I’m kind of part of a book group. I say “kind of” because I haven’t actually been to a book discussion in over a year. For shame! But I learn of some very good books through this group that I wouldn’t normally find or choose to read. One of those was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This ended up being the first book I read while we were quarantined and I thought I’d share a bit about it today. Summary This book is a fictional story of a Russian aristocrat, Count Alexander Rostov, who was put under house arrest in 1922 by the Bolsheviks. The funny thing was that he was confined not to a house, but to a hotel. The Metropol Hotel is a character in itself throughout this novel. It was the upscale hotel in Moscow at the time and hosted movie stars, traveling bureaucrats, and international journalists. Rostov is the epitome of culture and is generally content reading, dining on good food, and drinking fine wine and liquor. But his life is changed forever by the arrival of a guest who he befriends: a young girl. This relationship leads to more relationships and somehow, Rostov manages to live a very fulfilling life within the confines of a hotel. Reaction While some people may think this story is boring due to the lack of travel or action, I found great pleasure in Rostov’s unique interactions with others and his own perspectives on life. I often asked myself if I would be content with such a life and I think I would be. When I was younger, I know I would have said differently. But growing up, and knowing what it is to be an adult, I yearn more for simplicity than for anything else. This leads to me finding more pleasure in simple things, rather than big events. There was a time when I wanted to make a difference in the world. Now, I want very different things. Quarantine Life This novel was a great story to read during this time of pandemic craziness. There are a lot of similarities – civil unrest, confinement, uncertainty… We are all dealing with these things on a daily basis. We are also seeing only a few people – spouses, children, parents. Our connections to others have diminished. But there is joy to be found at home, with the ones who matter most to us. We can’t forget that. We can’t forget how much worse it could be. So today, I’m grateful for all that I have. And this book made me realize that.
The last month – March being the longest month ever – has taught me a great many lessons. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot, too. These times make you learn things about yourself and others, whether good or bad, and whether you want to or not. This is what I’ve learned… Isolation Isn’t So Bad I’m an introvert so I have it easy – and I know this. I also have plenty of crafts to keep me busy and plenty of books to read. Add in TV and movies and I’m set. Outside of not being able to see my friends and family, life has actually changed for the better for me. Having no commute means my stress level has decreased. My resting heart rate is down. There are definitely benefits to this sheltering in place thing. The Outdoors are Lovely If this isolation was happening in July or August, I would not feel this way. But this time has taught me that being outside, even in the familiarity of my own backyard, is a lovely thing. I’ve come to relish the time, right after I get off of work, that Matt and I sit on the back porch. It’s rejuvenating – and calming. Keep More Food on Hand Always be prepared that stores may run out of food. The supply chain is still working but it’s not going to be this good forever. We need to be prepared. Don’t do anything drastic and don’t hoard food. But buy a few extra nonperishable items to add to the pantry every time you go to the store. After a few trips, you’ll have four items and so on. After a few months of this, you’ll be able to weather a food shortage. One thing is for sure…. After ordering groceries online for a month now, I will never, ever complain again about going to the grocery store. People Really Aren’t That Smart This is something I’ve feared for a long time. But the very tiny optimist in me has always argued when someone would make blank statements that people really are not that smart. If anything, this crisis has taught me that the majority of people do not seek out information – they do not try to understand global situations nor do they apply that understanding to their own lives. This frightens me. Someone that I know, who I thought to be very intelligent, is woefully ignorant in even the symptoms of COVID-19 (not to mention the recovery/contagion timeline)….and she got it. That means that she was walking around the grocery store, without a mask, days after thinking maybe she had the illness – and was highly contagious. This is irresponsible to everyone around you – and to society as a whole. It’s your obligation to know what is going on. Keep a Yarn Stash Seriously. Knitters should not be without yarn because you will need it during the next crisis. We don’t know how bad things will get so always be prepared with plenty of yarn. No joke! I’ve seen some independent yarn dyers close up shop recently and I’m very, very sad about this. I’m trying to support them whenever I can – yarn is nonperishable, after all – but there are so many out there. I don’t want to lose one of them, so if you can support them, do. We must support each other during this time! I hope you are taking care and knitting on!
