Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I am odd. I like to clean and spruce up. In college and after I was often compared to the Monica character on Friends (both good and bad). And, just like Monica, I'm terrible when it comes to closets. They are my downfall. When there isn't room for all the neat and pretty to be seen, into an already too full closet it goes. In our house there are three main closet areas of concern...the linen closet, the yarn closet, and the downstairs storage closet. So, this past weekend I set out to tackle the linen closet and shampoo the carpets.

This was the horrible nightmare...I'm SO ashamed.

This is the more shame!

I took out one garbage bag of trash and two HUGE bags of donations for Goodwill. So much of what was in there were linens that fit our old bed. Those are all gone and and human and dog towels are all organized. There is even extra room to move in all the knitted/crocheted afghans I've been making. I PROMISE to keep this area clean and organized from here on out. I was even able to put my art stuff on the top shelf and keep our scrapbooks nicely stacked and out of the way. Of course, I had to pause and flip through all the the memories while I cleaned. My MIL put together a scrapbook from our wedding and it was so much fun to remember all of the planning and the weekend. But, I also came across these pages that she put together when she used to pet sit Riley for us. He was very much a Grandma's dog. (You still cannot say Grandma or ham without him running toward the door.) Aren't the pages so cute?

Each page had pictures of Riley during his stay...waiting for us at the window, guarding Grandma's slippers, etc. So cute. I wish I had her scrapbooking talents. I have a half started dog one and one from our London trip that I need to finish sometime. 

One of the unexpected finds hidden in the clutter were three round pillows that don't match anything in our house. I took off the outside coverings and donated them and kept the pillow forms. I plan to crochet covers for them and use them in our master bedroom. Woohoo! An unexpected craft project for the summer that will upcycle something we no longer used. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April is Poetry Month and My Favorite Poet Is Mr. Patrick Kanouse

Did you know that April is Poetry month? My favorite poet is my hubby! I thought I'd share one of his poems on the blog for you!

Waiting for Rain

Looking out my window,
The pond's ripples shimmer
In the sun as the clouds
Speed east. At first
The clouds wispy grey fingers
Reach politely--but I know
Their grey will darken
The cool wind will cool.
As the windows shudder, we wait.

You can follow along with his poetry and science fiction writing at Always a Poet, Even in Prose. He even has a newsletter that you can sign up to receive. It releases once a month and your email is not shared with anybody else. You can also download an ebooklet of some poems on Amazon here

Monday, April 22, 2013

Simplify, Paint, and Reconnect

My SIL has been on a journey this year to live a mindful life. (You can check out here blog here.) This month she has been exploring the idea of simplifying. This is a theme that I would say has, in various ways, been a major part of my personality my entire life. In high school, I was the super organized girl. I've always lived by the de-clutter approach. I love organization and clean lines. I am constantly going through our home to see what we can donate. Use it or lose it!

So, as I read over Meg's blog posts this month, I tried to decide what else I could do to simplify. The thing that hit me first was how many books we have in our home. Now, I LOVE books and so does Patrick. We've built a lot of our lives around our love of books and reading. It has provided us with food on our table and a house. It even brought us together. we really need SO many books? We both read 90% on our tablets, not hard copy. Would we ever really get to the hard copy books on the shelf? I went about clearing out as many books as I could stomach. Patrick also went through his collection. We loaded up a trip a few weeks back and got a few dollars for them. This past weekend, we loaded up half of the Jeep full and headed to Half Price. We faired much better this go round.

The second part of this exercise was to turn this simplification into something that we could do together.   A way to reconnect and be still. We took the money we made from the books and purchased some art supplies. This past Saturday night, we sat in the dining room and painted water colors. Artists we are not, well not painting artists. But, it was the experience. Clearing out some room in our house, sending materials we weren't using on to new homes, and sitting in a quiet moment with the person I love the most in the world and doing a creative activity together. We slowed things down and had some fun along the way.

