Today on my needles…

After a few days away from home, we had a nice quiet day relaxing today. I’m getting ever so close to finishing my Artesian Shawl – just a few rows and I’ll be on the last scallop before the final chart. I suppose this means I’d better photograph the other 3 FOs waiting to be shared with you!

Kevin Bacon is a Hero. Starlord Says.

Earlier this week, my husband picked up Guardians of the Galaxy for us to watch. I am the worst at staying up-to-date on movies and of course had no idea what this was. It turns out it was a real crowd-pleaser at our house. It had a raccoon with a giant gun for my husband and Chris Pratt for me. Throw in an excellent Kevin Bacon reference and it was definitely a hit (because who doesn’t love Kevin Bacon?).

In any case, the whole movie starts out with Peter Quill aka Starlord (played by Pratt) doing a bunch of stuff (I’ll let you watch to find out what) with his headphones on and his mixed tape entitled “Awesome Mix Vol 1” playing. As the movie goes along you get that his music really means something to him and at one point he has this exchange with a counterpart, Gamora:

Gamora: I’m a warrior, an assassin. I don’t dance.

Peter Quill: Really? Well, on my planet, we have a legend about people like you. It’s called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that, dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is.

And — because my mind is a mysterious thing — it reminded me that a very long time ago someone asked me what I listen to while I work. You know, if I have favorite podcasts & music. So I thought I should finally answer that today.

That answer is simple: I listen to music.

I started playing piano in the 2nd grade. My mom used to pay me and my sister to practice so we’d stick with it. After a few years I actually started to like it and managed to continue with lessons until I was a senior in high school. I was never really awesome, but I did school competitions and mastered some pieces by some of the more well known composers like Chopin & Mozart & Bach. I think with me it was less that I was talented and more that I was determined and practiced a lot.

In any case, piano made joining the school band in 6th or 7th grade an easy choice and I took up the trumpet. My first high school band director was just very, very awesome and it really catapulted my interest and I started to experiment with and eventually could play — at least at a basic level — almost every instrument in the band before I left for college. I joined all the school groups I could, auditioned and got into the city orchestra, and even played with the local marine band which was a really fun regular paying gig. I even managed to get a cheap saxophone and friends & I played in a quartet.

Music was an awesome way for me — as a kid with a bum hip — to participate and have a niche. Group sports were mostly out of the question as soon as they became competitive and music was just a really wonderful alternative. It helps that music has also always been a language that I could understand. I like all types mostly and just like mixed tapes in my old Chevy Nova in high school, I have my iPod with me all the time now and love to set-up & listen to playlists.

Listening to music is a great fit for my crafting today because with two young kids I get interrupted. A lot. Music means I don’t have to frantically press pause on an audiobook or podcast and then lose my train of thought every time my son has a question or my daughter needs to be reminded to stop trying to ‘train’ the dog. Most importantly, it doesn’t require all of my focus. Quite frankly I just don’t carve out time for myself where that is possible.

So what types of music do I like? Like I said, almost anything. I’ve spent a fair bit of time with audiophiles and it’s been enough to recognize that I am definitely not one. I just like what I like and I don’t over-think it or over-analyze it. At any given moment I might listen to dance or pop or opera or jazz or alternative or classical. Katy Perry to Kate Rusby to old school U2 to Belle and Sebastian.  Lily Allen to Liz Phair to to Lady Gaga to Jack Johnson to Louis Armstrong. Franz Ferdinand to The Clash to Hilary Duff to Everclear to Carla Bruni to Alison Krauss. There is even some One Direction and songs performed by the Glee cast on there, the former mostly because of my daughter but it still winds up in rotation and I do think it’s fun.

One thing that is consistent, though, is that when I set up playlists I almost always set them up by tempo. I find that if I’m going to listen while knitting and especially if I’ll be spinning it helps me to have a set pace. Music that is all set at a similar tempo makes sense for me. Want to see some examples?

A slow playlist I have starts like this:

Paradise — Coldplay

Set Fire to the Rain — Adele

Go West — Liz Phair

Sugar and Spice — Basia Bulat

Beautiful Way — Beck

A Waltz for a Night — Julie Delpy

Marx and Engels — Belle & Sebastian

Brick — Ben Folds Five

English House — Fleet Foxes

God Only Knows — Claudine Longet

Neighborhood #1 — The Arcade Fire

For Real — Okkervil River

La Vie en Rose — Edith Piaf

Gatekeeper — Feist

High on a Hill — Kate Rusby

Fight Test — The Flaming Lips

Denia — Manu Chao

And an upbeat playlist I have starts like this:

99 Luftballoons — Nina

The Fame — Lady Gaga

Call Me Maybe — Carly Rae Jepsen

You! Me! Dancing! — Los Campesinos

Dancing with Myself — Billy Idol

There’s More to Life Than This — Bjork

So Much for the Afterglow — Everclear

Istanbul — They Might Be Giants

The Fallen — Franz Ferdinand

Mass Romantic — The New Pornographers

Hard Out There — Lily Allen

Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn — The White Stripes

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight — The Postal Service

Merry Happy — Kate Nash

And yes, I do get up and dance around in between bobbins or rounds. Probably more than my kids would like since I am not a good dancer by any means. You’d better believe I learned my lesson from Kevin Bacon though — from Footloose and apparently now The Tonight Show, too (amazing what google can teach me).

