Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Theme for the Year - Reflecting On Many Possibilities

A friend is someone who supports you in growing and becoming even better. Phyllis and I are friends in the truest sense. We don't see one another often - very seldom in fact. But we are linked at the heart. She encourages and supports me in whatever aspirations I set for myself. She seldom offers advice, but she's one of the wisest women I know. She gently guides and supports me, but she challenges me too! Her humor is one of the sharpest, most intelligent and most "right on" of anyone I've met. Whenever I feel like driving off a bridge, her laughter and quick wit have me hysterically laughing and seeking solutions where I previously felt despair.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we often end up reading the same books! Several years ago, we both read a novel called THURSDAYS AT EIGHT by Debbie Macomber. You can read an excerpt of the first chaper by going to Macomber's website. One concept that we liked best about it was that one of the characters decided that instead of having a New Year's Resolution, a word/theme popped into her mind. The word was "faithful." Each major character in the book came up with a word to use as their mantra for the year. A word that represented something they wanted to guide that particular year. A word beacon.

Phyllis and I have done this for several years now. Instead of doing New Year's Resolutions, which seem too restrictive for us, we select a word. We start thinking about what this word will be and it's very significant for us. For myself, one year my word was "simpify", one time, "gratitude" another year it was "focus." Sometimes it's two words, such as "positive change" but it seems more poweerful to have something short and memorable rather than a whole phrase.

What's strange and amazing is how your year often reflects and meshes with the word chosen!!! So if you do this, choose your guiding word with real intent.

For the last few days, we've been contemplating our themes for 2007. I've considered several including: confidence, courage, persistence, unlimited, serenity, question, choice, and savor. When I asked Emily, the word she immediately came up with for me was "self-control."

At first I REACTED internally in a rebellious and even irritated way - i.e. "What ME need self-control, well by God . . . " GULP. Yeah, that reaction sort of cinched it. I don't like to think of myself, at 46, as someone lacking self-control, but if the reactions fits . . . then do something about it. Right?

Self-control it is. It will apply to many aspects of my life: my diet/exercise, my desire to get control of my finances and spending habits, my work which is very stressful and sometimes makes me feel out of control, especially in relationships. In having a teenager, I need to exercise much more self-conrol, especially in the things I say out of frustration. I live too much of my life out of frustration in fact, and I think that's a pretty counterproductive emotion.

So "self control" is the theme/concept I'm adopting for 2007. Maybe posting this in my blog will help me use it more often.

I love new years, new beginnings and a fresh look at possibilities. Self-control. Ah! I don't have to be perfect. I'm not the Master of the Universe, so I can't conrol reality, but I can control how I react to it - especially if that becomes my intent. So that's my sacred intent for this year, that I handle my reactions in a more positive productive way.

Monday, December 25, 2006

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

It was only four days, four short days!!! But it felt like a million bucks, having several days off to rest (and knit).

There were a few stressful things that happened (we won't talk about plumbing gone awry, last minute Christmas shopping and computers locking up). But all in all, it was a really nice time off.

My plan was to knit on and hopefully finish my Plain Vanilla sweater, but alas, that didn't happen. Here's what DID happen. Shopping. Knitting. Relaxing. Thinking about my upcoming diet. Doing household chores. Cooking. Visiting with friends. Relaxing. Wishing I could be independently wealthy so I didn't have to work.

I spent Friday with my Mom, Bob and Emmy. We bought more WW candles, ate at the Cracker Barrel for lunch and bought some last minute gifts. Then my Mom and I trekked off to The Studio (knit shop) and fell in love with a scarf designed by Annie Modisett - her "Ruffled Roses Scarf." You can see one of the finished scarves by going to her web page at Annie. They had a sample made up in the shop and a lady shopping in the store had one on that she wore very attractively!!!

Note to readers: You can get this pattern only by going to your local yarn shop and telling them about it. They have to request it directly from Annie. The designer is offering this pattern for free, but only to the shops themselves, who can distribute them to customers. This to help shore up business for the local yarn stores so that they'll be there when we need them! I think that's a brilliant idea.

