Life

lillipads

My posting here has been a bit sporadic lately, for several reasons.  We went to Montana for a week…but I’m also leaving my workplace of 15 years.  Changes are always difficult but changing so much after 15 years is big. The Great Resignation We’ve all heard of the great number of people quitting their jobs.  COVID has made a lot of people make changes they were reluctant to make pre-COVID.  Staying home for a year made us all re-evaluate what matters most in our lives.   To make things worse, a lot of workplaces are unwilling to make permanent changes in light of COVID.  This really baffles me, as everyone benefited from some of the changes COVID forced upon us.   My decision came down to several things… No Mobility My previous workplace had no room in which for me to grow professionally.  My boss wouldn’t advocate for a promotion when other institutions (and other departments within our division) around us promoted people in similar situations with much less experience.  Some people may be content doing the same thing every single day for 20+ years, but after 7.5 years in the same position, I needed to be able to grow…or move on. Open Concept/No Remote Work The people who lead the division of my former job are good ol’ boys who promote people who are popular, outgoing, and visible.  My job, doing research, attracts introverts; I am an introvert.  We are not outgoing (we’re usually too busy working to chat), nor do we want visibility.   To make everything worse, my division moved to an open concept building last summer, in the midst of COVID.  We were working from home at the time, and there was talk of us working from home permanently, or at least part-time once COVID was a thing of the past. In January, it became apparent that the good ol’ boys wanted people in the office; they wanted to see us working.  Now, there is nothing being said of a hybrid work situation; everyone is required to be in the office.   Final Straw I was ready to leave my job two years ago.  COVID was the final straw.  COVID changed the dynamics of our department and made the current work situation impossible.  I was miserable.  Add all of the above reasons to it, and I was done.   In December, I started the process of finding a new job – a permanently remote job.  I didn’t realize at the time that competing for a remote job with everyone else in the country who wanted a remote job – who does what I do – would be so difficult.  So it took six months.  Six long months.  Six months of doubting my expertise and experience after multiple rejections…  But I finally happened upon what I hope will be a great job.  And I’m super excited.  In this new job, I will learn new skills and have more responsibility…  And I’ll work for a great, mission-drive nonprofit that I admire and respect.  Working from home means that we can move everywhere.  We can move to take care of our parents or move to the mountains….  We have options. It also means more time for knitting and blogging!   So please wish me luck as I start this new chapter!

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Changes

ten years

Ten years ago today, I married my best friend.  After two weeks of corresponding through emails, we met for a first date….then we were engaged nine months later.  And seven months after that, on May 1, we were married.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change any of it. Wedding We were one of those annoying couples who had a destination wedding.  Both Matt and I love to travel so we wanted to get married in a unique place.  In all fairness, we wanted a very small wedding and only had about 25 people in attendance.  Half of those were within a day’s drive of our wedding venue: Jekyll Island Club on Jekyll Island, Georgia. I had never seen Jekyll Island prior to getting married there.  I chose it because it was historic, Southern, and different.  It also fit my criteria of having a chapel or church on site and a reception venue within walking distance.  I wanted everything on one property and the JIC accomplished that. It ended up being the perfect weekend and I’ve had several friends who were there tell me that it was the best wedding they ever attended.  That made me extremely happy! A Decade We have taken an average of three trips every year for the past ten years.  And, in addition to holiday trips to see family and weekend getaways, we’ve done a lot of traveling.  And that’s what we wanted to do when we got married: we wanted to see the world together.   Along with travel, we’ve built a life together – and it’s the best life I could hope for.  Nothing is perfect but life is about dealing with imperfection.  And we’ve dealt pretty well with all, and had a lot of fun along the way.   Celebration To celebrate ten years together, we’re returning to Jekyll Island.  We haven’t been back in these past ten years and we’re both really looking forward to seeing the island again, this time without the wedding stress. With COVID, we didn’t know if we’d be able to travel, but we were determined to try, no matter what.  Thankfully, we got our vaccines just in time, making us feel comfortable enough to fly there.  I’m looking forward to a fun anniversary weekend! Here’s to the next ten years – and beyond! 

