Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vacation Knitting

What's the best part of vacation?
A) Knitting
B) Reading
C) Adult beverages
D) All of the above.

The answer is obviously D.  Bonus points will be issued if I can knit & read at the same time, which I've been doing in small bouts lately.  I'll share my reading plans in a later post.  Now, the knitting!!

While I know I won't get all this finished, a girl can dream.  Here is my vacation queue:

1) Hitchhiker by Martina Behm

I love my first hitchhiker and I knew when I finished it that I would knit another!  When I saw this adorable rainbow set from Fibernymph Dye Works, I knew 2 things: 1) I had to buy it; and 2) I had to make another hitchhiker using this yarn!  I'll be adding small clear beads to the point of each 'tooth' as well.

2) Lintilla by Martina Behm

When I bought this little skein, I decided it needed to grow up into something whimsical.  I remembered Lintilla.  Perfect!!  This skein is from Twisted Stitches in Michigan.  Also, this new colorway includes the Pantone color for fall: Radiant Orchid.

3) Brickless by Martina Behm

My Brickless is back in the queue again... Only with larger needles. I washed the yarn and re-wound the ball & I think we are good to go!

4) Nuvem by Martina Behm

This warm, flirty, ruffly wrap caught my eye as the perfect accessory to keep in my highly air conditioned office and won its place in my vacation knitting queue when I realized I had this great gradient in my stash in the right quantity already!  I also picked up 2 pairs of Addi Rockets to knit it on, so there is a lot of potential in this project bag as we speak!

The color changes in these skeins do lend themselves to quite a few ends to weave in, so I am brushing up on my magic knot technique.  Hopefully, I can avoid weaving in those cotton ends that always seem to squirm back out!

Update:  I did eventually let my Taygete out of time out & block it properly.  See?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Oy... the Ennui or Block your lace, people!

Life has been a challenge these last few months.  The biggest thing looming over us right now is that we have decided to move out of our leased townhouse and look elsewhere for a residence.  The management company here just isn't holding up their end of the deal.  And despite diligently looking for a suitable place to live since April, we still don't know what our address will be come July 1.  That is a month away.  29 days, actually.  Oh, and we're going on a vacation with my husband's family for 8-9 days in there.  Oh, and we have to find time to get LaFonda the Honda tuned up to be ready to drive 11 hours each way in the next 3 weeks.  Did I mention that the dogs are coming to the beach with us? Stressed doesn't cover it.

And in the midst of all that, none of my knitting is making me as happy as I wish it were.  I realize that I'm putting an awfully high expectation on my knitting, and it's just knitting after all.  Le sigh.  I have been knitting any way, embracing an 'If you build it, they will come' mentality.  It's only kind of working, but I do have some FOs to show for it!!

Annis by Susanna IC

I loved this shawl - it was quick & the short row finishing made the stockinette body of the shawl whoosh! right off of the needles!

Blocking matters...

It really matters.
Estuary by Tin Can Knits

This was a delightful little knit.  I loved the yarn & this pattern were made for each other!  The yarn actually called out my name from the display table and said, "I want to be an Estuary!"
Oh, and check out Fibernymph Dye Works.  Her colors are amazing and her yarns always turn out well!

Even gentle blocking is still blocking.  And it still matters!
Fibernymph Dye Works Mercy base in the Northern Lights color way
Celaeno by Romi Hill

Seriously.  Block your lace.
This is a good representation of the color!
Malabrigo Sock in Azules
I bought this yarn & beads to match nearly a year ago.  Finally, I made it happen.  There was a small tragedy on this knit, however; I swatched with two needle sizes, decided on the smaller size based on the blocked fabric, and then somehow managed to cast on with the larger needle!  This used more yardage and I ran out of yarn 2 rows before the end of the chart.  I was nearly finished with the shawl when I discovered my needle size error and wasn't willing to rip out all that knitting... or all those beads (almost 1000)!  I am happy with the colors & the pattern and I don't think anyone (except Romi, of course) would know the difference.
The motive in this shawl was so fun to knit - it flowed nicely off the needles.

Tan House Brook Shawl by Boston Jen

Quaere Fiber Super Sock in Chutney
This delightful pattern is by Boston Jen of the Down Cellar Studio podcast (which you should check out, if you're into podcasts - Jen is a great host!).  This is her first published pattern & it was a great little knit!  It was worked with one skein of sock yarn & FLEW off the needles & made me SO happy!

The yarn is by Quaere Fibre on Etsy.  Her stuff is delicious.  Her bases are great & her colors are, well... look at that!  Gorgeous!

 This pattern was SO clearly written and SO cleanly laid out.  Jen shared on her podcast that her intention was to leave white space in the pattern for notes, etc. and it was so helpful!

In retrospect, I should have named this post, "Block your shawls, people. "
Taygete by Romi Hill

Oh Taygete... you're the second Romi Hill shawl that I had to short rows on because of something completely random.  Sigh... but it's done.  Almost.  It has been blocked, but the ends are still hanging out for the world to see.

I loved the garter stitch of this knit - garter stitch soothes the soul - but I didn't like that this yarn dyed my hands and my needles.  The natural birch needles that /were/ nice and blonde, just like me. I did a two color swatch, which looked great - no dye transfer, no ruining the lighter color, no dye on my hands.  But my swatches always lie.
After casting on, I spent two weeks washing my hands after every time I touched my knitting and had to scrub my needles with dishsoap after I cast off for fear the dye would rub onto my next project with those tips.

I also had to soak the FO in a white vinegar/water solution (1:3, changing the water every few hours) for over 24 hours in order to get the dye to set completely and the fresh water to run clear.  Good thing my husband is understanding and didn't mind giving up the half-bath's sink for a day.

One day, I'll actually have to weave in those ends and see how she wears, but for now, Taygete is in time out.

Finished on Faith Baby Blanket

I finished a new design, a baby blanket for a friend, using stash yarn.  Responsible, right?  Yeah, until you want to type up the pattern & share it on your blog and you realize the yarn you used is discontinued.  Sigh.