Back to the knitting drama: Mom decided that she really wanted one of those scarves. So she set about getting the yarn for it, and encouraging me to do the same. "It's just a little project" and "it will go so fast" and last but not least "You can help me figure it out."

The lady who proudly wore hers assured us that it only took 3 hours to make - but I think she was referring to another simple garter stitch scarf she had also recently completed and not this one. This one (the Ruffled Roses) has lace. Anywho, we both became DETERMINED to find the ingredients to the scarf because The Studio was sold completely out of the red color of the Online Linie Solo. We called every knit shop in town and out. Amazing enough, we found it in our own backyard. My Mom mutters, "I wonder if Knitcraft has it?" Guess what, they did! So we found red - the hotly sought after color for the bloom part of the Ruffled Roses scarf.

Now Mom and I are both knitting on this danged scarf (it's addictive) and I'm done with the bloom, finished with the lace (fun) part and am now working on the ribbing part of the first HALF of the scarf). I'm doing my scarf in red, grey, cream and black. Then I realized that I probably didn't buy enough of the cream and black, so I'll probably have to go back and get more later. And they're closed on Christmas, naturally. I'll have to return later this week and get more.

I will post a picture of this scarf once I get my computer back in enough working order that I can post - I'm having problems with it - and it may be Blogger, but more likey this time is my computer. You can see a photo of the scarf by going to Annie Modisett's website.

But that's how easily diverted I am!!! I now have several projects going (see updated Progress on right). I have the Plain Vanilla sweater (which I LOVE), it's getting nearly completed on the body part. I have only 5 more inches to go before I start binding off on that, and then I have the collar and sleeves to knit. I also am about half finished on a long-ago abandoned UFO Dr. Who scarf, and I have this newly-started Ruffled Roses scarf. Not to mention, I'm really getting antsy to get back to my Freeform vest that I started working on last summer. I am motivated to get back to that because we're going the the Studio retreat at the end of January and learning more about Freeform techniques. It would be so FUN to have that vest finished to wear for the retreat, but I doubt that will happen at the rate I'm going. Maybe I'll work on the vest at the conference as my project-in-process.

So I wish I had like a month off to do nothing but knit. I am divinely inspired, but alas, with all the plumbing, car and computer problems, not to mention run-of-the-mill debts, I must continue to work. Ah!!! (do you hear the squeaking violins?)

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Greatest Gift

Time off to be with my family and friends HAS to be, by far, the greatest gift of the holiday season. I'm not much for the material gift giving and the feeling of obligation to give something to everybody. But the gift of time together is truly priceless.

This morning, I went to Weight Watchers for the first time in ages. They are still doing the points plan or the CORE Plan, but they've repackaged it a lot and it seems workable, if you just take the time and attention to plan your meals and make healthier choices. That has to rank higher on my priority list, because I've been gorging lately out of stress and worry. I'm going to try doing CORE again immediately after Christmas.

It was really weird, because I was hesitating going to the meeting, especially since I know I won't actually be starting the new plan until the day after Christmas. (My Grammy is going to cook a calorie-dense Christmas dinner for us on Monday). But I figured I'd go there and get an idea of what the plan is like now, any changes in it so I'd be ready to start fresh on Tuesday.

The leader there, Roberta, is a really nice gal (and very inspiring). I've been to her meeting before. She is on the CORE plan herself and really loves it. She's kept her weight off for many years. The CORE plan is my plan of choice, because you get to eat until you are comfortably full of healthy food choices. On the points plan, I would only get 20 points per day, which isn't much! In the past, when I've been on that plan, I've felt deprived.

At any rate, Roberta's day at this particular center is Friday, but she told me that she does a Saturday meeting every week at a location not too far from my house, so I may very well be attending her meetings on Saturdays in the future. I think she would really inspire me and charge me up!!