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Ten Years

The Yarn Whisperer

I so much enjoyed Clara Parkes’ Knitlandia that I bought her most recent book of essays, The Yarn Whisperer.   It was not what I expected, which is both good and bad.  Let me explain… Backstory Clara Parkes has been a knitting advocate and teacher for years.  She appeared on Knitting Daily TV, which was produced by Interweave, and she has written 7 books about our favorite hobby.  In 2000, she created the Knitter’s Review website, which reviewed products knitters use, as well as yarn.   Parkes has led a life filled with knitting – and we’re lucky that she’s such a talented writer so that she can share her experiences with us. The Book The Yarn Whisperer is a selection of essays about Parkes’ life and the role that knitting has played and woven throughout it.  These stories recount a cross-country move when Clara was very young, meeting friends who liked to knit in college, and working in a department store right out of college.  I particularly liked the story of how Clara and her partner renovated an old barn in Maine to make it a beloved, cherished home. While knitting isn’t always center stage throughout this book, Clara often comes back to stitches and fibers to tie up all the loose ends.   Review I’ve never been very fond of essay collections.  They are difficult for me to read as they so often seem disjointed.  Parkes’ Knitlandia was different as every chapter recounted a fiber festival or event so you expected the change.  The Yarn Whisperer was less cohesive as it was about Parkes’ personal life experiences.  That being said, I found all the essays to be interesting and endearing – and very relatable.  When Parkes recounted being nervous about her knitting in college, unsure of whether her friends would judge her unkindly for her hobby, I thought of the times I’ve been reluctant to admit to being a knitter, for fear of being given an undesirable label.  When Parkes talked of her cross-country move, I remembered all of the times I moved when I was young; I went to five different elementary schools!   Conclusion Many of these essays are relatable for us and will make us remember things in our past fondly – or not so fondly.  They will make you laugh and cringe.   If anything, I wish there was more knitting in this book.  The world can never have enough knitting for me, it seems!  But I’m so glad Clara Parkes continues to write for us – and I hope she never stops being our voice and advocate!

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The Yarn Whisperer

yarn

How are you?  How are you holding up?  2021 has been a bit disappointing so far.  I honestly hadn’t thought past 2020 in regards to COVID so I’m now officially tired of it all.  I’m trying to stay distracted by knitting and crafts….  But we’ve all been doing that for a year now. Vaccines I’m trying to remain hopeful that the vaccines will make life resume to a mostly-normal cadence by summer.  But the variants and waves affecting different parts of the world are troubling, to say the least.  I hope, as the vaccines become more readily available worldwide, these surges in cases will slow down.  Of course, that means that we all have to do our part and get vaccinated when we can. Travel We’re staying distracted, partly, by planning some travel for summer.  And oh, how I’ve missed travel planning.  Sure, we had our trip to Colorado in October, but that was a destination we know very well.  We’re now planning trips to see new places.   When we thought about what travel seemed attractive this summer, we contemplated going to our favorite all-inclusive in Mexico.  But then we realized that after sitting at home for a year, sitting on the beach didn’t sound all that appealing.  We want to explore and see brand new sights.  And eat at new-to-us restaurants.  Never has there been a time when new and different sounded more appealing! Knitting I must say that this pandemic has given me a  new appreciation for my favorite craft.  When I get down or anxious, my knitting is always there to distract me and bring me joy.  Those speckles in the yarn are so uplifting and joyful to me, I cannot even tell you. Though I haven’t been spending much money during the pandemic, I have certainly bought yarn.  Possibly too much yarn!  But at least I’m using it and finding joy in it all.  What’s bringing you joy? Conclusion I should probably do more reading and try to get lost in a good novel in order to make time pass faster this spring.  I’m that anxious to travel and get away.   But we can’t let our guard down, yet!  Be vigilant, be safe, and be healthy!

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COVID Check-In

Yoga with Adriene

About 4-5 years ago, I decided to start doing yoga in order to improve my agility, flexibility, and overall strength.  When I searched for free online yoga videos, Yoga with Adriene kept coming up.  I did a few videos but wasn’t sold.  Then, in January of 2017, I decided to participate in Yoga with Adriene’s 30-day yoga challenge, Revolution.  It changed my body, my mind….and I haven’t stopped doing yoga since. Slow Is Good If you go back and watch some of Adriene’s earlier videos and compare them to recent ones, you’ll realize that Adriene’s flow has slowed down quite a bit.  And some people don’t like her because her practices are not fast and don’t make you immediately break a sweat.  I didn’t like her videos at first either, because I thought I wasn’t getting a “workout.” But slow down.  Seriously.  By slowing down, you gain an abundance of strength.  Holding a plank or a down dog for 2 seconds is a breeze.  But try holding those for 5, 10, or 20 seconds.  That’s how you build strength (and improve balance). And that’s how you learn to listen to your body. By slowing down, you recognize the nuances within your bones, joints, and muscles as you move.  And by doing that, you gain mindfulness. A Yogi? “Mindfulness” does not mean meditate.  Sure, Adriene has videos on how to meditate but mindfulness is more about recognizing the changes in your body and moving with your breath.   I’m not, or will ever be, a person who views yoga within a religious context.  Nor do I think doing yoga goes against other religion’s principles.  How can breathing, moving, and gaining strength of body and mind be against anyone’s religion?   I do yoga because it’s good for my body and mind.  It’s made me stronger (bring on the planks!), more flexible, and more confident in my body.  I know what my body can and cannot do.  And by knowing that, I prevent injuries and know when to push further or just stop.  It’s also made me more conscious of my breath and has, in many ways, lowered my stress level on the days when I need that most. Conclusion If you’re looking for a yoga practice to help you re-center and re-connect with your body, Adriene is fantastic.  She has a practice for everything.  And even though the practice may be for your lower back, you’ll work all kinds of muscles in order to focus attention on the lower back.   You can’t go wrong with any of her videos!

