Saturday, September 29, 2007

Harriet is No Frump!

Yippee!! That is how I feel about my latest Finished Object, the modified but oh-so-wonderful Harriet bag, a Two Old Bags pattern. I am so proud of this bag. I bought the handles at Stitches Midwest from this wonderful vendor, Homestead Heirlooms, makers of leather handles that take your plain old felted bag up to that higher level of truly "Yeah, I want to be seen carrying this bag."

Lori and Karen, the proprietors of that shop, had a bag very similar to mine on display there and I just absolutely fell in love with it! I had to have one just like it, and now I do. Thanks Karen and Lori. You are the best. I'd long admired this Harriet bag, but frankly the original pattern fit it's name - practical and "sturdy" but a bit matronly. With the dowel and leather handle modifications, I thought they'd made this bag truly outstanding. So now I have an outstanding version myself.

The photo with the bag flat on the automan is the pre-felted version - the bag was 17" tall and 24" wide when it started. After two feltings, it ended up at 13 inches tall and 20" wide. Very useful.

Another thing that I must point out is that my husband, Bob, helped me out by painting the dowel rods. He did so by hanging them from the tree. Very innovative. The paint went on very smoothly and evenly that way, without glopping up. Thanks, Honey. (He's always a supporter of my knitting efforts).

Post felting, the bag is magnificent and will carry my large supply of yarn when doing Freeform projects, big sweaters or afghans. I needed this suitcase size. Before I felted it, Bob said it looked so big he thought it was sleeping bag size, but it wasn't THAT big.

Sometimes when I build my expectations up too high, whether its for a movie or a special event, or a knitting project I've highly invested in, I end up disappointed. This project did not disappoint.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finished the One Skein Crocheted Scarf

Hey, not bad for a first effort, right? It's the One Skein Crocheted Scarf from Debbie Stoller's Happy Hooker crochet book. I used Plymouth Tweed worsted weight yarn.

Crocheting is new to me, but this scarf went pretty fast and I like it. Don't know if I'll wear it, since I don't wear scarves very often, but at least I feel good about getting it done. I now feel like I have a grasp on some concepts - the double crochet as well as the shell stitch.

Other things to point out: I am doing pretty good about eating healthy. On Sunday night, I cut up a bunch of vegetables, made salads and prepared for the week ahead with healthy choices in my fridge. I made this: and this:

Diet Tip/Sanity Saver: I also made the chili recipe posted the other day. It was really good. And one thing I was really thrilled to find at the grocery store was this Wishbone Salad Spritzer - I bought the Caeser Delight with olive oil (only 2 calories per spray) and also an Oriental salad spritzer. This is really a happy find. What's better than delicious AND low cal?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Fudge Factor and a Really Good Low Cal Chili Recipe

When I say "fudge" I don't mean the chocolate kind. Several serendipitous events have come together to send me a message, loud and clear, that if I want to get better dieting and exercising results, I need to quite guestimating and need to be much more accurate and REAL about what I truly put in my mouth and how I often and what type of exercise I'm calling "good enough."

We've already established that I don't lose weight or inches very quickly, and I pack it on almost the instant I eat a candy bar or go two weeks without exercising. The middle age hormones aren't helping a bit, either. But enough with excuses already.

The fact is, seven or eight weeks ago, through diligient Weight Watchers journaling, water drinking, and point counting, I'd managed to lose and keep off 6-7 pounds and my jeans were starting to feel loose. I was hoping to continue the slow downward climb on the scale. Instead, over the last 3 weeks or so, I've managed to UNDO whatever amount of good I'd done in the name of progress. This is a pattern for me, and one I don't like at all.

When I start a diet/excercise routine, I am very strict about it and do what I'm supposed to do. Then a few weeks into the program (no matter WHAT program I'm on) I get busy, stressed or whatever, and I start fudging - call it fudging, call it cheating. It's actually more insidious that outright cheating because it's not big like eating a hot fudge sundae. It's a slow and dangerous assault on my self-control with thoughts that begin like - "I don't need to journal what I eat. After all, I eat the same healthy things every day . . . why write it down?" Then the next day or two after that, I get even busier, the journal gets blanker and I find myself "guessing" at portions, points, and I stop planning my meals ahead of time and start trying to figure out AFTER THE FACT how many points I've eaten for the day. It isn't long before I find myself stopping at McDonald's instead of bringing my lunch . . . avoiding the treadmill and into a whole nasty cycle of unhealthy living again.

