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Archive for February, 2010

Five-a-Day Giveaway

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Sometime in the last month or two, I started really going through my things to lighten the load. The goal is to let go of 5 things every day.

There are many reasons, some of which are:

  • Too many clothes to fit on clothing racks at once
  • An intensified allergy to polyester
  • A friend who works for a homeless day shelter
  • A realization that I have more abundance than nurtures me
  • A realization that my excess can help others

In January, I acquired a to-do list “app” (program) to run on my relatively-new iPod Touch. It has really  helped me.

socksgiveOriginally I saw this gizmo as mostly a portable calendar (I had a palm device for years, and this was how I thought of the Touch). It was a bonus that I could use the same thing to play podcasts through my car stereo system when I was on long car trips. I did not feel a need for it to do anything else.

But I am learning that this gizmo is a magnificent machine. It is far more computer than the first computer I owned, by leaps and bounds.

I can look things up on the internet when I’m near a wireless connection. Sometimes that helps me teach a student, by showing them an example of something out there. And I can use a to-do list which has tasks that repeat themselves automatically (something like a calendar system for remembering things).

Background… it relates, really.

When I was a secretary at Michigan Education Association in 1987, we had computers with 5.25″ floppy disks on our desks and every secretary had their own printer at their workstation (with a sound buffering box over it). The programs I ran regularly on that computer were WordStar, Lotus 123 and dBase III+. However, I was in charge of one boss’ email (I printed it out for her and put it in her in-box… really).

I do not think I had my own email address at the time. It was mostly used between professionals inside the organization. However, the law office did correspond with outside law firms using email, so there was some use of the internet for that (I did not know how to do it).

The program we used to send mail was, amazingly, called e.mail. And I discovered a “hidden” feature nobody else seemed to use. It had a to-do list with dates and priorities available.  I became a much better secretary after I found that feature.

My former, beloved, portable gizmo.

When I had a Palm device, I had a program which was supposed to work as a to-do list but it was far too complex to be helpful to me. I used it for calendar and addresses, and that was wonderful. It was dependable… until VISTA forced me to “upgrade” to a different model which did not work for me.

I had a hunch this would work.

The Touch is about the size of my old Palm. On my old computer, I had a task list but it stayed on my desktop. However, I work more out in the field than at home. It had limited use for my lifestyle.

sockstrashWhen I got the Touch, I tried to find something I could use to synchronize with MS Outlook on my desktop. I found a few, but their reviews were not promising.

So I went for one with many good reviews. It’s called Toodledo. I like it, for my needs, though there are a few odd things I’d do without.

I extra-like that I can back up my list to the Toodledo.com site in case something happens to my precious Touch. (Her name is Miss Piggy, I like to name gizmos after strong grrls/women/Pigs?)

But why am I telling you about a to-do list system when I was talking about letting go of things?  Because it is helping me let go of more, more often.

My method, to avoid madness.

You see, I set up a list item which repeats every single day. It tells me that I need to let go of 5 items. Today. Not later.

I am motivated by the need to check off items on a list. I do not know why it works. I mean, I’m even doing laundry and dishes more often by putting those tasks on my list, too.

You should see the results. A few days I had to skip it, but more often I find seven to 10 items instead of “merely” 5. It was hard at first. Now it’s more routine. Some days are harder, some I get on a roll. It’s all good.

One closet rack is already benefiting (I have 3 racks upstairs and one partly-full one in the basement). The one rack now can handle my hang-up sweaters and jackets without wrinkling. Score! It sounds small but it is real progress for me.

A team plan?

Does anyone want to try this with me? You could try one a day, or 5 once a week. Figure out what works for you.

Here in my house, clothing is the easiest thing to deal with first. On better days, I look in the kitchen in the very back parts of the cupboards where bun warmers and the like get stored. (Well, bun warmer… singular, not plural, but yes we have one in Avocado, for the record. And not letting go of that right away.)

Tell me how this sounds to you. Is it scary? It was to me, a few years ago. Now it’s freedom. I can find things better already, and I had the guts today (my second day off in a row) to tackle the top drawer in the bathroom.

