other stuff that has been overloading my mind recently. One of the guys at work doodles constantly through lectures and meetings, and he's a fricking genius.

Whoa man, I could develop my geniusness with this... but not if I keep using words like that.

Back to the drawing board for now, but man, does it feel good.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Wait, I Think I Feel It

I'm a bit of a Scrooge. I dread the Christmas holidays: the hustle and bustle, the excessive food, the hoards of shoppers, the incessant Christmas music on repeat on the radio... It gets to me after a while, and I yearn for my quiet days on the couch when I can dream and snooze and knit. I've checked myself out of the holiday over the past few years, and I bear it until it all passes.

Except, this year I'm not.

The hubby took me out to watch a Stuart McLean show on Friday as a delayed birthday present. I was really looking forward to seeing the guy in person and experiencing one of his shows. It really didn't even twig in my brain that it was a Christmas show until it all started. And wow... something happened.

I think I felt the Christmas cheer coming on.

I found myself with a silly grin on my face and a look of wonder in my eyes. The music, the stories, the chat... all of a sudden, I wanted to sing the songs and wrap presents and play in the snow. I wanted to be with my family and watch the children opening presents. And I haven't felt that for a long, long time. And it felt good.

The whole drive back, I sang the songs and chittered like a squirrel about all we'd seen and heard, and I smiled and smiled and smiled. It's like someone poured a whole lot of sparkles into my mouth and I was spewing them everywhere. Holiday cheer in sprinkler-mode. That was me.

I sort of have my Christmas gifts in order, and I think that I will spend this weekend putting them together and making sure I haven't missed anyone. And I might hum a few songs and chase Rascal around in the snow. I might dig out all red yarn and plan a few projects for them, and delight in the joy of working with my favourite colour.

Take a hike, humbug. Santa's made it to the Couch.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Escape to Yarnia

There are few things that require a two-month advance planning period: maybe a big anniversary party, or a family reunion, or, if you were really ambitious, a wedding. In the list of the top ten events that require that much advance planning, you would be unlikely to see "yarn shopping" there.

But then, you haven't met my friends.

After a busy few months, Tara, dkzack and I made it into Calgary for a day of yarn adventure. "Escape to Yarnia" is what I kept seeing in my head when I looked at date on the calendar. It was a day that promised a getaway from the same ol' thing, with lots of fun and laughter.

We decided to try to find a yarn shop we'd never been to before: Pudding Yarn. It's a good name for a yarn shop, no? Can you go wrong with either pudding or yarn? Of course you can't. Here's a shot I took from the car just before we opened the doors and spilled out onto the pavement in a mad scramble for the door. I daresay we overwhelmed the lady working in there just a teeny bit with our fibre-crazed happiness. The store had a lovely contemporary feel, with lots of soft light and colour. It felt good to walk around and take in every single shelf.

I rarely have specific projects in mind when we go on these yarn adventures. I usually order yarn online for pre-planned projects, when I can spend time deliberating and calculating. Yarn adventure days are for exploring, touching, ooohing and ahhing. And we did plenty of that. The lady working there soon recognized us as fellow yarn enthusiasts (not just crazy people). When I asked her about a skein of yarn she had behind the counter, she gave me a "wait till you see this" kind of smile and handed me one to feel. I almost melted to the floor: it was 100% cashmere. Heavenly.

Tara finished shopping first, and then went over to the shop next door, which happens to be a gluten-free bakery. That works perfectly for Tara, who is gluten-intolerant, and for me, who is a glutton. We loaded up on snacks, then jumped into the vehicle and exclaimed "Where next?"

We dithered and looked at maps and decided we'd head over to Gina Brown's, an old standby for us. It's a good place to find a wide variety of sweater-quantities of yarn, with sprinklings of the popular favourites: Fleece Artist, madelinetosh, Indigo Moon, and the like. We often find ourselves in deep discussion at one of the tables there. "Do you think this will work for..." "Should I get one or two of these..." "What do think, this one or that one..." "How much should I get for..." I'm useless at these discussions, because my answer is usually, "Yeah, buy it." And why not? I figure, it takes so long to get to these places, the only thing we should leave behind is regret.

Two yarn shops in one day is usually our limit, but we must have stepped into a time machine somewhere, because we found ourselves with time leftover after we stopped our lunch. Three yarn shops in a day? Could we handle it? Really?