When I find another suitable yarn, and knit up another sample (SIL is expecting in October - 3 guesses what she's getting! ;) ),  I'll share the pattern here.

Brickless by Martina Behm

I was cruising along on Brickless with this delicious yarn I reclaimed from a crochet project.  I couldn't remember if I had washed this yarn after I frogged it or not.  It didn't look too kinky, so I went for it.  After several pattern repeats, it just wasn't working.  The yarn was crunchy in places, it was lifeless and I decided that I needed a larger needle size.  So, I did what any fearless knitter would do:  I pulled it all the way back, wound the entire 700 yards back onto my swift, soaked the entire hank in Eucelan and cool water for about 10 hours and set it on my laundry rack to dry, right in front of the dehumidifier.  The hank is happy again, and soon, I'll cast on for attempt #2.

I am still knitting away on Bonny, after a failed swatch and a mission to find the appropriate needles. Also, I love Addi Rockets.  I want to buy them all.  And if they make those into interchangeables, I AM SO THERE.  Just putting that out to the universe.

Working on a swatch for the Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig and gathering my supplies for vacation knitting.  I don't know how much to take, but I can guarantee that it will need its own bag!  I feel like it may be a very Behm knitting vacation.  Her patterns are just so awesome & brilliant & simple all at once!

Oh, and there are socks on the needles for #operationsockdrawer.  And I found the perfect skein of Malabrigo Archangel for a hat.  Which also means that I fell down on my no buying in the first half goal.  Which I did.  That's happened a few times... But who's counting?!

I may need this yarn to keep me warm at night if we end up living in a van down by the river in a few weeks...

~ d

Friday, April 11, 2014

FO Friday - Mixed Bag of Delicious

After what seems like forever, I have some FOs to share!

First up, I knit a wee Flax sweater from Tin Can Knits' The Simple Collection.  This is made from Malabrigo Rios in the Azules colorway.  I loved the knit, loved the yarn & loved the result - a happy baby in a hand-knit sweater!  The lighting in this photo makes the green seem a bit more obvious on the sleeves, but in real light, they are matched very well to the body of the sweater.  Best part ever?  I got a picture of the recipient wearing her sweater just a few days later, happily riding her rocking horse.  Sweater looks great, and even has some room for her to grow!

Here is my FO, pins still in, on my blocking squares. 

Next, I finished Ysolda Teague's Follow Your Arrow KAL.  I started the KAL with everyone else, but finished a bit later.  I have posted my combination of clues on my Ravelry project page. I loved working with this yarn and will definitely make more shawls in the future with this beautiful Briar Rose Fibers merino/tencel blend.  It feels great around my neck!

After a loosing a bit of steam on this little knit when I thought my needle was coming loose from the cable, I was able to finish my Gather, also by Tin Can Knits.  This yarn came from a new shop near me & features mostly local yarns.  This yarn is a blend of llama & silk, and while it shed quite a lot during knitting, it is soft & warm as an FO & offers much better stitch definition than my picture represents!

My last FO is a pair of vanilla socks from The Knitmore Girls Vanilla Sock Pattern for #operationsockdrawer . I had a bit of ennui in March, after the challenges with my Follow Your Arrow & my stalled progress due to equipment failure on my Gather.  I decided that I needed a sock to cure my ills, and while I didn't get them done in time to wear them on St. Patrick's Day, they are still done in time for spring!  Yay!  Here is my half-way-there shot, which is still my favorite shot of these socks.  It's all artsy, with the handmade bag from Miss Fiber Fox on Etsy in the background. (P.S. - I love these bags!  I've been using them since Christmas & they are great!  Check them out - she has a sale going on right now!!)

Whew!  Having an FO or two around really helped my knitting mojo return - and the warmer, breezy spring weather has me craving shawls, scarves and lacy things!  So, I indulged in a bout of startitis and cast on/swatched for a few things.

I'm nearly through the increases on my Estuary shawl, by Tin Can Knits.  I'm knitting it out of Fibernymph Dye Works' Mercy base (50% Merino/50% Silk) in the colorway Northern Lights.  It's delicious & beautiful & a joy to work with. LOVE!

I have two full skeins & want to use as much as possible, so I took advantage of the pattern note about a swatch not being necessary, since 'correct gauge is not essential for this project, but may affect yardage').  While the pattern only calls for 600 yards, I have over 850 yards of this deliciousness and I want to use as much as possible!  I bought this yarn with this scarf in mind & I'm so happy with the result thus far.

I cast on with the recommended needle size.  I have taken the option to widen the shawl by doing two additional increase charts & will determine my halfway point based on my yarn usage & my whim at the moment when I finish the first ball.

I have swatched for the Bonny tank, again by Tin Can Knits [are you seeing a pattern here? I should start referring to 2014 as "The year I knit ALL the Tin Can Knits things".].  I have 3 skeins of Malabrigo Silkpaca lace weight & I think they would make a beautiful top that could be worn for casual or business equally well.  Now I just need to decide if I want to use a different needle size than called for.  My swatch is a little hole-y.  I have plenty of yardage, so now I'm on a mission for size 3 32" needles.

Next thing to be swatched for is the Celaeno Shawl by Romi Hill.  I've had a skein of Malabrigo Sock in Azules and matching beads in my stash for nearly 8 months.  It's time.

And I want an Annis shawl, and a Thistle wrap, and a Clapotis...  I'll start knitting sweaters again when we get closer to September.

Happy Friday!

Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 Goals - Spring Update!

Here we are - one quarter of the way through 2014.  Spring has sprung (we had snow on the ground yesterday, but who's keeping track of that?!).  March Madness is in full effect and my brackets are TOAST, so it's just fun to see the upsets now.

It's also time to check in on my crafty goals!

