Thursday, January 25, 2007

Socks and Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks.

Wanna' see my latest project? Here it is:

(My apologies for such a poor photo. The color is off and it isn't the clearest. I will try to replace it with one that is better soon. However, if I take the time to fiddle with my camera and get a perfect photo, I will not have time to actually write anything!)

Yes, that strange distorted object is a soon-to-be sock! I have knitted down the leg and have rounded the heel (which, I am told, is the hardest part) and am now heading towards the toe. The yarn is Reynolds Swizzle. I chose that yarn for my first pair of handmade socks mainly because it was available at my LYS (local yarn store) which provides instant gratification (no waiting for packages to be delivered). But the other big reason is that it was cheap (as far as sock yarn goes). I hope to someday soon order some nice sock yarn from somewhere like The Loopy Ewe which is run by someone who seems to be one of the nicest ladies in America. You can view her blog here: Sheri's blog.

And yes, those needles are wickedly sharp! Here is a better view for you to see.

They are the double pointed needles distributed by Knit Picks. I really can not give you a fair assessment of them because I am not in a good position to judge. There are many reasons for this. (1) I have not used DPN's much at all. (2) I have not done much, if any, knitting with yarn and needles this small and I have never made socks so I don't really have any previous projects to compare it to. (3) I am trying to learn to knit in a new way, and so I feel like a clumsy beginner, so I can not judge if it is the needles or my own ineptness.

You see, I am a firm believer that old dogs can learn new tricks, or maybe I am just a little crazy. That is why I decided to learn violin when I was in my upper 30's, which is not exactly the normal time in life to get started on the violin. That is also why I have decided to learn to knit continental. I was just a kid when I learned to cast on and knit a basic stitch. I didn't do much more than knit Barbie scarves until I was pregnant with my first son. It seemed the right thing to do, so I got a teach-yourself-knitting book and knit a blanket. Since then, I have knit on and off for the last 18 years in the traditional American way. Well, lately I have seen more and more folks who knit continental, and it just looks so much more efficient and faster! Why not try it? All I can say is that it has given me a great appreciation for folks who are just learning to knit or crochet. I have had to go through that whole fumbly-fingers-feeling all over again. However, I am getting the hang of it and I can see why so many might prefer that style.

Oh, and I am still caffeine free. Do you know how hard that is to do when my son goes to work at Starbucks every morning and brings home coffee beans every week?? My goal is not to never have coffee again, but to not NEED coffee. I want to save it for the occasional treat. I just seem to be one of those folks who shouldn't have caffeine every effects my muscle and joint pain too much.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

How do folks do it???

I just don't understand. How do folks "keep up" with all that is going on in blog-land? Shucks! Just between the fascinating knitting/crocheting/spinning blogs I want to read I get sooooo behind! Then there are the witty and interesting blogs my friends keep. I can't find enough time to read it all daily, much less write daily. How do they do it? I just don't seem to be able to write in my blog regularly either. I will write a post and then I blink my eyes and a week or more has passed. So tell me, how do you all do it??

May I also add to this how intimidated and inadequate I feel when I see so many well written blogs with gorgeous photos and original layouts? Someday soon, I want to give this poor polka-dotted blog a new look. Truth-be-told, I am fearful of fiddling around with it and accidentally messing the whole thing up!

For your viewing pleasure, may I submit to you two different I stumbled across just today, the other I have been familiar with for a short while. They are a feast for the eyes...lovely to behold. (sorry, due to a very sensitive filter on my computer, it would not allow me to link to this one)

Yarnstorm and Moonstitches are examples of what I am talking about...their blogs both inspire me with their sheer beauty and make me feel like a failure by my lack of it. (((sigh))) Oh well, I must once again remind myself that this is the season of my life I must spend in the trenches of motherhood. Homeschooling and meeting the needs of 7 youths takes the majority of my time and energy. If I even manage to accomplish anything else beyond that, it is just icing on the cake!

Monday, January 08, 2007

I feel sooooo SPOILED!

Being on a limited budget and being the mother of many children means that often your wants or needs come last. But lately, I have been spoiled rotten! It started out on my anniversary (December 20). My hubby had received an unexpected financial blessing and he gave me some $$$ and told me I had to go out and buy myself some clothes with it. Now, I know that many, many women shop as a hobby, but I am not one of them. I hardly ever, ever go out and buy clothes. In fact, my new clothes usually come in hand-me-down bags. (But don't translate that to she-wears-old-ugly-stuff! I have been most fortunate to have a friend who has a sister who is one of those shop-as-a-hobby folks. Often I have even gotten things with the tags still on them!!) I am so thankful for the things I have been given. But that is not the same as being able to pick out something that is uniquely you and makes you feel like a princess. Well, that is just what I did. I went to my favorite shop in town and bought myself this bee-yoo-tee-full dress. I can not begin to describe it. It is 100% black cotton layers with lace, made in India and totally awesome!! I wish that I could relate it's style to you, but I don't know how to describe is a little ethnic looking, a little "hippy" looking and a little like something out of the 1920's. I will try to get a photo of it posted sometime...but I am sure it will be hard to do, since it is black. I also got a lovely red pashmina to wrap over my shoulders with it.

Then there was Christmas which included several lovely gifts including a stainless steel travel mug for my coffee, other goodies, more $$ and gift cards to shop with. I went out and bought myself the most exquisite, killer cowboy boots in the whole universe. These are not your dusty, kick around boots (although I now want a pair of those too.) These are so purdy, they make me want to cry. And, the owner of the shop gave me a great deal!

And, as you see two posts down, I got a fabulous book for myself.

