Friday, April 4, 2014

It's a Nice Problem to Have

I am no longer going to complain about my weight or my clutter... OK, realistically, I'm going to try very hard not to complain about my weight or my clutter. I will probably complain about them again but I intend to feel very guilty when I do it (yes, I'm planning to feel guilty) and endeavor to do it less.

Why would I complain about having too much to eat? Why would I complain about having too many things? It makes no sense. What is the alternative? I wish I were hungry and homeless? Hunger and homelessness are real problems.

  • Not having enough to eat is a real problem.
  • Not owning a single pair of shoes or a change of clothes is a real problem
  • Not having access to shelter, clean water, and a clean environment is a real problem
Deciding to order pizza because I don't feel like making a home-cooked meal is not a real problem. It's a first-world pseudo-problem, like having slow internet or no shoes that match my dress.

Having to deal with the "problems" stemming from abundance are very nice problems to have!

The excess that I have on my body and in my home is a direct result of abundance! Given how many people there are currently inhabiting this planet without enough to eat or live, it seems callous and myopic for me to complain about it. 

"Oh no! Woe is me! I have too much to eat! I have to throw out my stuff because I'm drowning in it! I have to hire an organizer to help me manage it! My situation is horrible!" 

I can't overstate how completely unprecedented my situation truly is both historically and globally. What to do with too much is just not something my ancestors and much of humanity has to worry about.

I know that I often forget that the problems associated with abundance are not actual problems compared with the problems of famine and poverty. How could I not? It's so easy to forget! You have magazines, blogs, TV shows, books, and advertisements constantly repeating the refrains "Cut the Clutter" "50 Strategies for Organizing"  "Lose Twenty Pounds in Twenty Days." There are entire sections of book stores devoted to weight loss and clutter control, entire blogs devoted to organizing and eating less. TV series devoted to hoarders and weight loss competitions. I am constantly bombarded with the message that the issues associated with abundance are just horrible!

But they aren't. At least not in the way they're being talked about in the mainstream media. There are some actual problems with abundance but it has nothing to do with my weight or where to put my stuff.

The fact that I have too much to eat and too many options isn't a problem but the depleting of our soil, the pollution and cruelty associated with our industrial food complex and the chemicals I consume sure are.

The fact that I have too much stuff isn't a problem but the using of natural resources to make those products that I don't need, the frequent use of slave labor to both get the raw materials and make the products is an actual problem.

The clutter's eventual trip to a landfill is akin to an insult to the people who suffered to make the "clutter". My casually discarding what they slaved away to make is a truly horrifying thought that I'm having for the first time as I type... I find that thought very upsetting.

Furthermore, the use of credit which sends me further into debt to acquire the stuff that I don't need, often made by slaves, which will end up in a landfill, is also an actual problem.

The fact that I have to deal with the "downside" of abundance is not a problem, the fact that I fail to see the havoc it wreaks while complaining about the outcome of my indifferent indulgence surely is.

So I'm going to try very hard to stop complaining about how much I weigh and how much I have. I want to continue working to be mindful of what I'm buying and what I'm eating: where it comes from, how it was made, what it is made from, who made it, etc... This is very much a two steps forward one step back process for me. "Consumer awareness" encompasses many things! There are TONS of things to be aware of. It's daunting! Nevertheless I think it's definitely a thing worth doing and I'm getting better at it all the time. Making choices based on knowledge and a set of values is a good thing, at least I think it is.

Anyway, the fact that I have the problems associated with abundance is not something to complain about, it's something to be grateful for, because it's a nice problem to have.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly

No, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't work hard to do things well, that would be absurd. What I mean is that you have to go through the phase where you are bad at something before you can get to the point where you're good at something. Unless you're one of those people who does everything well right from the start. If you're that person you should stop it because no one likes a show-off.

As you can see, I am learning to weave. That is my brand-ie new 15" Schacht Cricket Loom, with which, along with a couple of books on weaving and some yarn, I have begun my new endeavor. I'm weaving away... badly.

Alas, I fear that I have many oddly shaped, unevenly woven rectangles in my foreseeable future. My M.O. is to just wade right in and try it. Take a class? Pfft, whatever, I'll just fiddle with it until I get it. I knit a whole lot of weird looking rectangles when I was learning to knit too. The nice thing about knitting is that you can unravel the weird rectangles and reuse the yarn. You really can't do that with weaving.

