Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Goat Approach

You know me, often reading Oprah magazine, more so than seeing the show - I never seem to have time to watch, but reading the mag is something I often make time for. Well, in the November 2010 issue, there's an article on page 124 in the "Feeling Good" section called "Plugging In." Catherine Price, the author, talks about how she and her husband went on a working vacation to France in which they exchanged labor for room and board on a busy farm - specifically by caring for a herd of goats. One herd. Two weeks. Sounds easy?

Well . . . . it turns out that goats are "masters of single-minded focus" while Ms. Price, the author, is a typical multi-tasking American, who reads her cell phone texts while eating breakfast, while getting dressed. You know, doing several things at once, but none of them mindfully?

She brings up an interesting point: scientists now believe that the real attraction to multi-tasking isn't because we actually get more done, but because doing so produces more dopamine, the "feel good" neurochemical in our brain. It turns out we're stimulated by the new and attention getting. Thus, the irresisibility of new emails and texts flashing onto the screen and the popularity of the very word "new" in advertising. If it's a novelty, we're sucked in instantly. Many of us are novelty junkies.

I won't summarize the whole article, but suffice it to say, this message really appealed to me because it rang SO TRUE with my current place in life. Shiny - ah, my attention shifts often whatever I am or should be doing, and instantly gets drawn into the most attention getting. Not usually the best use of my time.

This author points out that when you milk a goat, you need to be goat minded, and only do that one thing. She will sense if you aren't paying attention single mindedly, and will go to pursue her own goatly goal. So the moral of the story is, when milking goats, milk goats. When working on a report at work, work on that without checking email or voice mail. When you are having a conversation with your spouse or child, be fully immersed in that. When you are cooking a delicious meal. Cook.

By doing one thing at a time, and focusing on doing it completely and well, you may not get more done - but you may get enough done right, and with the right mindset, that you might find what are really true tasks you should be doing, and focusing on those. One. At. A. Time.

This is a lesson I need to learn right now. I'm feeling pulled in too many different directions. So I've decided that to do an experiment. For one week - that's seven days - I'm pledging to totally "plug into" whatever activity I am doing at that moment. I'll let you know next week how that works out.

So this coming week, I'm a goat.
Added note: Diane wisely pointed out that I was referring to milking goats with the male pronoun - obviously you can't milk a "him" so I edited to fix that. Thanks for catching it Diane!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Steampunk Halloween Weekend

This is one of the first times I'm really feeling totally "out of the loop" when it comes to Halloween. Usually my daughter is home and she continues to dress up in costume every year, in spite of now being a grown up college kid.

But since she's away at campus, I haven't been as involved or aware of the Halloween preparations. In fact, for the first time ever, my house isn't at all decorated inside or out for Trick or Treaters, and I haven't even bought candy. Can you believe it? I'll probably be dashing out tonight or tomorrow to grab whatever last minute bags are on sale, and try to buy candy that kids like but that I don't like too much myself - because the last thing I need is to gain extra "candy weight" on top of the pounds I'm already trying to lose.

I found an article today talking about the 10 worst Halloween treats to give kids and aside from the not unexpected "apples" and "Dum Dum lollipops" they said the hands down least favorite candy was the peanut taffy that is wrapped up in the orange and black wrappers. Gosh, I must be really out of touch then, because those were always high on my list of candy favorites as a kid, and now too, except I have to be careful I don't pull out a filling when enjoying them.

In fact, here lately, I feel really out of sync with a lot of things. I fell in love with the Phat Fiber's "Steampunk" themed fiber box but I have to admit not knowing much about it. So I had to research it on Wikipedia to find out what it's about. Turns out that Steampunk is actually something that appeals to me - it was defined on one website as "The Intersection of Victorian Romance with Technology." By the time I figured this out, the Phat Fiber boxes were sold out - but I hear they sell out rather quickly, and I'm not a "competive buyer." That somehow seems crazy to hover over a website waiting to buy something. Why do it? (scratching head).

As a long-time fan of the Victorian era - including history, novels, music, clothing, furniture, jewelry etc. I was immediately fascinated by the Steampunk concept. Somehow I missed hearing about it during the cultural peak in the 1990s. (Maybe I was too busy raising my young daughter at the time and was instead occupied by the likes of Barney, Big Bird and toddler toys?) Who knows. But at any rate, I'm discovering that my long time movie and book favorites such as H.G. Wells "The Time Machine" and "Sherlock Holmes" are the bedrock of many of these Steampunk trends. So in honor of the Steampunk fad that I somehow missed out on, I treated myself to a very charming Steampunk bracelet by Winemaker's Sister. It's a darling accessory that has dangly charms that are utterly feminine, delightful and reminiscent of a time long by, mixed with the vivid imagination and creativy of modern day possibities.

No matter what I miss out on, I can still be a part of whatever I find myself drawn to and fitting into. In my head, I've always been and always will be, a prim and proper Victorian old lady. The concept of time travel has always fascinated me. While I'm not sure if that's Steampunk or not, but eh. Who really cares? It fuels my imagination and that's never a bad thing, right?

Happy Halloween.

Added later: This is the very first year that we did NOT answer the door to Trick or Treaters. Instead, we stayed home, shut off our lights and stayed in. We hunkered down in the downstairs family room with the dog and bird and just watched Back to the Future while I spun. So much fun. I just didn't feel like dealing with the kids and all the houpla this year. It was good being recluses for once. And I forgot what a great movie Back to the Future is - now I'll probably rewatch all the other two movies in the series as well. And after a horrible, stressful week, I am reminded that nothing relaxes me as much as spinning.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's a Fine Thing Spinning Fine

Guess what I did Saturday? I went to this shop The Wicked Stitch in Wamego, Kansas and took a class by Harveyville's own Nikol on Spinning Fine Yarn - which covered both sock and lace spinning. What a treat.

Chery and I drove over there together early Saturday morning, had an old fashioned breakfast at the Mom and Pop diner, then had a wonderful day spinning with several other students who were as enjoyable at the instructor was informative.

Nikol has a School based in an old schoolhouse she bought and she hosts spinners of all levels of experience at her "school" twice a year. Well, I've never made it to Yarn School, so I was quite happy to get the chance to take an all-day class from her at The Wicked Stitch which is a really cute shop that sells both spinning supplies, spinning wheels, roving, and yarn and knitting products.

Jennifer's daughter took photos - but why is it that very few pictures taken while spinning are flattering? Every time I see a photo of myself spinning, it's a huge diet and exercise motivation? Maybe I'm just a narcissist?

Oh well, anyway, it was such a wonderful class. We learned how to spin finer, mainly by reducing our spinning tension and adding more twist to the fiber. We learned the "Miss America" method of plying yarn onto our hands to create a small sample and how to do a quick self-ply to test if the yarn was creating the right size and twist for what we were wanting to create.

We learned and practiced spinning from the fold, as well as long draw, and found out when those might be more appropriate than the worsted spinning most of us have done. We learned which fibers can be spun most ideally, using different methods. We got a bit out of our usual default spinning "comfort zone" to consider what might be best for the fiber we are spinning.

We learned that adding sturdy blends, such as silk, can strengthen sock yarn.

We practiced spinning a varity of luscious fibers such as a merino silk blend, silk hankies, and a brand new fiber called Optim which is wonderful! It's actually a permanently stretched merino and it feels as soft as cashmere but is much less expensive and less exhaustive to the environment. I want to eventually buy some from Nikol and make maybe a lace shawl from it? It feels like fiber taffy or liquid - it's so soft and slippery. Yum.

I always love spinning silk hankies, but some people in our group didn't like them. They stick to the rough spots on your hands, but Nikol provided us with her handmade sugar scrub that really helped. I love that stuff. In fact, I tried to make some last night. I'll let you know later how that works out.

Here I am pulling apart the silk hanky. That would make a great addition to socks to strengthen them. It's made from Tussah Silk and comes in hankies that you pull apart - it seems very delicate at first but that stuff is as firm as can be

Ya gotta love silk. Right?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fiber Camp

Well the Blue Springs Craft Group on Thursday nights that meets at Starbucks is a really fun group. I don't get there often, unfortunately, but when I do, there's always a bunch of laughs and camaraderie from knitters, crocheters, spinners, and crazy fiber folks of varying ages and varying levels of experience in whatever crafts we are pursuing. Whenever you want to learn or know something, there's usually SOMEBODY there who can get you addicted to whatever craft area you care to explore.

We talked for a few months about having a fiber retreat getaway at a cabin or something, but with the economy being what it is (bad) one of the members, Cynthia, kindly offered to open up her home and invite everyone for a Friday to Sunday fiber-filled weekend, with members of the group teaching classes in everything ranging from beginning crochet to Advanced Ravelry, not to mention drop spindling, Kool-Aid dyeing and Sweater Recycling. There were many more classes but I can't remember them all. The food everyone contributed to was delish. We had door prizes, goody cups and bags, as well as a fiber exchange and destash table.

What a marvelous GIRLS weekend - not matter what our ages, we were all 14 again this weekend. We even watched the movie DEATH TO SMOOCHIE which was zany and funny.

Since Em was home for the weekend from college, I only stayed Friday evening and then went back over there for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, but being there just that long was a blast!

Since I took some photos, you can get an idea of who was there and some of what we did. I'm not in these photos since I snapped them, but maybe I'll steal some photos that other people have taken too and add them in later.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beautiful Autumn Weekend - Four Days of Relax

The leaves aren't really changing yet, is it me or shouldn't the leaves be orange, red and brown by now? Seems like they aren't changing as much as usual. But we've had a perfect sunny (and extended) weekend. Not too hot - a high of 80 I think, but not a cloud in the sky and it has been wonderfully relaxing!

Friday I had the day off and didn't intend to dye fiber, because I've been doing quite a lot of that lately and wondered if I really needed to, but it was such a perfect sunny day that I HAD to take advantage of the fiber dyeing and drying opportunity while it lasts. I made three different vats of fiber. First an orangish/goldish fall leaf color, then some bright crazy pink and finally a mauve tone - mixing a bit of brown along with pink and a dash of magenta to end up with a really pretty mauvish fiber.

I've figured out a great way to dry fiber by the way. I take two sawhorses and place an old porch screen over the sawhorses to serve as a huge drying screen. It works so wonderful! If you don't have a good drying set up, I highly recommend it. I used to just lay an old tablecloth out on the lawn, but I found that the plastic didn't allow the fiber to dry well, but with it sitting on top of the screen, it's allowed to drip dry and get air on it from both sides. I'm thinking this might also be a handy way to block and dry a handknit shawl?

Yesterday my Mom and Bob and I went up to see Emily at her college dorm. It was a great visit - two hours drive up there, then we stayed all day with her until around 7 p.m. before heading back home. It was a nice FULL day, but we managed to go and didn't have to spend money at a hotel by making it a one-day trip.

We got her oiled changed, a new battery for her car, her antifreeze checked. So her car is now winter-ready. We ate at a delicious family-owned Greek restaurant. Had a lovely day. She's adjusting well to college and is finally feeling healthy and happy there. She's settling down to a better study routine and I feel like she's doing well. College is such a huge adjustment - for her for us too. We really miss her, but it feels good seeing that she's starting to transition to feeling better and happier there.

