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!