Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dear Mom,
If you are looking for something encouraging, inspiring and validating (who isn't?) to start the New Year, I highly recommend Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist. This is one of those books I think everyone  should read and I am trying to figure out how I can make my kids  'young adults' want to read it. It is a quick read- I zipped through this in about an hour. I will re-read it once I finish reading his follow up book, Share Your Work, which is as full of good advice as the first book.

Wishing you a year filled with Good Books, Good Health, and Creative Pursuits that fill your Soul,
with Love,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Binder

Dear Mom,

The Binder of Organization is the result of another snippet of conversation with the same friend who sparked my exercise bonfire. This time she was telling me about the little book she has in which she writes down gifts and checks off when she has written her Thank You notes, and another that she notes different housekeeping tasks. I thought these excellent ideas, but I would need all my thoughts and notes in one place or I'd skip using it rather than hunt down the right book. Hence, The Binder.

I cobbled together unused school supplies (loose leaf paper, leftover divider tabs), printed off blank calendar pages, and grabbed a binder I was not using and went to work.

This would be the place where I Keep Track of Things. Sometimes my head feels way too full of extraneous details and I hate forgetting things I think I will always remember. Some of the stuff that goes in The Binder really means nothing, but I like having those nothings where I can look at them and feel some sort of satisfaction.

I am Not the Bill Payer in this house, so I am not responsible for the Paperwork. The Binder idea may or may not work to eliminate piles of papers. I only share what is working for me should this little nugget serve to help or inspire. Obviously, The Binder is to each person what he or she wants and needs it to be.

The first section in my binder is just loose leaf paper. This is where I keep a running To Do list. It also  is a place I can quickly jot down items we need to get on our next grocery/hardware/Target runs.

I have section with notes for a future trip, an Exercise section of blank calendar pages where I can make note of that days workout and look back over the month/weeks and feel a sense of accomplishment. I also note my Target Heart Rate at the top of each page so I won't forget.
I have sections for Housekeeping, Menus, Reading Lists and Book Queues, Knitting/Spinning/Weaving projects (with start and finish dates) and a knitting project queue. I have a section with Garden notes, too. The section that has been most used and extremely helpful through the holidays is my Gift section. I've listed all the recipients and the gifts I've given them so I can remember the idea of the gift, check off when I get it and gift it, and I'll keep the list so that in 2016I can remember what I did in 2015. I've been able to keep track of what my kids are getting and I checked things off as I wrapped them so I wouldn't forget (or worry that I forgot) something. I've also a page of gifts received and note when I write the Thank You notes. No more panicking that I've forgotten to write an Thank You note! Another page in this section has Birthday gifts, and another with ideas for future gifts. For me, THINKING of the gift is the hardest part. Now when I think of something I can write it down and not worry that I am going to forget that good idea. My hope is this will also help me to stay ahead of the gift giving game. By writing it down I may be more likely to get/make the gift rather than have it swimming around in the "I'll do that someday" part of my brain. "Someday" usually ends up coming under pressure.

The Binder isn't solving any of the World's Problems, but it has helped to de-clutter my brain and give me the illusion of control and most importantly, a sense of Calm.

Monday, December 21, 2015

When Attitude is Everything

Dear Mom,

I don't know whether it was delusions of grandeur (I am the exception to the rule) or the two year old inside me (nobody is the boss of me!), but until quite recently Exercise and I have not had a good working relationship.

I had a little epiphany following a conversation with a dear friend. She said the simplest of phrases- "If I don't exercise by a certain time of day, it is not happening" - which sparked a bonfire of insight in my clogged brain. Isn't it interesting how little nuggets of conversations, a word or a phrase, can do so much to either inspire or condemn? I hope in my lifetime I've done more to inspire, but I fear, through thoughtlessness, that I have not.
Anyway.....that little phrase made me realize that one of the things stopping me from exercising is getting dressed to do it, and another is that I don't want to shower more than once a day if I can help it. 

Let me digress here to say that a few years ago we decided it was smarter to use the money we were paying for a gym membership to buy an elliptical machine. We admitted that we were not using the gym like we should because
1. we (I) did not like bundling up to go out in the cold, sweat in the gym and bundle up again to go out in the cold.
2. the drive to and from the gym added to our total workout time, and time is precious.
3. the last thing My Hero wanted to do after getting home from work was leaving again to go to the gym.
We bought the elliptical machine. 
At first, as these things do, we used it faithfully. 
Then we began using it sporadically. 
Then I pretty much stopped using it.

