Monday, January 30, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: People First

When I first clicked on this video, I was really not expecting to be inspired by it. It's about how things are packaged in some warehouses across America. I know, not that exciting for a title, really.

When I heard him say that this had to do with thousands of mobile robots, the first thing I thought was, "Oh great. Here's another story where people lost their jobs to robots."

But it wasn't.

It was about how someone thought of making their business work better, AND make working conditions better for his employees. And not only that: it improved their employees' quality of life.

He made the employee the centre of the solution, and everybody won. To quote something he says in the video:
We catch [them] on testimonial videos saying: "It's so stress-free that I've actually stopped taking my blood pressure medication."
I'm so glad that someone thought of a way to make money, but without, for want of a better term, screwing their employees out of a decent livelihood.

And not only that, I liked when he said this:
When you let things start to think and walk and talk on their own, interesting processes and productivities can emerge.
He was talking about giving this ability to the inanimate products themselves, but I think it also applies to the employees themselves. What I mean is: if your boss allows his or her employees to think and walk and talk on their own, the problems that need fixing tend to get fixed. However, if you put people into offices and command them to solve a problem and shut the door behind you, well, you're not really going to get the result you want.

Something to ponder, yes?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not Just For Egg Salad

There are four things that you need to make an excellent egg salad sandwich:
  1. Nice, fresh bread
  2. Miracle Whip (or other mayonnaise with a pinch of sugar)
  3. Farm fresh eggs
  4. A good sprinkle of paprika on top
The paprika really makes it for me. No paprika, and it's just not the same.

I'm knitting my first sweater of 2012, Andiomena's Moody which is the adult version of her child's sweater, Cinnamon. I first saw it on G+ on someone's "must knit" list, and I liked it a lot as soon as I saw it.

I've had a ton (well, maybe about a pound or two) of yarn I had ordered last year from that was still waiting for me to use. It's Patons Classic Wool in Paprika.

It even looks good with eggs!

I had originally ordered it to make CanarySanctuary's Corona, but I slowly fell out of love with it the pattern. Then, I thought I'd make indigirl's Slow Curve with it, until my friend, dkzack, pointed out that it was very like another sweater I'd made almost a year and a half ago. I might still make it, but maybe with a yarn with more depth and more shades of colour.

So, I've been working away on Moody, and really haven't made it that far. I've been having a discussion with the pattern designer about some of the instructions, and we've both agreed that there are a couple that need tweaking. Luckily, she was glad of the feedback, but this discussion has held me back a bit in terms of progress.

The longer I work with this yarn, however, the more I am enjoying the colour. It has a richness in it that I really didn't expect to find. I had a hard time capturing the colour in the photo, but when I get the sweater done, I'll be sure to photograph it in natural light. I feel sure that the Paprika is really going to make this sweater pop.

Meanwhile, in other news, I have been breaking my yarn diet with great fervor. I've been watching skein after skein of beautiful yarn appear at At Knits End on Etsy. Below are two of my most recent acquisitions: Oompa L-ewe-mpa (in orange) and Sparkle y-ewe-r ass off, a beautiful blend of greys and the palest greens with a touch of real glitter.

It's only after I took these photos this evening that I realized that I seem to have an orange-red theme running through my veins at the moment. I'm not sure why. Maybe my mind is slowly working through the colourwheel (I recall writing posts about blues and greens not long ago). Maybe I'm longing for yet another vacation to sunny climes.

Or, maybe I just need a little spice. Some paprika, perhaps...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: My Favourite Phrase

A pleasant-looking door in Long Beach, California
Be pleasant until ten o'clock in the morning and the rest of the day will take care of herself.    -- Elbert Hubbard
We just got back from our yearly vacation to California. It was a glorious few days, full of sun and interesting sites, fabulous food, great shopping, and best of all, no arguments.

Ok, maybe one little spat, but that was just a minor tantrum from me.

I wasn't sure if I was going to have a good time this time. When we picked up our rental car, the girl who took my details before we drove away barely looked at me. I wasn't sure if we were allowed to leave, so I said, "Do we get to have our rental agreement back?"

She turned and said brusquely, "You're not done. I'll give you a copy if you just give me a minute, ok?" Then, she turned back and kept chatting with the other girl in the booth until she handed me our copies. I drove away, irritated. And it stayed with me the whole trip.

I decided then and there that I would remember my own manners for the rest of the trip, not just with shopkeepers or the hotel staff, but with my husband especially. My favourite phrase: "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Can you say that again?" The perfect defuser for my hot temper.

I think back to past vacations and how many times I would get so frustrated and so tired that I would resort to my weapon of choice: a blast of temper, then the silent treatment, all based on misunderstanding and rushing through the day. It's not a very pleasant way to spend your time away from home, and it was really wrecking my relationship with my husband.

