Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Happy Place

This is a beaded shawl I finished for my daughter as a gift for this Christmas.
 I don't think she follows my blog so this picture should be safe here.  The pattern is called Cathedral Windows.
And she lives directly across the street from the National Cathedral
with beautiful cathedral windows.   

I began knitting officially in 1998.  I say 'officially' because I sort of knew how to knit back in the 70's, but the hobby never took root then.  I was self taught.  I was terrible at it.  I wanted immediate gradification.  I had no patience for long projects, problem solving fit issues, learning to correct mistakes, or accepting the fact an item might 'perfect' even if I was the only who could see the error.  In 1998, however, I left a life sucking management job and had learned that imperfection was ok.  I decided to 'recover' from that profession by learning to knit at a yarn store.

The time was right.  Knitting became a life-enhancing hobby that I would be lost without.

Over the years I tried to expand my crafting horizon beyond knitting to other related activities. 

Some Merino and Silk fiber that is waiting for me to
spin it.
I learned to spin.  There was, of course, the initial excitement and purchasing of equipment.   First I spun yarn on a spindle and then quickly bought a full size spinning wheel.  I looked at the end product of spinning - yarn.  I realized pretty quickly that I am a product spinner rather than a process spinner.  I wanted the finished yarn (the product) more than the effort (the process) to get the yarn.  The yarn I created was nice, interesting, unique.  But I have no desire to create one-of-a-kind yarns.  I am happy to purchase beautiful yarns - owning it NOW - rather than participating in the dream of owning it someday.  I gave my spinning wheel to a cousin.  I kept my spindles and sometimes they 'call' to me.  I will return to this hobby at some point - casually dipping my toe back in the water of spindle spinning - because I have some wonderful fibers that I just can't part with.  But can spinning ever replace knitting?  Never.

Here is a woven shawl I treasure.  It was created by my cousin
using hand spun yarn.  The amount of effort for a shawl like
this is enormous.
I learned to weave.  Again, my initial interest in weaving sparked excitement ... and new equipment, new skills, new jargon.  I had active weavers in my family.  My Pennsylvania cousin is an amazing weaver with several floor looms and a wide variety of table looms.  My sister was bitten by the weaving bug and is in hot pursuit in the 'loom acquisition contest' she has going with our cousin.  And it is great fun to watch them.  They both create beautiful items.    And I own three table style looms, a tapestry loom and several pin looms.  I plan to keep all those - especially the smaller looms.  I can see myself weaving projects on my pin looms at some point, as well as the tapestry loom.  And maybe I will return to my table looms.   Maybe.  But I am a product weaver - wanting the end item more than wanting the process of weaving.  Although this hobby did make more inroad in my crafting time and wallet, did it tramp down my enthusiasm for knitting?  No.  Not even a close second.  Too much equipment to juggle for me.  Not as portable as knitting, and while the product produced can be breath taking when finished, it requires a pretty decent commitment of time to learn the craft at that level.  Desire must be present.  I think I am missing the desire.

And then there is knitting, the craft that started it all.  Knitting never left my side during my side trips into other crafts.  After 20 years of knitting, I can accomplish most projects at an acceptable level even to my critical perfectionist eye.  Yes, knitting takes more time than weaving or spinning.  It is an argument I have heard more than once.  Since I am a process knitter rather than a product knitter, time is not a negative.   And knitting is so much more portable than the other two crafts: simple tools can be carried anywhere.  Finally ... the most important positive element of knitting that trumps all other craft considerations - is the calming effect it has on my brain.  No need for drugs.  Knitting is sort of my happy place.  The missing element in spinning and weaving - desire - is abundant in knitting for me.  But it should be said ... finding your calm place can happen with any craft.  Weavers and spinners say it all the time - how relaxing their craft is ... and I believe it because I experience it with knitting.

Here is a shawl I made for myself
to wear to a wedding.   
Another shawl I made for myself.

I love that knitting graduated from the 'rocking chair grandmother' status into an activity that is loved by all ages.  In fact, weaving and spinning has also experienced a resurgence in popularity.  It could be argued that this resurgence is because of knitting.

Knitting, it seems, is the 'gateway drug' to many fiber activities like weaving and spinning for a lot of people.

If you don't knit and are considering learning this habit forming activity, don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Milo's sweater

I haven't done a good job of documenting my finished knitted projects.  Years ago I took pictures and then posted them on a knitter's website called Ravelry.  But I didn't keep that up for long.