Here are the goals I set for myself in January:
Yarn Diet Goals & Boundaries:

  1. Knit only from stash for the first half of 2014.
  2. During the first half of 2014, move $40 into savings every time I'm tempted to go to my LYS or Etsy to buy yarn.
  3. After the first half of 2014, new yarn can be purchased, but only in yardage amounts equaling what I've already knit in 2014.
  4. Work projects that have been marinating in my queue before casting on ALL THE THINGS from a newly purchased/released book/pattern collection.
  5. Enjoy the process & the product!!
Because I'm an over-achiever, I have other goals, too!!

2014 Crafty Goals:
  1. 20,000 yards of yarn worked this year.
    I worked 19,000 in 2013 or just over 10 miles... I think this is doable!
  2. Learn two-at-a-time sock technique.
  3. Learn toe-up two-at-a-time sock technique.
Yarn Diet Progress:

Other than the baby gifts that have popped up here & there, I have been successful in my attempt to only knit from stash so far this year.  I don't keep a lot of superwash on hand, and I never know what I'll feel like knitting for any particular child, so keeping a stash of it doesn't make sense right now.
I've been pretty good.  I have only been seriously tempted to buy yarn a few times (and those temptation fees went to Halos of Hope, so that's still a win in my book!).  I did fall down twice.  The first was on a colorway that was being discontinued (that I didn't know existed) from KnitPicks & I bought the whole bag of lace weight.  I'll figure something out for that. The second was an enabled order when my friend Amy said, "I'm thinking of a custom order from Fab Funky Fibres - ya want anything?" which was too much to bear.  I'm expecting a skein of self-striping in the Rainy Day Rainbow colorway any time now.  Eeeeeee!!

I'm still going to my stash first, I'm working a lot of things out of that stash & I'm planning to cast on a few more things from my queue/stash during this first week of April.  That mystery shawl has taken a lot longer to finish than anticipated & has sucked up a lot of my knitting mojo with it!  But I'm still making progress.

My last yarn diet goal was to enjoy the process, which I think I am.  I'm not focusing on finishing things, but knitting things that make me happy.  When they stop making me happy, I'll put them down for a while & when I'm ready to pick them back up, I do.

Overall, I give myself a B+ on my yarn diet.

Crafty Goals Progress:

If my goal of 20,000 yards will be achievable, 5,000 yards a quarter is a nice way to pace things.  I really like using KnitMeter to track my progress - it's a great tool!  As of today, I've finished 4,465 yards of knitting.  This isn't including the first sock of my Blarney socks or the knitting in progress on my Follow Your Arrow Shawl & Antler Cardigan.  With those things included, I'm confident I'm past the 5k mark & closer to the 6k point.  I'm good with that!

I have knit a few pairs of socks two-at-a-time, so that goal has been accomplished!  I like the technique because I know they are the same length & size in every aspect, which is great for the vanilla socks I so love.  However, the super long circ & the two balls of yarn are somewhat fiddly, so this method isn't as portable as I would like my socks to be.  Maybe I can work to make it more manageable.

Overall, I give myself an A on my crafty goals. Woohoo!

Bonus Points:  I published my first pattern on Ravelry!  My Chevron Baby Sleep Sack has 70 favorites on Ravelry and almost 700 views on my blog.  I'm amazed!  I hope to see some project pictures from others using this pattern soon!
Side note: I also have a hat pattern that I am working on & hope to share in April as well.

2014 continues our love of making smoothies & starting the day with fruits, veggies & lean protein makes us keep doing it!  It really does make me feel better than a lot of other breakfast options.  We recently have upped the ante on our smoothie making & started using milk kefir instead of milk & yogurt.  We make our own, right on the kitchen counter & I'm happy that I've finally learned to grow something on the kitchen counter that I can't kill!

2014 has been a productive one so far (crafting-wise anyway)!  This coming quarter will be a challenge as we are planning a local move & hoping to find a more calm place to live with a better commute for both of us.  There will also be a family vacation in there as well - I have to plan my vacation knitting soon!  If we have a veranda, there will be veranda knitting.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Have you watched your wedding video lately?

Sorry single friends, this post isn't really for you.  Not right now anyway.  Someday it may apply & if you choose to read on, I hope that when you need it, this moment of shared life experience will come back to you & bless you.

Married friends - how long as it been since you watched your wedding video?  Not looked at pictures.    Actually watched the video of your wedding ceremony?  (Reception videos are fun, for sure, but that's not what I'm going after with this post, either.)

Do you remember the last time you watched your wedding video?

If the answer is 'no', or 'never', or you can't remember, you need to plan a movie date soon.

When days are hard, when you go through valleys are deeper than you knew they could be, or when you're just having an extraordinarily draining week, watch your wedding video.  Together.  Take the 20 minutes, sit down with your spouse, turn your phones off and watch it.

This moment is a pure reminder of what you felt for each other - the most overwhelmingly and authentically outward sign of love you may have with one another (in front of an audience, anyway). Hold hands.  Hug on each other.  Remember the words you said, the vows you took and the way you felt about your partner that day.

I dare you not to squeeze each other tighter when you hear words from your ceremony that talk about good times and bad times, about growing together, about shared joys and sorrows.

If you are reading this & you are secure in your marriage, watch this video & tell your spouse how much you appreciate their selflessness and effort in helping to build a happy, healthy marriage.

If you are reading this & are going through a difficult situation external to your marriage, watch this video & remember that you aren't going through anything alone.  God gave us family to cling to during times of distress.  If you don't cling to each other - who will you cling to?  Experience this difficulty together and allow God to grow you closer as you persevere.

If you are reading this & your marriage is going through a tough season, this may be a more difficult challenge.  I understand that.  Honestly, I do.  As my first marriage was disintegrating, I attended a wedding of some good friends from college and sitting through that ceremony was HARD.  It was painful.  I heard each word, each vow, each promise as a fraud.  As a joke.  As a mockery.  I didn't believe that two people could ever really promise those things to each other.  No one can promise things they don't understand.  What my life had become was so far from what I would have chosen for myself, even though I had chosen to marry and I had been betrayed.