What's life without a challenge?

We finished off at The Loop, which is currently my favourite yarn shop in the city, and the others would probably agree with me. There is such a nice, open, friendly feel in there, and we're welcomed back every time. Tara has been selling her hand dyed yarns there for a few months, and this time, she brought in a bunch of hand dyed roving and art batts. I helped carry some of it into the shop. I won't lie: it felt awesome to walk into a yarn shop full of knitters with a laundry basket full of fibre-goodies. It must be what it's like to be a celebrity: all eyes following you wherever you go. You can see some of the treasures Tara brought here.

When we're at The Loop, we're treated to not just the usual standby yarns, but to the amazing variety of indie dyers, most of which are Canadian. I love knowing that there is a shop that takes local hand dyers seriously and understands what their customers will want from them. And I love that you can usually find someone sitting on one of their big purple couches knitting from a skein of locally dyed yarn.

Our conversations there usually start off in yarn-acquisition-mode, but eventually, we settle down on one of the couches and have a chance to pull out our current projects and chat away to whoever is there. And there is no shortage of people to chat with there.

So, in all, we came home after our adventure with our haul of supplies to keep us busy for the next while. I spent my morning walk with Rascal daydreaming about what I'm going to make with it all. I'm so glad we made it to Yarnia yesterday. Now I just need to figure out how I could stay in Yarnia forever...

But maybe I'm already there!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Snails Are Passing Me

I'm supposed to be writing about the creative stuff I get up to day to day: knitting, crochet, sewing, writing, drawing, cooking... You know, all that stuff.

I could show you these batts that I made when I went over to Tara's house and played with her drum carder. I could tell you that they've already been spun into beautiful yarn, and that I have all sorts of plans to use them... except, they're still sitting on the dining table, and they've been there for the past few weeks.

I could show you this handspun skein of yarn from my bag of "George" merino, and I could tell you I've already spun up the rest of the bag and have it ready to go for knitting... except, the bag is still sitting under my desk at work, with half a spindle-full of yarn on it, waiting to be filled.

I could show you a freshly-steeked sweater that I started hand-stitching on Saturday morning... except, it's still sitting here with only one seam done.

So, what the heck have I been doing all week?

Um... Exercising. Cooking. Surfing the web. Sleeping. Working. Not knitting. Not spinning. Not stitching. It's already Thursday, and all my projects have been waiting for me since Sunday. If I were going any slower, snails would pass me.

As the Yarn Harlot said recently, "Pro tip: Knitting goes faster if you knit."

Luckily, Tara and dkzack and I are going on a yarn adventure on Saturday. Tara is driving. Woo! Knitting time for me... unless I get distracted by gossip, laughing, and yarn-talk, which is highly probable, but not very productive.

Meh, maybe productivity is over-rated. Or maybe I just need to get back on the wagon. I'm off to find my alpaca-silk cowl project and work a few rows on it. Maybe it'll kickstart the creativity engine again.

Vroom vroom, here I go...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Gifting Each Other

I spent Black Friday much like any other Friday of my life. I went swimming before work, then worked all day, came home and walked Rascal, then I went out for dinner with my hubby. Because I am a health nut now, I exercised after I digested my dinner. Then I went to bed.

I did not spend it like this:

I have the tv off right now because I cannot bear the cacophony of all of the commercials for the stuff, stuff, STUFF WE COULD BUY. RIGHT NOW! GO! NOW! GET ALL THE STUFF!

It's not that I don't like stuff. In fact, I buy stuff all the time. I like shopping malls (on quiet days). I like online shopping. I like buying yarn. Lots of yarn. I like stuff.

I just don't like what happens to people when the holiday shopping season frenzy comes upon them. It scares me. A lot.

The longer I am with the hubby, and the more birthdays and Christmases and anniversaries we rack up together, the more I realize he is not a stuff person. Our gifts to each other recently are experiences: tickets to shows, trips together, dinner out... Even flowers are an experience: a way to show how much we brighten each others' day.

The thing is, I'm going home to my parents' house for Christmas, and there I will be confronted by people who might not share my "let's all just enjoy each other" talk. They'll bring us stuff. And they'll expect stuff. And it's not that they expect the best of the best from me. It's just that it's customary to trade stuff during the holidays. It would be too much out of the ordinary to not expect it.

