Saturday, March 29, 2008

letting go

the view in our backyard today

Thanks for all the sympathetic responses to my whiny post the other day! Sometimes I think that maybe I'm addicted to stress. Stress hormones are nasty little chemicals in the body, but it seems like one could be just as addicted to them as to the nice things, like serotonin or endorphins. Any health scientists out there care to weigh in?

Any rate, this week I just had to make the decision to let go of my stranglehold on stress. It came after I had been short, grouchy, or just plain obnoxious to almost everyone I know, culminating in a truly awful interaction with a colleague who is a close friend, and who - thankfully - called me out for it. Ugh! Who is this b*tchy crab that's taken over my brain??

That b*tchy crab needed to calm the F down. I went to bed on Thursday night with these awful knots in my neck that I've had for months, and when I woke up they were even worse. I felt so awful on Friday, between the neck knots, spring allergies and my addiction to being the grouchiest, most stressed-out person around, that I decided something had to be done.

To warm the hearts of all the list-makers, here's a list of what I did yesterday to exorcise the b*tchy crab:
- decided I didn't want to be stressed out anymore
- stopped freaking out about all the work I have to get done
- bought a keyboard and mouse, and put my laptop up on a riser. Remember that neck pain? I think it may be on the way out.
- had a leisurely lunch with a lovely friend outside on a beautiful Friday
- took my computer outside and worked in the fresh air all afternoon
- went to an extra yoga class after work -- it kicked my behind in a most excellent way
- had a late dinner with my sister
- started a new knitting project

I think the first item on the list was the most important, because it allowed me to do all the other things on that list. And I do feel vastly better. And I started a new knitting project! I think I've mentioned the idea for this project before -- it's a kids' design that I dreamed of and then actually remembered when I woke up. All I did was wind the yarn and make a gauge swatch, but that's pretty exciting. Now I can actually start knitting it! And that can only be good for knotty necks, right?

Last thing: My sister sent me this great video clip. Our motherland of Southern New Jersey (now I'm out of the closet) was featured on the Colbert Report. This video is just a tiny preview of all the bizarre gigantic statuary along one of the main highways that bisects south Jersey. With scenery like that, who could be grouchy?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

o v e r s t r e t c h e d

I feel like a Gumby doll that has been pulled in every direction and hasn't bounced back into shape yet. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I've passed the limit of elasticity, and I'm going to be stuck as a wrung-out twisty lump for the rest of my days.

If only there were more hours for knitting, gardening and yoga in the week. I feel quite sure that I could deal with all this stress better if only I would fight it harder... hm, does that sound wrong to you, too?

But just as a little heads-up, in case you were thinking of asking me to do something: please don't. Chances are I'll say yes, and then there will be one more thing for me to gripe about, and HWWLLB will not be a happy camper, and the knotty muscles in my neck will get worse. I need to learn to say 'no' more often! Or get more massages.

Mostly I am regretting saying 'yes' earlier this year to taking on a committee that was desperate for someone to be in charge of it. I thought, "I know how to do this, it will be no sweat." But you know, just because you know how to do something, doesn't mean you can make the time to do it well. If that lesson hasn't smacked me in the face a dozen times already, here's another. Maybe this time it will take!

Perhaps the next step is to make a list of things that are stressing me out, and things that are making me feel better, and then to cross off stress-inducing things, and pile on more nice things, until they balance out. Lists are very comforting, because even if you don't actually use them for anything afterwards, at least you made a list, and that's doing something, right?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

hello spring days

The first day of spring was delightful. Every morning this week it's been blustery. Cloudy and windy, the kind of wind that makes your bike zig across the street and makes your hair look like you've been.... er... out on a windy day in March.

It was like that this morning, but over all the wind you could still hear the birds singing their hearts out. It's a cacaphony of birdsong out there in the mornings when I go out for the newspaper.

morning tea

The coffee shop was a quiet oasis this morning after such a noisy, windy, crisp bike ride in for our morning meeting.

After work Grady and I walked home. Why don't we walk more often? It's only about 30 minutes, and we get to peep into everyone's gardens to see what's growing. Zipping by on my bike, I tend to miss all the lovely details. Anyhow, we had a great walk home, and then we both went out to the backyard and worked in the garden until it was too dark to see anything.

Over the weekend I had spent a small fortune on plants, for a large bed I dug next to our back patio. It's a great spot, mostly sunny, and bordered on 2 sides by a fence. Here are some of my little plants lined up & waiting to go into the ground:

plants 1

This tray has coral honeysuckle and green-headed coneflower. I also got spotted Joe Pye weed, butterly weed, Texas sage, Eastern phlox, and lots of other fun things.

I got them all into the bed tonight, though it was darkening quickly as I watered them in. By the time I got to spreading mulch, it was really too dark to see what I was doing. Tomorrow I'm going to go out there and find half of them buried, and the other half with no mulch at all.

It's also lettuce time:

lettuce eat!

