Very Vanilla Nemo

IMG_3678Nope!  Not a new ice cream flavor…a pair of socks.  I knit these for my son’s girlfriend.  The fact that I knit her socks should be a good indicator of how I feel about this girl.  Shes fun, loves Disney movies, and is a pre-med biology major.  The colorway called Clownfish just seemed to call her name.  This was a new yarn for me.  I ordered it directly from Biscotte Yarns in Canada, but you can order some of their yarns from The Loopy Ewe here in the U.S. as well – but I don’t think the Bis-Sock yarn is available there.

The yarn stripes beautifully.  And this pair turned out to be the most perfectly matched pair I think I’ve ever done – in spite of the fact that the Doxie from yesterday’s post chewed off the yarn and then swallowed about a yard of it. (Don’t worry, all the yarn was extracted and the dog is fine!).  It’s got a nice soft silky feel to it.   I did find that it split just a bit, but the yarn is so soft and beautiful that I wouldn’t let that deter me from using it again.  I knit these on a size 1 but think next time I might go down a needle size.  She loved the finished socks!  (Pattern is Very Vanilla Socks)

I’ve got my eye on the Queen of Spades colorway – or what I prefer to call the Chicago Blackhawks color!  That will be after I finish the scarf for hubby and a camouflage-colored bottle coozy for my son.  So much to knit.  So little time.

Resolutions v.2016

 

Resolutions

 

I don’t always make formal resolutions.  But I do reflect.  This year, I chose some things to focus on.

I started taking a yoga class in November.  I love it.  My only regret is that I haven’t been doing it for years.  It’s been a huge help for my back pain.  And I’m getting stronger.  I also find that I’m practicing the breath and and awareness even when I’m not in class.  It’s quite a drive and time commitment to get to the class, so I’m supplementing with at home practice.  I have before, but I’m making it more of a  focus for the coming year.  I started today.

I have a huge attic that’s stuffed with the detritus of children and life.  I’ve made this a focus in years past with some success.  It’s time to work on it again.  It’s hard to let go of old toys that my son loved so much.  Most of what needs gotten rid of is toys and baby stuff.  Some I will keep.  Most will go.  And what’s left needs some organization.  This won’t happen over night, but will be an ongoing project.  It’s cold up there now but I plan to spend at least 30 minutes up there every week.  This will be the hardest goal to keep I think.

Travel more.  Last year didn’t see much travel for the simple reason that I wasn’t physically able to do it.  We took a road trip to the east coast in April that was a little much for me at the time.  A long weekend in Chicago recently.  And a weekend on the motorcycle this past summer.  But I’m healing and am ready to take on more.  Dallas, here we come!

Run again.  This is a biggie for me.  Since breaking my back in October of 2014, I haven’t run.  I wasn’t cleared to run until the summer and  I did give it a rather unsuccessful try in September this fall.  I called my doctor here only to be told by his nurse that I should expect my back to hurt forever.  Those were tough words to hear.  She was cruel and blunt about it.  After drying my tears, I reached out to Germany for help.  My (truly wonderful) physical therapist and surgeon in Heidelberg gave me some suggestions to try and I’ve taken them to heart.  (Yoga was one.)  I have friends who are constantly telling me that I “don’t need to run”.  That’s true.  I don’t.  But I want to run.  For me, I think it’s the thing that will finally mean that my post-accident life is back to normal.  I guess time will tell.

So there you have it.  Resolutions in black and white out there for the world to see.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings

Hello, peeps!  I’m having sort of a lazy Monday morning to finish off a pretty lazy weekend.  I had an acquaintance (notice how I didn’t say friend?)  ask me what I’d “been up to” lately.  I don’t cross paths with this person often so that’s probably a fair question.  A few answers came to mind.

  1.  Well, I’ve spent the last year recovering from a traumatic accident and surgery.
  2. I’ve been solving all the world’s problems like famine, disease, and terrorism.
  3. Spiritually? Physically? Socioeconomically?
  4. I’m alright, slight bruises here and there, nothing i can’t handle (this is probably close to the truth).
  5. Today I’m a rutabaga, but tomorrow I’m thinking I’ll be a coconut.

But what I actually said was, “Nothing much.  Same old stuff.”  This must not have been the answer she was looking for because after few more minutes she repeated the question.  And then followed up with the zinger:

Haven’t you gotten bored yet since you aren’t working?