Until the bonfire. Once I started thinking about what was stopping me from spending time with the elliptical machine there was an avalanche of thoughts of what I can do so that I WILL spend time with the machine. The machine is in my home. In our bedroom. I can exercise in my pajamas, before my morning shower. No changing into an "outfit" to exercise. One efficient and thorough hot shower. 
Two Obstacles overcome!

My next hurdle was of attitude, mostly. Until this epiphany, I spent my time elliptical-ing trying all sorts of things to distract myself from the fact that I was exercising. I tried audio books, music, The Andy Griffith Show and Headline news. Distraction did not work. If anything it made me more focused on the clock. Here is where the attitude shift came in. I spend 30 minutes on the thing. THIRTY. I can waste thirty minutes on the internet in a hurry, so surely I can spend thirty minutes exercising. Once I decided that 30 minutes was really a little bit of time I decided that I would NOT distract myself. I would let myself be bored and daydream. Daydreaming, in fact, is healthy for the brain. A creative, subconscious reboot. Now those 30 minutes are good for me mentally and physically. Now those 30 minutes fly by. I almost (not quite, but almost) look forward to exercising.
Those 30 minutes are like my Artist's Way  morning pages. I've decided to think that my beat red face  is evidence of all that freshly circulating blood pumping creative ideas into my brain. My body is getting rid of toxins as I perspire. My joints are getting freshly lubricated. My inner 2 year old admits, reluctantly, that I feel better.

MOVE it or LOSE it.


Okay. So this has not happened. Frankly, I don't think I could handle it if it did.
 In fact the bathroom scale says that NOTHING is happening.
My Hero says he thinks I have lost inches. (This is why he is my Hero.) But I can't say that my clothes are fitting any differently. 
What I do know is that it takes a little more effort to get my heart rate into the target zone, and the cool down recovery is quicker. Evidence of improved cardiovascular health. 

I've managed this new regime since November 1st. I've exercised more days than I have not- most weeks I manage 5 of 7 days. Never less than 4 days and never more than 6. I log my workouts in my Binder of Organization- (stay tuned)- so I can look back and give myself a pat on the back for sticking with it. 

Now someone needs to say something, in a conversation, that will change my relationship with sugar.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Good Busy

Dear Mom,
Lest anyone think I never came back from that getaway in October, when Last I Posted, I think I'd better get an update here on the blog as proof of life.
The October trip was perfection. For the first time in EVER that I was reluctant to come home. For a total homebody to say such a thing is Something. Our cabin was charming, with a big fireplace and lace trim on the cabinet shelves. We dressed for comfort, took turns cooking meals, took long walks.

Since then my time has been filled with family visits, picking apples and freezing them in pie filling; I've been knitting (and un-knitting) and weaving and painting a little, too.  Sewing and littering the house with threads and fabric scraps. (Why is it that I can conceive of and knit an entire sweater out of 2 sticks and a string, but I am unable to figure out how to sew bias tape in a straight line with angled seams? I gave up and sewed the strips together with the ends smack into each other at 90 degrees.) Baking for neighbor gifts and really appreciating Amazon! Reading  Career of Evil, Fairy Tale Girl, and Banquet of Consequences and binge watching The Tudors, Land Girls, Wives and Daughters. (Wives and Daughters is very good. A+! ) Making friends with the elliptical machine (attitude is everything) and creating The Binder of Organization. More on those last 2 in another post.....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Knitting, a Teapot, and a Corkscrew

Dear Mom,

I am anticipating a weekend away with kindred spirits. The sort of weekend where packing essentials include my knitting,  a teapot and a corkscrew.

Before I leave I want to show you another small(ish) knitting project. This little shawl is Carradal, from Lucy Hague's Celtic Cable Shawls book.

This is the first shawl in the book. Every shawl in this book is intriguing and beautiful. They are arranged in the book in escalating difficulty and I hope to work my way through the book. I think this would be a worthy goal for the next year.

This was the first time I've worked closed loop cables. Lucy's instructions are very clear. I am eager to move on to the next shawl in the book.
I used Rowan's fingering weight Wool Cotton yarn. It may be my new favorite! 50% wool and 50% cotton, it is soft, soft, soft, and an ideal weight for almost-year-round sweaters and accessories. The cables blocked out nicely. I have enough of this yarn in both the blue and grey to make cardigans and have started on this one in the grey. It will be one of the projects I travel with this weekend.