Well, the other day my neighbor brought by a late present. It was a nice cookbook, and I was so pleased. But, as I browsed it, I realized that there was a good number of recipes that just wouldn't be to my family's liking. I contemplated keeping it to provide occasional variety and inspiration, but she had so kindly put a gift receipt with it, so I trotted off to Barnes and Noble to see if there was anything I preferred. Baby, I hit the jackpot!

This first book (Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) I can not recommend too highly! If you are a knitter, especially if you are one who finds yarn and needles and anything else knitting-related addictive, then you will find a kindred spirit in this author. She writes in a conversational style and she is hilarious! She understands and sympathizes with my obsession. Also, she gives lot of good and useful information without talking "down" to you. Alshough this is not a book of patterns, she covers the basics in sock, scarf and shawl, sweater, and hat construction, giving you all the tools you need to make your own pattern! I read this book the way I read a novel. I did not want to put it down. That is how good it is. You can also visit her blog here: (Well, I TRIED to put a link, but I think my filter is blocking it! Our filter is pretty sensitive to any terms that might trigger "adult" content and you know how spicy those knitting blogs can get!! So, I will type it out so you can get the idea!) Her site is "www.yarn*h*a*r*l*o*" but remove the **** in the address.

And here is the other book I got: Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts. (What is it with these authors and their hyphenated names???)

I dream of spinning my own fiber. I regularly visit sites that sell spinning wheels and drool. But alas, I have neither the budget nor the space. Granted, if I had the budget I would find the space! This book is by a lady who not only spins using a simple high-whorl handspindle, but actually prefers this method. I have not really sunk my teeth into this book yet, but the print and drawings are a pleasure. It looks very warm and user-friendly. And best of all, hand spindles are affordable and don't take up much space! I am eager to get my own and give it a try!

So now you can see why I feel so spoiled! New clothes, new boots, new books...what else could a gal want????

Friday, January 05, 2007

New Year's Resolutions???

I haven't spent much time on the internet lately, but in my brief browsing I notice that there seems to be a lot of anti-New Year's resolutions sentiment out there. Personally, I have always liked the idea of looking back on the old, assessing my life, and then looking ahead to the new year. Starting fresh, aspiring to do better, putting my stumblings behind me and pressing on...these are all ideas that I like!

So, I have been thinking about what I want to change and what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Of course, there are the usual eat-healthier, exercise-more, yadda, yadda thoughts that go through my mind, but really, that is not what inspires me this year. What I have been thinking on most is about how can I serve God better? What can I do to draw closer to Him? I want to know Him better, spend more time in His Word. So, to accomplish this I will definitely be doing a reading schedule that will have me completing the entire Bible in one year. (I am even contemplating accelerating the schedule so that I go through it twice.) Now, the trick to this is to not let it become a chore, or something that I just go through the motions on. Let me be honest, I can not tell you how many times I catch my mind wandering when I am reading the Bible. Suddenly, I will realize that I have read an entire page, but I have not digested a word of it because I am planning a meal or thinking of something that needs to be added to the grocery list! GRRRRR! I want to really focus and read the Bible purposely.

Another thing that I want to improve on this year is my burden for others. It is all too easy to become consumed with my own busy life and my small sphere of community and to forget there is a big, vast world out there of people...many who have no hope and have not heard the Gospel. Lately I have been reading a lot about other countries and their needs. Here in America, we have a church on every corner. Granted, there are many, many needy people right here, and I am not shutting my eyes or my heart to them. However, if someone in the good old USA wants to know more about God, they could buy a Bible at any bookstore. They could choose from a plethora of local churches to seek spiritual guidance. I don't want to ignore the needs of those around me, but I want to be ever mindful of the fact that most people do not live with the freedoms and affluency that I am accustomed to. I want to open to the possibility that God might want to use me to share His love with them. In the very least, I can pray for their needs.

A third area that has weighed heavily on my mind is my squandering of gifts that I feel I have left undeveloped. I want to be ready and able to serve in any small way that I can. There is a parable in the Bible about a man who gives 3 of his servants different amounts of money (called talents). Two invest their talents wisely and earn praise because they can give their master the dividends they have earned. Therefore the master entrusts them with more. The third servant buries his talent in the ground and only gives back to his master, exactly what he was given. Because of this, the master takes his one talent from him and gives it to the others who will use it wisely. What skills, abilities, aptitudes has God given me that I have not been improving or developing? Will there be a need in the future that I will not be able to assist in because I have not been diligent with what God has blessed me? There are two specific areas that immediately come to mind: music and language. I have not been diligent in practicing my instruments. I have had a piano and guitar for years. I have also acquired a violin and flute more recently. I look back on the last 10-20 years and realize that I would be fairly competent with the piano and guitar if I had just spent 15 minutes a day on each one. Right now, the church we attend abounds with musical talent, but what if one day our family were to be moved and the fellowship had no one who could help out with the singing by playing an instrument?? How sad and disappointing if my lack of diligence might leave a need unfilled! As for languages, well, I have studied both German and Spanish, as well as sign language. I am conversant in none because I have not used any of them in years. Think of all the thousands, or even millions of people out there who do not speak English. What doors might open if I were to take the time to be competent in another language or two? I don't have to go far...there is a large hispanic community right where I live.

So these are three major areas that I hope to improve in 2007. It will require discipline and diligence. It will also probably require that I set up some semblance of a schedule. I will need to get out of the bed earlier (ugh!) and I will need to piddle away less time on the internet.

Oh, and of course, I have the usual goals too: Be a better wife and mom. Be more patient and kind. Be more focused on home schooling my kids. Unclutter and dejunk. Live with less stuff. Manage my money better. Finish my 101 unfinished sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlepointing projects, etc.

I also want to eat healthier and exercise more! ;-D


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