It is amazing what one finds in a drawer like that. Most of that went straight into the trash, I’m afraid… how many stretched-out hair elastics does the planet need?

Are you in? What sounds good to you? What can you really do?

More Knitting – Mitt Progress

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

cynthiayarnpackageThree weeks ago I wrote a blog post about  my progress on Daughter Mittens, from Color by Kristin (Nicholas). These call for 4 colors of yarn for knitting. The way Kristin designed them, there is embroidery on top, using a color of yarn that was also used for knitting.

I was determined to knit with yarns I already had. I owned five colors of Kristin’s yarn, Julia by Nashua. Unfortunately, one was white and one was black, and they didn’t look right for the brights I wanted. There was a sort of dusty rose pink, too, but it was just too subtle/grayed to go with the other vibrant colors I wanted to use.

cynthiayarngiftSo I ended up with fuschia, periwinkle and deep teal (my color names, not necessarily Nashua’s), in the Julia yarn. And I chose one hot green yarn in Cascade Cloud 9, a 50/50 wool/angora yarn in worsted weight (from my stash).

I am really enjoying how these look. I realize that this is not brainless knitting, so it’s hard to find time to work on this project. Some can knit from charts when chatting, but I can not. I plug along when I have time alone.

Last Saturday I worked on it for a little while, and then today (Saturday again) for about an hour. It will happen when it does!

Right now I am working on the second cuff. Unfortunately, I have misplaced my camera so the photos here include the work I had finished last Saturday.

So what are the pictures of a bag and a present? A fifth color of yarn, which is a gift from my friend Cynthia (who is also planning at least one project from the Color by Kristin book.  She found some turquoise and got me a skein.

daughtermittexperimentknotsSo my mitts get to have FIVE colors! I love this turquoise, I’m crushed to discover the color is discontinued already, just as I learn to love it. There are other blues in the line, but this is a really wonderful version.

Whoops! I just looked at the web photo, and you can barely tell the difference between the periwinkle knitting and the turquoise embroidery. Trust me, in person they are very different.

Can you see that I embroidered french knots on the inside of the tulip flower pattern? This is a different pattern than Kristin used, but I wanted to really accentuate the tulip shape. It reminds me of Turkish textiles, which inspire me very much.

I also tried French knots up and down the hot green twisted rib in the cuff. I found that 3 knots on one rib was too much. In the end I placed one knot at the very edge (just touching the teal line, on top of the hot green), for each twisted green rib. I like it. It’s subtle but pulls the knots together.

You can’t see it in this photo, but I also did one round of “duplicate stitch”  embroidery (imitates a knit stitch) just between the middle periwinkle ridge and the hot green background where the flower is. I like using an element (turquoise color in this case) three times or more, to make it look intentional.

I tried another duplicate stitch round but did not get halfway before I pulled it out. I felt it made the top ridge look too wide. You can see it in this photo around the right side at the top, attached to the long turquoise yarn end hanging to the right. It’s gone now!

Love ’em! The only down side is twisted rib. It looks really good, but twisting yarn means you are pushing and pulling the yarn where it does not want to go. Of course, I am using the least stretchy of the yarns for that one element, too!  

There is something satisfying to me about the stretch of standard knitted fabric on my needles. I like knitting with “ease” and twisting is anti-ease. However, I am letting go of that so that I can have a bit of beauty on a small project. It is so beautiful!

These will take a while. They are worth the wait.

Balance under deadlines…

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

beginnerhatKimNoro450I have a good number of deadlines this week. I’ve accomplished one entirely. I have finished another, other than delivering the final item to its intended owner.

I’m now working on something that probably will take until Friday night. The good news is that I do have things that take me out of the “nose to the grindstone” mode in the middle of all this.