So I went to Weight Watchers this morning and found out I weigh exactly what I started out with on July 28th when I began this weight loss journey (this time). Ugghh!!! I'm exactly the same. Oh well, it's back to the drawing board as they say.

At the meeting today, our leader talked about the very thing that I'm fighting, she wanted us to identify why we want to lose weight. We need to make a concrete list of the reasons that are important to US. We're supposed to fight the self-sabotaging thoughts and impulse eating by making a list of what is important and reading it to ourselves every single day for the next seven days. I have made my list (I won't share the list, it's personal, but I'll let you know how this process works after I've tried it). Chrisitie suggests that there's something magical in writing down and proclaiming every day what is important to us and why that bigger reason should have much more power over us than the momentary food craving or bout of laziness that tries to slay our will to be healthy.

This is so true. I KNOW that my deeper sense of satisfaction is going to come from making different choices. From fudging less. From being real with myself and curbing the urges that derail me. I CAN be successful at this if I just plan ahead, moniter myself closely and perservere each day, by changing my head first. My body will follow. I don' have to be perfect, I just have to be honest with myself and stop lying to myself about how "it won't hurt to do this one X thing" - yes those little choices, over time, day in and day out, are what create the result that I'm seeing right now.

Change of subject, something more positive. As it gets cold, I'm more inclined to want soup rather than salad. Here's a healthy alternative I picked up from WW. I tried this recipe today that was given to us at the meeting, and it was delicious! I made it in my crockpot and left it in on low for a couple of hours. Delish and low points/it's also Core.

Taco Chili

1 lb lean ground hamburger (I used low fat ground turkey instead)
1 can of chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of red beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Rotel tomatoes
1 package of taco seasoning
1 cup of frozen corn

That's it - brown the hamburger, put all the ingredients in a crock pot and warm it up on low for a couple of hours.

1 cup = 2 pts. and it's CORE if you're on the CORE plan.

Here's my plan for the week ahead. This week I'm doing Core for one week. I will write everything down. Just this week. I'll plan my meals in advance, drink my water, take my lunch, do my treadmill. Every day. For one week. I'll also read my list of bigger reasons to myself each and every day so I remember why I'm doing this. It's not about fitting into a size 5 jeans anymore - it's about feeling in control of myself, knowing that I can be healthier, more confident and feel better about myself if I eat healthy and excercise.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Little Bit of This . . . A Little Bit of That

A while back, I said that I was starting multiple things at once, but it was okay. Well, I have to admit that I've started so many projects recently that maybe I'm just getting a little bit of this and a little bit of that knitted and not much progress on any one thing. It still seems okay because usually when I'm stuck on one project, I can still work on another. Or when I need some mindless kniting, I work on easy projects such as the bag. When I need something portable, it's usually Freeform. I am also learning crochet and trying to find a shawl pattern that is doable for me long-term without driving me crazy.

A case of severe Startitis seems to be spreading in the knitting world with the coming of Fall. What is it about Fall that makes us want to start new things? I think my recent exploration of Ravelry hasn't helped me stay focused, either. But hopefully I'll get something done pretty soon.

My large bag project - a modified Hariett from Two Old Bags is more than halfway there. It's going to be carpet bag size, so it's taken quite a while. It's growing slowly but surely. I still haven't found the dowels Bob painted for the bag, so there are new ones now (replacements) to be painted.

In compiling projects on Ravelry, I've noticed that I have a few of what I would call true Unfinished Objects (those I've started and may be temporarily hibernating because I want to eventually get back to them). But then there are many projects this year that I've started and made a conscious decision to either frog or permanently ditch. The Jane Thornley Not a Poncho immediately comes to mind. There are others . . . too. Like the Jaywalker socks - great for some people, but they were by design just too narrow for my average-sized feet, so I immediately and non-guiltily ditched them.