So, this year, my goal was to bring gifts for these visitors to my family's home that would be experiences, while still technically being stuff. And when I went out to get some milk on Saturday, I found these on sale at the supermarket:

I'm hoping that, when they open these, the kids will settle down and start playing. And they won't be bored listening to the adults chat, because they'll be enjoying the game. And each other. And when they go home, they might pull it out with their parents and enjoy the game. And each other. And maybe that'll be a great gift.

You know. Each other. 'Cuz really, when we're not climbing over each other to buy cell phones at Walmart, what more is there?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Awesome Swapsome

When I started writing this blog, I really had no idea what would happen. I thought I'd jot down a few of the silly stories that where rolling about in my head for my own amusement, and perhaps a few other like-minded souls might stumble upon it and have a chuckle themselves. And that is really what has happened: it's a place for me to ramble on about yarn and handmade things.

I never expected this would happen:

I'll have to rewind a bit to explain:

A couple of years ago, someone with the nickname YarnKettle started leaving comments on my blogposts, and I decided I'd return the favour and visit hers. Since then, we've had these little one or two sentence conversations on each other's blogs, sharing our delight in each other's yarny adventures. A few months ago, when she was talking about her upcoming visit to Rhinebeck (The New York Sheep and Wool Festival, for those who don't know), I remarked, "I wish I could go with you!"

To which she replied, "I have an idea."

And I wondered, Does she have a teleporter? Is she going to somehow transport me there? What did she mean?

A day or two later, I got an email where she explained her idea: that we should do a swap. We would go out on a yarn adventure and find things we thought the other would like, then we'd ship off our parcels, and then it would be just like we'd been on these adventures together. A brilliant idea!

She sent me a comprehensive list of questions, which was great because I would have never thought of all the details she thought of. We listed our likes, dislikes, allergies, affinities... we decided to include other goodies apart from yarn. We set a dollar limit, and then we were off!

I thought it would be a breeze to get a few gifts for my blog friend. During our last trip to Canmore, I thought I'd take a run into Knit and Caboodle and find something uniquely Canadian to send to her. But while I was there, I froze. I couldn't see anything I liked... or rather, anything I thought she would like. I circled several times around the store, and then I emerged without anything for my swap (I did buy yarn... let's be honest here). I did find some sachets of tea at the local tea shop that I thought she would like.

So, I went home and Tara came to my rescue with her beautifully unique hand dyed yarns... and I dithered even more about which to choose. It took me hours. HOURS, I say. Finally, I chose a couple of skeins (and one for myself, let's be honest here).

Then, that weekend, I made some chocolate truffles to include in my package:

Then, Hurricane Sandy hit, so all my goodies had to wait another week while I worried about whether or not my blog friend would get blown away by the weather. Finally, I sent it off... and I waited. And waited. And waited. And worried. And checked my postage receipts. And waited. And hoped that it would all arrive safely.

I worried so much, that I wasn't even prepared for her goodies to arrive when they did. But they did! And when they did, I opened up the package and read her lovely letter where she described all the same difficulties I had in choosing things. When I looked up from my letter, I saw this. I should not be shocked, really:

But here's what she sent me, in detail:

A tin of lovely black tea, which I've already cracked open and shared with friends. I've always liked black tea, but this one is especially nice because it doesn't have that tannin-taste that a lot of black teas have.

A skein of hand dyed merino/cashmere/nylon sock yarn by Bittersweet Woolery (who I follow in Google+, I've come to realize) in the colourway Beloved. Oh, so squishy and smooshy, the colour of mulled wine with a little bit of that froth on top. Yum!

Some wonderful fleece from Point of View Farm in Maine. When I showed it to dkzack, she opened the bag, and her eyes lit up. She turned to me and said dreamily, "It smells sheepy." And it does. Wonderfully sheepy. I can't wait to spin it up.

A little knitting charm. I need to string it on a chain and wear it!

And chocolates... which, ahem... they're on my desk at work, and I doubt very much they'll last very long.

And yes, my package did reach her safe and sound. I really do enjoy giving as much as I do receiving, especially when I know the other person loves the same stuff I do. I daresay it won't be the last time I do this.

Swaps. Awesome. Do it. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Inspiration Monday on a Tuesday: L'il Kin

Years ago, while waiting for a flight in an airport, a child nearby cried and whined while his parents struggled to get him settled. I felt bad for them all. It's an uncomfortable situation for everyone. I pulled out a piece of paper and started folding it. The child eventually stopped and watched me as I folded and creased the paper. Soon, I had a little origami frog on my arm rest. I made it jump with a touch to one of the folds. It leaped into the air, and he squealed. I gave it to him, and he played with it until we boarded.