I've been inspired by my friend, Sarah, and the relationship she has with her husband. When I went to visit her a few years ago, she uttered some words that have sat with me since then: "We try to treat each other nicely. We talk to each other politely, the same way as you would to someone you met on the street."

Why don't we do this with the people we are most comfortable? Why is it that, the longer you know someone, the less likely you are to remember your manners?

Maybe it's because poor manners are cool. We see it every day on tv and in the movies, and it's funny. I'm not a prude. I like watching the Simpsons now and then. I love witty (and sometimes rude) ranting. I love a good rant myself.

But then, it makes for a pretty noisy, extremely haggard world. A generation of cynics. And the laughter is only laughter, not really happiness.

I think it's a good challenge to think about how you talk to your loved ones, and to keep track of how many times you forget to say "please" and "thank you." It would be interesting to see if my favourite phrase changes things for you. Maybe if we could say it more often, the world would be different.

Are you listening, politicians? World leaders? Teachers? Co-workers? Employers and employees? You can use my phrase for free, and maybe we can figure out how to get along together a bit better. I'd really like that.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happily Befuddled

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. -- Robert McCloskey
I'm happy. I'm confused. I'm happy, but confused.

I finished knitting a shawl over the weekend. I used a pattern by Kitman Figueroa called Damask, which I have admired for a quite a while now. It was a fantastic pattern, beautifully executed, and with amazing texture. I used a yarn from indie dyer, Yummy Yarns in a colourway called Green Beans.

I originally planned to use this yarn for Narciso, a scarf I have been loving for a while. I started knitting it when I was home for Christmas in December, but when I got back to my own house, I realized that this yarn deserved a better pattern that would show off its delicate tones.

I took my Damask pattern and looked at the required yardage, and determined that I had enough to make the small size: 400 yards of yarn. Check.

I cast on the required stitches and worked away, delighting in the fact that, since I was starting from the top of one side of the "v" to the other, the stitch count was going to decrease as I neared the end. That part was wonderful, because it just seemed to go faster and faster, something I am not accustomed to experiencing when knitting such a complicated-looking project.

Here's where the confusion comes in.

As I neared the end, I kept glancing over to my ball of yarn, and noticed that I wasn't using as much yarn as I thought I would be using. The ball was not getting that much smaller. That concerned me a bit, but I figured that, since I'd never knit this pattern before, I should keep an open mind. Maybe it would get used up all of a sudden, who knows?

And then, suddenly, it was finished.

I blinked a few times after I cast off. I picked up the remainder of the ball and turned it over in my hands. I got out my scale and weight it. 43 grams left. Hmmm.

I picked up the finished shawl and the ball and weighed them together. 100 grams. Interesting.

I didn't have the label anymore, so I emailed Yummy Yarns and asked them, "How many yards should I have had in this skein?"

Their reply was what I thought: between 360 and 400 yards. Curious.

I was initially annoyed. If I'd known I would have so much yarn leftover, I would have made a larger size. After a while, though, I realized that I just have another opportunity to play with this lovely yarn.

Tonight, I decided to check the size of the needles I used. Maybe I used the wrong size... I did have two sets that were the same colour.

Ahem. Well.... it turns out I used a smaller size needle than required. Size 5 when I should have used size 6.


Oh well. At least I have a sweet little shawlette that is small enough for me to wear around my neck and pack into a purse and wear around my head on a cool day.

So, the moral of the story is:  Check your needle size. Put them back in the right containers so that you know what size they are.

Or, maybe the moral of the story is:  When the ball is not getting smaller as you knit, that might just be a little miracle in disguise.

Or, maybe the moral is:  When the going gets easy, just take it. You might be going downhill, but meh, so what?

Aesop would never have written a fable like this... unless he was a knitter, too!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: How to Live Like a Shih Tzu