Growing up as an avid bookworm kid, I used to think I had to finish every single book I started, no matter how boring. I recall slogging my way through LONG boring books, James Joyce's Ulysses immediately springs to mind. Now I wonder, WHY? What purpose did that serve? As I've drifted into middle age, I've released a lot of things that just don't make sense to force myself to complete. Books - if they don't grab me in the first 50 pages, sorry but they are given, loaned, returned or passed along to someone else. Knitting projects are getting like that too. I usually just rip them out without a second thought and move on. That makes the ones I keep and perservere with all the more precious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Relaxing Weekend at the Lake

Last weekend we had a real AHHHHHHH kind of relaxing weekend. This is the lovely view of the lake that we had from our cabin balcony (it's a two story cabin and we were on the top floor). We stayed at the Lake of the Ozarks, one of our favorite quick getaway spots. We have a regular place we stay. Wish we owned a cabin down there, but we don't.

Anyhow, the weather was PERFECT - cool, crisp and a bit overcast. The trees hadn't started turning pretty colors yet, but everything else was ideal. Felt like fall and we all had a great time. We brought both the daughter and her friend, and they had a blast too.

I mainly crocheted on my beginner scarf I'm working on from "Happy Hooker" (Deb Stoller) book. I will show you a photo of it next time - I haven't taken a picture of it yet. It's turning out pretty good for a first effort.

Don't worry, I haven't turned to the "dark-side" and become a total crochet-holic. Not by any means. I'm still a knitter, but I wanted to be "bi-craftal" so that I can have more creative tools to do what I want to do, and I like to try new things. Crocheting is fun, even though I'm still very awkward with it.

The weekend was fantastic. Ah . . . . now I need to go to work. Groan.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Happy Jewish New Year - Yesterday

As Elysbeth pointed out the other day in her post, we've now entered a New Year in the Jewish calendar - it was Rosh Hashanah officially on sundown Wednesday night. With me being an odd religious mixture of many things - and being officially a non-observant Jew by marriage who also attends Unity whenever I fit religion into my life, I hardly know what to say other than, "Happy New Year" and am I ever ready -- to welcome in a new year, turn a new page, a new beginning.

I take my truth wherever I find it . . . in Judaism, Budhism (especially Zen), through Unity . . . wherever. In the Jewish tradition, during this time of year, we are supposed to reflect upon our lives and it's a period of deep soul-searching and seeking out of foregiveness to those we have wronged. For me this past year, 2007, has been a really low year for me - and one in which I haven't behaved the best either. The absolute worst in me has come out in response to life stuff that seems BIG at the time, but is really very petty in comparison to the real traumas that are happening in other people's lives - and in the world at large. The wars that are going on outside, in the world, are reflected in my internal war - and as Byron Katie (Loving What Is) points out, we cannot hope to find real peace in the world until we first cultivate peace and love in ourselves.

When I am at my BEST, those are the times that I'm actively meditating, praying and "going within" to find ways of connecting with that silent, unseen presence. As a rule, I don't feel one has to go to temple, church or anywhere in particular to find that divine being - I just need to stop, slow down, go within and connect. I need to do spiritual work, Byron Katie calls it "The Work" and has an actual process you can go through on paper that really helps as well.

Here lately, I haven't been using my spiritual tools nearly often enough, such as meditation. I KNOW how meditation soothes me, so why don't I go there within myself and listen to the "still small voice" more often? Instead, I'm being sucked in by the whirlwind of anger, frustration, despair and spread those - instead of being inspiring and uplifting by making the choice to do so.

I've been so out of touch, in fact, that physicially going back to Unity, meditating in their delightful Rose Garden and surrounding myself with the uplifting people who attend their classes and services wouldn't be a bad idea.

Elysbeth linked back to my January post, where I talked about how each new year, I select a key word that guides my life for the following year. This being the official Jewish New Year, and me not being officially anything, I think I'll use this time, from now until the secular New Year, to engage that reflection process. What astonishes me is that I've been such a train wreck this year, that I'd totally forgotten about my theme for 2007 - "self control." Oh my gosh, this has been the most conflict-ridden, out-of-control year I've had in YEARS. Overreaction, worry, resentment, and hypersensitivity have been my handmaidens. But shaming myself about my many failures won't make it better. Now that I recognize it, I need to pick myself up, dust myself off and try to do better. Much better.