By now, most of us who can stay at home have probably settled into a routine. I know I have. This week has been easier but time is what’s freaking me out. How can the days go by so slowly yet so quickly? I can’t remember what day it is, but yet March is now, officially, the longest month ever. Thankfully, after a very rainy week last week, it’s now sunny here in Texas. I know many of you are still dealing with snow and very cold temperatures, which is a challenge. The sun has definitely helped our moods. To help myself stay busy at home, while stuck inside, I’ve been making lists…. Lots of lists! I thought I would share them with you, in case you needed some inspiration during this time…. Home Projects Clean: mop, vacuum, dust Transition the closet to spring wardrobe Clean out the planter, make room for spring planting Organize craft desk Go through books – organize and make donation pile Spring cleaning (once-a-year tasks): Clean out/organize closets Clean out under the kitchen and bathroom sinks Go through clothes – make donations pile Craft Projects Block two finished shawls! Get caught up on scrapbooking Make birthday cards – male, female, kids Make Mother’s and Father’s Day cards Organize yarn: FINALLY weigh and organize scrap yarn Tag yarns to donate or destash Make sure Ravelry is up to date on stash Ideas How are you spending your extra time indoors? Are you happy to hunker down at home or are you restless? I must say that I’m happy to have more time to get stuff done in the house, because I was feeling a bit stressed. So I’m trying to stay positive, despite all the uncertainty. And every day, I think about knitting and then get my needles out at every possible opportunity – like during webinars! Hang in there and keep on knitting!
How are you doing? How is your family? We are living through unprecedented and uncertain times that are sure to try even the toughest soul. Things are going to get worse before they get better so we need to support each other and stay positive. Easier said than done, I know. Our Cruise We got home from a cruise on March 8. Our cruise was great and we had no problems. But we were aware that there could have been problems and we took what precautions we could. Once home, I went to work but we stayed away from our parents, who are all elderly with health issues. As news continued to come out about COVID-19, we got more nervous. Could we be carrying it around, incubating this horrible thing? In hindsight, I should have self-quarantined and worked from home. But I didn’t think I had that option… (We still haven’t gotten sick, either, thank goodness!) At Home My employer sent us home on Monday at 9am. I would have prefered to have not gone in at all on Monday, but I’m relieved they sent us home for the foreseeable future. I know many people don’t have the option to work from home, so I’m grateful that I do. But it still takes some getting used to. I’m an introvert and don’t need much social interaction, but I need some. My husband could do without any social time, so at least he’s okay. I guess my only discomfort with the situation is the unknown. How long will this last? Comfort My knitting is a great, familiar comfort to me. That being said, I haven’t gotten nearly as much done this week as I would have expected. There has been much to do, for being stuck at home. Thankfully, I have a huge stash of yarn to draw on so I won’t lose the ability to knit anytime soon! I was, however, sad to see the DFW Fiber Festival canceled, along with so many events. It’s for the best, I know, but I was so looking forward to it! Many vendors are having sales and/or free shipping since they had so much stock dyed up….and I’m trying to support them with orders. I hope you’ll do the same! In the meantime, keep calm and knit on! We’ll get through this together!
Last year, I told you about some of my favorite podcasts to follow. And I still follow them! The Suburban Stitcher, the Grocery Girls, and Knitting Vicariously are still some of my favorite podcasters to watch. But I’ve added a few more knitting gurus to my viewing routine. (My favorite time to watch podcasts is when I stay in the office at lunch to knit. I’ll listen to a podcast as I get some rows in and it’s the perfect way to tune out of work for just a bit.) Knitty Natty – Love in Stitches Natalie is a knitter and crocheter who lives in Dallas but is from Tennessee. She once worked in a yarn store that I visited in Nashville long ago. And because she’s worked in a yarn store, she has a lot of knowledge about stitches, needles, knitting, and crocheting. In her day job, she’s a teacher. I really enjoy seeing what Natalie is knitting on – and what she’s designing. She’s published several patterns now and they’ve all been so pretty! Natalie is always so cheerful and fun to listen to; her smile always brightens my mood! A Homespun House Yes, Molly’s family is planning a move back to Germany, but it’s been fun watching the Homespun House podcast while they are living in the States. And I’ll keep watching after they move, of course! Molly always has news about her yarn to share – and tons of knitting. I cannot believe how fast she knits! It’s crazy! It’s always fun to see her yarn knitted up into socks – she has so many lovely colorways! Voolenvine Kristin is the dyer and maker behind Voolenvine Yarn. She’s a knitter and sewer and always has a variety of projects in progress. And if you watch regularly, Kristin is great about keeping you up to date with her shop news. Kristin’s style is a bit gothic and her knitting and her patterns are lovely. I like following along vicariously with her on her knitting journeys to places like Vogue Knitting Live and the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Until I can go to these things – if I can ever go – I must watch someone else enjoy them! Others? What are you watching while you knit? Any podcasts you can recommend?