WHAT?  Bored?  Me?  She must not know me well at all.  Now, you must keep in mind that I have never in 22 years known this woman to “work”.  She stayed home with her children (which is ALL KINDS OF WORK) but did not have a job outside the home.  Then after the divorce, she lived off support from her ex-husband and talked about trying to decide what to do with herself. She did that for years.  And all of that is fine. Fine for her, but apparently not for me because she was all sorts of judgmental about me not working  for the last 6 years.  Never mind that I put in 25 years teaching science to high school students!  In the end, I just shrugged her off and said, “I knit.  I read. I have hobbies. I keep busy.”

But last night at meditation class, a retired friend said, “We are’human beings’ not ‘human doings’.  The meaning of life is to live it fully in each moment.  Our worth doesn’t come from a job.” She makes an excellent point!!  And she also pointed out that they aren’t hobbies at all; they are passions.  And she’s right again!

So here’s what I’ve “been up to” in the last few weeks.

  1.  Hubby and I put in a no-dig fence for  the dogs.  It’s not a tall fence, but it looks nice and works for our two dogs.  The golden is too old and not a jumper or otherwise we would have needed a taller option.
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Shawzy looking out.  She’s adorable, is she not?

2.  I finished up a few knitting projects.  One,  a pair of socks for the hubby (to be discussed at another time) . The other is a baby sweater for a friend.  I think the sweater turned out quite cute.  Entirely made from leftover sock yarn.  One solid gray and the other a self-striping.  Thrifty and cute both.

3.  Exploring local coffee shops.  I take my dog to Pittsfield, IL to be groomed.  While I wait, I support the local economy.  There’s a gift shop, a diner, and a coffee shop that I love there.  Not to mention a few antique shops.   Free Press Coffee and Tea is a favorite.  Great atmosphere (and it’s attached to a historic hotel), good coffee, and even some gluten-free choices (with more to come).  It was pouring down rain last week when I was there so it was a cozy place to kill some time reading and enjoying a breve.  (We did have snow on Saturday though!)

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Free Press Coffee last winter.

While I was there I bought a cup to add to my hand-thrown coffee cup collection.  I love it.  It makes me happy having my tea in it.  Small pleasures.  Isn’t it a beauty?

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Cup by local artists at Crooked Clay Creations.  

4.  Yoga.  I’ve started a gentle yoga class to help improve my core strength in the hope it will alleviate some back pain.  It saddened me a little to feel like the youngest member in the class, but it’s okay.  I like it.  I love the instructor who’s very helpful at guiding me away from moves that might cause me trouble.  She’s one of the those people that you meet and know instantly that you could be great friends. AND, I’ve flexed my stiff spine in ways that it hasn’t been in over a year.  That’s a good thing.  I pay for it a bit afterwards, but that’s getting better too!   I’m only going once a week since it’s a 40 minute drive, but I bought a DVD to try to add a couple of days on my own at home. I’ve committed to 10 weeks and from there we shall see.  Maybe I’ll switch classes or add another class to the schedule.

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A class at my yoga studio.  Not MY class (notice the “youngsters”).  My class would look much more “mature”.

5.  Reading.  Always a given.  But this time I am reading a book that I have looked at many times but always put it back.  I don’t care for the circus.  Never have.  I’m not sure why either.  I just don’t like them. I’m not sure what kept drawing me to this book but I can’t tell you how many times I read the blurb on the back.   We have a locally owned bookstore that I try to support,  so last week I didn’t put the book back on the shelf.  Instead, Andy wrapped it up for me in brown paper.  (I love that old-fashioned nod to times past.)

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Isn’t it lovely?  Sort of like a living room filled with friends.

Anyway, the book that followed me home is The Night Circus.  It’s very well written.  Reads like a dream. . .both literally and figuratively.  It’s not what I expected.  It’s much, much better.  It’s not a dash to the end, it’s more of a slow contemplating read with stops to imagine the magical circus the author has created.  And I think it may be one of those books that I will be sad to see it end.

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6.  Watching Blackhawks hockey with the family!

7.  Getting my pictures in order so that I can begin the scrapbook of last year’s vacation.  I think I’m about ready to start it.  It’s an overwhelming number of pictures to sort through.  Plus the idea of telling the story which turned out so different than we had planned. I know I’ll cry often while I do it.   It’s daunting.  But soon I will get to it.

8.  Laundry.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Grocery shopping.  And all the other mundane things we do to keep a house running.

9.  Tangling.  Doodling.  And drawing.

10. Cleaning up the yard and raking leaves.  I love my big trees – but oh my- the number of leaves to rake!

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The front yard leaves.  Doesn’t include the back yard at all.  That’s a ditch under there.

11.  Sometimes I just sit in my chair with the dog on my lap.  Small pleasures. (Again.)

So!  That’s what I’ve been up to.  It’s been pretty damn awesome too.  Part of me wonders if that acquaintance can say the same.

