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Archive for December, 2007

Creative Work by Students

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

polyclayjars20.jpg

I’m catching up on photos today, as I still fight some bit of this bug which makes me want to sleep all day and all night.

First here is a grouping of jars made as holiday gifts in the Polymer Clay Gift class last Sunday. We also made pens and talked about crochet hooks with polymer handles. I’m very happy with how these came out. Mine are now filled with candies as a quick gift for holidays. I am thinking of maybe putting a ribbon around the jar as well, but it’s not necessary.

You can see that there are a good number of styles available to embellish jars in this way. I love how the lid becomes a small canvas. It can be hippy-dippy or it can be elegant, or somewhere in between.

I have been working with polymer clay since 1991. My student started Sunday. I think it is hard to tell which of the jars I made and which she did. Good job, don’t you think?

The second photo is evidence of how creative a child can be. I had some kids who were quite young joining my CityKidz Knit! program in the last several weeks. When a kid is almost ready to knit, they need some small motor skills development before we get them going on knitting needles.

citykidzdec12-07.jpgSometimes I teach them how to crochet a simple chain using their fingers, just to get used to how yarn responds. And since one of my Kidz taught me how to do finger-knitting (it’s like an I-cord, a tube made of interlocking loops) I teach them that as well, before getting them going on needles.

Well, then the kids who do fine on needles also want to finger knit. And why not?

So this child, who last week knit a sweater for her stuffed animal, decided this week to finger-knit a tube. Since I only allow toys/dolls in the room if they are creating for that toy that day, she then had to figure out what to do with the tube she made, for that doll, to justify having the doll in the room.

She wrapped the tube around the doll’s head once and its neck twice, like a muffler or a headband. It looks so stylish!

It’s All about People

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

A Digression from the Usual Blog

Here it is, that cold-weather hard-living time again. Despite the lyrics to most of the holiday songs… about warm fires, and all that… many of us do not have ideal holiday seasons. Every person has challenges at times, and for those who are facing them during this time of year, the contrast can be difficult.

Holidays are tough stuff for folks who don’t have “the most wonderful time of the year” sort of life. I recall that my first marriage broke up in December, requiring me to change my holiday routine after 16 years. I got word tonight that a family friend, lost her husband recently with very little warning. I tell you, having had quite a few losses in my life, this stuff is even harder at holiday times.

I like to keep this blog mostly cheerful, but it seems to me that admitting the challenge allows us the freedom to re-adjust our expectations of ourselves. This is the perfect time to re-evaluate and set ourselves up to succeed in the upcoming several weeks of holiday mayhem.

Even if it’s not the loss of a loved one, a big change in life (planned or not), a health issue or two, any stress seems bigger when the media is screaming at us that things are (or should be) perfect for the month of December, anyway. We can choose to disagree with the messages.

joybug.jpgFocus on Friends & Family

The good part of this time of year is the reconnecting with folks I don’t see much. Those gatherings which bring us together right when we don’t want to leave our warm homes, are probably good in many ways. But even vacation can bring stress.

I know that when I worked a desk job, I would have to work extra hours before we had days off, in order to make sure that the required work got done on the required schedule. Often those hours were unpaid. Often I got sick after the holiday was over, from pushing too hard before.

Stephanie/Yarn Harlot posted yesterday about giving up on expectations when the winter weather, a family loss, and a minor injury sort of made “Plan A” impossible. Instead they opened their home to a gathering. They made cookies and enjoyed friends and family.

Focus/Purpose

You know, I think that through all the losses and sadnesses I’ve had, some of which were at holidays, I have had to learn what mattered most to me. What I have figured out is that in the end, only the people we love, the people in our circle, the folks who make our lives special… those folks are the essence of living on this earth. Or that is what it seems to me. Blood relatives or “family of choice,” it’s all essential.

With love-relationship losses, friendships take on a much larger meaning. Sometimes there are few friends left when things have been rough a long time. I’m doing what I can to be a support to a friend in this sort of situation right now.

Whenever I have a loss, particularly when someone dies and leaves my life permanently, I need to sit quietly and re-connect with my own truth. That those I love are *IT* for me. That all the worries I seem to embrace every day, the things I try to do, the expectations I put on myself, the running in circles… none of those matter as much as telling someone I love them. If I can re-learn this focus each time I feel loss, then the loss is not a total loss.

Yes, I need to work so that I pay my way in this world. I am not in danger of ignoring my basic obligations. However, relationship is the cement which pulls my world together.