People love my dog. My hubby spent one day walking around Stanley Park with him, and almost every other person stopped to pet him (the dog, not my husband). Someday, I hope to have as much charisma as my Rascal. I know, I idolize this little furry thing, but if you really think about it, he does a lot of stuff that I think I should try doing as well.
  1. Greet people with joy. - Rascal always meets me at the back door with a toy and a dance. Even my hubby doesn't do that. It really makes me feel loved.
  2. Sniff food before you eat it. - Think of all the instances of food poisoning that would have been prevented with this technique.
  3. If you hear a weird noise, check it out. - Rascal once helped me realize I'd left a tap running in the bathroom. Flood averted.
  4. If you smell a strange smell, check it out. - This is how the hubby figured out the main breaker in the electrical panel was melting.
  5. If you're not sure about someone, hang back for a bit and watch first. - Sometimes, you just need to slow down and be sure.
  6. Ignore anyone who is too much work for you to be around. - Rascal is really good at this. I tried it once with someone who was really high-strung, and it seemed to help calm them down.
  7. If you found a cookie there once, there might be one there again, so you better just go check. - This is a lesson in persistence.
  8. If your bed is uncomfortable, get up and fix it. - You won't get a good night's sleep if you have smelly sheets or your pillows are lumpy. Spend the time to make your bed comfy and you'll sleep much better.
  9. If your tummy is upset, eat a little grass. - If I've eaten too much junk food, I need a good salad to fix me.
  10. Sleep as much as possible and pee whenever you get the chance. - Think what the world would be if we all did this.
I'm so grateful that I've got this little guy in my life. Maybe the next time you feel a little overwhelmed by life, stop and ask yourself, "What would my dog do?" I bet that the answer is just the thing you need to do!

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Like Big Buttons and I Cannot Lie...

If there's one thing that causes me to become undone, it's buttons.

Ha, get it? Undone? Buttons? You do them up? Yuk, yuk, yuk... It's a gooder.

I have a weakness for things from a haberdashery. One of my favourite things to do as a child was to visit a fabric store and run my hands along the sides of the bolts of fabrics, like a giant xylophone. I liked to push my fingers into the velvet and rub my face into the satin (which was probably a horrible thing for a store owner to watch). And I loved the buttons... still do. When I was a kindergarten teacher, I would often let the children string the buttons from a jarful I found at a charity shop. They usually made beautiful things from them!

When I found out about Anadiomena's Moody Sweater Pattern, I knew I had to make it. I never expected to want to make something with such a high neck, but the first words in my brain were, "Check out those buttons..."

When you spend a bunch of time knitting a garment, the last thing you want is details like buttons or zippers to ruin the whole lot. I have a weakness for ornate buttons, but I knew that I wanted to find something that wouldn't overwhelm the garment. I needed to find a way to satisfy the tacky, doodly side of my personality, without compromising the wearability of this sweater.

So, off to the internet I went (which is the only place I buy buttons from nowadays, having only a Walmart as my other option, and who wants to have the same thing as everyone else?). I went to Etsy and typed into the search, "big buttons wooden."

And voilĂ :  These appeared on the screen. They are nearly two inches in diameter, wooden and beautiful. I got them from a shop called Lyanwood.

And, of course, the inevitable happened: I ordered a few more, just to make the shipping worthwhile. I decided to make this a wooden button order, because I found out that wooden buttons work really well on handknits because they are lighter. I also prefer the wood over the plastic options. These purple ones make me think of grape Kool Aid:

And I loved the spice orange of these buttons. They'd be beautiful on a grey sweater, don't you think?

I also got these as a freebie from the shop owner. I think they must be coconut buttons, but I really don't know. I think I prefer the lighter side to the darker side, but we'll see what they end up on.

Hey, when you say button, do you say, "buh-en" or "but-ten" or "budden?" My friend, dkzack, usually says, "but-ten!!" like they're the happiest thing in the world.

And you know what? Maybe the are!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Doing What You Love

I choose to be happy because it is good for my health. - Voltaire

Perhaps it's because we're all still reeling with New Year's Resolutions, but I keep coming across a lot of "this time I'm gonna do it!" messages here and there. And yes, I hope that if you're working on something new, this time you WILL do it, whatever it is. Challenging yourself is a good thing, but you know what else?

The biggest challenge we face seems to do things that make us happy.

Today, I came across an article online that was going to tell me The Fat-Burning Exercise that Doesn't Involve Working Out. Naturally, I clicked on the link, because I'm all for any chance to be lazy (Megan, you killed me with those isolated squats!).

So, the gist of it was: If you write about things you care about, you lose weight.

Well, if that were the case, I'd be a size 2.

Of course, they go on to say that, because you are writing about things you care about, you feel good, and are therefore unlikely to go and chomp down on a bunch of chocolates to make you feel better about something. Endorphins and all that.

Yeah, I guess I can agree with that. Since I started this blog, I've learned to slow down and review my thoughts, and have spent a lot of time thinking about the things I like to make and thinking about how I want to write about it. And I spend time reading other blogs and thinking about other people's musings... and maybe I spend less time dwelling on depressing things because of it... and maybe I haven't eaten more chips and chocolate because of it...

I learned a long time ago that you may as well do what makes you happy, because if you don't, you'll make yourself ill. I know this because I left a job where I worked from 6am to 8pm every day, lost a bunch of weight in the process, and a lot of hair, too. And when I felt brave enough to leave it, the world changed for me... I was able to look around and get to know people, enjoy the scenery, breathe deeply, and love people properly, without the exhaustion that hovered over me constantly before.