Here's the thing:  all of those feelings were true.  Those promises had been made a mockery.  But what it took me longer to realize was that the vows hadn't done that - my spouse's choices had.

If you are struggling in your marriage, I urge you to discuss with your spouse watching your wedding video and honestly talk about any feelings you have while doing so - positive and negative.  Use 'I' statements and be sensitive to each other's feelings.  Instead of saying, "you don't ever support me when I'm going through something", say, "I remember how supportive of me you were while we were dating and that really helped me.  I hope you felt the same.  I miss that about our relationship" or "I miss the way we used to look at each other" in lieu of saying "You never look at me like that anymore."  A little communication will go a long way and may help you to refocus on why you ended up married in the first place before you are so immersed in negative feelings and experiences that you can't remember the positive ones.

So, pop some popcorn, grab some Twizzlers & Kleenex, and watch your wedding video as often as you want to feel schmoopy or earnestly need to reconnect to this day.  It's so worth it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WIP Wednesday - Blarney Socks

Ahhh, socks.  I love handknit socks.  I resisted knitting socks for so long.  I think it was the statistic about a pair of socks taking nearly as many stitches as a sweater combined with the teeny-tiny needles and skinny yarn that turned me off to them.  I resisted sock knitting, even after hearing dozens of podcasters rave about knitting socks and wearing hand-knit socks and seeing hundreds of unique sock patterns on Ravelry.

And then there's the horror stories and pictures of ill-fated attempts at sock knitting.  Half of sock knitting is just a tube and tubes aren't interesting.  That's why I don't knit sleeves.  And there's the fear that they will end up different lengths, sizes, etc...

You know what turned the corner for me?  Store-bought socks and the way they never fit my toes right.  I hate when socks bunch up around/under my toes, and I couldn't find socks (that weren't meant to go in tennis shoes) that fit right.  And yet again, I heard someone (or several someones) talking about the joy of handknit socks and being able to make them anyway you choose.

The first time I slid a handknit sock onto my foot, it was love.  I was lucky - my first handknit sock fit perfectly and I couldn't have been more happy about it.  My first pair of socks were knit last fall (including knitting on my first sock at my college homecoming - at the bar while we waited out the rainstorm that made the football unbearable) and I've finished 5 additional pairs since then. You can check them out here.

I had a bit of knitting ennui near the end of February.  I had been working on a few different projects, but none of them were making me happy and one of them was in time-out until I could decide its fate.  That shawl was nearly frogged, washed & reskeined on more than one occasion.  I wanted to knit, but I didn't know what to knit to make me happy.  I needed something that would be portable enough to knit on lunch breaks, etc. but nothing in my queue was speaking to me.  I wanted to knit it all eventually, but not right now.  I was languishing in my ennui one night and whining to the hubs, when he asked the ever-important question:  "How long has it been since you had a sock on the needles?"

That was it.  I needed a sock on the needles.  Since St. Patrick's Day was coming up, I decided that green socks would fix my lack of desire to knit.  Enter Lorna's Laces fingering in 'Envy'.  I love that name & when I saw the family of greens and tans, I had to buy this yarn, even though I didn't knit socks at the time.  Out of deep stash the yarn came and onto 2 circs it went.

Fast forward to last night:

One sock done and I immediately cast the second sock on.  It had to be done.  I want to wear these in 1-2 months when Mother Nature finally gets back on her meds & lets Spring come to visit.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Buzzfeed and the Bible

Oh my, Buzzfeed.  If you are on Facebook and happen to be stuck in the midst of this winter that won't die, chances are you or someone in your News Feed have discovered Buzzfeed quizzes.  And Zimbio quizzes.  This winter, a large number of my friends have taken all of these and so have I.  We're that far into avoidance at this point (as I type, we are being blown over by Winter Storm Vulcan - enough said).

I tried to resist this.  I really did.  But then it got the better of me.  Since then, I've learned:
  • Which U.S. President I am (Reagan)
  • What I should give up for Lent (Caffeine - who leaves this up to Buzzfeed?)
  • Which Muppet I am (Kermit - the hubs got Statler & Waldorf and I’m jealous)
  • What BBC Sherlock character I am (Mrs. Hudson)
  • Which Boy Meets World character I am (Mr. Feeny)
  • Which geeky fandom do I belong in (The Joss Whedon-verse)
  • Which classic diva I am (Aretha Franklin - YES!)
  • Which Avenger I am (Thor *drool)
  • Which X-man I am (Wolverine - again *drool)
  • Which Leonardo DiCaprio character I am (Inception Leo - more *drool)
  • Which Star Trek character I am (Uhura. The hubs got Spock - the scandal!)
  • Which Saved By the Bell character I am (Jessie Spano)
  • Which Glee character I am (Santana)

And that’s just in the past month! Embarrassingly, that’s not all of them…

I also took a quiz to determine which biblical heroine I am most like.  According to Buzzfeed, I am most like Abigail.  After reading the description on the quiz, my husband agreed with the result.

I didn't know much about Abigail, so I did a little research about her.  It's very interesting; depending on the writer's perspective, Abigail is: wealthy, wise & strong-willed, or submissive & humble, wise & a model wife, or incredibly crafty & possibly a betrayer of her first husband Nabal.

Short story:
Abigail was married to Nabal; David was chosen to be the next king of Israel, but was on the run from Saul, who was not on board with this plan.  These things happen.
David requests provisions from Nabal, as a courtesy for David & his men protecting Nabal's shepherds in the fields - a simple quid pro quo.  Nabal laughs at David's men & sends them back empty handed; David & his men get ready to lay siege on Nabal & his house (and everyone in it).
Oblivious to David's plan, Nabal gets drunk & throws himself quite the feast; meanwhile, word gets back to Abigail that Nabal had shot down the wrong request & was soon getting them all killed, or maimed at best.
Abigail directs Nabal's men to gather the requested supplies and rides out to David herself to apologize, make amends & abase herself, in an effort to keep the people in her household alive.  David reconsiders, credits Abigail for her wisdom & action to save lives, thanks her, and promises to remember her wisdom & discretion.
Nabal is drunk when Abigail returns, so she waits until morning to tell him how badly he had almost messed up & how she averted the crisis.  Nabal wasn't the wisest man, but he wasn't an idiot either.  The realization of what almost happened to those under his protection got to him & 'his courage failed him' (I Samuel 25:37).  He died a little over a week later (scared to death, most likely).
When David hears that Abigail is a widow, he sends a proposal & Abigail accepts.  Proverbs 31 is said to be written about Abigail, who was regarded as David's most virtuous wife.
(Before you start thinking that David hit on every widow in town, this predates the whole Bathsheba incident.)