I LOVE this time of year and am happily sitting here with my feet in hand knit wool socks and wrapped up in This is That Sweater. Life is Good.

We'll talk when I get back!


Monday, September 28, 2015

One Ball of Sock Yarn

Dear Mom,

I needed a gift for a baby boy and what better than Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. I love the brilliance of this pattern.  Garter stitches and strategically placed increases result in something that looks like a misshapen dish rag until you do some knitterly origami- just a simple fold, really- and TAH DAAA! A sweater. One seam across the top of each shoulder and sleeve. Self striping sock yarn (I used Berroco Sox) did all the color work and I could concentrate on knitting and counting stitches.

 The normally camera shy Olive decided to check out the area during the photo shoot this morning.
 I guess the camera is only scary when it is pointing at her face.
I found matching buttons in my button jar.
 I was happy to have plenty of yarn leftover to make this cute, cute hat. The pattern for the hat is Charlie's Sock Yarn hat. I made the newborn size. And even after making the three little pompoms, I still had yarn left over.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Dear Mom,


We moved Young Man home for two weeks.

He went to California...

...and we spent 3 lovely days in St Joseph, MI, which despite claiming to be a dog friendly city, does NOT allow dogs on the beach.

Still, we had a very nice time.
I watched this lady lose herself in building a sand castle. I could tell this was therapeutic for her. Watching her build it was therapy. She gathered rocks and sea weed and shells and incorporated them into her structure. I asked her what she did for a living, figuring it was either engineering or artsy. She is a photographer.

We had the usual round of back-to-school physicals and immunizations.
The Young Lady had her Senior pictures taken.
Yes. I said Senior.

She had her last "first day of school" photo taken. And we had our last Meet the Teacher Night. (We were not sad.)

We moved the Young Man back to school, into an apartment, for his senior year. Yes. Again. I said senior.

I predict being swamped by graduations in the spring.

I wove a scarf.
And finished a sweater. This is Rene and the yarn is Malabrigo Rios.

 Olive took a sunbath on the patio. Her elbows are completely healed and we've rejoiced in long walks together. 

There were some raucous good times on our back porch. No photos were taken (to protect the innocent and guilty). Let's just say Sangria.

While I do not like setting the alarm, I am glad to be back into a routine. I've been getting the housework back on schedule, and after taking August off, my knitting classes have resumed.

And on to Autumn- my favorite season!


Monday, July 27, 2015

We should have worn gloves

Dear Mom,
After reading about ice dyeing as an alternative to traditional tie-dyeing tee shirts, I decided it was something that needed to be experimented with, only on wool. I immediately emailed MelissaWhoSpins and we marked our calendars for July 25. Along the way I invited my friend and watercolor teacher, Cindy, to join us.

The theory behind ice dyeing is to cover the to-be-dyed item with ice, sprinkle the dye powder on top, and as the ice melts it carries the dye into the item in a random tie-dye affect. I experimented on both commercially spun yarn and roving. Melissa brought a wool blanket and scarf, too.  We used Kool-Aid and Greener Shades dye powder, and some of the Greener Shades dye stock I had already mixed up and frozen in shot-glass sized plastic cups.

As our fiber soaked in a vinegar water solution, we spread out old sheets all over the side yard. We then plopped our wet fibers into piles and covered them with ice. I think at this point I asked Melissa if she wanted gloves. I believe she said something like "gloves are over-rated" and we plunged right in.

Once the fiber was covered, we then sprinkled the kool-aid and dye powder onto the ice. I used the frozen dye cups on the commercially spun yarn.

commercially spun yarn with dye-cubes
First thing we learned: Aldi's brand of Kool-Aid does not work as well as real Kool-Aid for dyeing.

Next thing we learned, which was very surprising: 66 lbs of ice is not enough ice. We made a quick run to Target for more ice. Total ice consumption= 100+ pounds!

We took a lunch break while the ice melted. When we went to check the progress of things, we started making adjustments. I think I poured some of the vinegar water pre-soak on to the non-dissolving Aldi's drink mix. Cindy had the brilliant idea of rubbing ice cubes across some of the dyed fibers to blend the dyes. BRILLIANT! At this point our hands and nails were pretty much black and blue. Bruised looking. As I write this, my nails look like those of an auto mechanic. 

Once the ice had melted we set the dye by steaming the fiber in crock pots. I did have to do quite a bit of rinsing, too, to remove the excess dye. A quick spin in the washing machine and then out to dry. 