Today I’m taking a slight departure from knitting to talk about another thing that keeps me sane in life. Sure, #knittingismyyoga but I also try to do actual yoga several times a week. I don’t practice for religion; I practice for flexibility and movement. I want to be able to move when I get older without hurting myself and I think yoga will help with that. And as with all my workouts, I’m all about doing my yoga at home. And Yoga with Adriene allows me to do that. In an awesome way. Yoga I never appreciated yoga until I took a class at our work rec center. The teacher was phenomenal and I learned to move in ways that were not fast or breathless, but were still powerful and dynamic. Yoga quickly taught me that, no matter how much I thought I knew, I didn’t know much of anything. Humility is an awesome, powerful thing. Unfortunately, my favorite yoga teacher stopped her classes at our rec center and I didn’t like her replacement, who we nicknamed, “The Drill Sergeant.” Yoga was not meant to be drilled. Yoga with Adriene About this time, I stumbled upon a YouTube sensation – Adriene Mishler, who leads a weekly yoga practice on her YouTube channel for free (and has over 6 million subscribers). Her motto is “find what feels good.” She has a practice for everything: beginner’s mind, lower back pain, runners, swimmers, service industry workers…. But every practice can be done by a novice or veteran yoga student. Adriene gives you options for every level! The best thing about Adriene, however, is her attitude. She is not a stuffy yoga teacher. She will burst into song at the drop of a hat or make silly pop-culture references when trying to get you into a pose. She encourages you to not take yourself too seriously because yoga is all about feeling good. And I love that. Also – she lives in Austin, Texas! And we must not forget about her faithful furry companion, Benji, who often sleeps through her practices. So cute! 30 Days For the past 6 years, Adriene has led a 30-day yoga journey in the month of January. Every single day, she gives you a new practice. My first 30 day journey was Adriene’s Revolution in 2017 and it was phenomenal. This year’s Home was even better. After being so busy in December, these 30-day practices are a great way to re-center and commit to your own goals of health and mindfulness. If you like yoga but have fallen out of practice, I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene. And if you’re an experienced yogi, Adriene offers a pay site, Find What Feels Good, with more advanced practices. But for me, the free YouTube videos are just what I need. I usually do one after work and after a stressful commute to help calm me down and stretch out my poor, tired muscles after a day of sitting. And it’s always perfect!
It’s almost officially winter! Almost! Though it gets cold in Texas, it doesn’t get so cold that we need heavy winter gear. But I love scarves and coats and we can definitely put those to good use in Texas. Alison Lumbatis of Get Your Pretty On (GYPO) has created a lovely winter wardrobe capsule this year. Let me tell you all about it! Capsule Concept A wardrobe capsule makes life super busy when you’re on the go during the holiday season. Get Your Pretty On tells you every piece to buy/add to your capsule every season. And then GYPO tells you how to mix and match, for a total of about 30 outfits. So there’s no guessing what to wear every day. This has really helped me expand and mature my casual wear, which was always the last thing I bought, choosing to spend money on workwear, instead, since I wear that five days a week. Baby, It’s Cold Outside As a knitter, winter is a time of scarves and cowls for me. (I don’t usually need hats but I still love knitting them!) This year, Alison has included two scarves in her capsule and one of them is buffalo plaid! I love buffalo plaid! We saw it all over Canada a few months ago and, of course, I did not buy a scarf. So Alison gave the perfect excuse to buy one now! GYPO always includes the cutest graphic t-shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts. This year, it’s a graphic sweatshirt from J. Crew Factory. So fun! Alison also includes several party outfits with every winter capsule, so you know what to wear for those work/social occasions. Since we don’t usually have any of these, I skip the fancy capsule additions. That’s the great thing about a capsule, after all: you can make it your own! You can customize it to be more casual or more fancy! Conclusion If you’ve been intrigued by the capsule idea, you should try GYPO for a season. Alison offers both a casual and workwear capsule. I’ve never tried the work wear but have been tempted every season. If you want to try just one, choose the area that gives you the most grief when you look in your closet. Because the capsule concept will help you out so much!