Saying Love Out Loud

I understand that there are many cultures where people do not speak out loud the words “I love you.” I understand that acting loving is truly more important than speaking love and not acting it. Personally, I hope I do both. I know I surprise friends at times by saying goodbye with an “I love you, seeya later.”

I hope that when I’m gone, people remember how much I loved, how much I embraced living. Neither how many pairs of socks I knit nor how I used the floor in my house as a “horizontal storage unit” are important. My true success is in the relationships.

Staying Connected

I recently had lunch with a friend from first grade. That time together was delicious, more so than the food. I still keep in touch with two folks from elementary school, plus a church school friend from approximately middle school.

These relationships are important to me, though I do not see them often enough nor correspond enough. The connection and history are something not everyone has, and I know it. It’s interesting to me that all three of these people read my blog, at least occasionally. What an honor!

At Schuler Books Sunday, my Goddaughter Sara came to hear us play for a good portion of the concert. She is in her 3rd year of college… an age when so many young folks get too busy for the older folks in their lives. I am deeply honored that she chooses to stay connected with me, and we have dinner together when she has breaks between terms and comes back home.

Letting Go of Impossible Dreams

Today I spent a bunch of time knitting on a gift I’d wanted to present to a friend this week. I was trying to “make it up on the needles” and the fabric looks gorgeous… but I just did not cast on enough stitches for it to work as I wanted. I will need to rip it all out and start over.

I could get all flipped out about this delay. I think if I had not spent a whole day indoors relaxing and trying to regain ground on this sinus bug I’ve been fighting, I might have started freaking out.

Instead, I looked at the piece many times over several hours to figure out where I stood. I decided that it just was not going to work that way, decided that later is the only time I can do that… and decided that the special coffee and tea and hot chocolate I got this friend is gift enough. That I can make the large knitted item any time at all.

A Small Solution if I Choose

So just because I want to make her something, I’m going to see how long it takes me to knit a felted bowl from the One Skein book by Leigh Radford. I love these bowls. I’ll be doing a special book promotion event for Schuler Books at East Towne mall on February 28, and I want to have tried a few of the projects in the book before that day arrives.

I’m relatively sure I can do a bowl in a day or two with other distractions. So I will hope to add the bowl to the comfort package I’m making for this friend, ***if I have time.***

Because worrying is not what life is about (although I seem to practice it daily). I’m really good at worrying but that is not what I want to spend effort perfecting. I want to perfect my friendships and acquaintances. Or at least shine them up as well as they deserve.

Input?

How are you doing with keeping whatever balance you choose (or not) this time of year? How do you keep relationship important in the middle of too many appointments, parties, events, concerts, gifts to buy, overtime to keep work flowing, and the inevitable germs that take residence just at the wrong time?

What advice would you give to others? What advice do you need from others? In my case, getting this bug/cold/sinus thing made me slow down. I hate to admit that I’m grateful, but just maybe I am.

Photo? Speaking of relationships… in Michigan this year everyone who had the “old” style license plates was forced to get new ones. Brian decided that I really needed to have personalized plates, bless his heart. I always thought that they were extra-appropriate on a bug, but I’m relatively frugal with repeating expenses and never took the plunge.

He had me check for LynnH first, but it was taken. My car’s name is Joy (it was named that in 1999, before I had a business named ColorJoy). I always wanted plates saying Joy Bug. So Brian made it happen. How sweet he is!!! He loves my colorful nature, he likes my artfulness. He is the biggest gift I could ask for. And then he gifts me with Joy Bug plates. Awwww.

Music and Books

Monday, December 17th, 2007

heftonesschulersokemos.jpgTonight, Brian and I had our first performance for Schuler Books. It looks as though it will not be the last and we are delighted about that. This performance was at the Meridian Mall in Okemos, in what Brian would call my “Old Stomping Grounds.” I was raised in this area, before there was a mall there.

The weather was pretty miserable. Brian spent far too long shoveling snow today, and the wind kept blowing it around. I heard it was over a foot in some places near Detroit (they often get it worse than we do) but here it appeared more like four inches/10cm at a non-scientific glance.

Fortunately, this location is in a well-plowed area and my computer students live in that general neck o’the woods. I did some publicity including letting my class know we would be there. I think I brought in 8 or so die-hard fans, including my Goddaughter, Sara, who is home from College on break. It was so good to see everyone come by.

I have been fighting this sinus bug for way too long, but my voice came through for me. We sang for 2 hours and although I had to pay attention to my voice, I was able to do my part with surprisingly little trouble. I was delighted.