Whew.  That's something to live up to, right?

I had a lot of reactions to this story, which I wasn't familiar with previous to taking this perhaps-not-so-ridiculous quiz.

Abigail is a gutsy chic.  I think I would have liked her.  She wasn't afraid to take action for the greater good, even if she alone faced the consequences of those actions.  I respect that.

Abigail knew about the virtue of timing - both when she approached David & when she told Nabal what she had done.  Abigail also knew that approaching David had to be done with the right spirit & when she revealed this to Nabal, he needed to realize the situation she had averted.  Abigail knew about the when AND the how.  It makes sense that she was revered for her wisdom.

Then I came around to David, our remaining survivor in this story.  Every time I learn something new about David, I can't help but remember that David was a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 13:14).    I have always found great comfort in the fact that a man as virtuous as David could mess things up so very badly and God still saw him as a man after his own heart.  This reminds me that God knows we were bound to screw things up, make mistakes, feel things we shouldn't - in short, be human.  This passage is also a reminder that God can use anyone to accomplish great things, even if that person is flawed.  We all have heard about David's flaws.

David had passion.  It's one of the strongest personality strengths, and weaknesses, we see in him.  We wouldn't have the strengths without the weaknesses - so I should embrace the positives & work to minimize the negatives when dealing with my own passionate tendencies.

David was flexible when God gave him an alternate route.  When Abigail presented a solution to the situation that prevented deaths in Nabal's house, as well as less likelihood that his own men would be injured, David changed his mind.  We're allowed to do that.  I've come to believe some paths are meant to be followed for only a time. Just because God wanted that path for us in the past doesn't mean we are meant to stick to that same path, without variation or redirection, for the rest of time.  When we feel God is nudging, pushing or pulling us (kicking & screaming) in another direction, we should change our course.

David was doing what God wanted him to do - but it still didn't keep him from being exiled.  Sometimes the path God has for us isn't easy.  I don't believe that God wants us to go through hardship, but sometimes human free will (ours' & others') interferes with God's plan.  That's when the going gets tough. When a path gets difficult, pray & seek guidance, but don't doubt that God never wanted you on that path.  Pray that He will remove obstacles, turn others' hearts, or forge a new path for you, according to His will.

David saw a blessing & accepted it when he proposed to Abigail.  We need to learn to cling to the blessings we have, be open to new ones, and also continue to be mindful of the way God has blessed us in the past.  If we seize a blessing on Thursday, we shouldn't be forgetful of that in a week or two. David certainly didn't value Abigail's counsel once or twice - the Bible tells us that she was the wisest of all his wives, which to me says that he sought her counsel frequently.  David didn't forget what God had already given him when new situations or new gifts came to light.

I'll close with the proverb about Abigail - I'm sure it's not new to most of us, but it's a good one none the less (from Bible Gateway - NIV).  Abigail must have been a spinner as well - there are numerous references to spinning wool & fibers, as well as spinning tools. And there is a vineyard reference in there, too, which mean she probably enjoyed a fine wine.  I think Buzzfeed got this one right on the money...

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Authenticity and Intimidation

Since I was a teenager, I've been told that I was intimidating (by some; the others, due to lack of vocabulary, called me a b*tch).  The latter is something that strong women have been called for years and I take it as a compliment for being confident & straight-forward, which many people cannot handle.  While I was teaching at my first school, I got called a 'b' so frequently I stopped reacting and just reached for the referral pads. (Silly me, expecting basic respect and the minimum standard of acceptable behavior & refusing to resort to screaming & crying to motivate/scare teenagers into decent behavior like my predecessors…)  When later students freaked out about my lack of a reaction, I calmly responded that it took an insult requiring much more creativity than the 'b' word to make it worth getting worked up over.  If you're going to get written up for disrespecting a teacher, at least make it a good story later, am I right?

It's always somewhat bothered me – the intimidating part.  I view intimidation as something that the intimidator sets out to do.  Much like the legacy of The Intimidator, NASCAR #3 driver Dale Earnhardt, I see it as a choice and something you do to an end.  From personal accounts, Dale was a teddy bear of a man & a wonderful friend, but on the track, you didn't cross him.  That was a reputation Dale earned by racing hard, not backing down, and intentionally & consistently making others remove themselves from his path.  His go-all-out approach where racing was involved was a conscious choice and earned Dale a fair share of die-hard fans and haters alike.

I've never understood how I could be intimidating without intending to do so.  It used to baffle me.  After I graduated from college, one of my best friends told me he was intimidated by me when we first met (he was a few years younger than me).  When I asked him why, he said, 'Because you knew everything.  You were involved with everything & knew who to ask, where to go, everything.'  I knew I didn't know everything, but I had been around for a few years and knew where to recommend looking for answers and where would be a dead end.  I wish I had had more friends like that when I was starting out in a new place.  How was that bad? (My friend also disclosed that after a while, he realized I wasn't trying to be intimidating & soon learned that my experience was a good thing I was willing to share!) I hadn't set out to intimidate those new to our department – how does that happen without my intending to do so?

After the last few years, I've started to see how much authenticity threatens inauthentic people.  People who are playing a character, wearing a mask, putting on false pretenses to make others think they are authentic, vulnerable and real are supremely threatened by those who are genuinely so. These are the types of people who never get to know me well enough to know that I truly am this authentic - it's not an act.  I've learned that I don't know how to be anyone other than who I am.   Therefore, I'm threatening to some just by existing.