I still have a lot of things I need to do to find the courage to do in order to make myself happy, but it is encouraging to know that there is some proof out there that doing the things that make you happy really is good for your health...

... although I don't think I'll ever be a size 2!

Friday, January 6, 2012

This is Why I Don't Do Diets

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
-- Robert Burns
Well, that went well.

I recall saying a little while ago that I was on a yarn diet. Does this look like someone on a yarn diet?

I think not.

So, here's what happened:

One Saturday morning, I woke up, I logged into Google+ (where I'm spending more and more of my social networking-time" and saw a post from +At Knits End that said,
ONE DAY ONLY, 25% OFF SHOPWIDE!!! I am shutting down for a week starting Monday and would love to have tons of dyeing to do over my break. I am offering this one day only, 25% off shopwide sale on google+ only. 
What happened next, I am not sure. I either:
  • was abducted by aliens.
  • had my brain taken over by pixies.
  • had a "yarnout" (which is the yarnie's version of a blackout).
When I came to, it was ten minutes later, and I was logging out of PayPal after paying for three skeins of yarn. Whoa. Freaky.

I vowed I was finished. I knew roughly that what I'd purchased was of excellent value and quality, and I also knew roughly which of my many saved patterns I would use them for. Well, not so bad. A slight bump on the yarn diet wagon.

Ahem. So, yeah.

I mentioned in one of my recent posts about my visit with a yarn friend in Winnipeg that the yarn store we planned of visiting was closed. I was secretly relieved. I did not need any more. Nope. Not me. I can stop any time.

Except... later on in the week, after meeting with another friend for lunch, we were driving back to my parents' house, and I knew that this same yarn store was on the way home.

Nope, don't need to go, I said to myself. I'm good. I'm just going to drive on by.

We got closer... about ten minutes away. The weather is nice, I said. I could just stop in, and hubby and Rascal could go for a little walk while I just have a peek.

Five minutes closer. "How would you feel about me taking a quick stop in the yarn shop on the way home?" I said to hubby.

Then, he said the trigger words.

"I don't mind," he said.

And that's how I ended up with twelve skeins of Cascade Sport and two skeins of Briggs & Little Durasport.

Addicted. That's me.

The upside is that I know EXACTLY what I'm doing with this yarn.

The downside is I'm as weak as wet tissue on a bull's horn.

Yeah, I don't know where that saying came from, either.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: What Eleven Saw

Have you made any New Year's resolutions? I haven't made any this year, not because I don't believe in them, but more because the new year arrived so quickly that I didn't have time to think of any. That and I don't really feel like thinking of all the ways I'm going to change all in one go. I'm kind of glad with the way things are going right now, and I just don't want to mess with it.

Instead, I've been reflecting on what good ol' Eleven (as in twenty-eleven) brought me. Here's what I learned in the past year:

  • Nobody likes a sleepy grump.
  • We all react to situations in a similar way, but the intensity of how we react is influenced by our experiences as children.
  • I prefer kind and generous people over witty people. Finding someone who is both is a bonus.
  • I actually don't mind typing on a touch screen.
  • When you think you don't have anything to share, it is more likely that you don't think anyone will want to hear what you have to say. This is usually untrue.
  • People are more like to engage in a difficult discussion if they are approached with understanding rather than guilted into seeing your point of view.
  • Dogs don't care if you bought them a new bed if it doesn't have padded sides to flop their ears over (this might just apply to my dog, though).
  • Adventurous eating is fun, but not when you combine fudge and garlic.
  • It is possible to be overwhelmed by your hobbies.
  • It is possible to change your mind about someone who gave you a really bad first impression.
  • Sometimes, people do things that really hurt you, but they usually don't mean it. If they knew how much it hurt you, they would be mortified of the hurt they caused.
  • Acid dyeing yarn is magical.
  • Forgiveness is hardest when you have to forgive yourself.
  • Patience is hardest when you have to be patient with yourself.
  • When you think someone doesn't deserve your patience, it is usually because they actually need more.
  • Pita is very, very easy to make.
  • Pumice is like "lava foam."
  • Granite can metamorphose into gneiss.
  • Yoga is wonderful.
  • Being in good health is precious... and priceless.
  • Camel down makes a super soft cowl.
  • When the going gets easy, you might actually be going downhill.
  • The best yarn is the yarn coveted by others.
  • When in doubt, smile and nod. You look friendly and understanding, which aren't bad things to be.

That's a pretty good year's learning, of you ask me. Here's hoping that Twelve will see even better things!