This fall, however, I finished a bunch of stuff that I am pretty pleased about.  (It is amazing just how much you can get done when you are laid up with a lame leg from surgery.)  I thought I might show them off on my blog.

The earliest finished project was Milo's Sweater.  That was finished in September.

When he was a much younger dog, I made this exact same pattern in the same yarn but in green.  He wore that sweater a long time.  After years of faithful service, the sweater turtle neck began to fray.  I stitched it up.  But the repairs started to fray.  There was no doubt, this old guy needed a new sweater. from his grandmother.

I used a yummy Merino yarn called Water Lilly from Classic Elite that is no longer being produced.  It is closer to an aran weight yarn than a worsted weight.  It is soft and softens more with use - and it is the kind of wool you can wear close to your skin.  It is also a kettle dyed yarn - with very subtle changes in hue.  Some kettle dyes are so striking that they compete for attention with patterned knit stitches.  Water Lilly kettle dyes are soft and add depth to a piece without competing with knit stitches like the cabling in Milo's sweater.   It is my favorite yarn ever so far and I wish they were still making it.

I have a rather large collection of Water Lilly - because I bought sweater lots when I realized it was discontinued.  So did my sister.  Since that purchase years ago, my sister has become more of a weaver - and I have become less of a weaver.  We did a trade last spring.  I gave her a bunch of my weaving yarns, and she gave me all of her Water Lilly!  Score!!  In the trade I duplicated many colors I had (which was great), and I got a few new colors like this cream (which was greater.)

Finding the exact pattern I used about 5 years ago was a struggle, but thankfully I throw very little away when it comes to knitting.  This second sweater actually fits Milo better than the first one.  I had Milo with me for a full week in September - so while I was knitting I could make frequent size checks adjusting the pattern as needed.  I could also create a slot on the back where his leash connects to his harness - in exactly the right spot. You can see the slot just below the turtle neck on his back.

I love it when a project comes together perfectly.  The perfect yarn, the perfect color, the perfect pattern and the perfect size.

Monday, November 27, 2017

All Decked Out

A quick peak around the Christmas decorations in place for this year.

It starts with the Christmas Tree.  It always starts with the tree.  This artificial tree is about 2 years old.  It  is a smaller slim line tree that works good in small spaces.  It is pre-lite and simple construction.  It holds about 1/2 the ornaments I have.  My goal:  some time in the next two years get a table top model tree.  My perfect three would be a about 3-4 feet high that would sit on a table by the window.  It would be on a stand that maybe plays music and rotates.  Pre-lite would be good.  I keep looking and nothing seems to be just right - so until it is - this tree will be part of my Christmas.

The tree decorations are all meaningful.  The little gold house in the picture below is the a miniature replica of the old time train station located in historic Ellicott City.  About two years ago Ellicott City was assaulted by a major flash flood - devastating the small town and killing one person.  Having withstood many floods in the past, many historic, the town has come back.  The gold tree ornament is a way to support the rebuilding.

The Pug Cookie Jar holds my grand dogs' cookies.  My dear grand dog Grimace, a pug with a heart of gold, has long since passed away.  I miss him every day.  But he is mentioned when I give out cookies to the grand dogs who replaced him.  "Who wants one of Grimace's cookies?  Only good dogs get one of his cookies."

The small lighted Christmas Tree beside the cookie jar was made by my mom during her 'ceramic painting' phase.  This kind of lighted tree is dated compared to more stylish decorating options available today.  But this little tree will always be a part of my Christmas.  It reminds me of her every time I look at it.  And I miss her every day as well.

This little collection of lighted houses belonged to my mother-in-law.  
It has been some time since I had them out for the holiday, 
but this year I wanted her represented in our celebration.

The other side of the lighted house display as it faces the kitchen.  

This pug ornament, a gift from my daughter, demonstrations
 so truthfully the fun loving nature of Pugs.  

My daughter and her fearless companion, Milo, 
(in the tan sweater that I made for him this season), helped with the holidays lights on the deck.  

Our tree is a mix of dog and cat ornaments. 
The two dog ornaments below show Meathead (left) and Milo (right).
Meathead was my first grand dog.  He was such a dear dog.  

This final ornament was made by my mom.  She loved crafts.

This is another of my mother-in-law's lighted houses.  
It sits in a naturally dark corner of the kitchen counter.

This final picture shows just two Santas from a large collection of Santas I once owned.  Collections became a thing of the past when we downsized.  But I kept a few of my favorite Santas.