Whew, that worked, I said. And when I got off the plane, I promptly forgot all about it...

The other day, I came across this blogpost at SouleMama, where she describes how her children have become completely enamoured by watching her work on her cross-stitch. To quote:
"Sit, Mama! Sit!" they say, as each of the three of them gather just as close as they possibly can to watch. To watch! Because, I've realized, a story is coming to life right in front of their eyes.
And I didn't realize it until I read it, but I think I was worried that there weren't kids like I was around today... that all kids growing up today were so used to things being made super-fast, super-cheap, made out-of-sight, with never a thought of how they were made. I thought they weren't interested in the magic of making things in these days of tablets and dollarstores. And I didn't know it until I read it, but the little girl inside of me, who still delights in watching people make things, felt pretty lonely thinking there were no other little girls like her.

I'm so relieved to know that's not true. I've got kin out there. L'il kin who still believe in magic. Awesome.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's My Birthday, and I'll Ply If I Want To

It's my birthday today, When people ask me what I've got planned for my birthday each year, I usually give a sheepish grin and mutter something like, "We're going out for dinner." I always feel like I'm supposed to say something more exciting, but the truth is: my favourite thing to do on my birthday is to stay at home and putter around. Ahhhh... puttering...

So, I woke up this morning, pulled on my workout clothes a did a cardio workout in the basement. I ate a bowl of cereal. We walked Rascal. We bought groceries.

Take deep breaths people, because the excitement continued...

I started plying some yarn that's been sitting on my spindles for far too long. The one in the front is holding the plied yarn. The roving is "George" which is a merino wool I purchased from Olds Fibre Week a couple of years ago. It's the first yarn I've spun "on the fold," which is supposed to result in a loftier yarn. I'm pleased to say it does! I can't wait till this is finished, because I still have another two-thirds of a bag to spin, and it's going to make a couple of skeins of gorgeous yarn.

I also finally took this scarf/shawl off my blocking boards. The pattern is called Abstract and I knit is with some lovely alpaca yarn from DROPS Garnstudio. I wasn't sure how it was going to work out, because the cables looked like it was going to be hidden by the fuzziness of the yarn, but alpaca tends to grow when it is blocked, and that allowed the stitches to stretch out and reveal themselves.

In the meantime, this apple crumble baked in the oven. I made the filling earlier in the fall and froze it, which menas I have COD (Crumble On Demand). I might have eaten the raw crumble mixture while I thawed the filling. I might have eaten it by the spoonful. I might have eaten a couple of servings of the finished product, too...

What else? Well, I gave Rascal a haircut. Then I took a nap. I did some online shopping. We walked Rascal a second time. We went out for Chinese food. I'm going to knit a bit and watch a movie later.

In short, it's the day I wanted to have. It was the best gift I could give to myself. Happy Birthday, Adriene. Well done on making it another year...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Thing-makers

I was over at my friend Tara's house yesterday, and as we played around with fibery things, she asked me if I knew someone she'd met at the market the other day. She told me how said person turned up numerous times at her booth and purchased some of her handpainted rovings for use in needle-felting.

"She's a thing-maker." she said.

It's not the first time I've heard her use that term, and I rather like it. It sounds almost Dr. Seuss-like in some ways, which makes me like it even more. Thing-maker. Maker of things. Creator of stuff.

And yeah, I know it's also a Marilyn Manson song, but let's just go with my thoughts first.

I like thing-makers. I'm surrounded them: my brother is a chef, my hubby writes his own software, my dad is a mechanic, my mom cooks and crochets and makes all kinds of stuff. I'm always so pleased to find out someone I know can make things: yarn, woodwork, paintings, clothes, planes (Yes, I know people who build planes. And yes, you can fly in them). It lights up a part of my brain like a Christmas tree. Oooooo, thing-maker...

What I like most about thing-makers is that they are not only clever and creative and heavily-skilled: they are also unwilling to accept the status quo. They take what is in front of them and make it better. They make it fit better/taste better/look better/sound better/feel better. They see what exists and take it up a notch. And they don't stop until their vision is realized. And they have the courage to create, even though not everyone shares their vision and the resultant thing may not turn out the way they hope.

