Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas failure

I always feel like I'm a failure at Christmas. I have all these grand plans, and don't live up to any of them, really. I intended to sew for Christmas -- I had plans to make pillowcases for everyone. Something that everyone needs and uses, and I have all this fabric already, so it wouldn't take any money, just time. But I can never seem to do anything ahead of time. I kept thinking I still had time, but time got away from me.

And then I had all the dental issues, and my mom went in the hospital, and things were just basically awful, and I didn't get anything done. I started out with such good intentions, but I didn't even get Christmas cards out. Maybe I'll just go ahead and address them now, and mail them next Christmas.

We had a nice Christmas Eve with Bob's family at his brother's house, and we had our family Christmas at my sister's boyfriend's house on Christmas Day. We stopped to see my folks briefly on the way there. One of my nieces was sick, her whole family was sick, so we didn't see them, and Bob's sister and husband didn't come because they live out of town and she had to work (in a hotel) on Christmas Day, so we didn't see them, either. And Bob's mother is gone, so that still seems weird to me, and my parents don't really want the whole big deal holiday anymore, which I completely understand. I know we have to make new traditions, and we're working on it, it's just really hard.

But we will all survive, and I will just try -- as I always do -- to do better next year.

Old Dog ≠ New Tricks

(I had to go look up the code for the "not equal to" symbol.

I ran across a pattern that I really wanted to knit, but when I opened it up, saw that it was charted, and was very disappointed. I know that there are people who like charts, and maybe that's the wave of the future, but I don't like them. I Googled "how to read knitting charts," and honestly, reading most of the links I found made it seem more complicated. The thing that I thought I might never get the hang of was that on one row you read the chart from right to left, and the next row, left to right. I'm pretty sure I would screw that up.

So I sadly put the pattern away, and then I thought, I could translate it. So this old dog, instead of learning a new trick, wrote the pattern out in words. Or, not really words, I guess, but knitting shorthand, i.e., K3 M1 K20 SSK K2. I guess if you learned using charts, it might be easier, but it isn't for me. Oh, and crochet charts? Forget it.

When I was a teenager I crocheted Barbie clothes, edgings and doilies out of crochet thread and steel hooks, using old pattern leaflets. I crocheted them by reading the patterns line by line. Looking at crochet charts makes my head explode.

I suppose, like anything else, I could learn to do it, and once I had practiced awhile, I'm sure it would come to be easier, but I just don't have that motivation right now. That's why I love the multi-directional diagonal scarf pattern -- I can knit it on autopilot.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Here's a fun plan

When I went to the dentist to have the temporary crown fitted, he said that there was a growth or something on my gum that hadn't been there two weeks before when I had my first appointment with him. He was very careful to tell me that he didn't think it was anything to worry about, but that it could be in the future, and he thought I should have it looked at. So after the next appointment, when he put the permanent crown on, he gave me a referral to a periodontist. I had the appointment with her today.

I didn't really know what to expect, except that the dentist said the periodontist would probably remove it (it just looks like my gum is kind of swollen or overgrown or something in one spot). So today she just looked at it, and poked and prodded around in my mouth, then said she was going to go make some notes and would come back in and talk to me.

After awhile, she came back in and her office assistant had apparently called my insurance company, and they had come up with this whole "treatment plan." She said that she needed to remove the thing, and send it to the lab for biopsy, and she "would be shocked" if it was cancer, but it could be, in which case we would have to talk about a treatment plan. But she assured me that she thought the likelihood of that was small, but still possible.

She said it could be a couple of things, one of which is caused by hormones, and if it's that thing, then even if she removes it, it could come back, but she won't know until the labs are done. And then she said I probably grind my teeth at night because I have some gum recession, and my bite isn't ideal, and my teeth are crowded, and in order to fix that, she thinks I should have braces (aside: her husband/partner is an orthodontist), but I would need to have them before I get an implant for the tooth that was pulled, because an implant won't move, blah, blah, blah. I kind of tuned out at that point. I'm sixty years old, I'm not going to get braces. But I nodded, and said, okay, okay, okay.

Then she showed me how much it is all going to cost, and my head sort of exploded.

And, while they will submit bills to the insurance company, they expect me to pay up front, then have insurance reimburse me, which I have never had done. I said that, and she said, well, we're not in network, so they won't pay us, which I know for a fact is not true.

So I said, well, okay, but I'm not prepared to pay for this now, today, and she said, oh no, it won't be today, I'm not doing anything today, you'll have to make another appointment. And I said, okay, but even then, I don't see how I'm going to pay for this in one lump sum, and she said, well, talk to the office assistant, maybe you can work something out, and she shook my hand and left.

Oh, and if you pay in cash, they give you a 10% discount, which, I'm sorry, that just struck me as odd. I made an appointment for the first week in January, and the office person reiterated that I wouldn't get a discount if I didn't pay in cash, but if I gave her a credit card number she could divide it up into three payments ("we don't usually do that for such small amounts, though," she said) and they would auto-charge it ("we don't send out invoices").

I know that it's a business like any other, and they weren't mean or anything, and of course they expect to get paid, I understand that.

And there was apparently a charge for the consultation today -- she didn't tell me how much it was -- she said she would submit it to insurance and have them send the check to them, and then bill me for the remainder, so obviously what the doctor told me earlier about insurance not paying them (and what the assistant said about not sending invoices) wasn't true.

I went out and sat in the car and cried. Bob was off today and he was out Christmas shopping, and he called to see how it had gone, and I couldn't even really talk. He was walking around Costo, and he was giving me a running commentary, trying to cheer me up. He's so good about stuff like that. I know I'm kind of crazy sometimes, but he's awfully good to me.

I had told my dad that I might come out this afternoon if I felt like it after the appointment, thinking that they were actually going to do something other than upset me, so I drove out there, pretty much crying all the way, but trying to get it together. He made me lunch (chili) when I got there, and we sat and talked, and I teared up a little bit when I told him (and I am now, thinking about it again), but it wasn't too bad.

Mom is doing great -- she's back home now -- and while I was there the visiting nurse came, so I was glad I was there for that.

My inclination about the periodontist is to call and cancel the appointment, and think about finding someone different. I didn't dislike her personally, but I just don't feel right about it. And the whole thing, of course . . . I know it's not my fault, but really, it kind of is. If I had kept up going to the dentist all along, maybe it would have happened anyway, maybe it wouldn't. No way of knowing, but it's like now I have this whole lifetime plan of going to the dentist every two weeks and it's awful.

At one point she said, I know it seems like a lot, you go along for a long time and everything is fine, and then everything sort of happens at once. But you can save for it . . . and I thought, wow, yeah, I really want to start putting money aside for dental work, that sounds like fun.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reading Recap

I read a total of 124 books in 2013 (so far), and of those, I gave eighteen of them five stars on Goodreads. Most of the books I read I rate four or five stars; there is the occasional three star book, usually an entry that I didn't care for much in a series that I generally like. If I start out reading a book and don't like it, I don't finish it, so consequently I never rate anything one or two stars.

Most of them are the most recent books in a series, which I love. I love long-term series' and I love discovering new ones.

