Saturday, September 27, 2014

After the Rain

What is it about a week of rain that makes a person so weary? After a summer of nearly zero days of rain, we got a proper soaking this week. It was a good thing, welcomed by the trees, the rivers, the animals, and by people like me, who worry when the land gets so parched... but cool, rainy days are better for napping on the couch than for busy work days. I reached Friday night fumbling for my pillow and eagerly welcoming sleep.

It's not all the rain's fault, really. We've had a few nights of poor sleep since Rascal started a new round of meds for his tumour. The treatment is working. The last ultrasound showed that the tumour has shrunk from 9cm to 6cm. We're hoping this round will shrink it enough to make his bowel movements even more comfortable, if not normal. It's just that the medication meant to kill the tumour also kills other cells, and even though we give it to him in five-day blasts, after five days he is uncomfortable, and by the sixth day, he can't sleep... he is restless and doesn't know what to do with himself. And when he can't sleep, we can't sleep either.

So, this weekend is welcomed by us all. And this weekend, I was glad to have a nice day out to enjoy the first day of the return of sunshine with a friend. We went out to visit a local attraction, the Teafarm, where we enjoyed a lovely pot of tea along with delicious lavender shortbread. And I brought home a few treats and trinkets, including a jar of elderberry jelly made from their own elderberries on the farm.

After that, we went over to The Loom at Whippletree Junction, where we wandered around the wonders within the shop. I'd promised her a knitting lesson, and I just HAPPENED to not bring any yarn or needles with me, so I HAD to buy a couple of balls of alpaca yarn and another set of size 6 bamboo needles. We sat out in the sunshine and basked in its warmth while I showed her how to cast on and knit a few rows.

After that, we realized we hungry, but before we wandered off for food, I popped into the vintage shop next door where I found this lovely little ceramic pot. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to use it for, but it's a nice size for pens... or maybe for my crochet hooks.

And there happened to be a set of handmade ceramic tile coasters to replace the cracked, stained ones that were falling apart at home. I've been wanting ceramic ones with cork on the back, and these are also just the right shades of green and grey that I've been looking for. I was happy to find them, because there's something so nice about buying something that is not cranked out of a factory once in a while. The lady in the shop smiled at me when I brought them to her till. "I can tell what your house must be like," she said. "You like the little details, and the little stories that come with them."

Oddly, the woman who owns the yarn shop said something very similar today when we visited her in her studio behind the shop. "There is the 'text' in textile," she said, as she told us about some of the skeins she has recently spun and dyed... ones she had donated to an art show, ones with which she had been experimenting. "I like them all to be different," she said. "Each one has a story."

So, as I sit here with this shawl in my lap, I suddenly don't feel so bad about how long my projects have been taking as of late. I forget so often that the purpose of this blog isn't just to show off my finished objects, but to share the stories behind them... how each time I turn to start a new row, I feel that tinge of worry that I'll run out before each long, tedious row is complete... how I flashback to moments in my childhood when I watched my mother crochet clothes for me... how irked I am that I didn't think to figure out how making extra repeats in the pattern would affect the arc of this crescent-shaped shawl... how I wonder if I should change from double crochet stitches to trebles, just so I can get through the yarn faster, and how I rebuke myself each time for rushing something that should be savoured... and of the times I've looked over from my shawl to find Rascal sitting at my feet, his head on my knee, needing a cuddle...

When it's done, I'll look back on it and love it regardless, because, like the rain, it makes me tired, but I welcome it, and it nourishes me in just the same way. And just like the sunshine after the rain, when it's finished, I'll enjoy its warmth, and remember the moments I had during its creation.

And now, for a quiet Saturday night.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: A Bit of Cake

“If you wait for a cake to be given to you so you will be happy- then you will be happy when someone gives you a cake. But if you buy a cake (or bake one) for yourself so you will be happy, you have found the way of happiness.”
― C. JoyBell C.
I've worked in unhappy places. It is a sad fact that sometimes, whether you realize it at the time or not, unhappiness begets happiness. It made me sad. I would much prefer that the people around me were happy.

So one day, I went home and made a bunch of cake. Brownies, I think. A couple of pans, with thick, chocolatey icing, all made from scratch. And I put them in the sign-in room with a sign that said, "from Adriene."

And then people were in a good mood, even if it was just for a little while. And for a little while, it felt nice. And I felt nice, because it was nice to see people with smiles on their faces for a change.

A good piece of cake reminds me of my dear friend, Sarah, who used to wiggle in her seat when she was eating something good. And I remember her sitting one day, wiggling in her seat and smiling, and I said, "You seem happy."

And she said, "I was just thinking about some cake I had at break time today."

I smile at that memory, every time.

Today, quite simply, I am inspired by cake. I make it occasionally, never just for myself, but to share. And, corny as it is, cake tastes way better when it's shared...

... as are many things, like:

  • talent
  • kindness
  • knowledge
  • beauty
  • etc.
So, I made some lavender and nectarine tea cakes this evening, and I'll be sharing them. I had two tonight, and man, are they good. And I can't wait to share them.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Racing the Dark

For the first time in a while, my eyes are set on a knitting goal. I want to knit this: Mehndi, by Susan Pandorf. I've wanted to make it for a long time now.

And I want to knit it with this:

And the problem is: winter is coming. And that means it's going to get dark soon.

Black yarn + lack of light = what the heck am I thinking?

My monogamous knitting habits are holding me back here. I am determined to finish my current project before I move on. I was hoping it would be finished by now, but let's face it: 900ish yards of laceweight yarn is no quick project, even if I am using a crochet pattern. I'm now at the point that I dread whenever I make a crescent-shaped shawl: the omg-this-row-is-taking-forever point. It is as geometry dictates: the longer the radius, the longer the circumference. Circumference = pi times diameter.