Here's the deal:
If my authenticity threatens you, that isn't my problem. 
If my confidence intimidates you, that isn't my problem.
If my intelligence isn't something you see as an asset, that isn't my problem.

I'm not choosing to intimidate or threaten you and because I'm not choosing that, I can't change it.
It's unfortunate that this is the case, but I can't fix other people's perceptions of me if those perceptions are influenced by their own insecurities.  Insecure people can accomplish a lot of destruction and I cannot continue to allow those types of people to affect my happiness.  I've tried to play the part, I've tried to fly under the radar and I've failed spectacularly.  I'm not an under-the-radar kind of girl & I need to seek out environments where that is valued, not reviled.

And if that makes me a b*tch, so be it.  I'll certainly be happier than I have been trying to be someone else.  No one likes a poser.  I'd rather be a bona fide, authentic b*tch than a fake b*tch; wouldn't you?

Friday, March 7, 2014

I’m not dead yet…

…I promise!  The last few weeks have been good, but hectic, with a side of technological difficulties.  Soon, the new laptop will be running on all cylinders and hopefully, things will get back to normal here.

When that happens, I hope to share 2 new patterns with you all, a few more FOs to share (one just needs pictures taken & posted to Ravelry), an update on my de-stashing efforts, and a few life moments to share.

Meanwhile, it’s Friday, the sun is shining, our high for the day is well above freezing and that’s enough to make me smile.

And here are some pics of recent FOs that I didn't get to post about:

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, February 7, 2014

FO Friday - A little hat

As some of you may know, I often feel compelled to knit all the things.  2014 seems to be emerging as the year of knitting all the Tin Can Knits things.  All of them. Right away.

Last year, I knit a Barley, a second, a third with matching Maize mitts and Oats cowl.  Already this year, I've knit another Barley, as a gift, and a Rosewater.  We won't go into the other 12 patterns in my Ravelry queue and the Antler Cardigan I'm waiting to cast on until Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics...

Today, I give you my newest Tin Can Knits FO: The Sitka Spruce hat.

This hat was quick.  It was interesting & it looks super cool when you're done.  I love the way the decreases are written into the pattern - it just flows so organically!  I used my well-marinated Malabrigo Rios in Glazed Carrots for this one & it's so soft!  It's practically perfect.

The only imperfection in this hat is mine.  Usually, I cannot knit things at the recommended gauge with the recommended needle size.  I always have to go down one, if not two needle sizes to get in the neighborhood of the gauge needed.  So I cast on with a 6, and worked the body of the hat with a 7 (when a 7 & an 8 were recommended).  I should mention here that, in the round, the other TCK patterns that I have worked have been /perfect/ with the recommended needle.  Why I felt I could outsmart these intelligent ladies is beyond me.  Oy.  I churned this hat out in no time & when it came time to work the decreases, I looked at the depth of the hat and thought, 'That seems a little short... and a little small... Oh, I'm sure it will be fine.' And kept knitting, of course.  I am now the proud owner of an adorable, orange, super-geometrically patterned child size hat.  Awesome, right?

Actually, it is awesome, because the Rios yarn is superwash Merino & Halos of Hope needs child sized hats, too.  This one goes in the pile to be shipped off to Purlescence for the #podcasterthrowdown.  It's a win-win.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Olympic Knitting

There's this thing we yarny folks do during the Olympics, starting several years ago, where we challenge ourselves to a fibery goal during the same time period as the Olympics.  Most people watch the Olympics while they are knitting/crocheting/spinning/weaving, but it's not required.

The event became the Ravellenic Games (first is was The Ravelympics, but the IOC got their panties in a bunch and apparently the suffix -ympics is their property.  Needless to say, they weren't very nice about it).  The whole idea was to set an ambitious, but achievable, goal, start the project during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and complete your project before/during closing ceremonies.  Somewhere along the way, lots of rules came about.  And with rules, you tend to exclude some people and confuse others.

This was the first year I was excited about being a part of the Ravellenic Games.  I had yarn and a pattern in mind, my swatch was knitted, washed & blocked, I was ready to go.  Then there was a controversy among the leaders of the Ravellenic Games group.  And then the group disbanded & reformed under new moderators.  The various podcasts I listen to were alluding to the drama going on in that group & it didn't take me long to decide that I'm not going to get wrapped up in any drama in an online forum for a made-up knitting challenge that should be JUST FOR FUN and PERSONAL FULFILLMENT.

So, I'm knitting a sweater.  The Antler Cardigan by Tin Can Knits.  I'd worked and reworked all the math to make the finished garment fit my proportions.  I cast on when I heard the Olympic theme coming from my TV - sleeves first, two-at-a-time, magic loop.  Somewhere about 8:15 pm, because that's when I finished an episode of Torchwood on Netflix and remembered there was figure skating to be seen.  After all, what would Brian Boitano do?

Obviously, he would knit a cardigan while watching figure skating. If he knitted.
When he's not renovating a villa or cooking on Food Network.

I'm not doing any special tagging.  I'm not stressing about what category my project falls into.   I'm not submitting it for a prize (or a badge to put on my profile - wooo!).  You know what my prize will be?  A sweater.  A cozy, warm, wool & alpaca sweater that will keep me warm in this winter that never ends.  And that's prize enough for me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

3 things I really like - SMOOTHIES

3 Things I really like:

  • My Kitchen-aid immersion blender
    • specifically for making smoothies
  • This OXO water-bottle washing set
    • specifically the straw brush, it gets all those pesky berry seeds out in NO time
  • My new smoothie recipe below - it was fantastic! 
I thought this up early one morning as I was ready to run out the door.  While it's not a low-calorie smoothie, it has lots of good protein, plus servings of dairy & fruit, all while it tastes like dessert.  My favorite way to start the day!