So, in descending order of date read, the best books I read in 2013:
  1. Night of Cake and Puppets - Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone 2.5)
  2. Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)
  3. The Brahms Deception - Louise Marley
  4. The Glass Butterfly - Louise Marley
  5. Love Story With Murders - Harry Bingham (Fiona Griffiths #2)
  6. Just One Evil Act - Elizabeth George (Inspector Lynley #18)
  7. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling (Cormoran Strike #1)
  8. Doctor Sleep - Stephen King
  9. Chimes at Midnight - Seanan McGuire (October Daye #7)
  10. Fair Game - Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega #3)
  11. Countdown City - Ben H. Winters (The Last Policeman #2)
  12. The Eldritch Conspiracy - Cat Adams (Blood Singer #5)
  13. The Cat Sitter's Cradle - Blaize Clement (Dixie Hemingway #8)
  14. Trail of Dead - Melissa F. Olson (Scarlett Bernard #2)
  15. Wicked as She Wants - Delilah S. Dawson (Blud #2)
  16. Graveyard Child - M. L. N. Hanover (The Black Sun's Daughter #5)
  17. Wicked as They Come - Delilah S. Dawson (Blud #1)
  18. Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #13)
I keep my Amazon wish list as a record of upcoming books that I want to get, and I also keep a list in Evernote, by date, so I don't miss anything. These are the books (coincidentally, eighteen of them) that I'm looking forward to in 2014, with their current release date:
  1. Wicked After Midnight - Delillah Dawson - 1/28/14 (Blud #3)
  2. The Drowning Spool - Monica Ferris - 2/4/14 (Needlecraft Mystery)
  3. Teen Spirit - Francesca Lia Block - 2/4/14
  4. Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch - 2/4/14 (Peter Grant #4)
  5. The Undead Pool - Kim Harrison - 2/25/14(The Hollows #12)
  6. Blackberry Pie Murder - Joanne Fluke - 2/25/14 (Hannah Swenson Mystery)
  7. Night Broken - Patricia Briggs - 3/4/14 (Mercy Thompson #8)
  8. Half Off Ragnarok - Seanan McGuire - 3/4/14 (InCryptid #3)
  9. Edge of the Water - Elizabeth George - 3/11/14 (Saratoga Woods #2)
  10. Watching You - Michael Robotham - 3/11/14 (Joseph O'Loughlin #7)
  11. Missing You - Harlan Coben - 3/18/14
  12. Destroyer Angel - Nevada Barr - 4/1/14 (Anna Pigeon #17)
  13. Dreams of Gods and Monsters - Laini Taylor - 4/8/14 (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3)
  14. Catnapped - Elaine Viets - 5/6/14 (Dead-End Job Mystery)
  15. Field of Prey - John Sandford - 5/6/14 (Lucas Davenport #24)
  16. Sixth Grave on the Edge - Darynda Jones - 5/20/14 (Charlie Davidson #6)
  17. Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King - 6/3/14
  18. No Safe House - Linwood Barclay - 8/5/14

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fractured Weekend

We had made plans to put our Christmas tree up on Saturday evening. We were going to do our traditional "feast" of boiled, spiced shrimp and cheese fondue. Bob was off this weekend, which is a rare enough occurrence, but especially this time of year. So the plan was that I would go run my errands on Saturday and go to the store, get the stuff we needed, come home and prepare the meal, and we would put up the tree.

On Friday my sister called me at work and said that my mom was in the hospital. She was running a fever and they thought she might have pneumonia. It turned out that she didn't have pneumonia, thankfully, but they were keeping her over the weekend, after spending most of the day in the emergency room. I thought about going out to see her on Friday night, but my dad worries when we are out after dark, and I knew Mom would probably be sleeping, so I decided not to go. I'm so thankful that my sister was able to take off work and help them get through all of that.

On Saturday morning I talked to my dad, and he said my brother was going to come over and pick him up and take him to the hospital, so I told him that I would come out in the afternoon. I had an appointment for a manicure at noon, which seems sort of frivolous, but I didn't really want to cancel it. So I did that, grabbed a quick lunch, then headed out to the hospital. When I got there both my mom and dad were asleep -- it had been a really long day for both of them.

I guess I was there for a couple of hours, then I took Dad to pick up some prescriptions and some things at the store, then took him home, then went to the store for groceries for us. By the time I got home, it was around 7:00. Bob had put up the tree, and while I was making fondue, he started the shrimp boiling and put the lights on the tree. We had our dinner in the living room, listening to Christmas music on the radio. And then we decided we were too tired to actually decorate the tree, so we went to bed.

On Sunday I went out and ran a couple of errands, then headed out to the hospital and sat with my dad awhile. When my two nieces and my grand-niece got there, I left so there weren't so many people in the room, and did some more errands. It was just kind of a fractured weekend. They said they might release my mom from the hospital today (Monday), but I haven't heard yet. She had her 89th birthday last week, so as Bob says, we're in the bonus rounds.

Friday, December 13, 2013


This is my favorite Christmas tree ornament at work. It's filled with glitter and fake snow, and I think it's really pretty. I was very sad last year because I thought it had gotten broken when the tree was taken down, but apparently not. I remember seeing glass and fake snow, and I just assumed that was what it was. Or maybe it was broken, but spontaneously regenerated or something . . .

All you have to do is believe . . .

We put up the Christmas decorations at work today. Four trees -- one in my office (small desktop one), another small one on top of a bookcase in the lobby, a slightly larger one next to Anna's desk upstairs on a table, and the big one on the third floor in the alcove where you get off the elevator. And Anna made a couple of wreaths, one for each floor.

There has been a meme going around Facebook, and while I never do those, this one was kind of interesting. It was a challenge to list ten books that had meant something to you, that had stayed with you. Most people listed mostly classics, most of which wouldn't be on any list of mine. But I challenged myself to come up with ten, and these are mine, in no particular order:

  1. Ladder of Years - Anne Tyler
  2. Dhalgren - Samual R. Delaney
  3. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
  4. Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkein
  5. Snowcrash - Neal Stephenson
  6. Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
  7. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  8. The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis
  9. The Talisman - Stephen King and Peter Straub

Okay, I could only come up with nine that I thought deserved to be on that list, but maybe number 10 would be the one I just finished reading last night, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. It was one of those free or $.99 books that I bought on impulse because the cover and reviews looked interesting, but never read. I think it's been on my iPad about a year. I ran across something that said she had a third book coming out next year, so I dug up the first one and read it, and it was wonderful! The story is about an art student in Prague who has a secret life. She lives in an apartment and goes to school, but her second life is with the family who raised her, a group of "monsters" -- chimera with animal heads and feet. Her putative "father," a hulking monster with leathery skin and ox horns, sends her on errands around the world to procure teeth for some unknown (to her) purpose. She only has to open the door of his workshop, and she is wherever she needs to be -- Morocco, Paris, Prague. She has never understood who or what she is, or where she really came from, but on one of these errands she meets an angel, and everything begins to reveal itself. But when she tries to go back to the workshop, she finds the door no longer works, and she is on her own. I started the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight, last night, and the third, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, comes out in April. There is also a novella, Night of Cake and Puppets.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The month of living dentally

I went to the dentist this morning to have the permanent crown attached. It went pretty well, I guess; he didn't have to adjust it, it fit fine the first time. But getting the temporary one off was a struggle. They had glued it on pretty well, which made it stay on for the two weeks that I was waiting for the permanent one, but made it difficult to get off. But it did eventually come off, and they got the new one on, and it didn't take very long. Then they gave me another referral to a periodontist to have he look at something I think he called a fibroma. It looks like a little swelling on my gum. It doesn't hurt or anything, but he said it needs to be looked at, so, another appointment.

I had to be there this morning at 8:00, so I reset my alarm for 6:30 (it normally goes off at 7:30), but evidently I didn't actually turn it on, a vital step. With this cold, I haven't slept very well, and last night I guess Bob had just gotten to sleep and I coughed and woke him up, and he got up. I felt awful, and I offered to go sleep in the basement, but he said no, you have to work tomorrow and I don't, go back to sleep. I ended up falling asleep sitting up, but obviously laid down at some point and slept again, because I woke up and looked at the clock and it was 7:15. Well, on my clock, i.e., "Willa time," it was 7:30, but it was really 7:15.

Fortunately I had anticipated that I wouldn't want to get up early, so I had taken a bath last night, and I had washed my hair yesterday morning, so basically all I had to do was wash my face and brush my teeth and get dressed, but it was kind of disorienting, having to get ready so quickly. But I did it, and made it in plenty of time. The appointment next week -- the only one they had before the end of the year -- is at noon, a very awkward time since it's on the other side of the city from the office, so I'm planning to work from home in the morning, and probably not go in afterwards, depending on what they do to me. More fun!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I had planned to get a lot of Christmas stuff done over the weekend, but on Friday I felt like I was getting sick, and it really hit me when I got home Friday night. Not flu or anything, just a bad cold that settled in my chest and caused a lot of coughing. Coughing like that is exhausting! So I really didn't want to do much. I ended up going out to my parents' house, though. My mother's birthday was on Saturday. I had talked to my dad and said that I didn't think I would come out, just because I didn't want to risk getting them sick, but he sounded so disappointed that I said I would come anyway.

I was trying to be really careful, but of course, while I was out there the phone rang -- it was my niece -- I picked it up and talked for a minute, then handed it to my mom. As soon as I did, I thought, damn it! My sister said, "Quick, get an antiseptic wipe!" She got one, and when Mom got off the phone, I wiped it off, then she said, "Quick, wipe off mom!" Which I didn't, of course, but it made me laugh.

Bob is off this weekend, so we're going to put up the tree at home and have our little traditional "feast" -- he asked for boiled spiced shrimp and cheese fondue, and I'll get French bread and roast beef and olives and maybe sparkling wine. We'll put on a Christmas movie, maybe White Christmas, and decorate the tree.

I think we'll use the artificial tree this year. We've gone back and forth; we always used to have a real tree, but it's always a worry because we keep them quite a while, and I worry about it drying out. We've been through a couple of artificial ones; the first one Dinah climbed, and sat in, and bent the branches. Unlike a real tree, artificial ones aren't meant to support a ten pound animal. The artificial tree we have now is kind of small, but it's not bad. It fits just fine in our small living room. And I'm just now remembering that last year Dinah peed on the pretty Christmas tree skirt for some reason, so I had to use a fleece blanket instead. So I suppose I'll do that again this year. I would hate to spend money on another one, and have her do it again. It was felt, so there was no saving it.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Further to Dinah's Attachment to Bob

Yesterday I wrote about Dinah wanting to be near Bob lately, and last night I looked over and she was lying on his pillow, right next to his head. I was sitting up in bed reading, so I grabbed the phone and took a picture. Having her want to be close to him is still unusual enough that it makes us marvel at it. It's a good thing he loves cats, and that he isn't allergic to them!

Pyewacket always slept under the covers with her head on Bob's pillow, which was the cutest thing ever, but this is new behavior for Dinah. Bob said the other day that maybe she's getting senile in her old age. But I think she knows what she's doing. She's just decided, after all this time, that he's okay after all.

I think I'm getting sick. I woke up with a sore throat, which is always the precursor for me. I was going to go out and see my folks this weekend -- my mother's birthday is Saturday -- but I'm thinking I probably shouldn't. I wouldn't want to get them sick. I guess I'll see how I feel tomorrow. I should probably go to the drugstore on the way home and buy zinc or vitamin C or something . . .

I have never gotten a flu shot, but I was thinking this morning that maybe I should, now that I'm over 60!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sleepy Dinah

For the longest time, Dinah wouldn't have anything to do with Bob. When Pyewacket was alive, of course, Pye was his cat, and Dinah was mine, and while Pye would cuddle with me as second best (except for that period of time when she was trying to kill me), Dinah didn't seem to like Bob at all.

That has slowly changed. Maybe for the last year or so, she's started sleeping in the middle of the bed, between Bob and me, rather than on the outside by me. And in the last month she's started sleeping on his side. And she wants to take naps with him. He said yesterday he was home in the afternoon, and she was walking around on the bed, hissing at him because he wasn't moving fast enough to lie down with her. The hissing thing used to bother him, but now it seems like that's her default "I'm not happy" response rather than something aggressive.

When I say, "Dinah really loves you now," he said, "just in bed," and that does seem to mostly be the case. She loves it when I come home from work and come upstairs to change my clothes. We have "cuddle time," and the three of us lie down on the bed. She can't decide where to lie, though. She'll start out lying on top of me, then go over and lie on Bob, then in the middle, touching both of us. She has also started going under the covers, like Pye used to.

She's mellowed a lot in her old age. As have we all, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It's all worth it

This morning, Bob said to me, "I'm feeling Christmassy."

He always used to love Christmas, all the traditions and things that surround it, but the last few years, working retail, he didn't feel that way so much. It became something to get through rather than something to enjoy, and that made me sad. So I've been trying very hard to make the house Christmassy, and it is apparently working.

I asked him, "how come?" and he said, "you've been baking, and burning candles, and you bought candy, and decorated, it makes me happy." And that makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The last nice day

Today was a beautiful day. I went out and sat on the bench outside the office for a few minutes after lunch and it felt like spring. Unfortunately, I understand it's going to be like -11 tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, but at least it was beautiful today!

In my effort to do something every day to move the Christmas plans along, I got out a box of craft stuff that I had started a couple of years ago, I think. I had bought some wonderful snowman paper at Archivers, and glued it to tags, but for whatever reason, had never done anything with them. So I made a few more, and started thinking about what I would need to do to make them be usable as gift tags. I haven't totally figured it out yet, and I need to get another glue runner and look for ribbon, but at least it felt like I did something.

I also downloaded what I think is a very cool iPhone app called Visionary I-Ching. It's free to download, and I think you can see half a dozen cards or something, and then if you like it, you pay $6.99 for full access. That's kind of a lot for an app, but it's beautiful, and I think it's definitely worth it.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Starting Christmas

Yesterday I:
  • put out a bunch of my little Christmas decorations in the house
  • had a cup of hot chocolate in a snowman mug
  • watched "Christmas With the Kranks"
  • started addressing Christmas cards
  • decorated the mirror in Bob's bathroom with snowman window clings
  • trolled Pinterest for inspiration and updated my Christmas board
  • Put a Christmas wreath on the front door
I bought:
  • Christmas cupcake papers and cake mix
  • Hershey's Kisses to put out in bowls at home
  • peppermint candy to put out in my office at work
  • peppermint marshmallows for hot chocolate
  • cranberry ginger ale
  • a dozen vintage-looking mercury glass ornaments
Today I put up my little Christmas/winter wreath in my office at work and tonight I baked muffins. So I would say December is off to a good start!

As part of the "project," I downloaded a new iPhone app called InstaCC - Calendar and Challenges for Instagram. I actually downloaded a bunch of apps to try, and I liked the layout of this one the best. It automatically picks up the photos from my Instagram account and arranges them, and they also have the option of challenges. Some of them cost extra; I paid $1.99 for the "365" photo-a-day challenge. I haven't completely figured it out yet, and I think the developer is Japanese, so some of the language is odd, but I like having a daily prompt/challenge, so hopefully I can stick with it for awhile. There are overlays for the challenge photos, which I like. So, we'll see. Sometimes I need something like this to give me a some creative motivation, and I definitely need that with Christmas coming up. And I guess I also start thinking about the first of the year, and new beginnings, new starts, trying again to get it right.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Happy December!

November kind of sucked, well, quite a bit of the whole year sucked. November was the month of dental woes, and it was really horrible. I had the second of a series of appointments the day before Thanksgiving, where I was fitted for a temporary crown. Even though it was a little over an hour with two people's hands in my mouth, it wasn't nearly as bad as the week before, when I had a molar extracted. That one was so awful, so traumatic, that the nurse (?) suggested nitrous, and while she said my insurance wouldn't pay for it, she thought I needed it. I don't know how much it helped, but maybe it at least gave me something else to concentrate on.

Bob went out and got me a milkshake after that appointment, and since then I've been eating mostly soup and drinking tea. I had a broken tooth -- the one that is getting the crown -- and the dentist was out of town, so he told me to be very careful with it until he could get the temporary crown on. I'm slowly working back up to eating other stuff, like a turkey sandwich on a soft roll. My sister invited us over for Thanksgiving -- my parents don't want a whole house full of people anymore, so my brother and his wife took dinner over to them -- but I didn't feel up to it the day after the dental drama.

So I bought the smallest turkey breast in the store and roasted that for Bob. He had to work for part of the day, so I didn't really go all out, just the turkey, mashed potatoes, Stovetop stuffing, and I baked a frozen apple pie. Having the small dinner with just us was nice, and I put together a dinner for him to take to his boss at work that night.

My birthday was a week ago today, and we didn't do anything, but we're going to go out tonight, probably just somewhere like Culver's, but that sounds good. Bob brought me a beautiful spicy-scented candle and some chocolates, and Barb sent me a care package with Disneyland tea, a Vera Bradley shopping bag, and a "Sally" (from the Nightmare Before Christmas) doll, my dad and Bob's dad both sent me cash, and my niece Mallory sent me a gift card. It was a low key personal holiday. :)

I don't really have much money to spent on shopping, but I did go out on Black Friday. I had a $10 free coupon for Kohl's, and a 20% off coupon, so I went there and bought myself a sterling silver Disney bead for my Pandora-style bracelet. It's two interlocking silver circles that are engraved "Wishes come true."

I also went to Bed, Bath & Beyond to buy a humidifier that I ended up taking back the next day. It was horribly noisy -- Bob said it sounded like an aircraft carrier. As it turned out, they had humidifiers in two separate places in the store, and I only found one. I exchanged the noisy one for another one that is much better, and it was slightly cheaper. At the low speed, it's almost silent, and at the higher level it's just a low background noise that doesn't bother us at all.

Saturday was my "day of beauty. I had my nails done and my hair cut and colored, and that took up most of the day. I came home and made mashed potatoes for Bob to have with the leftover turkey when he got home from work at about 10:00. It's been nice to have these days at home.

I decided I needed to do some kind of "project" for December to keep my spirits up. I'm not sure what it's going to be, except that for one thing, I'm going to take a bunch of photos. I started today, taking pictures of some of my favorite little Christmas ornaments that I put out each year. My "thing" is primitive snowmen, and I try to pick them up whenever I see them. They're usually pretty cheap, and I have quite a collection of them.

I also started reading some of my favorite Christmas books. I read Miracle and Other Christmas Stories the other night when I was feeling particularly down, and it cheered me up, as it always does. And I checked out Murder with All the Trimmings from the library, a "Josie Marcus, Secret Shopper" mystery set in a Christmas store.

I've started thinking about my favorite Christmas movies, too, and may watch one tonight. I'm thinking Christmas with the Kranks, or maybe Home Alone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Louise Marley

Several years ago I ran across a book that I absolutely loved, The Glass Harmonica, by Louise Marley. The story involves a little homeless girl in the 1700's who plays musical glasses on the street for handouts. She is rescued by Benjamin Franklin, who has invented the glass harmonica, and she becomes his protege and lives in his house, a lifestyle very much removed from her previous life.

Contrasted with this story is another one set in the future (2018) involving a concert musician who plays the glass harmonica, which is enjoying a resurgence in popularity due to a wave of nostalgia sweeping the country.

I don't really have any interest in classical music, and I almost never read historical novels, but for some reason, this one really grabbed me, and I loved it. In Marley's novels, the present and the past are blurred--the veil between the worlds is very thin. She is able to write historical novels that also bring in science fiction-like stories, and weave them all into one wonderful book. She also writes books that are more straight science fiction, and while I tried them, I didn't really like them.

I recently discovered that, since The Glass Harmonica, she had written several more similar books. In short order, I read The Brahms Deception, which involves time travel between Brahms' time and the present, and The Glass Butterfly, which moves back and forth between a present day psychologist who is running for her life, and a young housemaid in opera composer Giacomo Puccini's household in the early 1900's. The glass butterfly in the title is a paperweight which ties the two women's stories together.

Next up is Mozart's Blood, which is somewhat different in that it's a vampire book . . .

Dental Adventures

I hadn't been to the dentist in a long time. I've always had good teeth, very few cavities, and while I knew I should go, I just didn't want to. Then, a few weeks ago I was eating something, I can't remember what, and one of my teeth felt weird. I could feel a kind of ridge with my tongue, and I realized that the tooth had broken. But nothing else happened, so I didn't do anything. Then, a week or so ago, I started having some pain in a different tooth, and I started getting scared about it. I have a mitral valve prolapse, which is the fancy word for a heart murmur, and any time I have dental work I have to be pre-medicated with an antibiotic. I thought, how stupid would it be to die of some kind of infection that could have been prevented?

So I called and made an appointment. But it was so traumatic for me! I know that no one loves going to the dentist, but I also know that most people don't have a terrible phobia about them. Bob used to go all the time. For one thing, I thought that they might give me a hard time for not coming in sooner, and, of course, I was worried about the pain and, not least, the cost.

They were all very nice, of course, and that fear was unfounded. It turned out that I will need to have a crown put on the fractured tooth to try to save it, and the tooth that was giving me pain needed to come out. So they wrote me up a treatment plan, and gave me a referral to a dental surgeon. The appointment for that was Monday, and it was about as traumatic as making the initial appointment was. I really don't tend to get all that upset about things, but this was really getting to me.

The technician could tell that I was upset, and she asked me if I wanted nitrous oxide. She said, "It's $65, and your insurance won't pay for it, but it might be worth it." I declined, not wanting to pay the extra cost, but when the dentist was giving me the shots to numb the area, I would wince, I guess, and he said, "you're jumpy!" The technician asked me if I wanted to try the nitrous, and I said, okay, maybe I should. I had never had it before and didn't know what to expect. It wasn't a huge difference, I don't think, but it probably helped.

I took the rest of the day off, and Bob got me a milk shake for my dinner, which I had to eat with a spoon because I can't use a straw yet. I did go to work the next day, and when I mentioned how traumatic it all had been, one of the girls in the office said, "It's because you're a redhead." Well, actually what she said was, "It's because you're a ginger." Apparently is is a somewhat well known fact that redheads are harder to anesthetize, and have a greater amount of pain and anxiety, particularly regarding dental work. I've always felt like I had a pretty high pain tolerance, and, in face, have never taken any of the pain medications that I've been given after a procedure, but there's just something about dental pain that shakes me. I looked it up, and there was a study documenting it.

Pretty interesting, and somewhat validating.

So anyway, on the day before Thanksgiving, I have to have a crown put on. I'm definitely not looking forward to it, but I'm planning on mentioning the study to the dentist and see if he has heard of it, and/or agrees with it.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Bob and I have gotten in the habit of taking a week's vacation in October, our wedding anniversary month. Sometimes we go to Bennett Spring; the last couple of years we've gone to a friend's condo on Lake Taneycomo.

Bob and I both like to do a lot of hobby preparation--while he's busy organizing his fishing lures and flies and rods and reels, I'm going through my sewing box and putting together a mobile quilting kit. I didn't get as much done as I had planned for, but that's okay. I just wanted to be sure to take enough that I would have plenty to do if I wanted to.

I took a bunch of English paper pieces supplies--hexagon templates, mini charm packs (2-1/2" x 2-1/2" precut fabric squares), needles and thread, and I also pre-cut a bunch of circles from a regular (5" x 5") charm pack to make yo-yo's. I made a bunch of Halloween hexagons, and started on some snowman ones. I ended up doing a lot of the snowman ones, and was able to stitch them together as well. My plan is to make some kind of table topper, about the size of a placemat.

I've been wanting to make a tumbler quilt, so I also took a small cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a tumbler template, but ended up not doing that. I decided I want to do English paper piecing for the tumblers, too, rather than cutting out the shapes, and I ended up ordering some papers from I really hated to do that, but I couldn't find any printable templates and didn't want to draw them myself.

There are a lot of English paper pieces hexagon tutorials out there, so I'm not going to go over all that ground, but I know that some people are interested in it, so I wanted to at least show some photos. I downloaded a sheet of printed hexagon shapes (link is on this page, along with an explanation of how to do it), printed them out, then cut them out individually. I actually kind of like that part, too. Then once I have a bunch of little paper hexagons cut out, I start making the fabric hexes.

There are a lot of different ways to do it, and my method isn't necessarily the best, but it's what I like. I buy the mini charm packs--at first I thought that was kind of extravagant, since I could, of course, cut out the squares myself, but they're actually fairly inexpensive: a pack of 42 squares runs around $3.75. And I like having them all perfect and exact and micro-pinked, so I decided that for myself, it's worth it.

I start out by placing one of the paper hexes on the back of a fabric square, and start folding the fabric on one side. I stitch through the paper--some people don't do that, but I like doing it that way. I also don't use freezer paper or glue or pins or anything, the hexes I am making are about 1-1/2" across, so it's easy for me to just hold them in my hand as I stitch. Keep moving around the shape, folding as you go, kind of like wrapping a package. Some people also trim their fabric in a hexagon shape, but I don't think that's necessary, and it's just an additional step. It doesn't matter what kind of thread you use, but you want it to be contrasty, because you're going to be removing the basting stitches. I've been using up a bunch of little spools of cheap thread that came with a sewing box. They're actually perfect for that, because they're thicker than regular thread, so it seems easier to tie knots.

Then, once you have a bunch of little fabric hexes, you can start sewing them together. I take two of them, place them right-sides together, and sew them with little stitches along the edges.

My stitches show, and I'm okay with that. Especially in this particular instance, where I'm using primitive fabric. And I'm not a machine, or a robot, and if I wanted to try to make something perfect (or aspire to), I would use the sewing machine. But I really enjoy doing it this way. It's meditative, and it's something that I can do while watching television or listening to an audio book, or just sitting and thinking, which is what I mostly do.

While we were on vacation I sat out on the deck and sewed a lot, and I loved that. Once a hex is surrounded on all sides, you can remove the basting stitches and take out the paper template. Removing them as you go makes it easier to hold the whole construction in your hands.

Once all my hexes are sewn together, I will make a "quilt sandwich" with some batting and some backing fabric, baste them together, and do some quilting. Then I will bind it. I've never made a full size quilt, just very small ones, and I kind of doubt if I ever will. I'm much more inclined to make small pieces. For one thing, I'm easily distracted and/or bored.

I really love this fabric. The line is called "Snowman Gatherings," by a company called Primitive Gatherings, and produced by Moda. I used two mini charm packs to make the hexes for this little quilt, and have, I think, four more, because I love it so. I haven't decided what to do with them yet, but I'll think of something. I bought a half yard each of these two prints, which were my favorites of the line.

I also read while we were on vacation, of course. I read: Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King--a sort of sequel to "The Shining"--The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith, aka J. K. Rowling; The Sound and the Furry, a Chet and Bernie mystery by Spencer Quinn, and Open Your Heart, by Neal Pollack, a yoga mystery.

I also finished up a new website for author Susan Wiggs. So I was pretty busy!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Love letter to Levenger

I don't have fine china, I have everyday dishes (Fiestaware), but I know that there are people who have china that they love, but they keep it put away for special occasions. Maybe that's a good idea, I think it does make special occasions just that much more special when you get out things that you don't use all the time, like silver. I have my grandmother's silver, but the only time I ever use it is on Thanksgiving.

But that's one of the things that I've tried to get over--not with china or silver, but all of the beautiful, everyday things that are maybe too beautiful to use. Like paper. One of the guys at work came to me yesterday and said that we were out of legal pads, and did I know if we had any more. I told him that I would order some, but in the meantime, I had one that I would give him. He asked, didn't I need it myself, and I said no, I buy my own paper because I like the really expensive stuff. I think he thought that was kind of dumb, and it is, to an extent, but as we're fond of saying at work, it is what it is.

I enjoy writing by hand. It's a different thing than typing, writing makes your brain work in a different way, I think. It flexes different muscles. So if I'm going to write, I'm going to use tools that make it a pleasure. In my case, it's Levenger Circa paper (letter sized shaded annotation ruled paper, $16 for 100 sheets or Action Method Dot Grid Refills) and a Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Rollerball pen. Bob sometimes makes fun of me for having "special" pens; if he needs a pen, any old pen will do. If I'm just scribbling down a phone number or something, sure, any old pen and a sticky note will do. But if I'm taking extensive notes, or writing a to-do list, I want a pen that is a pleasure to use, and that makes the notes a pleasure to read later.

He has also made fun of me for having favorite eating utensils and favorite/special juice glasses. I don't care. Everyone has favorite things, and if using them makes the day better, why not? I'm always reminded of a quote I heard once--I don't remember who it was attributed to--on the order of, if you're going to eat chocolate, eat the good stuff. I apply that to just a few things in my life--sock yarn, candles, purses, and office supplies are the ones that come to mind.

While I was perusing the Levenger website, I ran across this review of their Circa Task Pads:
When I originally purchased these pads, I used them sparingly because of the cost. At some point, I realized that whatever it was that I wanted to address at a different time had a value that for me was far in excess of the 9 to 11 cents of each sheet.

I have some of those task pads (you can see one in the top photo, in a Compact-size notebook), and I, too, have felt like I needed to conserve them, but how dumb is that? If something is useful to you, use it. When I die I'm going to leave a houseful of pens and notebooks anyway, I might as well use some of them up. I stick a half dozen of these list pages in the front of my larger notebook. Then, if I'm in a meeting and think of something that I need to do, I can jot it there and move on. It's easy to remove it from the big notebook and stick it in the notebook that I keep in my purse.

I'm a big fan of Levenger Circa, if you can't tell. Everything is interchangeable, and I have a portable punch that I can use to make any paper fit into a Circa notebook, or make custom flyleaves out of scrapbook paper. It's very exciting. (I know, I'm weird.) There are three sizes--Letter (8-1/2 x 11), Junior (5-1/2 x 8-1/2), and Compact (3-3/4 x 6-3/4). The picture above shows two notebooks, a Junior size and a Compact. I switch between a Junior and a Letter size one for notes at work, and the Compact one is the one I keep in my purse. They don't really make that one anymore, or at least, they don't make much in the way of accessories for it. I just ordered 300 refill sheets in case they stop making those, too. I also keep knitting and sewing patterns in a letter-size one at home.

Oh, and you can buy 3x5 card ones, or punch your own 3x5 cards . . . This is a "swatch book" I made using a Circa 3x5 Jotlet notebook. I can drop it in my purse if I'm going to the fabric store and need to match something.

Here's a deal: Buy the Levenger Simply Irresistible Sampling Kit for $40, and get a $40 Levenger gift card that you can spend for more Circa stuff (or anything, really). Virtually free!

And here's a great article about lists and notebooks: James Altucher - How a Waiter's Pad Saved My Life

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I just noticed that my bookshelf in the Kindle app on my iPad is pretty telling regarding the kind of books that I read, i.e., almost exclusively urban fantasy. Also, I just counted, and I have 196 books in that app that contain the word "Dead" in some fashion, also telling.

Current favorite series': oh, there are just too many! But the absolute best things I've read lately are "Wicked As They Come" and "Wicked As She Wants," by Delilah Dawson. I somehow ran across the first one on the publisher's site, where it could be read online for free for a few days. I didn't think it was really something I wanted to read, because 1) the cover looked too "romance-y", and 2) it sounded kind of steampunk, which I don't normally do, but I tried it since it was free, and was immediately charmed by it, enough so that I went ahead and bought the Kindle version so I wouldn't have to hurry through reading it.

The story begins with Tish Everett, a hospice nurse, rummaging through the estate sale of her last patient. She finds an old locket that looks interesting and, when she is suddenly paged for an emergency, she absentmindedly sticks it in her pocket.

Once she gets home and is able to open the locket, she finds that when she falls asleep she is transported to another world--the land of Sang, which is populated mostly by "Bludmen," or vampires. The particular Bludman that she runs across first is the ringmaster of a traveling carnival who, it turns out, had cast a spell to bring the perfect woman to him, and voila, there she is!

The world-building is great, the most inventive and interesting that I've run across in a long time. The second book, "Wicked As She Wants," is loosely based on the story of the Russian Tsars, and the upcoming third one, "Wicked After Midnight" (January 2014) is to be set in the Paris cabarets.

There are also a couple of novellas set in the same world, "The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance," and "The Mysterious Madame Morpho," as well as a short story, "The Three Lives of Lydia," included in "Carniepunk," an anthology of carnival-themed urban fantasy.

Monday, June 24, 2013


I stopped carrying around the Mulberry journal for the same reason I always do -- because it's just too heavy. I already have my laptop and iPad to carry back and forth to work, and that heavy binder just added too much weight. And this time, of course, unlike the other times with Franklin Covey products, I can't get Mulberry refills, they just don't exist. I tried to make it work by punching my own paper, but I wasn't happy with it.

So I moved back to another favorite, Levenger Circa. As someone in my office remarked when she saw the Levenger catalog on my desk, Levenger is dangerous. As I've mentioned before, there are a few products that I am obsessed with, or a few retailers, I guess. One of them is Levenger. They produce the most wonderful, high quality leather and paper goods. I have, for the most part, resisted buying any of the leather goods, but I've bought quite a few paper products over the years.

Circa stuff is very cool. You can build a notebook using several different kinds of paper, different covers, dividers, etc., and rather than rings, the pages are held together by plastic or metal discs. You don't have to open rings like you do with a ring binder, you can just pull the pages away from the discs. Levenger was having a sale on a lot of the Circa stuff, and I bought a punch. So now I can take any kind of paper and punch it to fit into a Circa notebook. The one in the picture above was a piece of scrapbooking paper. The possibilities are endless! The filler paper that I prefer is their dot grid paper. For some reason, it seems smoother to write on than some of the other choices. I probably prefer the layout of their notation lined paper, but it is rougher.

Anyway, this is my current paper love, my custom Circa notebook with dot grid paper, white plastic tab dividers, clear covers, and an ever-changing colorful flyleaf, currently mauve and blue retro flowers.

I'm fickle like that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Okay, so the transfer of the domain name has taken place. now leads to the website for Willa skincare products, and my new domain is I know that there will be lots of broken (or "brokeny," as we tend to say at work) things throughout the site, so bear with me. I probably won't go back all the way to the beginning of time to fix things, but if you run across a page that is particularly broken, let me know. I plan to go through at some point and fix links to images, but that will probably happen slowly.

My new email address is willa at willacline dot com. I express it that way so that it doesn't look like an email address to robots. My old email address has been collecting spam for 17 years, so it's probably time to retire it anyway. Maybe I can keep the new one a little cleaner by using alternate addresses for signing up for things, and keeping the "real" one for real email. I guess we'll see.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Friday, May 10, 2013

I am currently in the process of selling the domain I will be using in the future, but for now, please bookmark this URL (, and change any contact information you have for me to my gmail account, Thank you! More details to follow.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My beautiful, expensive Mulberry agenda

Here's another obsession: notebooks. All office supply-type stuff, really, but notebooks in particular. Variously called agendas, diaries, organizers, journals. I haven't bought any expensive ones for a long time, but I have several, in different sizes--a big Franklin-Covey desk size in soft cream-colored leather, another Franklin-Covey one, a smaller size (Junior?) in red leather, a small black leather zippered FC pocket size, and a gorgeous blue leather Mulberry. Lately, though, I've been trying to keep everything paperless. When I look at a catalog like Levenger's, I admire the merchandise, but tell myself that I don't need it, it's too expensive, and I move on. It's fairly easy for me to resist buying something that's over $100. It's the little things that I find hard to walk by.

Over the weekend I dreamed about the Mulberry agenda. I've had it for a long time. When I used to travel for work, I would sometimes seek out stationery stores, but in this case I think I bought it at a discount store like T. J. Maxx or Marshall's (back in the day when they were actually two different stores and didn't carry exactly the same stuff). I know that at some point I ordered a calendar refill and some blank paper; I threw away the used calendar pages, apparently, but the remaining flyleaf is dated 1999, so I bought it sometime prior to that. I have no idea how much I paid for it, but I would guess something like $25-30. I don't think I would have paid more than that, although I had a lot more disposable income during that period of time.

So I dug it out on Sunday and looked through it, and then went looking online to see if I could find any refills.

The pages are cream colored, printed in red. They have (of course, as Bob would say) stopped offering those refills. Mulberry no longer makes a page-a-day organizer refill (they only have a weekly one), and they don't make the cream-colored paper at all, only white with black. And it's pretty expensive--$14 for 25 sheets of lined paper. That seems excessive, but the binders are extremely expensive as well, ranging from about $500 up to $1500. Mine is very similar to one that retails for $600. So whatever I paid for it, it was definitely worth it.

Of course (again) other brands of refills like Filofax, Franklin-Covey or Quo Vadis, don't fit. The pages are kind of an odd size, being more square than most agenda pages, and the holes are spaced differently than, for instance, Filofax pages. As I went through a bunch of notebook blogs (you knew those existed, right?) looking for Mulberry info, there was a lot of discussion about how it was obvious that Mulberry was no longer producing the range of refills that used to be available, and discussions about what to do in order to keep using these incredibly expensive notebooks. There was even a graphic that someone had made showing the hole configuration of Mulberry paper compared to Filofax, and an even more extensive comparison of the various paper sizes of different brands.

One of the suggestions was to download and print templates, but that didn't really appeal to me. Part of the pleasure of writing in an agenda--for me, at least--is writing on nice paper, and copy paper doesn't really cut it.

Then I thought, well, I could buy some nice paper and have it cut and punched somewhere like Office Max or Kinko's, and I may still end up doing that. For now, I accidentally discovered that the Franklin-Covey "pocket" size refills are punched in the same configuration as the Mulberry refills. The pages are quite a bit narrower, though, so I'm not sure how that will work out. I did go ahead and order a set of monthly calendar pages and a pack of refill paper from FC; they were having a sale, and I got both of those things for under $10, with free shipping, so it won't hurt to try. I also tried cutting and punching some paper on my own using some nice Levenger Circa dot grid paper, which is still an option.

In any event, I've really been enjoying setting up the notebook and using it. There are a lot of people listed in the contacts section that I don't even remember at all, and a lot of people have moved or changed phone numbers. But the phone number section consists of tabbed pages that fit into thin plastic sleeves, so difficult to change/replace. I think I'll leave them for now.

The notebook is leather, with a lizard grain (or it could actually be lizard, although it's pretty uniform). The color is blue, with a slight green tint. There are full length pockets in the front and back, with a slip pocket and three card slots in front, and a zipper pocket and a pen loop in back. I've got a photo of me and Bob, some stamps and return address labels in clear plastic pockets, and I had a couple of Franklin-Covey page dividers, so I'm using those, too.

It's a little cobbled-together, but I kind of like that. It makes it easier to punch various paper oddments and put them in, and make it more personalized, and it looks (and is) well used and loved. Anyway, for now at least, I'm loving it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Knit Buddy

I am in love with Vogue Knitting's Knit Buddy app. I have used other knitting apps in the past, but I think the last one I really got into was one for my Palm, so that one's been gone awhile. I haven't found an iPhone app that I like as much as this one.

There are a lot of components, but the three main ones are:
  • Yarn stash & yarn detail
  • Needle and hook inventory
  • Project list & project detail
For each yarn that you have in your stash, you can fill out all the details--weight, fiber content (including blends), color number/name, dye lot, number of skeins, and yards and grams per skein. There is also a "notes" field, and a place where you can add a photo of the yarn. I have sometimes grabbed photos off the web, but you can also take your own photos. The needle inventory screen allows you to enter any number of needles, specifying whether they are straight, double pointed or circular, the length, and the material that they are made from. One thing that it doesn't have that I would like is the ability to add a number in case you have multiple occurrences of the same needle, especially for sock needles and steel crochet hooks. I probably have about 87 sets of Size 1 Brittany Birch needles . . . The next section is the project section. For each project, you can save whether it is a Work in Progress (WIP), in your queue, or a finished object. When you choose the needles that you are using, the app marks them in the needle inventory as used (shows them highlighted in yellow), so if you are checking to see if you have the particular needles you need for a project, you can also see if they are in use. Selecting a yarn from your stash doesn't seem to do anything to the yarn inventory, which is fine. There is a free-text notes section where you can add any particular notes about that project, i.e., who it is for, what size you made, and any notes you may want to make about the project. I have also used this field to enter a text version of the pattern. It isn't really made for that, and it formats it kind of oddly, but it is possible to use it that way. I save all of my patterns in the Evernote app anyway, so they are always available to me on my iPhone or iPad wherever I am, but I like having them in Knit Buddy as well. Within the Pattens screen you can set counters. These can be named whatever you like, and you can choose whether pressing on the + or - makes a sound or not. I kind of like the sound feedback. Once you are finished with a counter you can delete it, but you can also have multiple counters going at the same time. I don't think there is any limit to the number of counters you can have, but I have only used two at one time. The functionality of the app is pretty close to the information that can be entered in your notebook at Ravelry. They don't sync, of course, but it would be really great if they could! Maybe someday.

The Knit Buddy app also includes a place to catalog knitting books, a "stitchionary" with cable, colorwork, and other patterns, a "how-to" section for knitting and crocheting, terms and abbreviations, and a tool for substituting yarn. The app was really well thought out, and unlike some, I'm guessing that they had actual knitters use it for awhile and give feedback. I.e., it is actually useful for a real knitter, not what a non-knitting programmer might guess that a knitter would need and use.

I understand from comments in the App Store that at one time this app synced over multiple devices so you could have it on both your iPhone and iPad, but only have to enter information in one place, but that functionality was removed in a recent update. I need it on my phone the most since that is what I always have with me, but it would be nice to be able to enter information on the iPad and have it sync between them. I wonder if that's something they may add back into the app, given all of the negative comments, but I don't know the reason they removed it in the first place.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Obsessions, I haz them

I have a few obsessions. They come and go; right now my knitting obsession is in the forefront. It never really goes away completely, but it had been dormant for awhile. I'm not sure what prompted the resurgence this time; it may have been seeing that Vera Bradley bag that would be just perfect for a knitting bag for small projects . . . It works that way sometimes. Something seemingly unrelated will set it off, and I'm back to stashing sock yarn, carrying my knitting with me everywhere, and saving scores of patterns to knit "someday."

I got a "Knitting Daily" email a couple of weeks ago advertising a new book, "5 Favorite Knitting Patterns for Babies and Kids." One of the patterns illustrated was Stephanie Japel's "Whirligig Shrug." I wasn't especially excited about the other patterns, but I definitely wanted that one, so I went on a hunt and found that I could buy a PDF download of that pattern only on Ravelry. So I bought it, downloaded it, went to Joann for cheap yarn, and started knitting it. I love the pattern. It's knit in one piece from the top down; I'm almost finished with the back, just a few more rows of seed stitch, then I will finish the sleeves.

I was showing the pattern to someone at work, and she said, "can you do that?" I said, "Sure." I'm not really afraid of anything as long as there is a pattern. Some things I don't particularly want to do, like lace, but I can. This shrug has raglan increases for shaping, a little cable, and a drapey seed stitch peplum. My plan is to make one for my 5 year old niece Abby, the tiniest size for her doll, and two for the new babies in the family, Avery and Addison. I figure if the one I'm making now is too large for Abby, she can grow into it, and if it's too small, Avery can grow into it, and I'll make another one for Abby. Win-win.

I'm not crazy about the apple green yarn, but it was the best color I could find at Joann in DK weight superwash. I've already ordered yarn for the two others . . . okay, four. Lavender, dusty rose, light teal, and denim blue. Obsessed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Knitting Tools

This is my knitting bag, the "Holiday Tote" from Vera Bradley in Suzani. I bought it because I was looking for a smallish tote bag. My regular-size tote bags are too large to carry around all the time, and I tend to carry too much stuff when I have too large a bag. I had been using a transparent plastic zippered tote that is just the right size for a sock project, but I grew tired of it. This particular bag was only made in the Suzani pattern, so I didn't have to choose. Sometimes not having to choose is good.

I love Vera Bradley products, and I think part of it goes back to what I previously talked about in my sock knitting post, i.e., I don't wear much, if any, color, but I do like to have color in some of the accessories that I carry. Vera bags are colorful, very well made, they last a long time, and they're light. If they get dirty, they can be washed in the machine (although I never have), and they usually have a bunch of pockets inside and out. This one has two slip pockets inside. I would have liked to have a zipper pocket, too, but it isn't really necessary.

Inside the bag is a Vera Bradley small cosmetic bag in the brand new pattern Tutti Fruitti. This pattern isn't available in the VB stores yet, but it's one of their new baby product patterns coming next week. I absolutely fell in love with it when I saw it, and ordered the bag on Ebay from Singapore. The background is my favorite teal green, and it goes well with the tote bag's print, I think. I try to stay away from matching everything, but I do try to choose patterns in the same general color mix.

Inside the tote bag is my current sock project, my cosmetic/knitting tool bag, a small notepad, a purple pen, a pair of reading glasses, a tube of hand cream and a packet of tissues.


Inside the small bag is:

  • Extra bamboo sock knitting needles, size US 1
  • A tape measure
  • Another pen
  • Several 3x5 cards in case I want to make a note about something
  • A small pair of scissors
  • A needle sizer
  • Several small steel crochet hooks for picking up dropped stitches
  • A row counter
  • A pill box full of tiny rubber bands and handmade (by me) stitch markers

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sock Yarn Snob

I was reading a food blog the other day, I think it was Fat Shadow's Diary of a Fat Foodie, where she said something like if you're going to eat something, you should eat the best of that thing that there is (paraphrasing, of course!). I've always felt like that about chocolate--if you're going to eat chocolate, it should be Godiva or something similar, because there really isn't a lot of point in eating something like Brach's. It's just calories at that point.

I feel the same way about yarn. I would probably be considered a "yarn snob" since I don't bother buying Red Heart or Sugar & Cream or any of the kinds of yarns that you will usually find at chain craft stores. I'm not prolific enough, frankly. If I was (and when I did) crocheting afghans, I would definitely buy inexpensive yarn, but I mostly only knit socks. Sock yarn, good sock yarn, is pretty expensive. My favorite is Opal, and depending on where you buy it, it runs around $20-$22 per skein, which for me, will make a pair of adult socks and a pair of children, or baby, socks.

In the past, what has generally happened is that when I'm feeling flush, I'll buy several (or more than several) skeins of expensive sock yarn, then feel guilty about it and sell them on eBay, which is what I did last year. But I've been severely regretting selling off a few skeins of some Fortissima yarn that I ordered online in a particular pattern line (regrets, I've had a few). As a result, I've spent a lot of time searching for it online, to no avail, until last week when I found someone who had a skein of the colorway that I most regretted selling. She's doing the auction in a weird way by posting three skeins of unrelated yarn with a bidding price of $16 which will get you the skein of your choice, or a "buy it now" price of $48, which will get you all three.

I don't want all three, I just want the one, so I placed a bid, and so far no one else has bid against me. The auction is over on Friday, so I'm hopeful that I'll win it, and it's looking like I will (fingers crossed). I've decided this time to collect a reasonable number of skeins of sock yarn, and then stop for awhile until I've knit it up. And I'm not going to sell it off this time.

Why I love sock knitting:

  • The self patterning yarn. I have a short attention span, and find it almost impossible to knit something in a solid color. For whatever reason, the variegated yarn makes it more fun to knit, at least for me. I also think it's amazing that yarn can be created that makes a specified pattern when you knit it.
  • Color. I don't wear a lot of color. Most of my clothes are black, white or gray. In sock knitting I can have all of the color I want, but I don't have to wear it, I just get to carry it around (and wear it if I want, but as a small (sock) amount.
  • Portability. It's easy to carry around a small bag with a skein/ball of yarn and the tools needed to knit a sock. I keep a small knitting bag with my current sock project in it so I can grab it on the way out the door at any time. Even if I don't plan on stopping somewhere long enough to knit, I usually take it with me in case I get caught waiting somewhere.
  • Usability. I don't wear my beautiful hand knitted socks every day, or even every day in the winter, but I do wear them. Bob says sock knitting is my apocalypse skill, i.e., when the world ends, or the zombie apocalypse happens, at least our feet will be warm.
  • Pattern retention/memorization. I can now knit a sock that will fit me without following a pattern. I only knit plain socks, i.e., no cables or lace or anything like that, since the self-striping yarn takes care of the pattern. So I can knit while watching television, or talking, and I don't have to concentrate on a pattern. The heel is the only fiddly part, so I do need to concentrate on that, but for the most part, it's just knitting.
  • Sanity. Bob says knitting keeps me sane. I'm not sure about that, but I do know that it helps. It's interesting--knitting both gives me time to think, and keeps my mind off things. I'm not sure how that works, but apparently knitting uses enough of my brain power that I have a hard time worrying about things when I do it, but it also seems to smooth things out so that I can think things through while I'm knitting. I think it's something to do with what I'm knitting, i.e., it's simple enough that I don't have to constantly refer to a pattern, but it does take some concentration since I'm knitting with such small needles, and in the round.
  • Pride. I'm pretty proud of myself for teaching myself to knit socks. I always thought that I could never do it, that I had no interest in knitting with tiny sock needles, but once I saw my first skein of self-patterning yarn, I couldn't resist trying. The heel in my first sock was pretty daunting, but I soldiered through it, and now it's a piece of cake. I'm proud of that.
The sock yarn in the picture is, from top left, clockwise:

Regia Sockenmonster 01804 (50g skein)
Opal Sweet and Spicy 6756, Plum (100g skein)
Regia Sockenmonster 01804 (second 50g skein)
 Opal Sweet and Spicy 6750, Ice Cream (100g skein)
Fortissima Mexiko Fairy Tale World 0077, Heinzelmannchen (House Gnome) (100g skein)
Opal Schafpate IV 5847 (100g skein)
Kertzer On Your Toes 3816 (100g skein)

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