In short, thing-makers are some of the bravest people I know.

So, a friend of mine loves all things tech: phones, computers, tablets, gadgets, gizmos, hoohahs... whatever you wanna call them. And his love for Android brought out his inner thing-maker and inspired him to write a song about it. I thought I'd share it here as an example of how thing-makers take what they have in front of them and make them shine. Here you go, Dawg. Thanks for sharing your thing with me.

That sounds so wrong...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The List Life

I'm in robot-mode these days. Before I go to bed, I make a mental list of stuff to work on the next day, including what I'll eat, when I'll exercise, what tasks I'll complete at work, what I'll work on at home, and when I'll sleep. I'm hoping that this will make the big jobs seems smaller, so I won't feel so overwhelmed by them. It's been working out pretty well so far, and is a good thing in practice.

Except, The List Life wasn't happening for me today. In fact, I wandered around in circles trying to get things done and getting not very far.

Today, I wanted to:
  • get out and walk Rascal for two 30-minute walks.
  • buy some goodies for a Christmas charity donation for disadvantaged children.
  • go to the second-hand shop and get a pair of jeans that fit me.
  • get a pair of sweatpants to wear over said pair of jeans to keep me warm in the frigid winter that has descended upon us.
  • exercise for an hour in the basement.
  • stretch for 30-minutes.
  • go out for dinner with the hubby.
The day started out well. The sun was shining, and I dressed myself in my warm coat and dressed Rascal in his stripey sweater and we traipsed out with the hubby for a walk in the snow. First walk, check. I knew we'd make it home, get into the car, and go do the errands in town.

Then, on the way home, one of our neighbours stuck his head out of his door and invited us in for hot chocolate. Slight setback, but a delicious one. Ok, I'm a little behind, I said. No biggie.

We got home, and then headed off to the store where I was going to buy the goodies for the donation box. We got out, walked to the door and read the sign that said, "Closed Due to Flooding." Hm. Ok, well, move along, I said to myself.

Luckily, the next one on the list worked out: I picked up jeans at the second-hand store for a song. Check.

Next: sweatpants for winter day walks. Complete.

And well, that's when productivity unraveled.

Ok, workout time, I said to myself. But first, I'll have lunch...

... and then I'll spin a few yards on the batt Tara gave me...

... and then knit a few rows on this shawl...

... and then make some linings for my Gung-Ho Mittens...

... and THEN I'll work out!

And well, I did eventually get down there, after taking Rascal for his second walk. And I had a less than stellar workout. Meh.

I'm pleased to say that I did an excellent job of eating dinner, though.

And yeah, I did stretch eventually, after I sat around on the couch and felt sorry for myself for no good reason. Maybe it's the darkness. Maybe it's the cold weather. Or maybe I need to lay off the lists for the rest of the weekend. Right now, that seems easier said than done.

Tomorrow, I'm heading over to a friend's to show her how to make pita and hummus and baked falafel. I'm bringing over some tzatziki and tomatoes and cucumbers to eat with it. I've got a roast planned for dinner. I've got exercise to do. And stretching. And dog-walking. And knitting.

Is that a list? Maybe. And maybe I'll get through it tomorrow... and maybe not. But maybe I'll be ok with the list not getting done tomorrow, because I think today was a good indication that I need a break...

... but first, I'll finish this blogpost. And maybe knit a row or two. And iron that shirt that's been hanging all wrinkled for the last two weeks.

Sigh... I'll work on it, ok?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Breaktime

I still need more healthy rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it intelligently. -- Ernest Hemingway
We turned our clocks back this weekend, and you know what that means: one more hour of sleep! The only problem is that I woke up at 5am and thought about work stuff for the next two hours. I fell asleep again at 7, but got up shortly afterward because I just wasn't resting. So much for that plan.

I'm sort of catching up today, but I know that I'll have to make a special effort not to be too busy this week and to put myself to bed early, because sleep is my number one defence against illness. I read an article recently about how people are starting to think it's normal to be exhausted all the time. It simply isn't so. If you're falling asleep in the middle of something, that's your body's way of putting you into standby mode. And if you don't listen, your body shuts you down pretty quickly. So that means putting everything away early, even the knitting, because as relaxing knitting is, it isn't resting.

And it's also dangerous to fall asleep while knitting (right, dkzack?).