Though I’ve been reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s blog for years, I just recently got around to reading her book, Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter, which capitulated her in to knitting royalty. I read this book while on vacation, since I was not knitting. It really does help to read about knitting if one cannot knit. Secret Stasher Pearl-McPhee is a knitter after my own heart. She loves yarn. She finds the most imaginative – ahem, interesting – places to stash her yarn so her family will be oblivious to the amount of yarn she actually has. From her I learned that yarn can be stashed in the piano and freezer! Who would have thought about freezing yarn?! She’s been knitting since childhood and even offers a story of learning to knit with her grandmother. Her family tolerates her knitting but definitely does not understand her obsession like a fellow knitter would. This leads to all kinds of hilarious stories. Becoming a Knitter Stephanie talks about a process that many serious knitters go through – of becoming a Knitter instead of a knitter. A knitter makes scarves and dishcloths and is happy by not expanding their knitting skillset. But once you start to learn advanced knitting skills, and practicing them, you earn the right to call yourself a Knitter. I think I’m in the process of becoming a Knitter. There are skills I’ve added to my repertoire this year – and the year before that – that I never thought I could do, or even want to do. I’m eager – though a bit nervous – to learn more! Knitting Anecdotes Pearl-McPhee, as you can imagine, has some hilarious knitting stories to tell. Her voice is always fun – a treat to read. Knitters will be able to sympathize and laugh out loud about situations that sound all too familiar. I particularly liked the very last story, when Steph loses a double-pointed needle in a rental car. The depths of her obstinacy to find this dpn ostracizes her from her family, who do not understand her passion for one little needle. And we’ve certainly all been there right? How many times have I lost a dpn to the bowels of an armchair, then having to crawl around on hands and needs, with a flashlight to find it – sometimes upending the chair in the process. All the while, Matt sits there, shaking his head. That’s the life of a knitter.
Happy fall, y’all! It doesn’t feel like it, at all, in Texas, but a girl can dream, right? Having some needles and wool in hand always helps, too! But I love marking the seasons with my favorite wardrobe capsule program, Get Your Pretty On (GYPO) from Alison Lumbatis. It’s been a fun summer – and I loved the capsule – but I’m ready for fall clothes now. Last year’s fall capsule was my favorite of the year, so I had high hopes for this year! Capsule Concept Having a wardrobe capsule for a season makes life so much easier. Get Your Pretty On tells you every piece to buy/add to your capsule every season. And then GYPO tells you how to mix and match, for a total of about 30 outfits. (This fall there is a whopping 33 outfit combinations!) So there’s no guessing what to wear every day. Fall Fun Fall is the time of year to break out your boots and jeans. Since we’re in Texas, I never wear jeans after May, since it’s just too hot. So it’s always fun to pull out the jeans and make sure they fit the way I remember! One trend that is reappearing that I will not be partaking in is bell bottoms. I can’t believe their back! Thankfully our skinny and boot cut jeans are still in style! And boots! I was so happy to see tall boots – instead of only booties – in the capsule this season. I haven’t loved the booties I bought, but I adore my boots! Fall colors, though they are not my favorite, are the colors that work best with my complexion. I can’t do fuchsias and bright yellow but I can do orange, green, and brown. So this is obviously my time of year! This capsule is full of warm neutrals and plenty of pops of color. Conclusion If you’ve been intrigued by the capsule idea, you should try GYPO for a season. Alison offers both a casual and workwear capsule. I’ve never tried the work wear but have been tempted every season. If you want to try just one, choose the area that gives you the most grief when you look in your closet. Because the capsule concept will help you out so much!
A while back, I told you about my hyperthyroidism journey. It’s still ongoing – as are so many health issues. Thankfully, I found an amazing endocrinologist who will listen to any complaints that I have – and usually have an answer for me. After my radiation treatment, I was soon put on synthetic thyroid replacement medication. It was fine for the first year or so but soon I was looking at different medication options. As far as thyroid meds, there are two kinds: synthetic and desiccated. Synthetic Synthroid, the typical synthetic thyroid hormone that most hypothyroid patients get put on, is easy to prescribe. And if you’re hypothyroid because you have no thyroid, it’s even easier to prescribe, based on your body weight. But Synthroid contains only one of two thyroid hormones and some patients don’t naturally convert that one hormone to the two you need for your metabolism to work properly. After being on Synthroid for a while, and having very little energy, my doctor put me on an additional pill so that, when combined with the Synthroid, the two different thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, were supposed to be adequately simulated in the body. With these two pills, I found that I had a bit more energy, but not much. Desiccated There’s an alternative to synthetic pills that is a bit controversial: desiccated thyroid, which is made from pigs. That freaks some people out. But because it’s natural it contains both thyroid hormones and other natural ingredients that help the thyroid. One reason – besides the pig factor – doctors are hesitant to prescribe it is because the dosing is very different from synthetic hormones. That means it takes a while to figure out the right dosage, which means blood tests until it’s accurate. They can have all my blood if they can get my hormones right! So, I’m now on the desiccated hormones and have been for a few years now. Going Forward After being unsuccessful in all weight loss attempts over the years – and seeing the number on the scale inch up and up – I’m now trying a new diet as a last resort. I work out enough, so activity is not the problem. And I eat healthily – but I’ve never attempted to drastically change my diet. Until now. I’ve seen some great results from the diet so far – five pounds down! Now, I need to see if I can continue the trend! I will keep you posted!