 

47 Questions

This popped up in my Facebook sidebar this morning.  My answers were from 5 years ago so I decided to give it an update.  More has changed than one might imagine.

1. What time did you get up this morning? The time I got up and the time I was awake are two very different things.  Probably about 9:30…but it’s Saturday AND my birthday so I am entitled to that.

2. How do you like your steak? Medium rare

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? 50 Shades of Gray

4. What is your favorite TV show?  Outlander

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?  Colorado, Ireland, Austria.  I think there are many places I could call home.  

6. What did you have for breakfast?  tea and a banana.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Italian

 8. What foods do you dislike?  Beets and baby corn

9. Favorite Place to Eat?  any place with character and good food

10. Favorite dressing? Ranch or Bleu Cheese

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?   2008 Mercedes C300 

12. What are your favorite clothes? sweaters, jeans, and boots.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?  Ireland and Scotland

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?Definitely Full

15. Where would you want to retire?  I used to say Colorado.  Now I’m not so sure.

16. Favorite time of day?  Typically, I’d say morning.

17. Where were you born?  East St. Louis, IL

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?  Cross country

19. Bird watcher? I have a book in the kitchen window that I use to ID the ones I see.  So yes.

20.  Do you consider yourself attractive? I suppose in some ways.  Tough question.

21. Pets? Yes.  A 12 year old Golden, a 7 year old mini Doxie, and two 14 year old cats.  

22. Any new and exciting news that you’d like to share? I started yoga this week.  It’s been a year since my accident so I’m all released to do whatever I want/can.

23. What did you want to be when you were little?  I wanted to be a National Park Ranger.  Ended up being a teacher.  

24. What is your best childhood memory?  Summers at my grandmother’s farm:   Cool nights.  The black angus cattle in the front pasture.  Walking to the end of the lane for the mail.  Fresh peas.  Butterscotch candies.  Watching Gunsmoke on tv. The smell of sweat peas blooming.  

25. Are you a cat or dog person? I would say a cat person, but I love my mini Doxie like crazy.  So both I guess. 

26. Are you married? Yes, 25 years this one.

27. Always wear your seat belt? Yes!!!!!

28. Been in a car accident? Yes.  Very minor.  

29. Any pet peeves?  Several

30. Favorite pizza topping?  sausage, bacon,  mushroom

31. Favorite Flower?  Lily of the Valley 

32. Favorite ice cream? vanilla

33. Favorite fast food? I don’t eat fast food unless it’s a salad from Arby’s.  Or something at Chipotle.  

34. How many times did you fail your driver’s test? None

35. From whom did you get your last email? knitting friend

36. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? This is tough.  Talbots.  Scheels (sporting goods).  

37. Do anything spontaneous lately? Not since I went down a playground slide in Germany last October and broke my back.  I tend to think things through now.

38. Like your job?  I enjoy my life at home

39. What was your favorite vacation? The one that was ruined by breaking my back…Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands.  But I spent many glorious summers in Colorado too!

40. Who’s your favorite actor/actress?  Sean Connery and Cary Grant, 

41. Last person you went out to dinner with? My husband.

42. What are you listening to right now? A football game on the kitchen television.   The hubby left it on or I would be listening to the furnace run.  I hate football.

43. What is your favorite color? green

44. How many tattoos do you have? NONE

45. Coffee drinker? Sometimes.  I like tea too.  I do both several times a week.

46. How many children do you have? 1 son.  He’s awesome.  

47. What was the last book you read? The Devil Wears Kilts.  Definitely not scholarly reading but it was fun.  I read a few books a week typically.  

New Favorites (and a few old ones too)

Holy cow!  Has it really been a month since I wrote a post here??  I’d like to say I have been really busy.  Really, really, super busy.  But maybe not.  So what little thing triggered the response that led to this blog post?  Well, another blog of course!!!  Which is my first new favorite.

Rubber Shoes in Hell.  Seriously, what a great name!  I love quirky titles on anything.  Yarn.  Books.  Blogs.  Wine, even.  And this one is a gem.  Maybe it’s the fact that we are both women of a “similar age”?  Or that we the share experience of raising a son?  Perhaps a similar sense of humor.  Or that some of the discussions with her husband remind me of the tenor discussions with my own?  Or that we both think Donald Trump is a narcissist? Whatever the reason, I love this blog and encourage you take a peek.


“Captain Serious” kisses the cup.

Blackhawks Hockey.  My gosh, what a long dry summer without hockey to watch especially on the heels of the Stanley Cup win.  But theeeeeeyyyyy’rrrrre baaaaaack…but without a few of my favorites.  Losing Brandon Saad was heartbreaking.  Same with Patrick Sharp.  And there were others.  Several.  The words “SALARY CAP” are definitely not favorites of any hockey fan.  Or player.  Or team for that matter.