Patrick didn't want to share his art, but I thought I'd toss up a photo of my Red Flower. After pencil drawing a flower shape, I painted the background with water, then blue. I put salt on parts of the blue (the technique we did in this month's library art class) to get the textured technique. I went about applying color to the flower petals. Ugh. It wasn't working so out of frustration, I swirled all of my paints on my plastic palette with water and tossed it in the general flower area. I then dabbed at it with a paper towel. Then, I took a super thin brush and payne's grey and drew in the petal outlines. Finally, I added the brown center and then flicked some yellow dots onto the overall painting. It fits great into one of the yellow mats from another painting. All in all, I was pretty happy with my first attempt without a teacher providing the content idea and step-by-step instructions. I do find it funny that in my artwork I found going crazy and outside the lines was more my style!

Now that I have these art supplies at home, I hope to do a few painting sessions a month. I find it so relaxing and it uses a different part of my brain than my fiber arts do. I am trying to come up with a mixed media concept where I can embed some yarn into a water color. In between art sessions, I'll be moving on to cleaning out more closets and (the big chore of the summer) the dreaded garage! How do you simplify?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April Water Color Class

I was SO happy that I felt well enough to venture out to April water color class. The subject matter was right on target for the day given that it was 72 in the morning and turned to heavy rain, thunderstorms, and tornados that afternoon. This month we learned how to add some texture and interest to the paintings with salt and an x-acto knife. I'm really happy with the end result...

My pictures don't show the true depth of the painting. It looks really cute across the room. :)

We painted the bottom portion and then layered it with table salt. You let the salt pull the paint up from the paper. Some people got a great star effect. I think I put too much salt in one spot to get the definition that they did. But, it really does give you the look of water puddles on a road. How cool!?! I had no idea that you could do this to paint.

We carved the paper with the x-acto knife to get rain drops falling down. It really gave the painting a finished look. It adds a lot of movement to the scene. I think I'm ready to invest in my own little painting kit so that I can do some at home when I can't make class. Who knows what I'll create on my own without the teacher's guidance!

Friday, April 19, 2013

An Exciting Sunday Surprise

Last Sunday I woke up in the middle of the night, well morning really, at 4 am. I couldn't seem to fall back to sleep, so I elected to read the web and my book until my eyes got tired again. Around 4:45 I noticed my email inbox filling up with notifications. Fearing that something bad had happened, I clicked over and noticed they were all about my Flowers of Spring Hat pattern on Thinking that maybe a knitting group overseas was going to knit it up as a KAL, I smiled, closed my email, and went back to my book. Eventually, I fell back to sleep for a bit...until my little dog wouldn't stop licking my head and I realize that my phone is buzzing. (She is an easily disturbed dog in the early morning and, unfortunately for me, she considers that mommy time.) I clicked onto the Craftsy site to see what was up and about fell out of the bed when I realized that my pattern was #4 on the Trending Knitting list!!!!

Then, as the day went on it moved up to #1!!!! I was so happy that I kept checking it all day long. Such a nerd, I know. Because it was in the first spot, my designer profile was the Featured Designer (see it on the right)? And, at a glimpse in time, the pattern was also a featured pattern. It was a great way to spend a quiet Sunday. Thanks to all of you who grabbed a copy that day (or before or after). I hope that if you stopped by the blog on Sunday that you will continue to check in with us and follow along for the Brownie Knits ride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Who? The Doctor...

My patient hubby has been taking care of me over the last few months as we learn to live with my tummy disease. During his birthday, I was especially out of commission and missed celebrating it with him properly. No gifts, no party, no special meal, bad wife. So, when I started to feel better and came across a Doctor Who scarf kit, I thought this might be a way to make it up to him! After showing him the scarf and getting a huge thumbs up, I started mapping out colors and yarn.

First, there is an entire website devoted to this scarf pattern. You can find it here and have fun getting in lost in the large amount of info! It is a very long and wide scarf, so it requires a lot of yardage. I settled on Knit Picks Wool of the Andes because it is a yarn I like, the color selection is large, and the price was unbeatable.