Salad, anyone? It's finally time to start harvesting this beautiful lettuce. I think I planted about three times as much lettuce as last year, and am looking forward to having a big tasty salad for lunch most days this spring & summer. I've really been craving fresh garden lettuce -- the stuff from the grocery store is more unappealing all the time.

Now that we have so much more daylight after work, it's hard to find time to do the inside things I want to do, like cook dinner or work on my Crafters for Obama T-shirt. Somehow it must all get done though, because the campaign has arrived here in North Carolina, and I simply don't have a thing to wear. Unless I made a shirt from lettuce.... hmmm...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

can i get through one speech without crying?

I want to live in that more perfect Union!

I just watched Obama's speech for the second time today and am still completely amazed that someone running for office -- for president! -- could be so honest. I mean soul-baringly honest, about something so hard to talk about as race. He did it without one single platitude!

This really isn't meant as an electioneering post, I am just astonished and grateful that the political discussion in the US has moved to race, to such an open, honest, clear, thoughtful, realistic, loving, productive discussion about race. A lot of the political analysis is disappointing, but what can you expect? Political analysts today are trained to read the spin, and this was utterly without spin.

This campaign is changing everything. As a nation, as a society, I hope we can live up to this call to get together and get real about the problems that are facing us. Too long our politics has been all about appealing to the worst in our natures -- I want to live in a society that takes on its problems using the best we have to offer.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

freebie friday: bootielicious

baby eyelet socks; circular seamless baby bootees; basic baby socks; T-strap booties

Lately I've been using lots of leftover sock yarn to make baby gifts. Booties seem like the classic crafter gift for a new baby, and they're also fun & easy to make with yarn you've already got handy. Instead of a regular Free Pattern Friday where I publish a new pattern, I decided to troll the web for some really good existing free bootie patterns & share them with you.

First though, my favorite of the four:


Baby Eyelet Socks, by Cynthia Hall.
Yarn: "Fade from Salmon" merino sock yarn from Lazy Perry Ranch.
This is a simple, fun pattern that looks extra-fancy. You can easily memorize this lace pattern and work on these booties on a car trip -- they'll be done before you even get there. Download it free from Pickin & Throwin.


Plain Baby Socks, adapted from the pattern above.
I also used the same pattern to improvise some plain baby socks -- just make the same socks in plain old stockinette stitch. They're simple, but the tiny-ness still makes them irresistibly cute. These were knit in leftover Trekking.

Basic Circular Seamless Baby Bootees from the Top Down, by Megan Mills.
Yarn: Sockotta
This pattern is great til you get to the sole, which requires a whole lot of grafting. It's kind of a weird way to end an otherwise well-constructed bootie, but since the baby is unlikely to actually be walking around in the socks, I guess a seam along the sole of the foot is no big deal. This is probably also the most practical of these four bootees, since it's got the little ties that make it harder for the baby to pull them off. This pattern comes in several versions, and I modified mine to have a roll-top edge. Download this pattern free from Megan's blog.


Finally, the T-strap booties. I've seen these done lots of different ways by lots of different designers. There was a Bootie Workshop that featured this booties style (in DK weight yarn), published in Knit Simple S07. The pattern is easy to translate to sock-yarn gauge, to facilitate the further use of leftovers, but since I didn't design these myself, I don't think I can publish the translation. But if you have this pattern from KnitSimple and you need help translating for sock yarn -- email me and I'll give you some hints. : )

T-strap bootie from sock yarn leftovers
leftovers from 1 skein fingering weight sock yarn
size 1 US needles (2.25 mm)
size B crochet hook (2.25 mm)
tapestry needle
stitch markers

gauge: 30 st / 56 rows = 4 inches

I hope you have fun using up your sock yarn leftovers on some of these bootie patterns. I find them totally addictive to knit. It makes me worry about the growing pile of booties on my desk, and whether at some point there will be more booties than babies to give them to, and I'll have to start putting them on the cat, which could only lead to trouble. But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

rally update!

The Crafters for Obama T-shirt Making Rally is underway! I've updated the official page for the rally, but thought I'd let you know that...

sign-ups are still open!

I mean, why not? The more the merrier, right? The current list of participants is on the main page, and I am LOVING everyone's posts to the Flickr group. Go check out the Obama craftiness & join the group! It is a lovely sight to behold.

We've also added some new prizes for rally winners. Ileana is donating a prize from India*Romeo, and Lomester has donated an adorable cuddly Democrat! More prizes will be added before the Rally closes & winners are announced on May 6th.

I need to go get back to work on my T-shirt. Sewing sequins takes longer than I thought it would.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

rainy days

The last few days have been full of blessed, blessed rain. Our rain barrel has been running over, the ground squishes when you walk on it, and the level of our city's sad, depleted reservoir has shot up more than two feet this week. It's been a very long time since we've had this much rain, and it's a real relief.