So, I'm finding inspiration this week in Rascal, because he understands the value of a good nap and the importance of a good sleep routine. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, I think I'll be following his example as much as possible. After all, I've never seen him catch a cold...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Odd Day, Cool Shirt, Weird Knit

I had a weird day at work today. We had a power outage that wrecked my productivity for most of the day. It was an awkward, somewhat frenetic afternoon. While I don't mind a change once in a while, it was more of an inconvenience than anything. I hate having get-up-and-go and having no way to get up and go.

Imagine my delight when I came home and discovered that this t-shirt from Threadless had arrived.

Come on, that's a cool shirt! And it brightened the dull, dreary, grey afternoon significantly.

In the meantime, I think I did a dumb thing. I started a new project without really thinking very hard about what I was doing with it. I wound up a skein of Kauni yarn I've had for a while, and decided to knit Norah Gaughan's Rhodocrosite. Since I actually have two skeins of this yarn, I blindly cast on twice as many stitches, thinking that I'd make it wider and longer than the original. The only thing is I really didn't think it out too well, and I think it's going to end up either being an awkward square shape if I use both skeins, or a weird rectangular shape that will be too short. I really should think these things through, but maybe I'll be lucky and it'll work out somehow.

Rascal doesn't seem to be too concerned about it, anyway. I should learn to relax about stuff like him.

That was Thursday. And now for the trudge to the weekend. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Flat Tire Reminders

There's nothing quite like a puncture in your tire to remind you of a few things:
  1. Sometimes, sh*t happens. There's nothing you can do about it, except to take it and move on.
  2. Knowing how to change your tire is important.
  3. Knowing who to get to change your tire for you is also important.
  4. People are better than you think they are.
I had a puncture in my tire last Friday. I arrived at work, and someone pointed out a strange hissing noise coming from my car. I walked around to the back and found that there was a fence staple sticking out of my tire, and it was deflating at an alarming rate. Shoot.

I went straight into the building and told the fellow who works at the shipping and receiving desk, "If someone tells you that I have a leak in my tire, tell them that I already know and that I'm working on it."

Off I went to my desk, where I promptly wolfed down some food (I hadn't had breakfast yet, and I knew I'd be even more grumpy with a flat tire and an empty stomach), then I called the hubby to tell him what had happened. I went back out to see if I could inflate the tire to get it to the tire repair shop, but it was no good: the more air I put in, the louder the hissing noise was, and the grumpier I got.

I went in and our shipping guy said, "I've had five people tell me you had a leak." I grunted, slightly annoyed. Yeah, I know! I thought to myself.

I got back to my desk and my office mate informed me that someone had called from the shop in the building to tell me I had a flat, and to offer compressed air for it. I grunted again, annoyed at the reminder of my stupid tire. Eventually, I got some friends to come and help me change it at lunch time (which means, they changed it while I watched), and by the afternoon, the tire was repaired and back on the car.

And then, as I recounted the event later on, my hubby said, "It was nice that people were so concerned about you to tell you about the tire."

Heh, actually yeah, it was nice of them. And if I hadn't been to fricking grumpy, I would have thanked them properly.

Sometimes, I forget to recognize the kindness that people are sending my way. I get so stuck in suspicion and cynicism that I completely miss the genuine concern that people have about my situations. And that's not fair. To live a life of gratitude is a far better way to live.

I have people in my life who constantly refuse help, and who have a hard time believing the good motives in the people who are trying to help them. To them I say:

People are getting involved in your situation because YOU ARE WORTH IT. You have shown kindness and compassion, and you deserve kindness and compassion in return. Do not give in to the suspicion that the world pushes onto us. You are not weak for accepting help. It requires far more strength to put aside cynicism and to accept that you are worth the effort. You are worth the work.

So, while it irritated the heck out of me to have a flat tire just before the weekend began, it was a good reminder that I am surrounded by good people who think I'm worth looking after. Thanks, y'all. I promise I'll pay it forward.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gung-Ho, Yo

There are few things I fling myself into with a gung-ho attitude. It's not because I don't enjoy adventure... it's just that I hate having to clean up messes. This cautious-gung-ho-ness has made me really good at the following:
  • last-minute saves
  • adapting on the fly
  • appreciating whatever result I get (some call this "settling for less" but those people usually don't know how to make anything by hand)
I've been in dire need of mittens for a while, and after a snowy start to the week, I decided I should not delay any longer. I jumped up last week and went over to my yarn shelf and pulled out some worsted weight yarn and thought: Ok, Adriene. Make some mittens!