I am making the season 12 scarf and following the inches chart on the site. It calls for 56 stitches at a width of 11 inches. My gauge was off so I changed my count to 49 to get the 11 inches. I also elected to not do the slip stitch edge, which is listed as an option on the site. I'm knitting it on a US 7. My colors are pretty close to most that you will see, but I did replace the grayish tone with a blue per PK's request. I believe the scarf is supposed to measure somewhere between 12 and 15 feet when it is done. Got any Who fans in your family? Might be a great holiday gift...start now!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ripple Waves

One of the themes that has been rolling around our house this year is using up what we have and getting rid of stuff we don't need. I've never been one to have clutter around, but you still accumulate lots of stuff. So, I've been using up all the various hair products I've collected. No more buying new until the old stuff is gone. I went through all of our clothes and got rid of bags of stuff (and rewashed and folded everything in the drawers so we can see what we have). Patrick even got in on the thinning out by going through his book library.

As you can guess, one BIG area for me to clean out is my yarn stash. If you follow the blog, you know that I've used up over 7,000 yards of stash yarn so far in 2013. After I finished my Twisted Sister sweater, I had this little bag of leftovers. It was so pretty and I couldn't bring myself to just toss it out. I put it aside and pulled out a bag of some organic cotton to make a towel and baby blanket. Long story short, the intended patterns sold with the yarn were AWFUL! (Note to self that when the yarn employee tells you to go to your zen place when working on the pattern, don't buy it.) So here I was with this lovely organic cotton and leftover blues. It hit me! A crocheted ripple afghan for our bedroom. The yarns match perfectly and I was longing to do more ripple stitch after finishing the spring ripple table runner.

In addition to the sweater leftovers and organic cotton, I went to the yarn shelf in the guest room and pulled out some other blues/creams/browns. It is going to pretty a very large afghan...wide enough for two adults and two dogs and the length of a king size bed. All of the yarn is fingering, sport, or DK weight and I am using a size US G hook. I'm following the wonderful Attic24's Neat Ripple pattern. I find myself saying just two more rows (which equals one color). The pattern is an easy one to remember and you just move along your merry way. I'm loving that it looks like waves at the beach!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Color Me Ready for Spring!

During my dark days of being sick it kept snowing and dropping in temperature. It was insulting of Mother Nature! Didn't she know that sun and warm air would have helped? So, in the middle of the dreary days and nights that all crumbled together, I jumped onto Amazon one night and ordered a print copy of Crochet with Color. This is a Japanese crochet book that was translated to English and released recently. I haven't decided what to make yet...tempted to make it all. I keep flipping through it over and over and getting drawn in by the colors.

While I figure out what to make, I decided to finally get some flowers onto the mantle and the dining room table. I'm amazed at how much flowers help to brighten the world and make me feel happier!

Spring is here! Bring on the color!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Books, Books, Books

When I was a little girl, my great aunt used to say that she wouldn't recognize me without a book on my nose. I jokingly put on FB earlier this year that now I have my iPad mini attached to my face. Always a book lover (thus the career in publishing), I didn't really know how I would take to ebooks/ereaders versus a print book. I haven't really been afraid of technology, so I was less negative on the switch than other readers I know. I had a difficult time getting into reading on a full-size tablet. After I got a mini, I was hooked. It just fits my life (and hands and purse) better. I read on it ALL the time. I got back into magazines again and jumped full force into reading more, which had dropped off with all the knitting I do.