Photo credit: Jessfuel.com

Photo credit: Jessfuel.com

Zoodles.  A.K.A. Zucchini noodles.  I’ve been making them for years now using a vegetable peeler for ribbon-like noodles.  But they got so much better when I bought a spiral slicer.  If you want to see how I make them, check it out here on the Against All Grain blog.  She has some great grain free recipes.  I wrote about the slow cooker Moroccan chicken recipe some time ago.  Since then I’ve made it again. . . only not in the slow cooker and I found it to be better.  And the “cauliflower cous cous” is the best stuff for those who’ve given up grain.  But back to the zoodles.  I use them instead of spaghetti and they are awesome!!  Just make to use at least one zuke per person because they sort of shrink down a bit.


I love it so much!!

I love it so much!!

A song from this album came on the radio last weekend and I fell in love with it all over again.


Biscotte Yarn

Now I haven’t actually touched this yarn.  I hope it feels as nice as it looks.  The self-striping colorways are just beautiful and I can’t wait to knit with it.  (If you read the Rubber Shoes in Hell blog post from above, this might make great fin mittens for homeless sharks!)

Clown fish colorway will become a pair of Dory socks!

Clown fish colorway will become a pair of Dory socks!


My Book Shelf

What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  Here’s a run-down of the most recent.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity

This was one my book club books.  And for once everyone who read it really enjoyed it.  It was funny and full of smart, clever writing.  And it covered a lot of area:  domestic abuse, helicopter parenting, women’s relationships, and bullying.  But it did it all with humor, mystery, and a touch of romance.

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Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch

This one came from a quick browse of the shelves at the local library.  I read this one fast – started one evening.  Finished the next day.  I did enjoy it despite it’s mixed reviews on Goodreads.  I loved the setting – I’m a sucker for a story set in the south.  This one was also quite funny in places.  It was a little predictable in places.  But I did enjoy it.  I would have given it a solid 4 stars until I read the next book and then I had to rethink that rating.

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32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

I loved this book. Yes, some things were predictable – it was inevitable with all the Molly Ringwald references. (I’m not sure I ever watched 16 Candles, but now I want to. ) But predictable can still be a lot fun along the way when the writing is sound, which this was. It was intelligent writing. Just enough twists and turns to be interesting. Very engaging characters. Plenty of humor. A+ Ms. Carter!

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Soaring by Kristen Ashley

This one pains me a bit to write.  In all honesty, I’m not finished with this one, but I will be in a few hours.  I have read most of what the author has written – which is quite a few books and at one point I considered her a favorite.  Not so much anymore.  Don’t think this is fancy literature because it’s not.  It’s romance.  Some people classify it as erotica but I wouldn’t because it’s more of a story with sex (also pretty boring and repetitive after the first time) rather than sex being the story – if that makes sense.  I don’t think this book is much different than her others, I think I’ve just “gotten over her” as an author.  Why?  There are several reasons, but the main reason is the writing.  She constantly repeats stuff.  Again and again.  When a character says something, the protagonist repeats it in her head – which means I have to read it again.  Or every time she looks at the man we have to read about his amazing blue eyes or his rock hard chest.  I got it the first time.  Or the first 50 times.  I’m not kidding.  The books aren’t short, but they could be if she edited out some of that crap.  Her writing is starting to remind me of “Awful-50-Shades-Writing”.  She’s also overly descriptive about the most inane things. . . shelf-bra cami.  I’d like a dollar for each time she’s used that term in her books. Almost EVERY book.  Seriously. Wouldn’t just plain cami work?  Do I NEED the visual that this cami has a built in bra?  Is it important or  does it add something to the scene?  Hardly.  I find myself re-writing her sentences.  To me, that’s not a good thing.  Then there’s the fact that every single male character seems to be unable to speak in a complete sentence. Mostly she leaves out the actual subject.  Do you get me?  (Incidentally, that’s a phrase she uses a lot.  Along with “giving it to him/me/you” – not in a sexual sense – just in the sense of an agreement.  It’s damn odd.)  I could go on, but I’m sure you have a sense of how I feel about the book.  Get me?

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So, that about sums it up for my last few books.  Next up is Orphan Train and I have high expectations for it.

Oh, and I found this woman’s reading journey interesting.  Not sure I could do it.  How about you?

All Tangled Up

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A zentangle of mine. Lattice with peak-a-boo flowers.

I’ve literally been a doodler all my life.  I doodle when I’m on the phone.  At faculty meetings when I was still teaching.  Just about anywhere I had a pen and paper.  So just imagine how happy I was to discover Zentangles a few years ago!  It validated what I’ve been doing for years.   If you haven’t heard of it before, I encourage you to follow the link to learn more.  It’s fun, relaxing, therapeutic, calming, creative, and a whole host of other adjectives too.  Anyone can do it.  Anyone.  Even if you don’t think you’re artistically inclined.  And as the name implies, it is very meditative process.  Some days I finish what “tanglers” call a tile.  Other days, I just add a little bit to one in progress.  There’s a group on Flickr to check out if you want to see some truly amazing work.  Or check out Pinterest for other beautiful Zentangles and lots of tutorials to get you started.  There are also several books about the technique.  If you haven’t tried it, you should.  Tangle on, peeps!

Old Hobbies Die Hard

Years ago I took a watercolor class at the local art gallery.  The instructor* was an art professor from one our local colleges.  I loved it.  But then I had a baby (and a demanding job) and all things artistic -other than knitting and quilting- sort of fell by the wayside.  That baby is now 22 years old and I don’t work anymore so I have lots of time to tinker with old hobbies.

A couple of weeks ago I went to one of those “paint and pour nights”. . . the kind where everyone attempts to recreate the same painting under the influence of a little wine.  I had a great time playing with paint, drinking wine, and hanging with the girls.  We used inexpensive acrylic paints on canvas.  I’m still thinking about whether I liked acrylics.  Time will tell.  But I did pick up some new watercolors since my old tubes – well they were pitched several years ago when they were already quite old.  So yesterday, I sat down and played a bit.  It’s a still work in progress, but I had a blast- even if I’ve forgotten much of what I learned.  I just keep telling myself that nothing in art is technically wrong.  Right?   One thing I remember reading (after the fact) was that if it looks right when you put it down, it’s wrong.  The colors will be more dilute as it dries.  There’s a lot of truth in that, since this morning I was making adjustments.  So here’s a sneak peek:

Untitled.

Untitled.

(*Note- I did a quick “Google” of the professor, Dr. Larry Calhoun,  only to find that, sadly,  he passed away this past March.)

Wednesday Work in Progress (WIP)

We’ve lived in our house for almost 22 years.  The large central foyer and stairs had wallpaper.  Ugly.  White on white striped VINYL wallpaper.  But it was a daunting task to consider taking it off so we lived with it.  And I would need tall ladders.  And I don’t like to paint.  (Read that again and hear the WHINE in my voice!)  So two years ago my son’s roommate came to stay the summer with us and he offered to strip the wallpaper and paint it for us.  I was thrilled.  After three months (only a day of work really) all most of the wallpaper was off…and no painting at all.  <sigh>

So I started calling painters.  One returned my call (he’s painted for us twice before).  Promised to stop by.  Never seen or heard from again.  The next guy made an appointment to come by and never showed up.  Two never returned calls.  Finally last year I had one guy show up and give me an estimate.  We were set to have it done when we came back from Europe in October.  Then I got hurt and the stay lasted until December.  And when we were ready, the painter was committed to several commercial projects and said he didn’t have time.  But he recommended someone else and this has worked out well.

Today I have painted walls instead of bare plaster walls with drawings and signatures all over it.

Charlie Chaplin drawing dated 1915.

Charlie Chaplin drawing dated 1915.

Our house was built in the late 1800’s and most of the walls have never been painted -just papered.  The earliest signature was from 1901.

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This family lived in our house for 44 years!

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Mr. Stamforth hung the wallpaper in 1945.

It was our very own little episode of If These Walls Could Talk!  These kinds of things were on every single wall.  In every single room of our house.

And there was a setback here and there like when the paper in the upstairs hall came down and the plaster underneath was falling off – same with a section of the ceiling.  Yes, there was wallpaper on the ceiling.

Yikes!!!

Yikes!!!

And there was a little mishap/miscommunication though.  I picked out one shade of gray (Elephant Skin Gray) for the foyer and a lighter shade (Fossil Gray) for the upstairs hall.

The lighter color is a Glidden color.  The darker is Behr.

The lighter color is a Glidden color. The darker is Behr.

They painted my ceilings the lighter gray and all the walls the darker before they figured it out.  OOPS!  But they did an terrific job of changing gears and doing it over.  It’s not done yet but I keep walking through there and it doesn’t even look like my house.   New switches and doorbell will be install tonight.  And maybe a new light fixture too if I can get kiddo to go to Lowes and pick it up.

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It’s one coat. And far from finished, but I’m so thrilled.

And it’s only taken 22 years!