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Yoga with Adriene

sock yarn

As I recently spoke about… COVID is making me do some odd things, like Westknits Webinars….and more.  While listening to the Grocery Girls podcast a few months ago, Tracie mentioned that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was sharing her sock knitting wisdom on Patreon.  I’d never really paid attention to Patreon but now decided to look into it. Background Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a Canadian writer who is affectionately known as The Yarn Harlot, after writing a book about knitting by the same name.  I read it awhile ago and really enjoyed it.  But Stephanie also has a blog that I’ve kept up with for years.  It’s very inspiring! Since all knitting events – and all events in the world – are cancelled (thank you, COVID), I won’t be seeing Stephanie in person anytime soon.  But to have the opportunity to learn from her – virtually – was too good to pass up.   Tracie had only great things to say about her Patreon content so I decided to give it a try. Details Patreon costs different amounts depending on who you are subscribing to.  Stephanie charges $6 a month for her content.  She usually puts out one or two hour-long videos a month.  I don’t plan on subscribing long-term but for a few months, I think it’s well worth the price. Stephanie walks you through every step of the sock-knitting process through a series of videos and, if you enjoy socks, they are indispensable.  I learned a lot and I knit a lot of socks.  I thought I knew most of the tricks – but I learned quite a few new ones.   There are also great tutorials on yarn and how it behaves, what to knit with it, and how to store it.  Seriously, there is some exceptional content here.  I took a lot of notes! Conclusion Pearl-McPhee is so calming to listen to.  I’d never heard her speak in public but she is so charming and so intelligent about all things knitting.  Her sock tutorials, for newbie sock knitters, make you feel truly comfortable with the idea of knitting socks. One of her videos, on how to repair damaged socks, is one of the best tutorials I’ve ever seen.  I haven’t worn any of my socks long enough to wear them out in any way, but when I do, I’ll know how to repair them.  For those socks that have holes in them, just from being in a drawer….  Stephanie will tell you what bug ate through your sock!  Amazing!   If you’re looking to improve your knitting, especially with socks, these videos are priceless.  I’d pay $25 just to watch that one sock repair video! 

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Pearl-McPhee on Patreon

Westknits MKAL

Thanks to COVID, I’m trying all kinds of new things, especially with crafts.  As more and more events go virtual, there are a lot of learning opportunities that you can take advantage from while at home.  One such opportunity was some webinars that Stephen West – aka Westknits – put on a month or so ago.    If you haven’t seen Stephen West in person, you must know from social media that he is very entertaining.  And he was very fun to listen to on Zoom.  I’m so glad I was able to do these webinars!  Let me tell you more… Shawl Shapes I love knitting shawls so when I saw that Westknits was doing a webinar on shawl shapes, I had to tune in.  Stephen comes up with some of the most innovatively shaped shawls in the knitting world so it was fascinating to listen to his design process.   But the best part was how much information he shared – and design tips.  Stephen basically gave you all the information you need to design your own shawls at home, including diagrams and increases/decreases information.  He also gives you permission to just play and invent something new.  I know that sounds weird but I’m a very OCD by-the-rules person, even in knitting, so the idea of creating a new technique is not something that I’d let myself easily do.  If it’s not a standard thing, it must be “wrong.”   Stephen loves inventing new shapes and techniques and we all benefit from his design process! Colorplay The second Westknits webinar I watched had to do with color.  Stephen loves color.  And he loves colors and color combinations that I usually balk at – fluorescents and brights.  Seeing how he puts together color in a shawl or a sweater was fascinating.   Stephen also talked about different ways to play with color in your knitting – marling, fading, stripes, brioche…  There are so many ways to play with color and Stephen gives you the information to do it yourself – more comfortably.   That’s particularly nice if you have a more conservative color palette, like myself!! Conclusion If you get a chance to take a class from Stephen – or watch a webinar – definitely do it!  You will learn a lot and be instantly inspired by this designer’s energy, positivity, and innovativeness.   These webinars were not free but they only cost about $20, which is well worth it.  Stephen donates part of the fee to a good charity, which is very nice.   The annual Westknits MKAL began yesterday and I cannot wait to see what shape Stephen has in store for us this year!

