Anniversary Mini-Break

Today, the husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage. Yep, two whole decades. That’s half my life. And the majority of those years have been pretty darn good, so I think we’re  lucky. To mark the occasion we both took the day off work, spent last night at our favorite B&B (Southmoreland on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City), and spent today antiquing. We were hoping to find more Mission-style furniture for our house, but didn’t find a thing. We hit a couple of small towns that were kind of sad and run-down, though we did find a bookstore. And look what I found at one of the antique stores:

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A yarn section!! It wasn’t a great selection but I still walked out with two lovely skeins of sock yarn:

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And at another antique store, I found these little goodies. I didn’t need either of them, but at $2 each, they still came home with me.

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We were a little discouraged at not finding any furniture treasures, but we ended the day in Parkville, MO, and found an awesome store called Cool Vintage Watches. They had watches, of course, but they also had several vintage pens too. I really liked the silver/gold Montblanc ballpoint, but that didn’t really fit my budget. Instead I brought home this beauty.

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It’s a Sheaffer Targa 1020 M in Imperial Brass with a 14k gold nib. It came with the converter but also takes cartridges, and since I don’t have any bottled ink, I put in one of those and it writes like a dream.

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The pen is in beautiful shape. I can’t find a flaw anywhere. Plus, I already had a stainless steel Targa, so it pleases the completist in me to have a brass one as well.

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It came with this nifty brass case, which has only a couple of tiny scratches on the bottom.

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So, yeah, happy anniversary to me, right? I’m really pleased with my finds, and it was a treat to spend a relaxing day with the husband. We don’t get those as often as we’d like!

Raishan Blanket

Yesterday was rainy and cool, and I was able to spend it all indoors doing whatever I chose. And mostly I chose to knit and cuddle with puppers, especially Jack.

 

I watched Southside With You (good movie, man who played Barack was especially great) and The Green Mile (one of our favorites, but the boy watched it for the first time) and Supernatural (not my choice, the girl’s). By the end of day, I was weaving in ends!

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This project took a month and three days, but because I’m not a huge fan of making blankets, it felt like longer. Still, I’m delighted with the finished piece. The photos don’t show how neon-bright the green really is!

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Pattern is Raishan by Laura Cameron, and it was well-written, interesting, and fun to knit. Yarn is Knit Picks Swish Worsted Brights in Sour Apple. I used almost all of seven skeins after making some modifications to the pattern. You can see my Rav page here.

And now, because this is for one twin, I need to knit another baby blanket. I’m doing the same yarn in Razzleberry, a bright blue, but a different pattern. This time I’m doing a garter rib blanket, something simple enough I can take to work for lunch-time knitting, and maybe it will go faster. A girl can dream, right?

Today, the girl is at work and the boys are off getting haircuts, so I have a rare morning with the house to myself. I’m off to knit in peace and quiet!

The Power of Thanks

One of my favorite moments from our recent vacation was when my husband thanked me. I’m a pretty typical Type A person, one who has to make lists and plan everything down to the smallest detail. Sometimes I feel like that trait is more obnoxious than helpful, both to me and to others. But this time, it was good, because I was prepared for almost everything the trip threw at us. And at one point, when I answered one of my husband’s suggestions with “I already looked into that and here’s the answer”, he paused, seemingly surprised, then thanked me for the time and effort I put into planning the trip.

Friends, I probably don’t have to tell you this, but that little gesture felt huge to me. It’s not that my husband doesn’t appreciate me; I know he does, just as I appreciate him. But I do think that after 20 years of marriage, we might have gotten lax in telling each other something as little as “thank you”. We take each other for granted too often, and forget how important it is to express appreciation without wanting something in return.

Those small moments, like my husband thanking me, are part of my mental “You Don’t Suck” file. I saw this on Twitter recently and loved it, because I DO have a YDS file. I have one at home and at work. When I started my new job a year ago, there was much I didn’t know. I felt incompetent and inadequate too often, despite my faith in my intelligence. I started collecting emails where people encouraged me, where they said nice things to me, where they thanked me, and I look back at those when I have a day that kicks my butt.

That’s why I’m making a concerted effort to create those moments for others. There’s so much darkness in the world right now, so much hate and anger. I share in that sometimes, but I can’t sustain it. I need to balance it with the good and the love. So when I see a woman with gorgeous blue/purple hair, I tell her. When someone at work helps me fix a problem, I thank them for their patience with me. My husband manages our retirement accounts so I don’t have to worry about them, and when I realized I never told him how much I appreciated that, I thanked him, simply and sincerely. When my daughter does extra jobs for me without complaining, like running to the grocery store at the last minute, or starting dinner before I get home, I try to thank her every time. Sure, she’s part of this family and benefits from those things too, but her time is just as valuable as mine, and when she uses it to help me at the last minute, I do appreciate it, and what’s the point of keeping that quiet?