The wade right in method generally works for me, or at least it will eventually. Above is the edge of my first piece. That is not how it's supposed to look, therefore, it is an excellent example of weaving badly. Apparently, there's a trick to getting the edges even. I'm going to have to find out what that is.

This is the actual weave of my first piece. This is yet another example of bad weaving. Apparently there is a trick to getting the weave even. I do believe that I will have to find out what that is too.

Fortunately for me the act of weaving is fun so the fact that the finished product isn't perfect is OK because making it was enjoyable. It's a good thing too. It would be awful to make something weird looking and hate the process of making it too. Talk about a lose/lose.

And here it is, my first project, fresh off the loom, in all of its glorious unevenness. I am experiencing the "IKEA Effect" (When you like something you've made, even if it stinks, just because you made it.) So I have worn it anyway. If you see me wearing it and choose to mention that it's uneven prepare for a withering look and subsequent eye-roll coming in your direction.

That isn't all though. Here is my second project:

The weave on this one is evener (that's actually a word, go figure) however the colors are what they are because I ran out of yarn for the warp. I really like the colors so that doesn't matter to me. It is also about ten feet long so I have to wrap it around my neck three times so it doesn't drag on the floor. Apparently there is a trick to estimating the correct yarn requirements and the end length. Yet another thing about which I must find out. I might try felting it to make it shorter... could work.

Here is my newest project:

It's going to be a pillow cover for Lu's bed. I'm at a temporary standstill with this one because I had to order more yarn (see above about estimating yarn requirements taking special note of the part where I mention I haven't a clue how to do it.) This yarn stripes by itself so that is pretty cool-looking! My edges are better and the weave is mostly even. Progress!

Anyway, I will be doing this badly right up to the point when I'm not. I'm guessing two more projects and I will be in the "not bad" stage and probably three more after that until I get to the "good" stage. I'll get there, I typically do for anything I consider worth doing. For the record, learning to play softball and beat-boxing are not worth doing, for me anyway.

I'll show you how that looks when it's done.

See you soon,

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Google This

I'm not a huge April Fools fan. It's a holiday that I either tend to miss or mark with a "THERE'S A BUG IN YOUR HAIR!!!! Ha ha, April Fools" kind of prank, which is pretty lame. However, I saw this photo on Pinterest where someone had stuck googlie eyes on every single container in the fridge and I thought it was pretty awesome. Opening the fridge door on April 1st and finding all of the contents staring at you? It's pretty hilarious. So this year I decided to googlie-eye (watch me make a verb there) my kid's rooms:

I had fun. Isaac thought it was hilarious because it reminded him of the Christopher Walken googlie-eyed plant skit from SNL. He's been doing his Christopher Walken impression all afternoon, he's very good at it.

It took a minute or two after they went in their rooms before they noticed. That's mostly because I cleaned first and they were distracted by the fact that they could see their floors. It was the old "Where are all my clothes if not on the floor?" feint to throw them off for a moment.

Any-hoo, I thought I share it because it's a cute, non-mean prank. My friend's son switched the sugar for salt this morning and she put it in her coffee... that's a mean prank, messing with someone's morning coffee, don't do that. He should have put googlie-eyes on the mug instead so he wouldn't face being put on the lawn with a "FREE" sign around his neck.

See you soon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Go Swiftly

I finally went ahead and bought a yarn swift and ball winder. I typically use yarn that is DK gauge or bulkier, but I bought lace-weight yarns for my first few weaving projects.

My pile o' lace-weight yarn, four of which are in skeins.

If you're not familiar with the weights of yarns, lace-weight yarn is basically thread... I'm also discovering that I probably shouldn't have picked it for my first weaving projects, but live and learn. The skeins are those twists of yarn on the right which need to be wound before they can be used.

The umbrella swift and ball winder.

Anyway, where I can wind a skein of bulkier weight yarn into a ball by draping it around my knees or around a chair back, the lace-weight yarn wound up in a gigantic knot both times I tried. I had to throw some away because there was no way I was going to spend hours and hours untangling it.