This rainfall won't erase our drought, but it did help. And it gave me something I hadn't experienced in a very long time: a rainy day. Several rainy days, actually! Friday I was on UNC's campus, and I stopped and watched in delight as streams of people went by with colorful umbrellas bobbing up and down the paths, and rubber boots splashing in the puddles. Puddles! Something else we hadn't seen in a while.

Saturday it was still rainy, and I spent some time on the various knitting projects that have been lying around. I made some progress on the super-bright version of Super-Natural Stripes that I've been knitting for a friend's new little girl:


The tangerine color makes me so happy!

I also dreamt up a new design, which I think will replace a gift sweater I was knitting. The one that's being replaced is a design I had in my mind all winter, a swingy girl's oversized cardi. I love the shape, but the color is starting to get me down. I don't remember what the ball band calls it, but I keep thinking of it as 'mushroom':


It will probably be very elegant in the end, but the color isn't inspiring me to pick up the needles right now -- especially with the super-bright stripes singing out to be knitted!

The design I dreamed is really neat... but what impresses me is that when I woke up, I actually remembered it and sketched it out! I always imagine that in my dreams I have these genius ideas, but can never remember them when I wake up. It's also a design for a girl, and with one of the same elements as the mushroom sweater, a swingy wide lower half, but it will be a much more fun, much less fussy garment overall, and I can't wait to start knitting it. I'm thinking I'll use one of my most favorite yarns, Cascade Sierra Quatro. But I can't decide which color...

I also made some more booties this week. I have a growing pile of baby booties sitting on my desk for various friends. I think this Friday is going to be bootie day... stay tuned. It will be bootielicious, only with less Beyoncé.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

fresh air

I have been so grouchy and low-energy lately. It seems everyone in North Carolina is getting over the flu. HWWLLB and I have been spared (so far), though both of us have been sniffling and sleepy and I think fighting it off.

Yesterday I was working from home, and it had been raining on and off all day. As we drew towards evening, a huge storm was approaching, and as I stared out the window, I realized that I hadn't ridden my bicycle in ages.

So I grabbed the last snatch of daylight and sped down to the wetland near our house to visit the herons and the turtles. The sky was such a dark gray, with dramatic rolling clouds, and the wind whipping treetops in every direction. Only the herons seemed unfazed (you know how herons always act very cool).

As I pedaled home again it felt great to be outside in the fresh, early-spring air. I careened down the big hill behind our house with my unzipped jacket flapping behind me, like wings or a cape. It had been a long time since I'd felt that wonderful flying-downhill sensation.

Not enough exercise. I think that explains the tired, tired grouchiness. Today I got up early, got back into my yoga routine and biked into work. I feel like myself again.

In like a lion!

Monday, March 03, 2008

crafty time

Thanks to all of you who have signed up for the Obama T-shirt making rally! There's still plenty of time to sign up if you want to get in on the crafty action and win some prizes!

rally participants thus far:
Kate Digs

You can also join the Crafters4Obama Flickr group without doing the T-shirt rally, and share whatever you're making. There are already some amazing campaign-inspired crafts in the photo pool. I'm in love with this and this. And check out this beautiful "Key to Change" bag from Stitch Poet. *swoon!* Kate's right -- I think all these things will be historical folk art one day in the not-too-distant future.

On Saturday we had a crafty day at our house. Kate and Ileana came over. Ileana was making subversive cross-stitch, and Kate was making her rad Obama T-shirt. She also started an embroidery project which is going to be incredible. I won't spoil any surprises, though. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon of fun with two very creative ladies, capped off later with greasy Mexican food. yum.

I made another recycled plastic bag. This one's a prize for someone who not only needs a Pay it Forward gift, but is also a rabid Obama fan:

O HOPE 08 recycled bag 1
carry your groceries with HOPE in 08

Here's what I learned about using the iron to fuse plastic bags: Thicker, department store-type bags lay nice and flat and keep their shape fairly well when you fuse them together. Flimsy grocery bags fuse well too, and make a nice strong finished product, but they shrink unpredictably and you wind up with a weird, warped funky shape when you're done fusing. So I'm not going to use them again (if I ever get the urge to fuse plastic bags again, which honestly may not happen, at least not for a long time). Although I really like the finished product, I dislike plastic too inherently to really enjoy these projects all that much.

On Saturday I also started a T-shirt, but bedazzling and sequins are rather time-consuming, so I think it will be a little while before it's done and I can share a picture. I'm very excited about it, though. It's going to be the blingiest thing I own for sure, except for the name-necklace my parents gave me for 8th grade graduation, which I have never worn and for which my mom still chides me occasionally ("I don't understand why you won't wear that beautiful necklace," etc). I just can't bring myself to wear it, even ironically.

And one last thing: I must say about the Bedazzler, it's a pain in the a$$, but I LOVE IT. There are many more sparkly crafts in my near future. Can you imagine blingy sock monsters???? I sure can. Maybe I should start making sparkly name-necklaces for the sock monsters? Hm... something to ponder.