So far this year, I've read:

  • The Big Sleep
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • Defending Jacob
  • The Inner Circle
and I'm currently reading:
  • Cover Her Face
  • 11/22/63
  • Patrick's second sci-fi novel
The majority of these books are on a mystery/thriller list that Patrick and I put together. We agreed to read these books fairly close to each other so that we could talk about them and sort of have our own two-person reading group. Most of the books are older and have been pulled from "greatest novels" lists. But, some are newer and are ones that we have heard about on GoodReads and other media outlets. Defending Jacob was a title I kept seeing over and over when I would plug in how much I liked Gone Girl. So, I picked it up and LOVED it. Patrick enjoyed it and so did a good friend who has similar taste in entertainment. Really, out of all the books listed here, all were great. I'm sort of on the fence about 11/22/63, but I'm only on page 125 of 1900+. I've been hearing lots about Reconstructing Amelia, so I'm anxious to wrap up Cover Her Face. What are you reading? 

Oh...and I finally got around to setting up a GoodReads account. Patrick has long been a user and I kept meaning to sign up. Of course, I did it and a week later the Amazon buy out was announced. I really hope it doesn't change under this new ownership. I liked that it was independent and I don't want to be hit with offers to buy off the Kindle app. I don't like their reader app at all. I LOVE iBooks...just feels more like a book to me. Anyway, if you are on GoodReads, hit me up! I'd love to see what you are reading and there are lots of knitting and crochet books in there, too. I'm also taking the GoodReads 2013 challenge and have a goal of reading 20 books this year. A drop in the bucket compared to others who have signed up but I have to get in my knitting time!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Where Did You Go?!?

I'm BACK! I know it seems like I disappeared for a bit. Well, I wasn't feeling well for a long, long, LONG time. There were so many steps along the way, not the least of which involved finally having the guts to leave my doctor and some horrible side effects from meds that were supposed to help.

I won't dwell on it all too much, but I will say that if you are seeing a health care professional who you are not happy with, make a change TODAY! My final straw was when I asked my doctor to look at me to see where I was pointing to the location of the pain. She didn't turn around and told me she could only do one thing at a time and right now that was working on the computer. WTF? I don't know how I didn't jump off the table right then. It was a bit like in a tv show where the character imagines how and what they really want to say, including tossing said computer out into the packed lobby and telling all the other patients to run! If only...instead, I let one of her unqualified nurses take some blood work. I kid you note, I had a bruise that you couldn't cover with a dollar bill that didn't heal for three weeks. The list of things I put up with over the years is horrible and I never realized how bad until I went to my new doctor's office. Talk about night and day. After one visit, she remembered my name and Patrick's and was so smart. I was blown away by her compassion and intelligence and by the kindness and organization of her entire staff.

Okay, off my soap box now. So, I did knit during the 9 weeks of hell, but I also watched lots of tv and read many a book. My knitting consisted of two projects, but one of them is a secret so I can only share the story of the "walking quilt" sweater. Years ago at Stitches Midwest I came across this block sweater that was amazing. I fell in love with it right away and used up almost my entire market budget that year on the one kit. I swore I would start it right away. Yep...I wound several balls of yarn that night and then put it all away when I got home. When I was going through my cotton yarn bin, I found the kit again and thought I should knit that up to wear this spring and summer.

First, let me say that I loved making this sweater. It was so much fun to make with all the different yarns and squares. The construction for the seams was all knitted, which made it more interesting to do. I didn't really even mind the hundreds of ends to weave in because I watched a good movie to pass that time. BUT...the entire time I was knitting this sweater I was unsure about my taste level when I bought the kit. It looks a bit like a quilt and I wasn't sure then (or now) whether I could see myself wearing it. I have it on today and still can't decide what I think! (But I does make me think about the hours and hours of watching basketball with PK while I knitted it. I love a good memory to accompany my knits.)

The colors are so great...reminds me of the beach. The yarn is yummy...Twisted Sister Mirage. It feels great against the skin and knitted up so well. I adjusted the colors used on the front bands and the wrists to use the colors I liked the most. I mis-read the instructions for the blocks on the arms, so I shortened the wrist area to compensate. Everything else was knitted to pattern (Tai Chi) on a US 5.

This pattern used up about 2000 yards of yarn (hard to know exact because there are some leftovers that I plan to crochet into a ripple throw for our bedroom). That brings my total stash used yardage for 2013 to 7013. Not bad!