If someone makes me smile, makes me feel good, my goal is to tell them. It doesn’t matter if that person is a friend, a stranger, a superior, an employee. If they’re a person, and I’m guessing they all are, they all appreciate sincere thanks.

I think this is why I did well as a manager. I wasn’t the person in the office telling them what to do. I was in the thick of it, doing it myself, asking them to help me, and thanking them every day for their effort. Even if all they did was smile and help customers all day, I thanked them, because a positive attitude is infectious. We all have stuff going on in our lives that can bring us down, and sometimes it’s really hard to set that aside to focus on the task at hand, and I appreciated that effort. And if it was too hard one day, and someone asked to work in solitude in the back, I appreciated that too.

As a manager, I was charged with leading a team to success, and I knew every day that my people were working hard to HELP ME achieve that goal. I couldn’t do it alone, and I couldn’t do it if they were unhappy. So I did what I could to keep them happy. I worked alongside them, laughing as much as possible. I encouraged them, even when the task was too big. And I thanked them. All the time, as much as I could.

I recently ordered some earrings on Etsy, from a young girl just starting out, and in my package was the most wonderful thank-you note, complete with kitty sketch. It was delightful, made the experience so much more than just a purchase. It was a connection with a person, a kind, funny, talented person, and we need those connections desperately. It’s why I always sent a thank-you note with everything I sold; I wanted them to know that there was someone behind that knit hat they’d just bought, and that someone appreciated them.

The world can be mean and scary right now. So I’m going to laugh at cat videos, swoon over cute dogs, sing along to good music, share the great books I read, and I’m going to thank people. Starting with you, reader: Thank You, truly, for taking the time to read my words. It means a lot to me. It’s lovely to know that I’m not terrible at stringing words together, that I’m not alone in my thoughts.

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Now it’s your turn. Go find someone to thank today!

A Good Week

Guys, it’s been a pretty good week. My most recent post, Changing Direction, might have been my one of my most popular, with 93 views and 18 likes! And that’s even with me forgetting to add any categories or tags. I mean, sure, it’s not like I’m going viral or anything, but it’s encouraging for me. And looking at the stats made me realize that I have over 400 followers on my blog! That’s so cool, that over 400 people like what I have to say enough to follow me. I am always grateful that you’re reading, so thank you!

I got a couple of nice comments at work this week, one a vote of confidence from my boss, which is always encouraging. The other was from someone in another department who said I’m “one of the best AAs” she works with. Well! How about that? Made me feel pretty good, especially after all the times where I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I have no science knowledge or background.

And we went to see Wonder Woman again. Still amazing. Want to see it again. And again. If you haven’t seen it yet, GO. Go now, while it’s still in theaters. Seriously.

This week was a good mail week too. I got some cute earrings I ordered from Etsy, a new shop with a young maker. I was her first sale and she included an awesome note thanking me, complete with kitty sketch. The shop is So Crafty Kitten.

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My other delivery was my wrist ruler from I Love Handles. I saw it on Instagram and ordered on immediately. Mine is the black 15″ and I want one of every color. This is the 15″; next time I think I’ll get the 16″. Perfect for on the go sock knitting! Or any knitting, really. Get your own here.

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So, yeah, not a terrible week. And I promised some knitting in the next post, so here’s the sock I finished last night.

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Pattern is Blueberry Waffle Socks, kind of. The pattern called for DK weight and I had fingering, so I just took the waffle stitch pattern and applied it to the same basic sock recipe I’ve been using. I’m quite tickled with myself, that I’m comfortable enough with socks to just kind of make one up based on what I’ve done in the past! Just wait until I know more heels to choose from!

The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Glimmer, which is dreamy to work with. It’s super soft, which I love, and the sparkly thread isn’t scratchy at all. It is splitty when you have to tink back to fix mistakes, but manageable. However, once I got the sock done and on my foot, either the yarn or the pattern doesn’t feel snug and elastic. Definitely soft, but slightly looser than some of my other socks. I used the same needles and stitch count, so either my gauge has changed slightly or it’s the yarn. But they’ll be fine, and I’m looking forward to having the second sock done. However, it wasn’t until I got this one on my foot that I realized: I forgot to do the contrast toe in gray! Darn it all. It’s fine, though, who sees the toes anyway, right? And it leaves more gray for other pairs of socks.