Also, I have to say that I love the doTerra Trim Shake powder.  It actually does mix into liquid.  It doesn't taste like garbage & it's designed to fight cortisol (the stress hormone can causes you to store fat).  It's a winner & we add it to almost all of our smoothies.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Smoothie

  • 1c - 1 1/4c strawberries & bananas (we use frozen, but fresh will work, too)
  • 1/4c peanut butter
  • 1/4c Nutella
  • 1 1/2c milk
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 scoop of doTerra's Chocolate Trim Shake powder 
Blend all ingredients well.  Add ice cubes & blend for a thinner smoothie.  

If you try it & like it, let me know in the comments below!

Friday, January 31, 2014

FO Friday - Sweaters & hats for good measure

Woo - it was a productive week!  I love finishing projects, because I get to wear them.  And  those projects keep me warm during the polar vortexes and freak snowstorms we've been subjected to this winter!  Thank goodness for wool!

First up - a sweater for me!

This is the Mondo Cable Pulli by Chic Knits.  I loved knitting this sweater and I don't know why it took me so long to finish it.  I was cruising along and then just lost my mojo about half of a sleeve in.  Wait.  Yes - that was it.  Sleeves kill my mojo.  But anyway, those sleeves are done now & toasty warm!

I really like the fit on this sweater (mods listed on my project page in Ravelry) and I love the stability that the crochet 'seam' reinforcements provide.  One thing I don't like - the body hem rolls when I sit in this sweater for any length of time.  The rolling makes it flare a bit.  That's not cool.  I'm contemplating ripping this back and doing a more traditional ribbing instead.

Next up - a sweater for a baby (someone else's baby, to be clear)

This is a design I improvised to use up some of the pretty washable baby yarn I'd recently used on other projects.  I made some basic notes, but I wouldn't call it a pattern just yet.  I'm planning to make another one at some point & firm things up a bit, at which point I'll share.

This sweater will be worn by the baby of a former student, who was born before Christmas.  Hopefully it will fit her this spring to keep the Ohio chill off of her little arms!

But wait - there's more!

This is the Rosewater hat, by Tin Can Knits.  This was my first lace hat, and other than the k3togs, I really enjoyed it.  (The k3togs were okay, but they took a toll on my wrists after a while.)  I knit this hat out of alpaca from an alpaca named Lizzy at Root Down Acres, an alpaca farm near my parents' house.  The alpaca is beautifully colored, creamy soft to work with and super warm to wear.  The only downside - I found 4 joins in the yarn while knitting the hat, and a 5th when I was re-winding my leftovers.  That hasn't stopped me from wearing this several times, though!

Last, but not least:

Another Barley (this is 4, for those of you keeping track).  This time, out of Crystal Palace Merino 5 yarn - my first time working with it & wow, is it nice!!  I used my first yarn diet exception and purchased yarn that would make a great hat that would be machine washable.
This hat was knit & immediately gifted to the friend of a co-worker who is currently going through chemotherapy in hopes of eradicating her breast cancer.  Her favorite color is blue, so hopefully the soft wool & the calming blues & teals in this yarn will be comforting to her.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hidden Gems from the Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast

In case you didn't know you could watch the Grammys Pre-Telecast (and who did, really?  The hubs found this accidentally while we were looking for some sort of red carpet coverage - and this was far better!), you missed out on a few good acts!! You also missed some really entertaining hosting by Cyndi Lauper.

This is a much less pop-centric version of the show - I wish just a little of this diversity could have been shared with the televised audience.

Watch the entire Pre-Telecast here (limited time only) here - there were a lot of 'accepted on behalf of' moments, but people were sincere.

Here are some of the great acts you may have missed:
  • Summer Horns (including Dave Koz) - HOT jazz on a COLD night (I couldn't resist) 
  • La Santa Cecilia
  • Roomful of Teeth - not your standard choral performance, but well-done (and they won!)
Things I learned during this pre-telecast:
  • Cee Lo Green did a Christmas album - check it out!
  • Snoop Dogg has recreated himself as Snoop Lion & has a reggae album out
  • You can win a Grammy for best album notes - I've gotta get this gig!

The Classy Acceptance Speech award goes to Jennifer Gasoi for her remarks after accepting the Grammy for Best Children's Album.

The most graceful, humble and thankful to receive their awards were hands down at the 'pre-party'.  It was a little long, but a cool thing to know about & check out next year!

The Grammys or Why Do We Watch This Trainwreck?

Do you know where the term Grammy comes from?

From Wikipedia:

Grammy Award (originally called Gramophone Award) – or Grammy – is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and some of the awards of more popular interest are presented in a widely viewed televised ceremony. It is the music equivalent to the Emmy Awards for television, the Tony Awards for stage performances, and the Academy Awards for motion pictures.

My husband and I have regularly watched the Grammys - going back to when we were dating long-distance.  We watched in real time & texted about what we saw, who we enjoyed, who gave a disappointing performances & who shouldn't have been there at all.  It became a kind of tradition.  We were newlyweds the first time we watched the Grammys in the same room, and enjoyed all the same banter in person this time.  The performances were so lacking that year, the hubs (an audio professional, who has done everything from installation & troubleshooting/repair all the way to running live musical events) started identifying the microphones the 'artists' were using as a reason to continue watching.  He posted an interesting one on Facebook & got such a reaction, he continued posting throughout the telecast.  Being a trained musician & a former choral music teacher, it should no surprise that every year, I got Facebook posts, texts or emails from friends & former students asking for my take on different Grammy performances.  Eventually, I just started posting those observations on Facebook as well.   It's become part of our tradition, and other than the hubs' SIL saying that she had to turn off our Facebook notifications so she could sleep, we haven't heard much negative backlash about it.

Until last night.

I saw a multitude of people posting things like: 'I'm getting tired of all this Grammy crap in my newsfeed.' 'This is ridiculous - I'm not watching the Grammys and I don't care' or even people posting videos of 'real music' - operatic icons like Maria Callas & Joan Sutherland - and urging us to remember where our pop music came from or to watch real news.  I don't believe that the posting we saw last night during the Grammys differed much from the sports related posts we see any given Sunday (and now, Monday & Thursday, too), or during other award shows, like Oscars or Golden Globes, especially as cameo performances & musical acts continue to permeate those events.