As you can see, the sheets are evidence of some of the wonderful tie-dye results we would have had if we were dyeing shirts. And if you look closely at Cindy's hands, you can see how black her fingers are!

Here are the results of the day:

This is a 70% merino 30% mohair blend. I used Greener Shades powder on ice.  

100% alpaca with combination drink mix and dye cubes, I think.

Merino/mohair blend with dye powder on ice

Commercially spun yarn dyed and "painted" with frozen dye cubes.

Close up of the dye-cubed yarn

These next two photos are of the dyed roving and then after it was spun and ply-ed with some of the same, but un-dyed.
merino/mohair blend, dyed with drink mix

We had fun. And mixed results. I don't know that I will do this again- if I do, it will be with yarn, not roving. Through this process, the roving had to be handled a little more than I would have liked. I am very happy with the results of the frozen dye cube dyed yarn, but I think similar results could be achieved by painting the yarn with dye stock and skipping the melting ice part. Still, it was an adventure and worth trying. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Dear Mom,

As you know, I have the pleasure of teaching a knitting class on Friday mornings at the Village Yarn Shop in Zionsville. The classes have evolved from specific project classes to a general knitting workshop. I am blessed to have a group of "regulars" who I suspect take the class more for the camaraderie than for any knitting instruction I can give them. And with everyone at different levels of expertise, with different style tastes and body shapes, it just made more sense to let everyone pick the project of their choice, work at their own pace and get help as they needed it.  I do still choose a sweater project for the class as an option.

I've been blessed to watch new friendships blossom in class, to see confidence gained, knitting challenges accepted and conquered. We laugh with and support each other. I love the generosity of knitters!

Just recently I've been honored to witness the creation of an heirloom.

Over the last few months, Jody has been creating a wedding shawl for her daughter. The wedding is in August and Jody graciously brought the finished and blocked shawl in last week so we could admire it before she gave it to her daughter. Needless to say, I took pictures.

Even an experienced lace knitter would find this to be a challenging knitting project. Jody methodically set daily and weekly goals for herself and amazed me at how quickly she was able to knit this shawl. I am fairly certain that THIS book is the source for the pattern, and that this is the specific pattern.

Jody chose not to use the lace border as written. (And I don't blame her one bit! The pattern asks that you knit the border separately and sew it on!) She chose instead to pick up the entire border and work to the outer edge. I hate to think how many stitches she had on her needles on that last round! We agreed that this was the right thing to do. The shawl is perfect.
Jody used 2 balls of Juniper Moon's Findlay, in the color Fresco.  

I neglected to ask her what the finished measurements are. My photos do not begin to do justice to the shawl. And I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of Jody with the shawl.
This heirloom is, without doubt, one of the most unforgettable, beautiful hand knits I have ever seen. As I said, I am honored to have witnessed its creation!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Some people use chalk paint

Dear Mom,

I've tried, but I just don't get good results with Chalk Paint. I say this to explain/defend my latest Adventure in Decoupage.

When My Hero and I got married we inherited a lonely, rather ugly, brown wood end table from his parents. I am sure they were very happy to Hand It Down, and, it being the only end table we had, we were very grateful to receive it. It was put to good use for many years and before it's retirement to the attic, it had been painted with exterior paint decorated with flowers and put to use on the screened porch.
I hadn't realized until now, that furniture is a part of the Circle of Life. Our Young Man is moving into and apartment for his Senior yes. I said Senior. Year Sunrise, Sunset. Swiftly fly the years.  and we've excavated old lamps and That Table from the attic. And like his dad and I, he is happy to have any old end table.
The years in the attic were not kind to the unfortunate end table.
It came out with the veneer peeling off in some spots and one whole side needed to be reinforced with some extra strength wood glue.

We peeled off the loose veneer and sanded the exposed wood.

Since the Young Man is following in his dad's footsteps, majoring in Accounting and Finance, I thought it would be fun to decoupage the table with pages from accounting text books. When I suggested we go to Half Price Books to look, My Hero offered up some of his old college textbooks.  As we looked through his books we found some pages of notes he had taken and even some Mimeograph pages! What memories those mimeographed sheets brought back. I had to include those in the table.

Everything was sealed onto the table (providing additional structural support!) with several coats of Furniture Mod Podge. I used black chalkboard paint on the legs.

So, the odd little table has a new incarnation as a funky bedside table.

We'll get him moved in to the new digs in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see what other treasures his room mates will contribute to the decor!