One thing she did that was really neat was pass around some little gift cards that you normally put on Christmas or Hannukah gifts with the "to"/"from" on it. She wanted us to write to (our name) and from (our name). Then she had us flip the little tag over and on the back, write why we want to give OURSELVES the gift of losing weight. How would we benefit from it. On mine, I wrote "feeling of control, good health, nice appearance, more energetic, self-satisfied." So I'm writing it here on this blog as a reminder to myself to think of dieting in a NEW way. I'm not denying myself anything - I'm GIVING myself a gift of good health. How nice is that? I deserve to be healthy, but only I can give that gift to ME!!!!!

Now I turn this back to you, dear friends. What gift can you give yourself in 2007? The gift of peace? The gift of love? The gift of more time? I'm thinking that all of these things are tied together in a nice little gift package. When I get stressed-out and deny myself the gift of indulging in what I ultimately want, I find myself stealing those good feelings in other (more destructive) ways by compulsively eating/shopping/ etc. So how can I make myself feel good in healthy ways? Maybe by de-stressing in other ways. Meditating. Walking. Knitting.

I love it when I have a stream of days like this to reflect on my life. Having time is really really a precious thing. And something that I need to use better and more wisely so I can take the time to make healthier, more satisfying choices in weight loss and everything else.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yarn Diet? And Looking Forward to the Studio Retreat

Several of my yarn friends (Laura, Kay and perhaps Mary and Carol?) have threatened to go on a "yarn diet." It involves stop buying yarn for anywhere from 9 months-1 year!!! It involves knitting entirely from stash with a few exceptions such as: sock yarn counts/doesn't count (depends on who you ask); yarn on yarn crawl or purchased at retreats/yarn festivals is "legal." Yarn purchased for gifts for others at their request is okay so long as you don't already have a similar type of yarn in your stash? You are allowed to fall off the wagon once a year with a get out of jail free card.

Can I agree to this diet? Well . . . I'm definitely returning to a diet-diet (food related) in January. What would January be without a real diet? It just wouldn't. A food diet sounds almost excciting right now, because I've gained so much holiday weight that I feel positively glutonous. Even a financial diet (that Jim and I have both been focusing on lately) and getting my financial house in order is once again sounding appealing and very much needed. But when I comtemplate a yarn diet for some reason, it makes me feel very antsy and like this wouldn't be entirely a GOOD thing.

Yes, it would be good to discipline myself. Yes, it would be very good to whittle down some of my growing stash. Yes, it would help me clean out the "guest room" in my house that is slowly evolving into the Yarn Room. Yes, it would help the financial diet (see paragraph above). Yes, I have plenty of potential projects to keep me busy for the next year PLUS. Yes, the yarn I am planning on buying for Bob's zippered cardigan sweater would be exempt under the rules. But for some reason, having the "you shall not indulge in yarn" dictum hanging over my head would feel somehow Draconian. I don't know why, but it really bugs me.

In 2006, when I look at it in total, I really didn't buy much new yarn at all. Only the Alpaca Vest yarn. I bought some Smittens yarn for the Smittens class but took it back when the class was cancelled. I bought some sock yarn, but not much of that. I bought some yarn for Freeform knitting projects, but again not much. I bought dibs and dabs of yarn throughout this year - but no major projects. No big expenditures.

So why does the mere contemplation of being on a total yarn diet make hives erupt on my skin? Why? I don't know but it does. Even if I appended the RULES to allow for me to make yarn purchases for classes I sign up for, I still don't think even that would be okay. I think I'm not going to do the Yarn Diet. Sorry folks, but this girl would probably indulge LESS if not restricted. I'm afraid I'd simply rebel if I even attempted to put those rules over my head.

So no Yarn Diet for me. Nope.

On a lighter, happier note, I am definitely going to the Studio's knitting retreat at the end of January and I absolutely can't wait!!!!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Riddle: How Do You Survive A Houseful of Teenagers?

Answer: With this:

WoodWick soy candles that Mary told me about. You can buy them at Cracker Barrell restaurants in the gift shop. They are the most delightful candles you will ever experience - they have a wood wick (and thus the name), they smell delightful, burn twice as long as a normal candle and give off a wood cracking sound that reminds you of a crackling fire. Speaking as a bonafide candle fanatic I can testify to the fact that these are the --- the best!!! Made even better by soaking in a big bubble bath at the same time as burning the candle. It would make a lovely and affordable Christmas gift for $15.99 if you haven't found a special gift for someone on your list.

And this:

My current sweater project, the Plain Vanilla sweater that Norma has written often about, using the Pure and Simple Neckdown Pullover for Women Pattern No. 9724 and Marr Haven yarn, I love that stuff!!! It feels like heaven. You can read a Knitter's Review about this yarn by going here. It's the Natural color - and it looks rich and classy, feels soft as butter in your hands, and I heard gets even softer after washing.

This weekend, the sweater grew quite a bit. Yeah! See the black line on it? That's a thread/lifeline where I took it off the needles and tried it on to make sure it fits. Fits beautifully.

I can't wait to finish this sweater, because I think it is one I will wear quite a bit. You start at the neck, knit it all in one piece, and then later will pick up those live stitches at the armhole to knit the sleeves. It's an ingenious, easy and fun pattern. Would make a good "first sweater" for anyone and knits up very fast so far.

And finally this!!! Frank Sinatra. He's always relaxing and classic. I wish I had even more Frank Sinatra CDs. You can never have too many of his albums!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sad Contrast and A Hand Over Scientists' Mouths?

Last weekend I went to see one of the most phenomenal movies I've seen in a long time. The fact is, I'm frugal in many ways - i.e. I buy all my clothes at thrift stores, buy generic brand labels, and most importantly in this case, only attend movies at the dollar movie house after they've LONG expired from "first run" status. However, I had to relent in this rigid first-run movie policy by attending the movie "Bobby" last weekend. Why? Because Bobby Kennedy has long been a hero of mine, also because I look on the late 60's - and the entire 70's period as a revolutionary, innovative and exciting time in our recent history, and it's especially sharp in my mind because I grew up as a liberal/polically aware kid during that time period.

We watched the Evening News every night when I was growing up. Even though I was young, I vividly remember the Vietnam war, as well as specific events such as Martin Luther King's assasination - and Bobby Kennedy running for office. My memory of JFK's assination is very hazy. All I remember of it was little John-John (who was my exact age of 3 at the time) seeing him salute his father's casket at the funeral. I saw that on TV.

But I digress (oh hell, when do I NOT digress?) It wouldn't be a Chelle story if I didn't.

The reason I'm blogging about this today is because I loved that Bobby movie. It brought back to me, on a very emotional level, the late 60's idealism and hope the sense of real HOPE that existed when Bobby Kennedy and his ilk had a chance of leading the country. One can't help but imagine, what might have been, had he not been killed so tragically. Would the world have been different? I dunno. But he had a sense of real vision and such bright, burning intelligence. I think he would have far exceeded the leadership ability of his brother, John.

And compare that to now . . . (shudder, shudder, shudder). I seldom write about politics on here, because frankly, I'm heartsick over it. I can't talk about it, write about it, or think too much about it. Plus, I don't want to turn this into a political bitching blog - that's boring.

But here's the latest astonishment coming from the Bush administration, and this I feel I MUST talk about because it involves coming "new rules" used by the Interior Department's scientific arm to ensure that release of scientific information is monitored and controlled by the administration. Considering who we have in office right now, I see a huge potential for a large governmental "thumb" to be held over scientists for political purposes. This is scary - extremely scary - to me.

According to the AP story, which you can read about directly by going HERE, the Bush administration is going to clamp down even MORE, to filter or screen all facts and interpretations, all scientific papers and other documents and information, before it is released to the public.

What can we do about this? I don't know yet. I don't know if this is something we can write to our Congressman and complain about even, because I don't think it involves legislation. Wow. I'm just flabbergasted by this.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Babes in Toyland

The daughter was phenomenal playing the toymaker's asst, Grumia, in "Babes In Toyland" over the weekend! She sang a solo and was a major character in Act II. The whole show was really good.

Did I say I'm proud of her. She loves acting and her singing - I don't know where she gets that voice, not from me!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dr. Who Kick

Okay, I'm on a Dr. Who kick again. I've been wanting to watch reruns of the original old TV series that I watched during my childhood. My favorite Dr. Who is the fourth one, pictured here. And I love his scarf!

So about a year ago, I started the one in the Sally Melville book - and you see this is where I'm at on it. Guess it would be idea to get it back out again and finish it, right?

Here's a link for the "official" Dr. Who pattern (as Mary mentioned, I think there are probably many different versions). The scarf I am making is from Sally's book and it has brighter colors. Mine is a more garish version, but I like it. These are colors I would wear.

We rented what I THOUGHT was the original Dr. Who series from Netflix, but instead we got a new revamped series they started in 2005. It's pretty good for a revamp, but I nostagically crave the old TV version. So I'm still hunting for it.

On the Knitting front this week? I was going to take the Smittens class last Tuesday, but it was a weird day! (Almost weird in a Dr. Who/surrealistic kind of way). I was driving to work at my usual time, 6:20 AM when I got stalled into a total highway shutdown. A tractor trailor had turned over on the highway and traffic was totally at a crawl. During this time sitting on the bridge, I ran out of gasoline and had to pull over at the shoulder - luckily I found a shoulder. Then Bob came and rescued me - two hours later, with a can of gasoline. But during the tense wait, I luckily had this project to work on and it kept me relatively calm.

That night, driving to the yarn shop, there was another big wreck near the yarn shop, so I had to go around it - took forever, and when I got to the shop, I found out the class had been cancelled for lack of enough people.

So now I'm working pretty steadily on my Top Down Pure & Simple Plain Vanilla pullover sweater that I was working on during the traffic jam.

And I want to also pick up my Dr. Who scarf and finish that. How's that for a plan?

Christmas and Hannukah gifts - those are being purchased this year, definitely not knit. I am too stressed out for anything but purely selfish knitting right now.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Weekend Project Finishing Spree!

Project: Plymouth Alpaca Grande Vest - Pattern No. 26
Needles: Size 11
Worked on: November 21 - December 2nd.
Knitting Level: Easy!
Satisfaction Level: 8

I love the vest and think this is something I will actually wear. It was extremely easy and fun to knit! I think it will get larger and cover more as it stretches - Alpaca stretches a lot.

Also: Alpaca sheds a lot. I noticed it shed a lot of red fuzz all over the cashmere off-white sweater I wore beneath it, but that doesn't bother me. If shedding bothers you, then perhaps reconsider this yarn and choose something else?

I took this in a class with 5 other knitters and it was so much fun! Hi Megan, Carol, Jenny, Debbie, Barbara! Hope you are completing your sweater vests as well and will show them off to me soon.

There is very little finishing to this vest, either. It just requires two short side seams and Voila!

Next on the finishing agenda this weekend was finishing the Trekking Socks I started last summer. Here they are, just in time for winter wearing:

Please pardon the ghostly white legs. But the socks are nice!

Started: June 18th
Finished: December 2nd

Size 0 Needles - 2 socks on 2 circs method
Yarn used: Trekking XXL Color 135 in orange, pink, blue, green, purple.

Pattern: Pure & Simple Fingering Weight Socks, Cuff Down No 216

I'm officially TIRED of knitting socks now.

Next up: Smittens in Mission Falls Wool (I'm making the Advika style with black and multi-colored stripes to match my black coat). Also will knit a black felted hat to go with it.

Also on the needles: am currently working on a Neckdown Pullover for Women in Vanilla color

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Getting Ready for A Party Can Be Scary Sometimes

For several weeks, I've known that I had a Christmas party to attend at work and the big event was scheduled for last night. Bob had to rush over and get Emily to the Christmas play she was performing in, and then swing back at home to pick me up so we could both attend the office Christmas party at a schmantzy hotel ballroom - it's a big yearly event. Though we usually dress very casual at the office, this is a glamourous stepping out opportunity!

So last night, I rushed home from work, threw off my usual jeans and sweater to shower and switch into glamour mode. I knew exactly what I was going to wear - the same long black skirt and black/silver glittery overblouse that I wore to the Bar Mitzvah three weeks ago. No problem.

Not a problem until I tried to slip into the skirt. It. Wouldn't. Go. Past. My. Thighs. To my hips. Not to mention zipping. Forget about it! Not even close.

Uh-oh. I thought, "It must need to be unzipped." No, it was already unzipped. Damn, I must have gained a significant amount of weight from three short weeks ago when I last wore this dress. All kind of possibilities rans through my mind: I had been eating a lot during Thanksgiving (and after). I'd been wolfing down some holiday candy. And now I was bloated from PMS. But how could this damn skirt not even rise past my thighs? Was I ballooning like the Philsbury Dough girl or what?

"Okay, I'm a little bloated, that's all. So when in doubt, just wear your black 'fat pants' - the dress pants that are comfy and fit even at my most bloated." I reassured myself by putting on those pants. "I'll just wear the blouse over the pants, and since it's such a roomy blouse, it will cover up my stomach."

More bad news. When I put on the blouse, it was very tight as well! Although I could wear it, the blouse was hiking up very much higher up the waistline area than I remembered from before. When I desperately tried to pull it longer over my stomach, then it looked dangerously low cut and exposed more cleavage than I cared to show!

But right now, Bob arrived and said, "We're late, we've got to go. Now!" I turned to him at that point and felt near tears. "Do I look as fat as I feel? I feel like a stuffed sausage!"

He's been married long enough (and is smart enough) not to tell the truth. Instead, he said, "Wow, that blouse looks nice on you - sexy! It's lower cut that I remember, but it looks fine."

So we left the house, and all through the party, I felt uncomfortable, like it was too tight and too hiked up. I kept tugging at it and praying I wouldn't be chosen to walk up to the platform where they were announcing names of employee gift winners. Thank goodness, my name never got picked! But all the time, I kept angsting over my sudden weight gain and trying to figure out what caused it. Hormones? The cookies I've been eating? The lack of exercise? Metobolic catastrophe! What on earth could be wrong with me and my middle-age body spread?

Well, when we picked up my daughter later that night from her friend's house, she said, "Mom, how was the party? You look great! I love that blouse on you! It looks a lot like my Women's Choir Performance Blouse. Hey wait, it IS my women's choir performance blouse! Why are you wearing it and stretching it all out of shape?"

A wave of relief instantly washed over me. "You're kidding. Is this really yours? Is that why it's so small? A size . . . . "

"2" she promptly supplied, and the skirt is a 1. You didn't stetch it out too much did you Mom?"

I couldn't believe it. I went upstairs, where I dug around in the closet and found my size 10/12 evening overblouse and skirt. Very similar to the daughters, but not at all the same size.

Here's a picture of MY holiday blouse:

Whew! What a relief (sort of). I still need to lose weight, but . . . . apparently both outfits were hanging in my closet, and due to lack of preparation and sheer panic, I scared the shit out of myself for no good reason. And I suffered through a holiday party in a very tight blouse when all the time, I had a more comfy one hanging at home. In my defense the two blouses look sort of similar (though certainly different enough that I should have caught on, but didn't). And I am so stressed out at this time of year that I make myself and others insane with my antics.

The moral of the story? If you have a holiday party coming up and you don't have time to lose 20 pounds before the big event, you might want to do a beauty preview, with full makeup, hairdo and dress rehearsal PRIOR to the said event so that you don't have a fashion misshap like this one. Ho, Ho. Ho.