While you will never hear me dogging Maria Callas, the parallel surprised me a bit. Music, like culture, evolves.  And if last night's presentation was indicative of the direction of our culture, perhaps we should take a closer look at that.

One comment particularly stung.  I posted the following after Daft Punk won their 2nd (televised) Grammy & accepted the award in total silence:
I don't care for Daft Punk. I think that Get Lucky isn't a good song. The lyrics are unimaginative & the vocals aren't anything impressive. It's repetitive & tacky. 
But not nearly as tacky as Daft Punk winning 2 Grammy awards and not even so much as signing "Thank you."
Please don't think I'm morally opposed to songs about sex; I have no fundamental problem with that.  But at least do so in a way that shows artistry, musicality or even a little creativity.  Take a page from Marvin Gaye's book here - that's all I'm saying.

The comment that got me was the first:
I'm starting to notice you don't care much for any of them.

Before I responded, I thought about all the posts I had made on Facebook that night - and it's true that at least half of them were negative.  We all know that Facebook likes to display things with lots of likes & comments ad nauseam.  People love snarky criticism (or at least most of my friends do) and snark draws comments.  Honestly, it's safe to assume that of the posts this friend had seen, it may have come across that way.  I didn't take offense to it.  Instead, I explained myself a bit:
There were a lot of solid performers who were nominated who didn't get the chance to perform. 
P!nk, Taylor Swift, Sara Bareilles & Carole King, Blake Shelton & the Highwaymen, John Legend all did a good job (and I posted about most of them - they just didn't get as many comments, so Facebook's news algorithm isn't showing those...). 
Several people liked my explanation & it didn't bother me any more.

But then it did.

I'm a music lover - anyone who knows me knows this.  Did I really come off as someone who didn't like anything that was lauded as 'the best of the industry'?  Lots of my friends & former colleagues in the music profession, people whose opinions I value, were right there with me, wondering why someone was rapping about tater tots on a night that was supposed to represent the best the industry has to offer.  Then I realized something: the Grammy presentation isn't about the music industry - it's about the spectacle that will bring ratings, appeal to the masses & get people talking.  Their goal isn't purely about music.  When we award spectacle for spectacle's sake, that's when I get critical.

There has been a lot of criticism directed at the Grammys over the years - by lots of artists, including winners.  Of all the critical comments I found about the Grammys, Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, said it best in 2002:
I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don't honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It's the music business celebrating itself. That's basically what it's all about.
While not everyone would think the front man for TOOL would be an expert on artistry, he makes a bold statement.  While I never really got into their music, read a few lines of their lyrics and you'll quickly see - these guys have something to say, even if you don't like their medium for communicating it.

What we see in the telecast isn't what the Grammys should really be about.  The telecast itself has changed the direction of the entire institution.  I don't think everyone has forgotten why they are part of NARAS - the Grammy winning record is currently held by Georg Solti, an accomplished orchestral and operatic conductor and the most Grammy recognized female is Alison Krauss, who's resin dust I'm not worthy to sweep up at the end of a recording session.  But those awards aren't shown anymore.  No one sees the nominees for so many worthy categories.  Why, in a 4 hour telecast, is the only classical musician invited to perform has to do so with Metallica? Sidenote: I like Metallica (and I liked last night's performance, particularly the fist-bumping that happened on-stage afterwards).  If you don't like Metallica and prefer classical music, go to the library and rent Metallica's S&M DVD, done in collaboration with the San Fransisco Symphony Orchestra.  AMAZING.  

Why are classical musicians only recognized when they can jam it out with other types of music?

I used to enjoy the Grammys when there was a glimpse of other genres than pop, rap & country (somewhat) represented.  The Grammys used to give me new artists to learn about, new sounds to explore and sparked interest in genres I didn't previously enjoy.  Those glimpses that used to widen viewers' horizons are gone, washed away in a nearly-4-hour spectacle that I couldn't even finish in one sitting.  The Grammys, as televised, don't celebrate music anymore.  They celebrate spectacle.

If you don't believe me, guess how many of the 82 awards were presented on the live telecast.  This play-at-home scorecard only estimates 12 will be presented live -  and I believe one of those (Darius Rucker's win for "Wagon Wheel") was presented at the end of the un-televised portion, which we caught the end of via the Grammy app.

If you want to win me as an audience member, you've got to make your awards show about what the name of your organization implies - music.  Show me performances that show artistry, talent, solid song-writing.  Showcase artists who have consistently proven they can perform a song & tell a story, those artists who have something to say, something to express, not just those with the most scandalous costumes, best choreography & most-likely-to-physically-harm-someone pyrotechnics.  Stop with the lip syncing & real-time auto-tuning. (TI: you get a pass on this one - auto-tuning is your whole schtick and I won't rob you of that.) If you can't perform live at the Grammys, you shouldn't be there. 

Before you start hating on me for that - think about this: there have always been performers who do all of the above, including the dance routines & the pyro.  I give you Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lady Gaga, P!nk.  The difference between these artists and the 'artist' who was pole-dancing on a broom during an unintelligible rap interlude last night is when you peel all the costuming, set pieces, choreography & make-up away, artists like those I named are telling a story - are singing in their own voices - are playing instruments - are contributing something musical to the world.  They are using spectacle as the vehicle to get their music and message out there and noticed.

Our culture thrives on spectacle and as long as that's the case, the Grammys will continue to serve only as that.

If you don't want that to be the musical culture you live in, I have one piece of advice: vote with your credit card.  Or your iTunes account.  Or your patronage of a local music store.  Expand your horizons, find musicians who are doing the things you like & support them.  That's the best way to ensure they'll keep making music that will stand up to the test of time.

I'm pretty sure we all don't want to listen to robots forever.