Funny how math class comes back to you sometimes.

I feel kinda bad rushing to the end of my current project, but I am looking forward to seeing it finished. I keep getting glimpses of what it will look like when it is blocked when I hold it up and let the weight of the bamboo yarn pull it down. It's pretty handy to be able to get a blocking preview.

And Cuddle McCuddleson ain't helping the cause here. He's insisting I sit here instead of getting up to find my project:

Anyway, my sudden desire to make this was brought about by the purchase of a dress a couple of weeks ago. It's red, and it's lovely and I want to wear it for Christmas, but it has cap sleeves and I know that I will feel both exposed and cold without some kind of cover. It's September now. I figure that, given my current project-finishing rate, it is probable that I will have it ready by then.

If I don't go blind knitting it, that is.

Right, better shut up and get working. As soon as I can get up here...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: From Sarah

You don't believe that you will learn from losing someone. It turns out that, with time, you do.

My friend, Sarah, is gone. I'm remembering her today. And I'm thinking about what I've learned since she's been gone.
  • Facing the darkness is the hardest thing anyone can do, ever. 
  • Being alive means that you have to face this darkness daily, even if it feels like it's going to overwhelm you.
  • No matter how alone you feel, you must remember you are not.
  • Being kind to yourself is important - more important than being kind to others. You can't truly be kind to others unless you are kind - and compassionate - to yourself.
  • You should believe it when people say they love you. People don't lie about stuff like that - you are worthy of it, whether or not you believe it at the time.
I miss you, Sarah. I'm glad I was lucky enough to share time with you.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Coverage Knitting

This blogpost is half about my own body hangups and half about knitting. Fair warning.

I have this thing about my arms. I hate them. Even after weight loss and lots of training, having bare arms makes me very uncomfortable.

Last year, I bought this dress. I wore it out for dinner, and I like it... except I also kind of hate it. I look pretty happy here, but I in reality, I am really self-conscious about my arms. In fact, I had three other photos of me in this dress that I took especially for this post that I rejected because they make me cringe. I know: I should get over it. I'm working on it - lots of self-help books and stuff. Really.

In the meantime, it's a good thing I knit, because it gives me extra opportunities to find ways to hide them. And this brings us to my latest finished project:

I knit this shawl from Wisp, a free pattern from Knitty. It's knit out of some fingering weight yarn, which makes it less-than-wispy, but I've been quite pleased with the result. It's done wonders with this handpainted yarn, which was so striking in the skein, but as is the case with all striking yarns, super difficult to find a pattern it would work with.

I love how the colours are zig-zagging their way through the shawl without detracting from the mesh of the pattern. Every time I look at it, I have to look twice at it, which is not a bad thing in this case. If anything, it's one of the more interesting things I've ever knit.

And frankly, it makes me feel like wearing this dress just a little more often, because not only am I self-conscious about my arms, but I am also one of these people who is always cold. I need coverage, even in the summer. I whine about air conditioning. Yeah, I'm one of those people.

You should hear me in the supermarket. I can't even stay long enough in the freezer section to choose a decent roast. The order by which we tackle the weekly shop is a long-standing argument in our house, because I think we spend far too long in the cold areas. But I digress...

I'm a lot happier with the result of this project than I imagined I would be. What I thought would be a mindless, keep-my-hands-busy knitting projects turned into a wow-am-I-happy-I-made-that project. Blocking was kind of a pain, and the bind off doesn't quite match the cast on, but whatever. It's cute, it's long enough to wear as a stole, and I like it.

And really, isn't that what knitting is supposed to be about? Coverage and warmth and happiness. I'll take it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Being a Strand of Yarn

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I find being human a struggle. On the one hand, we are born, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to survive. We look out for our best interests, strive to find the best value for money, make sure we stay away from people and things that might drag us down.

And on the other hand, we have feelings. We feel guilt, happiness, fear, anger, and one that is surprisingly hard to cultivate: compassion.

It's hard to cultivate compassion because it requires looking past the things that make us uncomfortable as humans. I means we have to face things that are scarred, broken, and frightening, and to try to see the human on the inside. And it's not just for strangers. It's for our enemies, the people who we want to be around the very least. It's hard for me. I struggle with it daily, not just because I believe it will make me a better person, but because I would want someone to do the same for me.

I really can't remember how I stumbled on it, but I came across this article about a man who gives free haircuts to the homeless on his days off. His name is Mark Bustos, and he runs a hair salon in New York City. He started giving free haircuts in his home country of the Philippines while visiting his family, and decided to carry on doing it back in NYC. So, every Sunday, he goes out looking for people who might appreciate a haircut.

He makes sure he does it out in the open, where people can see what he is doing, not so that they can see him, so that others can find inspiration in the good deed, and be kind to those less unfortunate as well. And when he is finished, he shows them how they look and offers to pay for a meal. One man looked at himself, then looked at Mark and asked, "Do you know anyone that's hiring?"

He posts photos of these haircuts on his Instagram account. Looking through each photo reminded me that every one of those people were just... people. Not numbers, not bums. And that means that they are the same as me.

"Every human life is worth the same," he says.

Mark Bustos on Instatram
From Markbustos on Instagram

Today, I am inspired by people like Mark who remind me that it costs nothing to be kind. Putting away my arrogance and frustration is freeing. Being compassionate with an extra dollar or two for the food bank is little effort for so much gain. I refuse to become hardened in a world that requires me to be tough.

Maybe that's why I love my yarn so much: a strand soft and flexible, strong when pulled, even stronger when developed into fabric, but pleasant all the same. I could be that, too. So there, hard world. So there.