I've signed myself up for a "Managing Emotions" seminar in late November, but it's just a one day crash-course. And I need to now. So I'll do some self-study. Reflection. Calming down. Slowing down. Meditating. Walking.

Reading. Again - "This Year I Will: How to Finally Change A Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True" by M.J. Ryan.

Have a good weekend, everyone. I'm taking off work today and ohmmmming myself into a better emotional and spiritual place.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Eye Spy - A Crochet Hook

I'm having hormonal problems and feel really bad right now - really BLAH. Not sure if it's perimenopause or menopause - it all seems to blend together at this in-between age. But I'm feeling physically really bad. Emotionally bad too. It's all blending together.

Even my weekends, usually my salvation from a boring job have been pretty "eeeeeh" lately. Nothing exciting. Though I'm not unemployed, I'm certainly UNDERemployed. It pays really low and it is mentally so boring I can barely stand it. I should get a better job, but my friend Greg put it pretty succinctly when he said, "I think you probably need to get a better job, but you don't have the energy right now to start something new or to even interview with a new place." The only thing I like about my job is that it is low-stress and you can dress casual. Dressing casual means a lot to me right now, and I'm not sure why. I rarely feel this lazy and unmotivated, but it's something that will hopefully pass.

On a happier note, guess what I did yesterday? I went to The Studio and took a lesson in crochet from a teacher named "Nirmal." She's a tax accountant by day - a crocheter at night. She's been crocheting since she was seven. Very nice, serene lady. I really liked her. She was just what I needed right now. A breath of calm and focused help.

As you know, I love Freeform and have been fascinated with it. My latest Freeform project are the Freform sleeves for my denim vest - hoping to turn it into a jacket. I did some scrumbles last week at home with knitting but wasn't satisfied with them. Don't like the colors and they just looked too blah (like I feel). I'm wanting to jazz the project up with some crocheted pieces. I need to learn crochet so that I can enhance my Freeform work, and also to do more finished edges on knitted projects.

Nimal was the perfect anecdote. She and I had a one-on-one two hour crochet consultation. It wasn't supposed to be that way. One other person may join us next time we meet, in two weeks, but she was out of town yesterday and couldn't make it. So I had a nify private session getting valuable tips from a crochet guru. She sat right down next to me, watched me crochet, and she was one of those wonderful (and rare) teachers who didn't need to take the needle/hook out of my hand in order to teach me. She watched me work, and she could tell where I was at and what I needed to do when I got stuck. But she also let me figure a lot of things out on my own. When I needed correction, she gently guided me without making me feel stupid.

Maybe she's so gentle because she's a long-time vegetarian? I don't know, but she sat there next to me so serenely that I drank in her calm peace and walked away feeling like I'd meditated for two hours instead of crocheting.

This is what I made - nothing impressive, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I want to get in that same serene mental zone and find the spiritual where-with-all to find that somewhere within myself.

I walk around most days so hyper, in a hurry, frazzled, I want that AHHHHHHHH feeling.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Icelandic Shawl - Forget About It!

I've tried in vain all week to make headway on this Icelandic shawl and all it has done is caused me BIG frustration. I made a mistake somewhere around row 9 or 10 and have been trying to get it back on track ever since.

After knitting and tinking the 339 stitches several times, I decided that I don't like this beautiful shawl well enough to go through this aggrevation right now. I'd like to go back to this someday, but for right now, my frazzled mind and patience are simply NOT up to the task.

Thus, after one week, I am officially putting this baby away for a while.

Whew. Relief. There are so many things in my life that I don't have a choice about, but choosing my knitting projects - both those to keep and those to scrap - is the one thing definitely IN my control.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Organizing Kinda Weekend

A little bit of this . . . a little fit of that.

This weekend was long and relaxing. We accomplished a lot around the house. Cleaned it. Did the organizing I wanted to do - or at least got started on it. Had the oil changed in both cars, plus the tires rotated (discovered a nail in one) - did a lot of errands and needed catch up.

We even cleaned our sink traps. Organized the bathrooms. Washed the floors and thoroughly vacuumed, cleaned out some cluttered drawers - many of the boring but necessary chores that we normally don't have hours to do.