Every October, I start craving pumpkin flavors and smells. And since I don't want the calories, I'm opting for pumpkin car freshner in my car, and a wonderful source of pumpkin coffee's at Bean Central. They have THREE flavors of pumpkin coffee: Pumpkin Spice, Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Pecan. I drink coffee black, so this means I get the delicious flavor without the calories. Yum!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

An Unwelcome Visitor

Another adventure - this one maybe somewhat amusing if irksome. About a week ago, Bob noticed that the bungee cord on our barbecue grill had been removed and shredded by some animal. It was weird enough that he showed me.

Well, then a few nights ago, I stopped by the grocery store on my way home from work. I parked the car in the garage and started unloading groceries, leaving the trunk open because I was going to come right back. Before I could turn around and go back out to get the next load, my neighbor rang the doorbell and said, "Hey, do you know your garage is open and so is your trunk?"

Me: "Yes, I'm going back out right now to get my groceries."

Her: "Well, I just saw the biggest raccoon in my life rooting around in your groceries - I clapped my hands and saw him jump out and run into the bushes near your porch here."

So the next day, I called Animal Control with the city and asked what they suggested about getting rid of this unwelcome bandit. They said my neighborhood is full of them this year, aggressive raccoons as well as aggressive squirrels. I told her we don't have the squirrels, but the grocery-grabbing raccoon.

Well, that night, Rodney, our friendly animal control guy, who looked amazingly like John Candy, by the way, confirmed that raccoons were really bad this year. He recommend that we not feed it (Duh?) and that we better watch out because if he's getting this aggressive, he could attack us or our dog if he gets cornered. He also mentioned that they are smart, REALLY smart, and some that are this territorial, near the door and all, start thinking it is THEIR house. Rodney asked if Rocky the Raccoon had tried to tear into our screens yet to get in? Why no, and that freaks me out a little bit. Can we please catch him ASAP?

After looking around the property, he noticed that the raccoon had dug up a whole bunch of dirt around the porch. The raccoon had apparently made a burrow for himself under our step. So after we trap the raccoon, we'll have to fill that so no other animal makes a home for himself there.

Rodney set a large cage trap outside under the bush, by the racoon's den, and left. The first night, nothing.

Then last night, guess who we found?

Don't worry I'm not going to name him. He'll be released back into the woods - hopefully really far away? I wouldn't want him to return. That's my excitement for the weekend - and now we're gonna need to repair that hole. This wasn't one of our planned preparations for winter, but it's better than becoming a wild animal sanctuary.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Traveling Across Kansas

This week, I took a business trip for a tradeshow in the middle of Kansas. I was not in the tradeshow mood, but I put on my very best "tradeshow smile" and decided that as a reward for myself, on the way back, I would stop at a yarn shop (if there were any in the Salina area, I wasn't even certain of that).

Well, let me tell you, there is the nicest one there called "Yarns Sold and Told" right in downtown Salina. It is a big, sunny shop brimming with wonderful, well-organized yarns. I loved the friendliness of the store - both the employees as well as the customers. There were many cute and recently popular projects on display and they were very helpful about helping me find the magazines and patterns the projects came from.

I haven't been yarn store shopping for a while, since I've been doing more spinning than anything else. Making my own yarn is just so gratifying, that I forgot what fresh inspiration and fun it can be to go into a good yarn shop to touch and feel the finished objects. There's more there than just yarn! Going there reminded me that yarn shops can be good sources of live inspiration. Ravelry is nice and all, but having real people to talk to, and admiring their projects is a different kind of fun that I haven't experienced in a while.

It also reminded me that it's good to visit and support local yarn shops, because we want these "brick and mortar" shops to stay in business during the hard times so we can go there and hang out whenever we want.

The cup I brought home from their shop says, "2nd Friendliest Yarn Store in the Universe is located in Downtown Salina."

I now have two brand new projects I'm casting on for as a result of my visit to this shop. I'll be talking about and showing you those projects soon. Here's to my trek through Kansas, and the mental lift it gave me to walk in the door of the "2nd Friendliest Yarn Shop" in the universe.