However, I guess my stamina is still not up to par, because we came home, ate dinner, and I promptly fell asleep on the couch for hours. I woke up when the snowplows went by about quarter to 2am. I zonked out like a toddler after a long play date!!!

Monday I have no appointments outside the home. I intend to work from the couch in my pajamas if at all possible. We may have a visitor after dinner in which case I guess I’ll have to dress by then… but I am looking forward to not having to go out at all. Less is more when there is snow on the ground.

I hope all of you are warm and safe, and have very little to shovel if you are in a cold area. I hope to make a big vat of soup tomorrow (maybe cabbage and tomato, and chick peas… sort of a vegetarian Italian idea). I wish you comfort and low stress as we head into the thick of the over-scheduled part of the year.

Gray but Good

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Weather Report

Today the sky stayed the same color from “sunup” to “sundown” though we never saw any hint of actual sunlight… just a half a glow through the clouds. This is normal winter weather in Lansing, and much better than the ice storms others are dealing with. We could drive around. This is all very good.

Class Fun

I taught a Polymer Clay Gifts class at Rae’s and it was great fun. I got photos which you will definitely see in the next week. Not today, however…

A Needed Rest

When I got home I felt so draggy (I was expected at a holiday gathering and then possibly two other spots) that I called my brother. He told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to stay home the rest of the day. This cold/sinus thing is not bad enough for me to notice I should slow down, apparently, but it’s clear to those around me.

So I called and made my regrets known. And within 20 minutes I was out cold, napping on the couch, for a full two and a half hours. That brother of mine knows me better than I do.

For the record, this whole time I’ve been dragging with this bug, Brian has been bringing me breakfast and dinner pretty much every day. Asks me what kind of tea I want, even. I feel so spoiled! I wish I didn’t look pathetic enough to warrant this special care but I do appreciate it.

Oh, Yeah… Holiday Knitting

I am still mildly in denial about gifts. I have three more and all need some sort of handmade effort. One is a wrap/hug which needs only a crochet edging. One is a wrap/hug that is merely 1/4 done but luckily is on large needles. I have about 300 yards of yarn left to knit on size 15 needles. One stitch at a time. Fortunately I can do the knitting while listening to podcasts or reading blogs.

Except it seems that lots of bloggers aren’t blogging right now. This is totally understandable but a disappointment for me, who wants to read while she knits. I’m doing very easy things that do not require looking (mind you, I learned to knit in 5th grade… it makes a 5th grader very cool if she can knit without looking). But for now I’ll just listen to podcasts instead… at least when Brian’s not in the same room and forced to listen at the same time.

Oh… and then I need to do one more special thing for one more beloved. Will deal with that late next week after the two “hugs” are complete.

Tomorrow

I’m too boring to post a photo today. We have only two obligations tomorrow… a friend who does construction work is coming to look at maybe putting in a vent fan (big excitement) in our kitchen (the stove is half in front of a window, ugh, so there is no way to do a regular vent hood). Then at 6:30-8:30 we will be performing at Schuler Books at Meridian Mall. And after that performance, I’m essentially “on vacation” from teaching and singing for 3 weeks. I have much to do at home, however…

Yuck (followed by a Gratitude List)

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

christmasbabyfff12.jpgHistorically I have fallen ill the week after Thanksgiving. For the last 5 or 6 years I lucked out somehow, but not this year.

I had a little hint of it before the holiday and I thought I could baby it through… but after more than a week of “sort of” feeling it, I now have been a bit overtaken. Last night I had to sleep propped on the couch so that I would not cough. It’s a cold, it will go away, I’ll be fine. But I’m bummed.

I learned from Diana/Otterwise that parsley can improve a stuffy sinus situation rather quickly. I can put dry parsley in my soup. Or, if I’m lucky (as I was today) and Brian brings home fresh parsley for some reason, I can just put some in the greens I cook for dinner. Very nice. Worst case, Diana says you can just plain make tea from the dry stuff. I’m telling you, we are talking food as medicine here. Almost everyone knows that chicken soup can heal, but why is it that nobody talks about parsley?