The thing is, I really didn't know what kind of mittens I wanted. I just knew I wanted them to be interesting. That usually means I'm in for a little bit of brain-wrestling while I figure out what to do with my sticks and strings.

I decided I wanted to use two colours in my mittens, but I really didn't want to do any crazy fair isle knitting just then, so I logged onto Ravelry and typed "mittens" and "two color" into the search. It was there that I found some examples of some neat two-colour cabled mittens. I couldn't find a pattern I liked, so then I typed "two color cables" into the search, and found Jennifer Fleury's Kriya Yoga Mat Bag pattern, which is covered in these types of cables. A few clicks and a few calculations later, I cast on for some mittens.

And while that sounds an awful lot like I knew what I was doing, but the truth is, I really didn't. I figured I'd make it up as I went along. As I went along, though, I started to get a bit nervous.

Firstly, the stranding inside the mitten was making it a bit small, so I threw in some extra increases to make room for my palm, which looked ok... sorta...

Then, I wasn't sure I could remember how to make an afterthought thumb properly, but I muddled my way through marking it with some yarn from memory, then knitted it from memory as well. It looked pretty good... mostly...

Then, when I went to decrease for the tips, I realized that my extra increases for the palm meant that the number of stitches for the palm and the back of the hand uneven. That meant I had to fudge my way into making them even again... somehow...

And THEN, because I had knit them one at a time, I had to muddle my way through making the same mitten whilst trying to remember all the fudging I did, because I had very cleverly forgotten to write it all down. And well, I wasn't sure I was liking the result. It was all a little... meh.

Luckily, there are miracles in knitting. And the best miracle is blocking. I used this vintage shoe tree to block it...

... which worked well, but looked a little creepy when I hung it from my yarn shelf. I ran into this disembodied hand more than once this week...

But the result was great.

Gung-ho paid off, at least this time. Adventure-knitter, that's me...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Change of Heart

You are always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past. -- Richard Bach
A few years ago, I don't remember exactly when, and I don't remember exactly where, I saw a picture of a scarf. It was knit with beige yarn, almost the colour of oatmeal, and had pretty little shell-coloured round sequins or buttons sewn to it. I remember seeing it and thinking, "Oh, that's a pretty thing. I bet I could make that." And the thought intrigued me enough to start searching for some shell buttons or beads that I could sew onto a scarf. I found them online, and they were perfect: little beads in hearts and flower shapes.

And then I put them away and promptly forgot them.

A couple of weeks ago, I dug them out and thought: It's about time I made that thing.

The thing is, I couldn't really remember what it looked like, apart from the colour of the yarn and the beads, so I spent the next few days daydreaming about how I would knit it. I decided I would combine some plaited basketweave stitches with some simple cables and see what I ended up with. And I didn't really even know if it was going to be a scarf or a cowl or a... well, I wasn't sure what it was going to be.

So, I cast on with some Cascade 220 Heathers in a colour called Riverrock that I picked up from Knit and Caboodle when I was in Canmore a few weeks ago. I used a provisional cast on that would allow me to go back and knit a border at the beginning, if I decided that was what I wanted, or to graft the ends together if I decided I wanted a circular cowl. All the while, I was feeling pretty good about finally using those beads...

Except, when it came time to start thinking about exactly how I was going to use them, well... they really didn't work, no matter what I tried.

I fiddled with them for about half an hour. I moved them all around the piece, trying to convince myself that it was fine, that it would work somehow. Deep down, though, I knew that, like it or not, it was not meant to be. I'd have to change my plans. And my heart broke a little...

But then, I pulled out these little plastic jars that I keep my buttons in (I got the jars at a garage sale and knew they'd be perfect for my buttons). And once I found the right jar, everything fell into place.

I bound off with i-cords on both ends, blocked the finished piece, and sewed on some buttons...

Then I made little button loops using crochet chains...

Then, I put it on and smiled...

I smiled a lot.

It's too bad that my original little dream didn't turn out, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be. The beads are back in my stash, sitting there, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. And really, I'm kind of glad, because I'd hate to have to force myself to like them in a project that wasn't in the stars to begin with. Far better to give them the project they deserve.

Back to the drawing board, I guess!