I also knitted some. Didn't accomplish as much knitting-wise as I'd hoped, but I never do get as much done on the needles as I'd like. Sometimes I understand why some people turn to knitting machines . . . but that would defeat the purpose of helping me relax. Messing with a machine would NOT relax me. Nor would I feel the pride I feel in knitting something with my very own hands.

Started both the Icelanic shawl as well as the Freeform jacket sleeves. Pictured are the yarns I'm using for this project. Here's what I've done so far. Not much - but a start nevertheless.

Also got a bunch of projects and photos entered into Ravelry. I can see that becoming more useful as I build a library of projects and future projects as well as (eventually) catalog my yarn stash. I haven't gotten that far yet, but I'm beginning to learn my way around Ravelry and see the possibilities. Intriguing.

Over the weekend, I organized, filed and punched my huge stack of unfiled patterns into notebooks - I have notebooks for Sweaters, Scarves, Shawls, Socks (3 volumes of those!), Baby gifts, Vests and don't forget "Miscellaneous." The projects I really want to do SOON (meaning sometime in the next year) I store in a special binder called "Hot Projects."

One thing I'm doing is by having a more organized list of projects - both those done and those to do - plus those put aside that I need to eventually pick up again - is that I'm figuring out that I have a real wealth of knitting projects and yarn. Luckily, over the past year, I've gotten rid of most yarn that I don't have a specific purpose for - those impulse yarn buys are gone now. What I have left are yarns matched with specific projects that I'm excited about. In most cases, I even have the yarn bagged with the pattern and needles needed. Now I just need about 70 years of full-time knitting hours to accomplish all that I wish to do!

P.S. Late last night: I tried to forge ahead two more rows on the shawl and ended up tired and goofing it up. It's disappointing when you mess up a shawl with 339 stitches across each row - just goes to show that you shouldn't work on said shawl when you're tired. Bad idea. Also goes to show that it's a good idea to have some "dumb knitting" projects so that when the smart ones outsmart you, you still have something to work on that makes you feel less outsmarted. Grrrrr.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Icelandic Shawl Started

Finally the month of hot, nasty August is over and we've started into September, which means my favorite time of year FALL is not far off. And to celebrate the start of a new month, I've started a new project, the Icelandic Shawl. This morning I cast on (yes I know yet another project). This is the shawl I've been itching to do for weeks! Yarn kit - check. Addi Turbo Lace Needles in Size 4. Check. Cast on 339 stitches. Check. Now I've finished the first four rows in white. I'm ready to do my first color switch soon. But I need to stop for a few hours and clean the house.

I'm working on several projects at once, but it doesn't feel scattered to me. It feels okay right now because I have a variety of things going. 1) An easy felted bag to do in my "dumb knitting" time; 2) an Icelandic shawl to do for thrills; 3) my Wrap Me Up which has temporarily been sidelined by the other two things but will go back into play once the felted purse is finished. 4) Lynn's "Florida Footies" (socks) to bring along when I need an extremely portable project.

In fact, you may roll your eyes when I tell you that I actually want to start ONE MORE new project this weekend and that is the Freeform Sleeves for my denim jacket that I've been wanting to get started on since BEFORE Stitches. I think that's going to be a long-term project, but one that I'll never get started on unless I just . . . get started. So I'm going to do at least a few beginning scrumbles in that as well. I wasn't happy with the scrumbles I did at Stitches so it's a total fresh start that I need to really get started. I already have my sleeve templates cut out of cloth.

For some reason, I'm feeling more centered about my knitting than I have in a long time. Though every project definitely doesn't always turn out as planned, I feel that I have a better handle on the stash I do have, and the projects I want to make in the next several months.

With my intro into the Ravelery world, I need to continue to use it more as an organization tool and less as a distraction. It is so easy to fall in there and go into an Alice in Wonderful world of fantasy projects. "Oh I want to do this!" and "Oh, I want to do that too!" but so far I've been good about not going crazy over there and wasting too much time.

This is going to be a relaxing, knitting weekend for me. Yipppeeeee. I also need to do some organizing and cleaning around the house, as well as getting back to my Core WW diet. I got a little off track on that last week.

I'm so happy to have a few days off. Oh man! It's wonderful. It's cool out this morning. Such a breath of fresh air. I love mornings like this.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone.