Sunday, December 29, 2013

Stuff I'm into for 2014

Not goals, not resolutions, not even traditions just stuff I think has been/would be fun

1) Default to vegetarian weekdays
This started because I have steel cut oats for breakfast every morning, salad more often than not for lunch and then I’m too lazy to wait for meat to thaw for dinner. It’s great as a default, but doesn’t force me into anything. So if I’m craving a burger that’s what I have, but when I don’t want to think it’s probably going to be roasted veggies

2) Perfect sweater 
Amy Herzog has a book, a craftsy class (both of which I own) and now even a website/tool that can build out a pattern for a sweater perfect for ME (or you or whomever uses it). I am going to buy the yarn and make myself a chimera, but before I do that I have a giant pile of black/grey valley yarns yarn to make a work appropriate, fitted sweater. We’ll see how that goes. 

 3) Bike-able Saturdays 
Most Saturdays I ride my bike for as many errands as possible. This is limited only by my fitness. Usually this means hitting the farmers market and sometimes the library or some other local attraction. I just need to get a basket for my bike 

4) More Californian adventures 
California is a HUGE state and there are tons of cool things to see and do. This year I’d love to do a little bit more, go a little bit further out of my 15 mile daily trek to and from work. I’m thinking Yosemite, the redwoods, a museum or two and a few more hikes. 

 5) Plan the piano I want to re-learn how to play the piano before I turn 30 so I’m running out of time. Unfortunately there is nowhere to put a keyboard in my house. I have looked at some options and I’m not sure what the solution will be, but I’m hoping to solve this problem by march.

What are you into? 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Heroes

There are a couple fo people that I am considering my heroes for 2013. First there is A and E (married couple) who were the connections I exploited to help me get a job at a big company doing some interesting things. I realize that a connection doesn’t get you a job, but a good connection is the best way to find a good job and the two of them made 2013 move in so many ways.

Then there is Jill. You see I ended up moving in July, right after teachers get out for summer break. Many teachers decide to pick up a summer gig to supplement themselves for the summer and Jill absolutely could do that, instead she joined me on a cross country journey. Since Jim had not acquired any vacation time by the time I left I was going to have to drive alone thousands of miles. This scared me. I am not good at driving long stretches alone without getting tired especially day after day after day. Jill to the rescue. I convinced her (though honestly she needed very little convincing because she is amazing) to join me. We drove for about a week and spent some time gallivanting around the bay area and she was the most patient, kind person the entire time. We had fun, we laughed, I cried and not once did she complain that I had dragged her across the country.

 Sure none of these people “saved my life” in the TV drama sort of way, but I owe all three of them my 2013 and will be forever grateful for their willingness to help a girl out.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 and 2014

Obviously, I haven’t had much to say over here in awhile, but really that is because there was too much to say, too much of a story and not enough interesting/poignant ideas to discuss.

 So let me start by looking back at the end of 2012 beginning of 2013. 2012, despite my clear intentions of creating some thoughtful traditions, turned out to be a bad year. I can’t pinpoint for you anything specific, other than some job losses in the family, it was just an all-around awful year that ended with the death of another grandparent. 2012 made me I accept that 2013 was going the be the year that it wanted to be no matter what I did, so I focused on enjoying things, really trying to have some fun and while I wouldn't call it a massive success, some major changes occurred and I have found success throughout it.

First, the health drama: Back in March I found a bump, which turned out to be a tumor (thank goodness a non-cancerous one). That involved multiple visits to specialists, ultrasounds, biopsy and finally surgery followed by a couple weeks of pain, discomfort and some very impressive bruising. I would show you the bruising but it’s an “explicit” body part that I’d rather not have plastered on the interwebs.

Again, I came out of there without a life-threatening diagnosis so I am more than grateful that all it turned out to be was a harmless, though annoying growth.

Then the job drama: Shortly after that I was offered the chance ot interview for a position at a big company with the possibility of moving sometime in the future. All of that went well and “the future” ended up being July. I moved from MA to CA in July (I’ll tell the whole roadtrip story another time).

All during this time Jim had finally landed a job at a decent, honest, worthwhile company that paid him for his true value. Now Jim is not a complainer, but I can truly say that he has not worked for an honest institution since the day we met, so this was a blessing. Unfortunately, it was also a curse because he started right before my interview process and there was no way I would ask him to leave that situation and move to the unknown thousands of miles away. So he stayed to finish up selling the house.

You see I had reached a point where I felt that I would never get out of my house. Now, it’s not that I didn't like it, I did. My gardens were my joy and nothing made quite as happy as eating asparagus and tomatoes and peppers, etc straight from the garden. BUT at some point the house went from a home, the place where my heart resided, to an unforgiving anchor holding me in new England. The house came to represent none of the good things, none of the good choices and none of the progress I had made in life and instead became the burden of every mistake and bad choice I had made for 27 years.

Onto the housing drama: Now, I said that Jim stayed to finish selling the house because it sort of fell in our laps. We had put our house on Zillow years ago with a “make us move” price, knowing full well it was well over market value. Well, eventually market value started to creep upwards and someone really wanted our specific neighborhood so we negotiated a way to sell the house without owing more than we sold it for. This is a level of relief I can’t explain.

So as of today I have moved from New England, to CA from 1800+ square feet to 280- square feet of living space and it has been a transition, but even that transition was wonderful. I found a cottage, really an in-law suite, to rent in CA. It provides enough living space for me and the people that live in the house in front let me do laundry for free, I have parking and I still live in suburbs 15 minutes from work. My commute has definitely gone down in beauty and up in stress level, but it has been wonderful so far. The property where I reside has apple, plum, fig, lemon and orange trees along with a grape vine and enough lavender for a lifetime and even some rosemary. All it needs is a beehive and a chicken coop and I might be in my suburban heaven.

Except I’m alone. I have lived with family or roommates basically my entire life and I have always been ok with that idea. I have never had a husband that didn't share in chores around the house (in fact I’m probably the one that should be complained about). My full thoughts about living alone are for another day, but so far, I am doing mostly great.

Onto 2014. As previous posts have explained, I despise resolutions, but I do believe in progress as a person and traditions that support progression. So the question is how do I want to progress? Great question, answers for another day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Clubs

There has been a big surge (at least in my community of friends) of niche clubs/boxes. The basic premise is you have an interest in X so a company will put together a package around X and mail it to you on a monthly/quarterly basis. Here are some that I find interesting (note, none of these companies are in anyway paying me to promote their stuff, these are just some I would love to be a part of if I had the money/inclination)

1) Madeline Tosh sweater club
2)Powell’s indespensible book club
3) Birchbox
4) Julep Nail Polish Club
5) Any Harry & David fruit club
6) NatureBox
7) Any of a bunch of the different fitness/snacks boxes available (example KlutchClub)

What Niche clubs do you dream of joining? Are you in any clubs that you love?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Packing Fun

Let’s pretend you were going to leave your current home and move across the country. Let’s also pretend that you are not getting rid of your current home for awhile. If this were the case what would you pack and what would you leave? Recently my husband was planning to move (without me, with plans for us eventually to live in the same location in the future based on jobs, selling the house, etc)and so I had plenty of time to think about packing. Then he wasn’t, so I had plenty of time to start thinking of what I want to get rid of what I want to keep forever.

In the process this is what I determined: If I were to move across the country today I would start by filling my car with bins/vacuum-packed bags full of my clothes and yarn. I’d bring all of my knitting needles and my sewing machine and currently started sewing projects. That’s all I think I could fit in my car.

If I then had a small moving truck I would fill it with all “my” stuff including but not limited to a bed, a dresser, a lamp or two, a fan maybe a few blankets and some select kitchen items, books, a couple odds and ends from around the house

From the kitchen: Pots (we have two great ones), square pyrex dish, couple of cookie sheets, my mixer, parchment paper, couple cutting boards, my knife (which really needs sharpened), bench knife (which is less a knife and more a wide hunk of metal with a handle), couple scraper spatulas, some other random utensils and such.

Books: most of my books fit into three categories: cooking, crafting (mostly knitting and quilting) and fiction. 99% of the fiction books I read I get rid of so that collection is small. Most of my knitting books are prized and most of my cooking books are awesome. All would have to come with at some point sooner rather than later.

What would you bring? This is not an exercise “in an emergency grab x and leave” this is an exercise of more flexibility less criticality.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ten-On-Not-Tuesday

There are some great topics given by Carole over on Carole Knits but sometimes Bridgett comes up with other great topics. So I am stealing from her most recent and I’m going to tell you about 10 Teachers that made a difference. These are all “formal” teachers, but some are school and some are religious teachers. *note, this is a mix of school and religious teacher from my youth

1) Ms. H (see post about her here) – she recently retired and that is a crime against the Salem-Keizer School District

2) Mrs. F (3rd grade) – the thing I remember most about this entire school year was my teacher’s ability to use different voices for each character in a book. She read aloud to the class and I remember her reading The Indian in the Cupboard series and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (and crying)

 3) Mrs. B (my sisters’ teacher) – I always wanted to be in her class, but due to her moving from Kindergarten to 1st grade the year I was in Kindergarten (then first grade) her class was too full so I was never in there. She was amazing at teaching for multiple abilities/levels all in the same class, plus she knew all the goodbyes (see ya later alligator, in awhile crocodile, see ya soon baboon, etc)

4) Sister B – I couldn't tell you what age I was when she was my Sunday school teacher but she was the sister/aunt of some family friends. I know she was more used to teaching older kids (teenagers) because she did a lot of things that I recognized (in the future) as seminary- focused. That’s probably why I liked her, she treated us like real people, not just like kids that didn’t know what was going on. She was great!

5) Brother P – He was our teacher my last year of primary (age 11 turning 12). I liked him because sometimes he would get super off topic and we’d have “life” discussions. I am not sure what was going on in his normal life, but I always felt he got as much out of class as we did, so I really liked being a contributing factor. I’m friends with his wife on facebook and she was recently diagnosed with a pretty fast moving/growing/spreading/bad cancer. I am going to have to write them a letter

6) Brother H – WORST religious teacher I ever had. He and I butted heads over logistics and doctrine. He implied many things that are just straight up NOT TRUE. He was pretty buddy buddy with some kids in my seminary class, but he and I were not friends. He found out I wouldn’t attend seminary graduation so he asked me to speak (I love giving talks) but he had no idea how bad of an idea that was for him. He assigned a section which he had previously taught as being really focused on women’s “inherent” gifts and other garbage that is easy to assume, but completely misses the point of the passage. So I took that section and used in my introduction to a completely non-religious look at how music impacts and influences our lives, moods and feelings. I’m still VERY proud of that speech, but it did nothing to tell people that I learned anything scriptural while in his class (2.5 years of poor teaching)

 7) Mr. G (Middle school Geography aka history/places) – worst drawer ever. His united states always looked like a 3 year old drawing a cat, but he was good natured about it

8) Mr. M (Freshman Science) – Taught the basics of science and expected kids to behave in the classroom, but he wasn’t as serious a person as it appeared. He always used that saying “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig. I’m sure he was using that in reference to some very specific traits in very specific people, but I never caught on and looking back I don’t remember who he was referring to (so it was probably me).

9) Mr. S (Freshman Math) – The one and only teacher I think I truly missed out on in High School. I moved schools after freshman year (and then had to re-take a math class, long, painful story) I did not have the benefit of going through the entire Honors Math program at my first high school, which was basically taught by one guy. He was an amazing math teacher, could explain things 12 ways so those that didn’t get it from the first lesson, understood it by the time the test came around. He played guitar, read more than anyone. He had some really random posters around his room (like the corn palace and head smashed in buffalo jump) and he had busts of famous math/science dudes that you could sit on your desk during tests to bring you good juju. It was hilarious to have Euclid on your desk in the middle of a geometry exam.

10) Mr O – taught my computer class by default, he was originally an economics(?) teacher I think. Anyways, way too invested in us kids which was a huge benefit to us, but I’m not sure how he ever had a normal life. I don't think he teaches school any longer(though maybe) and that’s too bad, but probably better for him in the long run. He taught and competed in martial arts as well and had his own gym. I should really at some point attempt o figure out what happened because he was a huge help in getting me a job in HS and getting me into a decent college.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's Making me Happy This Week

In the repeated effort to try and both document my life and prove to myself that my life is less boring than I make it seem I’m back to writing a week’s worth of blog posts and scheduling them to post every couple days. This usually lasts 2 weeks (meaning two sessions of writing posts) before I drop it like a hot pencil.

To keep motivation I’ve decided to start stealing ideas from other people. Since I have professed my love for Pop Culture Happy Hour here before I’m going to steal their recurring segment “What’s Making Me Happy This Week” Today I’m going to share with you two things

1st a Blog: http://matthewdicks.com/blog
2nd a Podcast featuring the author of that blog: Episode 226 of Books on the Nightstand . The first half is fine, but the reason I’m really even recommending this episode starts at about 15:30 into the podcast.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book release party

This weekend I was so excited because a couple of friends and I headed down to porter square in Cambridge for a book release party. I have been reading Amy Herzog’s blog for quite a while and I LOVED her fit to flatter series. Well, she has taken that series, along with the knowledge she gained from teaching workshops and classes and she has written a book with patterns included.

This book is WAY more than a pattern book and it’s not even an instructional knitting book. It takes tips on what you want your clothes to say, highlight and disguise and it walks you through how to incorporate adjustments into your handknitted garment. Before I talk about the event and how amazing it was I also want to mention that she has a craftsy class around these same principles and if you head over to stash and burn podcast you can even find a link to a discount for the class

Now the party was great, there were raffles and measurements being taken, a photo booth and sample sweaters. Unfortunately, due to a recent surgery measurements were not going to happen for me due to fear of pain and also some swelling. Thankfully, they gave out a pre-made card with measurements blank. The measurements were FULL measurements. Not just a bust measurement but a high and full bust measurement (just as an example) done by someone other than you so they are accurate. I'm planning to have a measuring party with some knitting pals at a later date so we can all have full measurements for ourselves

The sweater booth was awesome because I could try on sweaters from the book and absolutely rule out making a couple of them to start and decide to absolutely make one of them not just make it, but use the yarn and color in the sample.

The photo booth was done by a great photographer and she put the photos online so that you have a GOOD photo of you, a photo that looks like you and hopefully shows what makes you unique. That was a wonderful treat for those of us that are trying to allow ourselves to be photographed even though we don’t love our current body.

There are only two things that I don’t love from this weekend the first is only barely related to the event. There is a yarn store within a block of where the event took place and while I understand having consistent hours I think a smart move would have been to stay open a bit late for those attending and maybe even cosponsoring the event (maybe they tried I don’t know, but our experience of walking up the stairs as the store closed wasn’t the most positive one).

The second small complaint I have is really about the styling in the book. The book is FULL of amazing photos of women of all shapes and sizes! In the evaluation sections these people are all dressed in white cami/tanktops and jeans. It is very uniform and really helps you see what is going on. The outfits that these same people wear while showing off the sweaters are….. distracting. In some cases (though not all) I think they drown out all of the flattering/highlighting/etc that the sweater is designed to do. It isn’t that the outfits are bad, but they just don’t highlight the features that the sweaters are supposed to highlight. With that said, I would and do still recommend you buy the book.

The price of the book is worth the two sweaters I’m going to make out of it alone plus I have an AMAZING reference about adjusting a sweater just for me. I’m super duper excited to get started using it first on a sweater from outside the book and then to make the two sweaters in the book that I am in love with.

A note about this review. Amy (and her publisher STC) doesn’t know me from adam though I did meet her at the event (which I only knew about b/c of her blog). I did not receive the book for free, I paid full price to the bookstore that hosted the event and I was happy to do so. I encourage you to find a bookstore that you like (online or brick and mortar) and buy the book as well. It is worth every single penny. Also, let me know what sweater you want to knit with all of the help from Amy's book

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sometimes it's unwearable

Beware, negativity ahead, come back tomorrow for some redemptive cheer.

So I don’t knit a lot of sweaters, nothing is every quite right when I make it and my most recent project was no exception. Up until my last sweater I would have never thought the designer/pattern writer was the problem, I needed to make adjustments and/or choose a better yarn for the projects, etc. Basically I don’t blame any of my previous sweater failures on the pattern or designer they are all basically my fault. That is until now.

I made a sweater that was the most poorly written pattern I have ever come across. Now, understand I don’t want to be a debbie downer so here is some further info. My two pals and I all knit the same sweater and two out of three of us ended up with a relatively wearable article of clothing. We chose the pattern because it was adorable and worked with the yarn we wanted to use. Basically, we went in excited, and while I won’t speak for the others, I don’t think any of us really found that the pattern met our expectations. That is not to say it was a complete failure for either of them (though it was for me), but I don’t think it was a huge resounding success either. This sounds harsh, but I’m not a super critic of patterns, I want the pattern to be relatively easy to read (even if it is complex) and I expect there to not be more than a couple of mistakes, and I expect that if I pay you for a pattern part of that money was originally invested in paying someone to tech-edit the pattern. This pattern did not meet any of those requirements

First, it was written in large font, in two columns so that even a row that required just a short line required 3+ lines of the page. This makes a pattern very difficult to follow. If this were the only problem, I wouldn’t complain about this pattern

Second, there was a mistake on the FIRST pattern row of my size, and this lack of attention to detail continued throughout the pattern for the size I made. It was clear the author just pasted the pattern from another size, but didn’t bother to go back and fix ALL the numbers and counts to match the instructions for the size. All of this showed a lack of a real tech editor.

 Third, my sweater is unwearable. It turned out super low at the back neck and super wide at the top so there is no way to get the sweater to wear like a sweater. Now, normally I would say that it was my fault in some manner, but honestly I kept a ridiculously detailed account of where/when things were supposed to happen and I am confident there were either a) mistakes that I missed or b) no testing of this size or c) POOR adjustments made for the size I knit

Basically I wish I hadn’t knit the pattern and even more so I wish I hadn’t paid for the pattern. So after this disastrous project I decided to choose a redemptive sweater that has great examples on ravelry, has little extras included in the pattern (like a chart for increases) and I’m going to make adjustments. I’m going to put in tons of effort to make this sweater the opposite of the last one.

 I’m starting with this pattern: Julissa I’m adding adjustments based on the knowledge I’ve gained in this book: Knit to Flatter

So far I’m knitting as written but stopping the front/back decreases early, adding the lace panel, while still continuing the arm increases per the size instructions. Come back tomorrow for an honest, complete review of the book I’m using for this adventure

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christmas Knitting

Sure Christmas was two months ago, but I never really wrote about the awesomeness that was my Christmas knitting. My little sister (currently residing in So. Cal) pinned a blanket on pinterest. I knew the blanket would be easy, but very costly to recreate so we got chatting about some other options for her.

I had seen Umaro in person at Webs awhile back and recommended that along with a handful of other options. She thought umaro would be perfect and then we had to get into a very involved discussion revolving around yarn. Her specifications: Machine washable,  natural colored and squishy. I immediately thought of a handful of wool yarns I have used in the past, but most of them weren't washable so were not an option. Then there were some really cheap options, lionbrand, red heart, vannas choice, etc. None of those highlighted the squishy-factor that she was looking for. In the end I went back to one of my very favorite blanket yarns: Berroco Comfort Chunky

This yarn is perfectly squishy and since I bought it at webs it wasn't hugely expensive, though it would have been cheaper had it been on sale. Also note, that while webs keeps their entire stock of yarn online, they no longer keep all of it at their store location so even if it says they have 30 skeins in the same dye lot you may only be able to find 6 in store. This is not a dig on webs, I love them and always recommend them as a yarn source, great prices and wonderful customer service.

So I started on 10.5, then went to 11s, then back to 10.5 because the yarn is slightly smaller than the one called for in the pattern.  A couple restarts and all was well. 11 skeins later I got that sucker done! It was even off in the mail well before Christmas!
Color is WAY Off in this picture, but that's pretty much the whole thing
So it arrived before Christmas, and she really wanted to open it early, but she didn't (way more willpower than me). She even dragged the box all the way to AZ where she ended up spending Christmas at the last minute. So hilarious

Color is right here, and it looks perfect in use!
Of course after binding off I found a zillion mistakes, but nothing catastrophic so I left them in and I don't think the recipient really minded

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Inheritance

Tradition: Inheritance

Story:

I don’t believe in inheritance. At least not in the way that many people do. I don’t believe my parents’ or grandparents’ money is mine, their house is mine or their other belongings are mine. I do believe I’ve inherited traits (good and bad), knowledge and ideals from them, but things are just things. While I would LOVE my mother’s fine china when she passes, I’m not fighting over it nor do I think I “deserve” it. If she decides to sell or give it away while she’s alive it’s not something I’ll worry about because it belongs to her. As I’ve experienced the loss of two grandparents my ideas on inheritance have been solidified and my thoughts that things should be used up or given up during life is still a basic stance in my personal religion (not to be confused with the religion I share with others). Even with planning, there are still sudden deaths, details missed and only so much you can do. I’m still sewing, and knitting so I don’t get rid of my stash, but I do try to use it and give away those things I no longer like/won’t be using, but if I die tomorrow there is plenty of decent yarn and fabric for people to deal with. So what do you do with items that you no longer have a use for? Well, there is always etsy, ebay and other selling websites where materials for crafting can be sold, or you can do as my grandma did and allow others to steal away with your half finished projects.

Last year when my mom was in UT to run a marathon and hangout with family I joined her. A few of my sisters were there too and we had an amazing time hanging out and watching our mom and cousin run the marathon. While we were there, my mom and I stole away to the basement to use my grandma’s sewing machine and look around her sewing room. My grandma was an amazingly organized sewer. She had a closet with little boxes that were labeled and everything was exactly where it should be. She also had a storage room with one wall stacked to the ceiling with brown file boxes. Some of these boxes were full of fabric, some with books, some with lace, buttons and other bits and bobs. There were also a couple of boxes filled to the brim with unfinished projects. This was like a gold-mine for me. My mom and I came upon hundreds of Dresden Circles (like Dresden plates, but without the points), some Sunbonnet Sues and some other random applique blocks. I asked my grandma to give me an idea of where they came from and what she was using them for, but all she could remember was that she was using up scraps. Knowing that grandma could no longer quilt, my mom and I asked if we could take some of the half-finished items. Grandma was happy to see them go somewhere they would be used. I came home with a suitcase full of things from grandma and a mind full of ideas of what to make!

The plan was to take some of the Dresden Circles and make them into items for my sisters and maybe my aunt/uncles if they wanted something, but I was in the middle of some projects of my own so that didn’t really happen. That is until November. In November, my sister got her mission call and I made plans to be in Oregon right before she left. All of my other sisters were going to be there too. Then the day after thanksgiving grandma passed away and I set to get the projects started and completed before I went home in January. I let my sisters and mom all choose their project and ended up needing the following: 1 Pillowcase, 2 throw pillow covers, 1 wall quilt and 1 quilt square. So I got started appliqueing (I had to learn first, thank you youtube) the Dresden Circles onto fabric and quilting up a storm. I finished a couple days before I needed to leave (thanks to a forced vacation from work). I took them with me out to Oregon and gave them away. It was a completely satisfying project which has, of course, spurred a couple more projects. 2 more pillow covers for my aunt and something for me. I learned that appliqueing onto an already created pillowcase is a pain, but the finished project is pretty amazing.

Finished items Pillow cover (back), wall hanging (right), plain square (mid-bottom), pillowcase(left)
pillowcase with 1 applique piece completed, the other just laying on top

This one turned out the best. I love the quilting in the center, it looks like a diamond and the quilting on the pieces is very flower/sun-esque