That’s kind of all the knitting I’ve been doing. I seem to be on a strange little knitting hiatus. I’ve been so tired in the evenings that knitting makes me sleepy, so I’ve been watching more TV. I’ve also been re-reading Furiously Happy for our work book club, and loving it just as much as I did the first time. (Funny stories about mental illness. Can’t go wrong.) My goal is to work a bit more on my baby blanket this weekend. I have about two skeins of yarn left, out of seven. SO close!

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It’s going to be Fabulous when it’s done. (Pattern is Raishan by Laura Cameron.) Now I just need to do my chores and errands so I can get to the needles!

Changing Direction

Over the weekend, I made a decision. Maybe it’s not so big, but it felt kind of big to me. I decided to close my Etsy shop and shut down my Facebook business page. Four years ago, when I was newly obsessed with knitting and staying home with the kids, I was knitting ALL the things, more things than my family could possibly need or want. Sometimes I made things just for fun, even though I didn’t know anyone who’d want it. At that time, selling handknits seemed like a great plan. I’d get to knit, do something I love, and make a bit of money. I set up the Etsy page and started doing craft shows. Well, if any of you have done something similar, maybe you discovered what I did: it’s hard to sell handknits. I did well at craft shows, but Etsy never took off for me. There’s a lot of competition and it’s hard to get noticed, and I made what I wanted instead of mass producing what I thought customers would want. I needed people who could see and touch each piece, and fall in love with them. And I’m sure I could have taken some courses on SEO and photography and online business, but for a number of reasons, I didn’t. So I’m not blaming Etsy; it’s great for a lot of makers. It just never did much for me. The customers I did have were delighted with what they bought, and all my reviews were 5 stars. I had fun, but never came close to profiting.

I started the Facebook page when I felt like I was overloading my personal page with knitting stuff, and I didn’t want to annoy my friends by trying to sell things that way. A business page seemed like a good solution, and I really enjoyed that. I shared new pieces, blog posts, fun photos, all kinds of fun yarny things. I sold very little through the page, and most was to friends, but again, I didn’t put as much effort into it as I could have.

Then a year ago, I went back to work. My knitting time dwindled, and my other creative time disappeared. I focused on selfish knitting and only renewed the existing Etsy listings when they expired. My Facebook posts leaned toward funny shared posts with the occasional blog post. I definitely didn’t have the time or energy for craft shows. I didn’t worry about it, thinking I’d settle into the job and figure things out as I went along.

Now, I’ve been back at work a year. I have no more time than I did six months ago. What I do have is a renewed desire to be creative for myself. I love the more thoughtful knitting I’m doing now. I’m not churning out a bunch of hats, as much I love hats. I’m choosing projects carefully, selecting wonderful yarn that’s worth my time, and making things that bring me joy to wear or gift. That’s one of the beauties of knitting: it can be whatever you need it be, and that can morph and change depending on your needs.

I want to get back to blogging more regularly, and there’s a novel kicking around in my brain, and I want the mental space for those things. Something had to give, and Etsy and Facebook were the prime candidates. They had become dead weight, offering nothing of value.

Once the decision was made, it felt right. I let the girl go through my inventory and pull out what she wanted. I reduced the prices on my listings to do a closeout sale in hopes of recouping some costs. (You can check them out here if you’d like.) What’s left after a month or so will be donated to a worthy cause. Then I went through my craft room and pulled out all the stuff I’d bought for craft shows, stands and racks for displays, and put them in a box to donate. None of it is fancy, and all came from a thrift store to begin with, so that’s not a loss. With all of that done, my craft room was a tiny bit tidier. And my brain felt tidier too, like I’d deleted a few files.

So that’s where my head is right now, and it feels good. I feel renewed, and I promise my next post will have some actual knitting in it!

What about you? Has your knitting changed over time too?

Harry Potter Vacation

Brace yourselves, friends: this one has a lot of photos! But they’re all super fun, at least if you like Harry Potter (and who doesn’t?). We took an actual family vacation recently, our first real vacation in about three years. The kids and I are HP nuts, and I really wanted to take them to the theme park at Universal Studios before the girl grows up and moves out. She’ll be a senior this year, so my time was limited, and I managed to convince the husband that we should do it this year. We kept it short (only three days in Florida) but managed to pack a TON of fun into those three days.

I wanted to make the most of the experience and do the whole typical tourist thing, so I chose a hotel onsite. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was a super-fun 60s-themed hotel with bright decor, mid-modern furniture and oldies playing in the lobby. There was even a bowling alley and a diner. The kids and I loved it, but found out why it was the cheapest onsite hotel: despite being advertised as “within walking distance”, it was about a mile away. And when you’re walking all over the theme park, you don’t want to walk a mile to and from your hotel. Thankfully, there was a fast and free shuttle that got us there easily. The first two days were spent almost completely at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

We got a first glimpse of Hogwarts as we entered the park, and it was awesome! We started at Hogsmeade and went to Ollivander’s to watch the little show there: Ollivander chose a boy from the audience and went through the wand-choosing with him. Then we went into the shop, where we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of wands to look at! None of us could decide right away, so we moved on. There were a ton of fun storefronts, plus several real shops where you could buy any kind of souvenir you wanted. We went to Honeydukes, had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, tried Butterbeer, had drinks at the Hog’s Head, and rode the rides, and the girl discovered she loves roller coasters! Even the boy rode them, and enjoyed them! I discovered I don’t like scariest ones as much as I did in high school. The Quidditch ride in Hogwarts was scary but fun, the Flight of the Hippogriff was tame but my favorite, and the Dragon Challenge coaster was terrifying for me. I kept my eyes closed and was too scared to scream; the girl and the husband ended up riding it three more times!

A short ride on the Hogwarts Express took us to London, where there were intriguing (but sadly fake) bookstores. We saw the Knight Bus, caught a glimpse of Stan Shunpike, and tried the door at 12 Grimmauld Place. We looked around but didn’t see Diagon Alley, but we did see people going through an alley next to a brick wall…

And there was Diagon Alley! It was amazing! I loved it even more than Hogsmeade. So much attention to detail, so much like the movies. I just wanted every single storefront to be real. We did go into Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, Ollivander’s, Florean Fortescue’s, and Madam Malkin’s. I wanted the wool store, with the window display of self-knitting needles, to be real, but alas it wasn’t. By then the girl had chosen her wand (Luna Lovegood) and she’d gotten an interactive one to be able to do spells throughout the park.

Diagon Alley was even more impressive at night, when the lights came on and the dragon atop Gringotts roared. The Gringotts ride was fun, but only good enough to ride once. We definitely preferred the rides at Hogsmeade. Still, it was so fun to go through the bank and see the lobby and the chandeliers and the goblins!

Over the two days, we went back and forth several times. I finally chose my wand (Cho Chang) but also came home with a beautiful Death Eater wand. We ate all the food and bought all the souvenirs and candy, and walked until our feet were ready to fall off. It was marvelous.

The last day in Florida was planned for the husband, as a reward for being a good sport about the theme park. We spent most of the day at the Kennedy Space Center, and we all ended up loving it.

My favorite part was seeing the actual Atlantis shuttle. It was immense; I still can’t fathom how things so huge get into space. The husband was in his element, more excited than he’d been at any point at the park. He spent just as much money there as I did at the parks! It was all fascinating, so many shows and exhibits, and we learned a ton about the space program. The girl and I were too scared to ride the launch simulator, but the boys loved it. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to do any of the bus tours. I can see another trip in the future.

From there we drove to Cocoa Beach to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

I took a ton of photos but none of them capture the magic of the ocean so I’ll just share these two. None of us are water lovers, but we all wished we had suits so we could frolic in the water, which was warm and soft and inviting. We learned a very important lesson: when going near the beach, always bring swimsuits just in case.

We’re settled in back at home now, but I’m still wishing I could go back.

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Vintage Crochet

Last night we had dinner with my mother, and she gave me a few potholders made by her mother back when my mother was young. I knew my grandmother could crochet: I have a fluffy loop dog as well as an afghan from her. But I’d never seen these little treasures before!

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These three potholders are all two layers crocheted together, and I’m sure it was thread with steel hooks. The intricacy is amazing. I can’t imagine how long it took her to make each one. And these were definitely used; you can see the one in the top right is soiled. My mom remembers her dad cooking with one of these hanging out of his back pocket.

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But these beauties don’t look like they were used at all! Each one is a real dress (I guess so you could slide it over the pot handle?) and they’re all done with perfect precision. I’m in awe. While I know I have the skills to make these, I definitely don’t have the patience! If any of you are inclined, there are some neat patterns here.

I would love to get these cleaned before maybe framing them to hang in my craft room. Anyone have any tips or recommendations? Keep in mind they’re over 50 years old!