Staying Grounded During Deadline Week
I’m staying with my “Lovely Little Things” awarenesses. We had a lovely subtle sunset today. My husband shoveled not only the sidewalks, but a little path I’d tromped down in the snow (through the yard). I got a wonderful little message from someone I like but don’t interact with enough. I got a note from someone who just bought my Keys & Coins hat, and thanked me for taking the time to make it so clear. My mood can not stay grumpy for long with these things in my life.

chippysockstudent450Teaching is the best equalizer for my mood, of all. I had one kid today (had 4 last week). K. finished all the knitting and working-in of ends on her netbook cover. She’s ready to felt it, and quite pleased. She’s in elementary school. this pattern required knitting, two sorts of decreases, knowing the right and wrong sides of the fabric, slipping stitches, and making a buttonhole.

She is proud, and she should be. After finishing today, she said “I rock!” and I echoed “You rock!” When K. came to me she knew how to make a knit stitch, but  no purl, no knitting in the round, no decreases, no buttonholes. She is a quite accomplished knitter. She knows more about knitting than I did 20 years after I learned. Go, Kid!

polyclaysparklebuttons450Counting My Blessings
I’m grateful for that break in the middle of the deadlines. I can really get over-focused and grumpy but teaching, particularly children, fixes a lot.

The Rush
Tomorrow I teach adults. I am sort of going wild lately with semi-private lessons. Often this is how we teach beginner knitters, but sometimes folks bring in hiccups they are having on projects. I don’t work with lace, but most other things are fair game for these sessions.

Tuesday I had five folks arrive at different times over a 2-hour period, to get their hour of assistance in. Last Thursday I had five others. I know I have at least four scheduled tomorrow/Thursday. This is incredibly satisfying. And after that, I have the final session of “Fix and Finesse” which is equally exciting to teach.

polyclaysparklebeads450Tonight’s Plan
But in between, I’ve mostly turned off my computer to stay on task. I’m going to do that right now after I hit “save” on this post.

The photos here are all adult-student works. Hat (my most common beginning-knitter project), Chippy Socks, Buttons/Beads from my “Polymer Clay with Sparkle and Shine” class. You can see why I get energized when I teach.

OK, I’m off to work at the grindstone for a bit longer…

Speaking of Learning from Failure…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

This is amazing. I posted my last column with two quotes about learning from making mistakes. Not long after that, I came across a link to a speech by JK Rowling (Author of the Harry Potter series). She spoke to graduates of Harvard.

What did she want to tell them? The benefits of failure (these are graduates of Harvard, after all) and the importance of imagination. She is respectful, thoughtful, and warm. The speech left me inspired, blown away.

If you know me at all, you know I do not enjoy spectating. I do not watch TV in my own home, and rarely elsewhere (usually when forced to in a restaurant or waiting area). I do not go to movies (the last one I saw in a theatre was The Lion King when it first came out, and I’ve never had a VCR). I watch a few online videos, but I must say that if they are longer than 5 minutes I sometimes choose to skip the experience.

JK Rowling speaks for 20 minutes. I figured I could knit while she talked. I had knitting in my hands but stopped making stitches. I finally just put the needles down. I found it wonderful. I will watch it again, it was so inspiring to me.

I hope even one of you enjoys this as much as I did.

Click to view video

Quotations on Learning the Hard Way

Monday, February 1st, 2010

socks177finishedpcsI love collecting quotes. These two both touch on different angles… about learning. About the imperfection in being human.

I like to remind myself that I have “Rescued Myself” a good number of times when I felt I was in a mess. It’s powerful to realize that I surely can achieve another rescue if need be.

So today I share with you words from two very different writers, one a generation ahead of me and one a generation behind. One writes books, the other writes songs/lyrics. Both speak to me.

Both are wise. Both admit that the “hiccups” are where we learn.


That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.

Richard Bach, The Bridge Across Forever


…You live you learn, You love you learn,
You cry you learn, You lose you learn,
You bleed you learn, You scream you learn…

You grieve you learn, You choke you learn,
You laugh you learn, You choose you learn,
You pray you learn, You ask you learn,
You live you learn…

Alanis Morissette, You Learn — Jagged Little Pill