When the kids were young, I used to decorate the whole first floor of the townhouse.  All the rooms. Regular knick knacks got packed away and everything was Christmas themed.  That was a major chore.  The decorations filled many many boxes when stored during the year and filled an entire large basement closet.  And my efforts were modest compared to some people I have known.  My neighbor below me pays for storage for her Christmas decorations.  I am sure she is not the only one who does this.

When the thrilling rush of the season began to fade during my mom's care years,  Christmas decorating faded too.  My heart wasn't in it.  Many of those items were finally downsized out of the house - holding onto only those items that had real meaning.   I could never to back to the Holiday Wonderland-style of decorating I once aimed for.  Now I am content with much less.  And because there is less, I appreciate each item that survived the purge so much more.

So how do you celebrate the season ... if you do celebrate!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Anticipating the Christmas Season

For anyone who is paying attention to the 'rules' (ok, my rules), it is now officially ok to decorate for Christmas. We are passed Halloween and Thanksgiving.  

I have to say it.   No rushing the holidays, folks.   To me that means prior to this weekend - NO Christmas stuff in the stores, no Christmas music on my favorite radio station, no Christmas themed TV commercials, and no decorating anything until after the turkey left overs are history!  And yet, the exact opposite happens every year.

Obviously I need to get these rules published somewhere!!

This year was especially frustrating.  My favorite radio station began playing 24/7 Christmas music 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.  Really, folks.  Is anyone really going to want to listen to Christmas music for 6 weeks??  Isn't that a method of torture somewhere in the world?  I have switched stations.

Several years ago I made several changes to our holiday rituals.  I stopped sending greeting cards and yearly newsletters.  Lordy that took a lot of time.  I stopped making dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies.  I had enough inches on my hips.  I stopped decorating the house like a Trim-a-Tree shop!  Two years ago I downsized all my Christmas decorations.  Moving was in our sights and some items hadn't been displayed in years.  Those changes made a BIG difference in the quality of my life around this time of year.

I kept a few traditions - Family Christmas Evening celebration with dinner and gift giving is the center piece of my holiday.  The family sleeps over and stays for Christmas morning breakfast.  I still decorate a tree but I may downsize the size of the tree in a year or two.  This year I added back in a few more house decorations - just a few - and for the first time ever, my daughter and I put lights up outside.  My deck is now festive.  Nothing fancy, but fun to look at.  And we host a Christmas party for friends the weekend after New Years.

I still struggle with the fact both my parents died within 3 days of Christmas.  The holiday lost a lot luster for me when mom went into Assisted Living - also in December - and was not able to come home for any holidays due to her disabilities.  But it has been 3 years since she died - 3 years on December 28 - and while I still miss her especially during the holidays - the intensity of that sorrow fades with time. She suffered too much to wish her back.

My decorating is finished.  My shopping is about three quarters finished.  And I will begin wrapping gifts in a week or two.  Meal planning for special events will follow.  I might even catch a few Christmas specials on TV.  On that schedule I can enjoy the holiday and find time to think on the real reason for the season.

Next up ... a few pictures of our decorations - followed by a few pictures of my finished knitted projects.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Be A Tortorise

I have one basic rule!  If it doesn't work ... cut it out!

I used that rule with my tonsils, and with my gallbladder, and with the cloudy lenses in my eyes.  Yep!  If you aren't pulling your weight in my body, you must go.

The problem with rules is there are always exceptions.  Always!

My knee is one of those exceptions, I guess.

I am still in PT.  Still.  The knee continues to improve ... slowly.  Ever so slowly.  My left knee has good days and bad days.  Bad days are shrinking in frequency ...  sort of.  And (I guess) Medicare wouldn't continue to pay for the therapy if I didn't need it!  So the glass is half full ... I guess.

Today I had a therapy session.  The therapist did a mini update in advance of my next Ortho.  She said the flexion in my left knee (the knee with the surgery) was within normal limits.  Sounded pretty good until she said the flexion in my right knee was amazing for a person of my age.   All I could think of was ... both knees were once amazing!

Ok, ok, ok.  Keep icing the knee, because I still am struggling with some swelling, keep exercising because my leg muscles are still not really strong, and stop comparing my left knee with my right knee ... 'cause comparing 'siblings knees' never comes to any good.

This evening I received a wonderful piece of advice from a cousin in an email.  "Be a tortoise."  Thank you, Susan.  Sometimes the obvious just needs to be said.