So that's where the swift, which is that wooden thing that opens like an umbrella (which is why it's actually called an "umbrella swift," go figure) and the little hand-cranked ball winder come in. They make quick, neat work of winding skeins into balls.

You open the skein, drape it around the swift, and adjust the tension...

Thread the yarn through the holder of the ball winder, wrap it once or twice around the center and you're off.

What would have taken me at least an hour took me a few minutes. I happen to think that the old-fashioned implements of fiber-arts are beautiful, plastic ball-winders aside. Umbrella swifts were designed long ago by the Swedes and they can't be made better. No, electric swifts and ball-winders would not be better. In my humble opinion electric-powered tools for fiber arts miss the point and lack the charm. It's a hand-craft for Pete's sake!

There's a perfectly wound ball of yarn, ready to be wound onto a shuttle.

TA-DAH! Winding done! Until I buy more yarn that is.

I'm happy with the purchase and I really can't recommend them highly enough if you process lots of yarn, which I do.

My first weaving project is progressing nicely-ish. It's almost done and it looks... uh... it looks like a first project. More on that soon.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snowglobe Fail & Room Shoes

This past summer we got another dumpster for the purpose of cleaning out our very messy basement. When the dumpster was delivered, I gave what would become the quote of the year for our family. I said:


Because as far as I'm concerned an empty dumpster to fill with junk is just like Christmas.

So my mom decided to make me a Christmas present, my very own "It's Just Like Christmas" dumpster snowglobe. She went to Martha Stewart to this article for making snowglobes from baby food jars and, with the help of a tiny plastic dumpster, a tiny bottle-brush tree, and the best of intentions, she made this:

Hmmmm..... as you can see, the glue didn't stick...

...and the glitter she used makes the water murky.

So, what did she do when this turned out like this? She thought it was hilarious and wanted me to do one of those "NAILED IT" photos, and then she wanted me to blog about it. So without further adieu, I give you "The Snowglobe Fail!"

Pretty awesome. It's going on my bookshelf :-)

The life lesson here is: View every craft failure is an opportunity for a "Nailed It" photo!

In other non-fail news, I have almost finished my niece's room shoes. You know, the ones that I haven't ever mentioned before right now?

I made these with the Peggy Girl Kimono Shoe pattern from I Think Sew. They are super cute. I have a little more stitching to do and I got some puff-paint to make the soles less slippery. Almost done Tiff! Nearly a month late but hopefully they'll be worth the wait.

I purchased this pattern in all sizes and I have plans to make at least one pair for myself and a pair for Miss Lu. They are pretty easy to make, especially for shoes. Shoes are never easy!

See you soon!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

(Yes, I'm Back) Ode to a Flooded Basement

(Yes indeed, I'm back, we'll call this "coming full circle." I'll tell you more later, but first, a poem.)

I don't know what you do when your basement floods but I write a poem. Unfortunately my poetic inspiration is limited to Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. Anyway, without further adieu I give you:

Ode to a Flooded Basement

One warm and misty morn I woke
And much to my surprise,
Upon my morning rounds I saw
The tide’s begun to rise.

“Are you beside the shore?” You ask
“Down beside the Sea?”
“Why no” I answer for alas,
The tide has come to me.

For down upon my basement steps
This morning I did tread,
Where I surveyed the dampened room
Which filled my heart with dread

For long ago a silly man
Whose motives aren’t quite clear,
Believed he should assign himself
The role of engineer.

And looking down upon the pit
Designed for the foundation,
He had the rather clever thought
Which needed exploration.

Sure it was a cellar
But its purpose could be dual,
For where most could see a cellar
He could see a swimming pool!

“I can see it now!” he then exclaimed
And then he made the statement,
“We have only but to drain
The water INTO the basement!

The people who will buy this house
Will surely be delighted
To have a springtime swimming pool
For friends to be invited!”

No one on the job site dared
To offer up dissension,
Because this man was just so pleased
With his clever new invention.

“Everyone will want one!
This is sure to be a hit!
I’ll call it ‘The Cellar Swimming Pool’
I’ll need to patent it.”

And thus it was our house became
The prototype du jour,
As he would install four more drains
Which ended in the floor.

Now every wet and soggy day
As the room begins to flood
We’d like to have him for a swim
And drown the stupid dud.

Well, we don't really want to drown him. Just make him stand there in bare feet for a while.
Happy Hump Day to all! May your basements, if you have them, be dry.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Knitting Progress and a Sock Monkey

I thought I'd zoom in with some of the progress I've made on my knitting since I last wrote about my projects here. This is an effort to demonstrate that I actually do stuff when I'm not writing on the blog... I do assume that you know that, especially since I haven't been writing that often... I do other things.... OK, right, here are knitting projects in progress:

1. The Cascade Chunky Baby Alpaca Throw which looked like this:

And now looks like this:

Almost exactly the same...

I had knit through two balls of the gray yarn and added a cream stripe and a red stripe when my daughter said "Hey mom, that looks like a sock monkey." It did indeed look like a sock monkey and while I do like sock monkeys, "sock monkey throw" was not the look I was going for... so I frogged it (knitter speak for "unraveled it" because you rip it rip it rip it, get it?) and started again, this time with a version of the Double Seed Stitch Blanket from Purl Bee. I say "a version" because I cast on a bunch of stitches and I didn't do a gauge swatch so I don't know how big it will end up. I also bought a light gray so it will be dark gray, light gray, and cream striped and I'll use the red to teach Lu how to knit.

2. The yellow swing cardi which looked like this:

And now looks like this:

PROGRESS!!! Love it. So fat it's a good pattern and I have no desire to frog it. Bodes well.

3. The swing coat by Debbie Bliss which looked like this:

And now looks like this:

More progress, fun pattern, no desire to frog it, all good.

Then, I added three more knitting projects to the list. One day soon I'll explain my weird relationship with my craft supplies and weeding out, but suffice it to say that my mom knows that when I "weed out" my yarn and fabric it's only a matter of time before I take it all back again. She has that time to use what she wants before I come and collect it, which I did over Christmas (sorry mom) Like is said, weird.


4. The Tea Leaves cardi by Madelinetosh available here.

This is a hugely popular sweater to knit (if you know what's going on in the knitting world) and for good reason too, it's pretty and it's knit from the top down. That's the neck/yolk you see there. It's super-easy to follow and I've seen so many on Ravelry, they come out beautifully! 

5. Shift of Focus from Rain Knitwear available here.

So this yarn is very special. A woman in Vermont hand spun and hand-dyed this for me. It's a merino/tencel blend and it's just GORGEOUS! I saw it at the Montpelier Farmer's Market and I went ga ga over it. It was very expensive (the way handmade things should be) so I'd knit to the end of a skein and get another. Here's the problem though, I love that yarn SO MUCH that I have completely frogged it twice. As in: it was finished and ready to sew together and I unraveled the entire thing...TWICE. I need to have the exact right pattern for it and I've found it with this sweater.

Of course I've had to unravel this one once because I did it wrong. I was looking at it going "I'm not seeing how this is working. Maybe that's because it's top-down with short rows? Maybe if I keep going it will make sense to me? Nah, I was doing it wrong. Now that I'm doing it right I can see it. It's amazing how doing something the right way makes so much more sense.

6. This baby bonnet from Purl Soho's Last Minute Knitted Gifts.

I love this book! I love and have all of Purl's "Last Minute" books. I have knitted this bonnet twice before without incident but this time it's giving me absolute fits! I've frogged the stupid thing six times. It's not a hard pattern either. I keep getting distracted or something, I don't know, all I do know is that I'll be happy when this one is done! Gah! What a pain in the patootie!

Hun is really annoyed when I unravel something. He takes it personally. When I unraveled the Shift of Focus he was like "ARE YOU UNRAVELING THAT AGAIN!!! WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THAT!!!!"  Alas, I believe that herein lies the difference between knitters and other species,  we actually find the act of knitting calming and meditative, "I'm at peace when I knit" so to speak. So while we do enjoy finishing projects, the process is also enjoyable so unraveling isn't the worst thing in the world. Besides, yarn is expensive so you want to get it right. Except that dumb bonnet. I really just want to get that thing done.

I have the yarn for four more projects here. I have the patterns all picked out and the gauge swatches all knitted for a couple. I may start all of them at once. I keep very good notes so I know where I am on a given project... Hey, I get bored easily, what can I say?

So i'm off to finish the dumb bonnet, hooray. Hopefully I won't have to frog it again.
See you soon,