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Westknits Webinars

knitting

How are you holding up with all the messes going on right now?  2020 continues to surprise and we’re not done yet.  We’ve stayed mainly hunkered down, though a quarantine is not specifically mandated.  I am continually grateful that both Matt and I can work from home.  We’re committed to taking care of our elderly parents who are very strict with their quarantines.  Alas, they’re the only people we see.  Thankfully, I have my crafts to keep me busy at home, as I’m sure you do, too, dear knitter. Knitting There is a great solace to be found with the knitting needles these days.  I have an easy project going now, which helps to keep my hands busy as we binge watch our favorite shows and movies on weekends.   And I’m loving what knitting designers are publishing these days.  I’ve become a bit obsessed with watching Joji Locatelli’s journals on YouTube….and I’m even listening to some classes on how to perfect the knitted sock.  Because I have more time in the day, I might as well learn some new techniques. Crafting As I spoke of recently, I’m doing more of my other crafts since we’re home.  I’m scrapbooking, doing my Project Life very diligently, but I’m also making cards.  I’m even about to start Christmas cards!  Talk about planning ahead!   For several years, I’ve done Ali Edwards’ December Daily album project, which is a lovely way to catalog the holiday season.   Those kits recently went on sale and I was able to find a few things to add to my stash of embellishments.   What I’m Reading Though I don’t read as much as I used to, thanks to knitting, I still enjoy a good book.  And I have two going right now… Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, about a family in Berlin during the onset of World War II.  This is the story of America’s ambassador to Germany during the 1930s, when Hitler comes to power.  It is fascinating and, as a history major, I love how Larson interweaves descriptions and information from primary documents into his writing.   Frances Mayes’ Women in Sunlight.  Mayes wrote Under the Tuscan Sun and her new novel takes place, again, in Italy.  And I love Italy.  This story is about three women who become friends while touring a retirement community.  Instead of settling down there, they decide to rent a villa in Italy.  Yes, please!   My book group chose Mayes’ novel so I had to jump into it in order to get it done on time.   Larson’s book will have to wait a few weeks.  I’ve been very negligent of my book group since COVID started but I’ve decided I need to make an effort to join in on those Zoom calls.  Though I get tired of my computer and Zoom, any contact with humans is welcome these days. Life ….goes on.  We will get through this time.  And we’ll be better knitters and crafters as a result.  Stay safe and well!

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Quarantine Update

cards

It occurs to me that I haven’t spoken much about my other crafts.  Knitting is, obviously, number one in my heart these days, but that wasn’t always the case.  My first craft was scrapbooking followed closely by card-making.  I didn’t have much motivation to do either of those the past few years but, with the extra time at home due to COVID-19, I’m back to doing both.  And being motivated to do them!  So let me tell you more about all this crafting fun….. Scrapbooking I started out making scrapbooks of my trips.  I’ve always loved to travel but when I met Matt, our vacations went into hyper-mode.  We’ve had three major vacations every year for the past 10 years.  My scrapbooking couldn’t keep up!  As a sort of compromise, I started doing Project Life a year after we got married.  I really wish I had started that during our courtship, but oh, well.  Project Life is a way to scrapbook the everyday.  In the beginning, I challenged myself to take a picture a day.  After a few years of that, and two albums per year, I switched to a picture every other day so I could fit a year into one album.  I love these albums and they’re great to look back at. Card-Making My introduction to card-making was through Stampin Up!  After working at a Hallmark store during college, I had a profound love of cards and snail mail.  So it was only natural that card-making should appeal to me.  I bought a lot of supplies in the early days: stamp sets, ink pads, cropping tools….   And I still use them.  I’m hard pressed to actually buy a card; I try very hard to make them all.  It’s a labor of love because sometimes I’m just not that motivated.  And sometimes I am and yet the end result doesn’t live up to my expectations.  I’ve definitely ramped up my card-making during COVID.  I’m also trying to send out more cards – for random things but also to coworkers for birthdays since we’re no longer in the office.  Soon I’m going to start Christmas card production.  I’ve made our Christmas cards every year that we’ve been married – except one especially busy year. Home Life I love our home and I love how crafting enhances it and chronicles the stories inside of it.  COVID has taught me many lessons and one of them is to not take our home – and family – for granted.   Look for more different crafting stories in the future. I hope you are safe and well!  And knitting!

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Crafting Fun

A Gentleman in Moscow

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. 

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A Gentleman in Moscow