I’m making comfort foods here this week, within the restrictions of my food allergies. One of the good things from getting a new allergist is that he’s retesting me… some of the old foods and lots of ones I was never tested for before. He confirmed that I can have soy… so I made some tapioca pudding yesterday with soy milk and brown sugar, and very much enjoyed that. It looks rather caramel-colored but tastes comforting. I had the last bit for breakfast today. What a treat!

christmasbabysassy12.jpgThe down side of extra tests, is a longer list of things I should avoid. I have literally been to the new office five different times for scratch tests. Yesterday was the kicker… no garlic, ginger, cinnamon. The garlic in particular is going to be very difficult for me. At least I can have some onion, and vanilla and nutmeg will work. But this even more limits my ability to get food at restaurants. Although maybe these three will add up to the missing piece. I keep getting reactions when I think I’ve been really strict in following Doctor’s orders. One day at a time, we will see.

OK, what is pleasant in my life today?

The sun did not hide. It was not too cold. I made a wonderful dinner of swiss chard and a few other veggies.

I spent time talking with a bunch of people I love. I checked my minutes on my phone and I did not go over my monthly allottment after being way over on minutes the first 2 weeks.

And I talked to my brother on the phone a little. I adore Eric, he’s the best. Any day I talk to him is a good day.

Hmmm, other things to be grateful for? Brian, Brian, Brian. This city where I have such a fine community. The places where I work… friends as well as economic partners. Lots and lots of wool, great foods in the refrigerator, a car I really enjoy driving, a laptop which surfs the internet without wires, on my lap while I’m on the couch. Great sweaters and ethnic clothing to wear. Family members totally on my team.

And Color!

What are you grateful for today? One thing is all we need, one item of gratitude can turn a day (or a post) around. Join me in the gratitude list, if you so choose. Or not (always your choice, of course).

Photos? Fast Florida Footies in size 0, two colors… and mini Sassy Summer Handbags, both knit by Diana using Cascade 220 yarn. She knit them last year… and for the record, these versions are included in the for-sale versions of both patterns. The footies are one color only in the pattern but Diana changed colors where the pattern sections changed, it’s simple to do on your own.

Good Memories

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Someone had a Christmas/holiday meme on their site with 26 questions. I’m not into a list of either/or questions, but I did pause for one of the 26. It asked for a favorite memory.

My family had no other relatives in Lansing… one relative in Michigan, which was Great-Great Aunt Ingeborg. Ingeborg had been born in Norway but lived here all her adult life. She was widowed young without children. She lived in Flint, an hour away, and did not drive.

We would go to her house for Easter dinner (she was a great cook and baker) but she did not always come for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Actually, somewhere around 1970 she moved to North Dakota to retire there with her brother.

For several years we had four of us in the state. My dad was a professor of Communications, back when there were only a few places in the world where you could study that field. He was a Doctoral Advisor to many students from all over the world.

Those students could not go home at holiday time, just because of the cost of travel. And none had seen a Thanksgiving dinner in person, just what they had seen on TV or in the newspaper. All had nowhere to go when the world stopped, the stores closed, and everything focused on the insides of American homes.

So Dad, who was a very compassionate guy, would invite his students to come for dinner. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner had at least one person, maybe a good handful, who was not related to us, but who we enjoyed and who would otherwise have a too-quiet evening. Sometimes we would even invite retired folks in the neighborhood.

There were always people whose first language was not English. We had guests from Spain, Australia, Israel, Sweden, Costa Rica, Mexico and more. They would tell stories. I learned more about the world at that dinner table than I could ever have learned from any book.

I also adored these people. They treated me well, adults were always more fun than kids. Kids could be mean. Dad’s adult guests always asked me questions and listened to my answers.

tubbytoastpumpkinpie.jpgAnd the fun! We would sing, for hours. My parents were endlessly amused by Eric and I singing silly songs we had learned at summer camp… forever. We got to stay up a lot later on those nights, and we had such fun singing and singing and laughing.

Sometimes they had us stand in front of the fireplace as if it were a stage. Sometimes we just sat around the table until we were told it was bedtime. These are my favorite memories of my childhood, from any time of year.

Do you have any special memories of any end-of-year holiday in the past? It need not be from childhood, it need not be Christmas.

I think the smiling Thanksgiving pie Brian baked just a few weeks back, is definitely on my short list of favorite memories…

Letting it be Christmas

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I guess I have turned into a little bit of the grinch. There are not a lot of kids in my life, other than the 8-10 knitters I see once a week and little Isabel, my friend April’s toddler. I used to really enjoy the gift-giving, dressing-up, special-food-eating parts of the holiday season. These days I look most forward to the days when I get to stay home all day rather than going out.

capitolchristmas07small.jpgI used to spend my life shopping. I knew when every store closed at night, and I read catalogs at home and on break at work, planning my shopping for when I was free. I loved good design/fashion (I still do) and spent much of my time looking/reading/scheming to buy things that were beautiful to me. I still notice beauty but I do not do it by shopping, at least not at the places I once did.

I gave up credit cards almost 16 years ago, and it was a huge change in my life. I am so grateful for that change… now I live in the present, and if I don’t have cash for something I figure out what I might do about it.

As a self-employed person, I do not know what my income will be next month, so I do not promise I’ll use the income I can’t count on, to pay a debt. It feels really sane, though it took a long time to get used to it. (I’ll never forget when I realized I could still buy things at Hudsons, using cash rather than using the card.)

Well, since I made these changes, I have approached the holiday season differently. Going into stores where they are offering me beautiful things I would like, might even be able to afford, but don’t need and didn’t know I wanted before getting to the store… well, that does not work as well any more.

I still bring too much home, far too often (resale shops and Target are my main downfall places). But even when I splurge I do not do it on as large of a scale as I once did. I remember an impulse credit purchase of a dress that was nearly $200 (gorgeous, I still have it… double-knit wool).

So when we get ready for holiday season, I tend to avoid the shopping thing. After all, if I go in a store, I will want something I didn’t know I wanted before I got there.

My family no longer does gifts unless inspired to do so. Brian’s family also passes this by.

However, I do need to get a gift for my Habibi Dancers’ secret Santa exchange. And we have musical friends who deserve a small love token, and there is my friend I’ve known forever and her daughter, my goddaughter, who stays in touch even though she’s in her 20’s now.

Why I find it hard to go ahead and shop for these beloved folks, I do not know. I guess just avoiding temptation is the issue. For example, I tried to crochet a hip wrap for my Habibi swap person. In the end I went to World Market where I knew I could find something, and I got her a totally perfect gift. But I also bought myself a pair of earrings while I was there. Ugh.

I will be knitting small socks to hang on the tree, for my fellow Abbott Brothers’ band members. Not sure what I’ll do for my Goddaughter. Found really good stuff for her mom earlier this year, just the right thing and so I pre-purchased for her. Loved that.

But I went to the Habibi party tonight. And the other girls were soooo into the gift giving (and receiving). My recipient loved her gift (gold beaded wrist cuffs… she said she had a pair and wore them so much that they broke… so she got another pair today, very cool).

And the woman who pulled my name TOTALLY nailed my gift. I first got a very cushy bathrobe and then I got the most amazing red sequin dress… sequins on stretchy knit fabric, and it fits me absolutely perfectly. I look for dresses at resale shops often, from 1-4 times a month, and I have never found anything like this, which fits so perfectly without any alterations.

I did start knitting my tiny little socks which I have most years chosen to give to the Abbott Brothers band members. Those are great fun. I see those folks on Saturday, this is absolutely do-able.

But I do wonder why it is I avoid this whole thing. I can really enjoy it, as a way to celebrate the relationships I have in my life. This is the time of year to experience full gratitude for friendship and family.

On one hand, it’s wonderful to contemplate what might be the perfect gift within my resources, for a beloved person in my life. On another hand, I think i would rather spend an hour at lunch with anyone I love, than get or give gifts. I’m preparing to take Goddaughter Sara out for sushi, for example… which she and I both very much enjoy doing together. And I had lunch with her mom on Monday. That, to me, is the real gift. Time with someone I love.

But do I need to let go a little bit? Give in to the joy of finding an appropriate gift? (That is, within my current resources?) Where is the balance?

Photo: Downtown Lansing, standing at the corner where the streets number zero and zero, where east/west and north/south streets change, at Michigan and Washington. This is the Capitol Building of Michigan. I live not all of ten blocks east and 25 blocks south of this point, and yet I’m considered not downtown at all. Foster Center is about 25 blocks east and 1 block north, and Rae’s shop is another 3 blocks, Altu’s restaurant another mile or so east of that.

This is all my neighborhood, really. It’s a good city if you ask me, very friendly, very compact, but not so small that people get into your business. I swore forever that I would not retire here, but I may be changing my mind.

Gray Day, Feeling Punk

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

I’ve been fighting a thing in the sinuses since last week. I didn’t feel sick but there was something just a little stuffy. No sneezing, nothing else. Just stuffy. It did not effect my voice for our performances Friday and Saturday, for which I was grateful.

I even felt pretty good Sunday and Monday. Tuesday, however told me it was time to slow down.
giveakidacamera1.jpgI made dinner with Brian’s assistance, ran a single load of clothes (necessity)… and hunkered down on the couch.

I often “hit the feathers” as they say, several hours after midnight. Usually it’s between 2am and 4am.

It is not even 1 and I’m off to bed…I don’t want to cancel the last CityKidz Knit! Program of the year, and some kids may not plan to return next term.

As bad as that could be, it would be worse to pass around germs to kids the week before serious vacation. I couldn’t do that either, could I? I need to heal overnight!

The weather outside today was gray… misty, rainy and 32F (0C), no sun got through. I do not intend to shed my ColorJoyfulness and match that weather. Goodnight!

The photo today? It’s give a kid a camera time! I handed my camera to Altu’s niece at the anniversary celebration a few weekends ago and gave her permission to take as many photos as she wanted. She was very creative (I think she’s in 2nd grade). This shot is the kid reflected in the chrome cover of the trash receptacle. I wish I’d thought of that!!!

It’s a Good Life

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

musicpartyknitting.jpg

My life is so integrated at times… we went to a party on Sunday, one we attend every year in December. It’s at the home of friends we know from the music community. The guy host is a fiddler in a contra dance band and the lady hostess dances.

Yet she also knits. And so do other folks who come to that party. So this year it turned out sort of like 2 parties… the basement was where all the people went who wanted to play music. The living room was mostly knitters.

In this photo you have two people holding hanks of Cascade 220 worsted yarn, and the person standing center winding two strands of the yarn, at one time, together into a ball. The double-strand then would be knit into felted clogs (pattern by Fiber Trends). The clogs call for bulky yarn so two strands held together work just fine.

The woman front right with crossed legs, was knitting a pair of mittens though it’s hard to see at the very right side of the photo. I was of course knitting from my vantage point. (Brian was playing music with the group downstairs.)

In moments like these, it seems like I’m definitely in the right life. It is so comfortable to be with the folks who are in my life. It is so comfortable to just be me. I am grateful for these moments.

What is it about deadlines?

Monday, December 10th, 2007

legwarmers25white.jpg

I remember less than a week ago, you folks got me really understanding how I need to sometimes clean house or otherwise tidy my physical surroundings, while I’m preparing for a large creative push or a big task of any sort.

It is very interesting to me that since we discussed that, I’ve been obsessing in the kitchen. I’ve given things away that I’d not used in years, tossed old spices from my first apartment in 1978 (guess I probably won’t be using those if I haven’t already) and made choices about the layout of items in the kitchen, particularly on the precious countertops.

Nervous Energy

So now, I have my last computer class of the year Monday and need to prepare a few handouts for them. And I have my biggest Christmas Party of the season coming up on Wednesday, for which I must bring one special gift. The gift, of course, I’ve planned in my mind for a long while. I even bought the supplies long ago.

crochetpurple.jpgAnd what do I do instead of preparing for Monday night and Wednesday night? Clean the kitchen, cook, and plan to do other things entirely. Finish a pair of legwarmers for myself. Start a wrap as a gift, which has no deadline. You know, all that normal avoidance creativity.

It’s like in college when I had a big exam, I’d have to go grocery shopping or meet a friend for tea, rather than sit down with the books. Only in that case I was not clear if I could really accomplish a good grade anyway. (I do not miss my teen college years… college these days is much more by choice and being an adult really helps me succeed.)

In this case, it’s pretty clear that I can do this class I’m teaching (I have taught it many times before, the handout is written) and I certainly can bring a gift on Wednesday. But I really would like to make that gift by Tuesday night so that I won’t have to go to World Market (an instant-gift place for bellydancers, thank goodness… would definitely find more than one possible thing with only one stop).

Swatching “in the Dark”

I, of course, made the gift-making harder, by deciding that I would crochet. I don’t crochet much. That is an understatement. I am capable of a pretty good chain stitch and a very good single crochet. I am absolutely inexperienced in triple crochet, double crochet or half-double, and must look them up in a book every time I need to use them. I also am relatively unclear about following crochet patterns though I’ve taken a few classes and get better each time… slightly.

I have “made up” crochet items in the past. However, in this case I really want a triangle. As in, one that is recognizable by someone else, as a triangle. On top of that, I want it pretty airy, more like a net than a fabric. The yarn I picked is really a good non-stretch shiny/fuzzy yarn called Feza Mesmerize, which is 65% acetate and 35% polyamid (nylon). It is easier to touch than the 100% nylon yarns I’ve tried before.

Practical Considerations, Even for Glitz

And since this is for a dance item, it really needs to be firm rather than stretchy. Stretch is not good in a costume. You need things to stay put and that means they need to be smaller than the body and cinched on carefully. If you have ever worn a skirt that is well-tailored but a size too big, and noticed how the skirt works its way around in a bit of a spiral dance around your body… well, then you understand how important it is that a costume fit with what is called “negative ease.” It can not slip or slide on stage.

Well, I tried to make up a “pattern.” I asked a friend who crochets more than I do, for dancing items. She gave advice and it still made much too small of a stitch. If you look at the photo, it’s the bottom dense part. I used a size I hook, about 5.25mm if I remember right. This is the swatch, small hook experiment at bottom. Homely!

I did not like this, and it would have required more yarn than I had. So I went looking for a crochet hook just as stores were closing for the day. I ended up with a size P hook (just plain huge, sort of comical, at 11.5mm in diameter). And I think we’re on to something now! It is the sort of honeycomb look I had wanted it for. And now I just have to figure out how to increase on either side in a rate that creates me a triangle of the angles I desire… That’s all!

I hope I can find the pailettes I bought a year ago, which I hope to use on the edges of this piece. Pailettes are like huge flat sequins and they are great on stage… lighter in weight and more colorful than coins but otherwise with a similar look, reflecting light.

More Pleasant Distractions

I am having lunch at noon tomorrow with a friend from elementary school. We just do not see one another enough. There are only two people still really in my life from that period… Susan Luks and this woman. And occasionally I run into a guy from 3rd grade or earlier, who is now an artist in northern Michigan. That’s pretty much it for the 60’s in my life (I started middle school in ’69).

It will be just incredible to see this friend again after all this time just emailing occasionally. It seems that Christmas is the one time we work at seeing one another.

Oh, and Work…

But of course, that means that sometime I have to print handouts. Right? I leave for work at 3pm. And all I really feel like doing is experimenting with the crochet a bit more. That must wait until Tuesday, after I mail out all the packages to those of you who won prizes for last week’s contest. (I still feel bad that everyone could not win… but that is the nature of life, I just can’t prize everyone who came by, though I’d love to do just that.)

… and didn’t those legwarmers turn out toasty-looking? They are even warmer when I turn up that cuff. They are almost the entire height of my leg. Really-really warm!!!

No wonder I don’t want to do my boring stuff. New legwarmers and shiny purple yarn in a new technique? Much more fun than routine.

So what *is* it about deadlines? Do you get crazy-busy with distractions when you have a big deadline, or several? How do you respond to that yearning for distraction, if you also get it?

Diane Newman Receives Award

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Diane Newman, Lansing dance innovator… founder of Happendance professional modern dance troupe and school (and wonderful person) has been awarded a huge honor by her peers. She has been awarded the Michigan Dance Council’s Educator of the Year Award. Well done, Diane.

I have studied with Diane several times since 1991… when my life started again at age 32 (spurred by a divorce, as often happens). I had not danced in about 15 years. She was patient, loving and kind, yet focused on quality.

In my experience, there are a good number of dance instructors who get good results with their students. However, it is no doubt easier to see what someone does wrong than what they do right. Too often instructors are not kind in the process of molding the talent of their students. Our Diane has heart, she nurtures as she molds those in her classes. I am honored to know her.

I remember when I was taking adult ballet with her (in her studio in DeWitt back around 1991-92), I found that a bad emotional day meant much falling over in class. One time I found myself falling over again, at a point where poise was called for. I laughed out loud (this is not common in a ballet class).

Diane’s comment? “Your foot was perfect, Lynn.” She always noticed what I did right and worked with that. I really needed that sort of acceptance at the time. I have never forgotten how that helped me in such a vulnerable period of my life.

When I had my very first solo art show (polymer clay sculpture), I remember that Diane came to see the show (and she brought her father). I was not there when she arrived, so she made a point to leave me a phone message. She said “the work is so YOU.” I was so new at this art thing, that her comment was precious and dear. I never forgot that she took the time to appreciate my work out loud. It was a gift to me.

Congratulations to Diane! It could not have happened to a finer human being.

And the Winner is…

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

(Or: The winners are… freshly pulled names out of the bowl, 101 entries in total…)

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Diana Troldahl, Wristwarmer kit with Cherry Tree Hill DK (it’s sparkly):
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Deborah Robson, First-Time Toe-Up Sock kit with sockyarn handpainted by my friend Rae in greens and soft winter-white:
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Rachael, Sassy Summer Handbag Kit with (too much yarn, I couldn’t pick) Montera llama/wool in 2 colors:
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Marianne, Wristwarmer kit with Aster Flammegarn Tip-Toe Sockyarn handpainted by me:
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Charlotte, First-Time Toe-Up Sock Kit with Rio De La Plata Sockyarn (discontinued and absolutely beautiful):
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Nicole, Fast Florida Footies kit with Cascade Fixation cotton/lycra yarn:
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Ahrisha, First-Time Toe-Up Sock Kit with Colleen Flammegarn Tip-Toe SockYarn handpainted by me:
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mac+, Sassy Summer Handbag kit with Donegal Tweed (she might prefer a wristwarmer pattern in chilly Chicago, though… let me know what you think, mac+):
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Alda, Wristwarmer kit with my own ColorJoy handpainted Funky Felty worsted-weight wool, something that could come in mighty handy during the short days of winter in Iceland:
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Kris Elliott, First-Time Toe-Up Sock Kit with Socks That Rock lightweight:
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Ewe-niss, Wristwarmer kit with Rowan cotton/angora/cashmere yarn:
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Jennifer, First-Time Toe-Up sock kit with Schafer Anne handpainted superfine sockyarn:
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(These are in the order I pulled their names, and hopefully listed as they spelled/identified themselves on the comment.)

I have to go sing at Altu’s for a handful of hours… I did already take photos of the gifts, so tonight I’ll come back and match photos/gifts with those who won. (Updated past midnight with prizes and photos.)

Thank you to EVERYONE who came by my blog and commented during blogiversary week. Thank you to those reading this, for coming by even though the contest has ended. I really appreciate every one of you.

Winners, please send me your snailmail address. I will mail sometime this upcoming week.

And if anyone who won a prize above, would prefer a retro-1920’s music CD by The Fabulous Heftones, let me know. I’m sure I can find another worthy recipient of a yarn/pattern kit, though of course it is yours and I have no expectation you will give up yarn for mere music!!!

Potpourri

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I have a little of this and a little of that to say… still just plain wiped out, but happy.

Music and a Date
Brian and I played at Foods for Living tonight. We were all dressed up so we went out to dinner afterward. Well, after going grocery shopping at the store.

Quality Food & a Big Treat

Wowie, they have great foods there. I got all sorts of specialties including maple sugar and organic chocolate ice cream. Talk about luxury.

You see, for about 7 years I did not eat any dairy products other than butter. Now I am able to eat a little of it. Some of my food issues are unresolved after all these years, but apparently dairy in small doses is working out OK for me.

I also have had no reaction to chocolate… so today even though it was really cold outside, I got home, put on sweaters and wool socks/legwarmers… and sat on the heat vent, and ate a small bit of organic chocolate ice cream. Trust me, it was spectacular. Anything you have had to refrain from eating can become bigger than life. This is a wonderful treat.

Knitting Victory

Another wonderful little bit… some knitting content. I finally finished my super-warm/super-tall legwarmers. I did not get any photographs, because off of me they look like long tubes and are not at all beautiful. When I can model, I’ll show them off.

The first of those took 1 week, the second leg took nearly 2 weeks. That’s how it goes. However, I got to start a new project today, a gift but not one for Christmas. Just a gift. We will see how that goes, too, since I have a gift to whip out in a few days here. I just felt that if I could cast on for that project I could make it my traveling project. So far, so good.

Winners

The contest? I was gone a lot and I didn’t do my tally/matching up. My Saturday class did not materialize so I will be home working Saturday. I will make my awards then.

Gratitude

As it is, I fell asleep yet again at the keyboard, and woke up at 3:30 to write this in a fog. I will return with a full brain tomorrow.

Thanks so much for being part of my life.

Thanks to Everyone!!!

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

babylynn.jpgI am overwhelmed with the wonderful week I have had. You guys made it so, all those comments were just wonderful.

I’m once more falling asleep at the keyboard and I have to give in. I will figure out who gets which prizes on Friday when I’m not working during the day. (Friday 4-6 Brian and I are singing at Foods For Living in East Lansing, MI if anyone is inclined to come out.)

Since you all seem to love recipes, and since Diana posted a comment this week about her soup which is good for whatever ails you… I’m going to encourage you to visit her blog to get that recipe which she posted very recently. Do check it out.

Image: picture I drew perhaps 45+ years ago. Magenta and purple(!). Thanks to Mom for saving it this long.