Kevin Bacon is a hero, after all. Starlord says.

It’s The End of February

I’m going to start this post on a totally and completely random note. Saturday was Moose’s 3rd birthday.

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He mostly slept and ‘helped’ with laundry, but he did manage to get an inordinate amount of snuggle and hang-out-under-the-covers-sleeping time. He’s pretty indoorsy and he loves a good cozy, lazy day, so all in all it was a very Moose-tastic day.

So with that dose of adorableness, on to the main story here today.

It’s the end of February. We are still very much in the throes of winter, but there has been a cardinal singing the last three mornings at dawn. And that same dawn & her faithful compatriot, dusk, are slowly gnawing away at those long winter nights. Yes, the earliest signs of spring are upon us as we pile on the blankets for another string of subzero nights. As creatures intertwined with our place in the world, it is hard sometimes to know which way to lean. It must be the end of February.

As a knitter, this limbo is even more pronounced. I can’t decide if I should knit one more bulky sweater, those worsted weight socks, bunches of mittens, and an extra hat & cowl or if it’s time to start clicking away on the linen tank & sweater and the laceweight cardigan I have lined up. A part of my mind remembers I need to catalog my fiber stash, too, because I have this idyllic vision of setting up my spinning wheel on the back deck and spinning in the warm sun. But I’m reminded that there will be actual months of cold and then cool mornings yet that require those big cozy sweaters and shawls and the deck is covered in snow, so spinning is limited to an indoor activity for a while.

Suffice to say, there’s a whole lot of back and forth & it definitely affects what happens (or fails to happen) on my needles. I find that this big seasonal shift breeds an indecision unlike any other in my life. More than any other time of year, I start knitting up patterns only to rip them out a day later. Projects stall on my needles. I sit staring at yarn & patterns for days, unable to settle on what to start. I wonder if I should sew a top or dress instead. I’m all over the place. It must be the end of February.

So at times like this, I think you just have to do your best. You have to be patient. You have to allow yourself mistakes in the projects you choose. You have to rip out those stalled projects and find the ones that keep you knitting, whatever types of projects they are. Linen, bulky wool, hats, socks, sweaters, reds, blues, yellows, greens, greys — whatever. Just keep knitting. Personally, I know that a key to surviving the doldrums of February is to just knit my way out.

So this weekend, I whipped up a quick cabled worsted weight cowl…

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This is the Forest Park Cowl by Liz Abinante (a free pattern on Ravelry). The ladies at Cream City Yarn shared this on their Facebook feed a week or two ago and I instantly knew it would be a great fit for the skein of Sincere Sheep Bannock I had wound. A couple weeks earlier, I had started the uber popular Adama Cowl with this yarn, but despite knowing it was a good match, I just wasn’t feeling it and it stalled out. I’m much happier with this combination and thanks to a little obsessive knitting it only took about a day for me to make and I washed it immediately. I’ll share some photos of this beautiful dusty purple cowl as soon as it’s dry.

Then, I felt like I’d neglected my sock knitting mojo after stalling out with the pattern SupernovaIt’s awesome, just too complex for my current needs and I finally admitted that fact. I hunted down a new pattern to go with the beautiful skein of Pagewood Farm’s St Elias I’d been working with…

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What I found was found Petty Harbour by Rayna Curtis Fegan (another free pattern on Ravelry) and it is just perfect. It’s very, very similar to Hermione’s Everyday Socks — super simple, but still interesting. Perfect for both the yarn and my state of mind.

And, of course, I thought maybe one big project to alternate with the socks…

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So I wound some yarn to start the Saugerties Shrug. I fell in love with this pattern when it came out last December and managed to order a kit direct from Plucky Knitter. I almost never bother with these crazy update events, but I made the time for this very ‘me’ friendly pattern. I cast-on yesterday over research for an exchange with one of my oldest and dearest friends. I still have to tell you about the exchange we did last December — which was one of the most fun gift exchanges ever — but this year the theme is one of our favorite movies from high school, the classic rom-com French Kiss. We moved the deadline up to Labor Day this year, so I needed to get the ideas roiling.

Saugerties, though, in the beautiful Plucky Knitter Trusty…

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It’s just a joy to knit. And it’ll surely be a treat to wear… whether that happens this spring or next fall.

Sure, I have a pile of linen waiting. And yes, and I have fabric for tanks and sundresses to sew up. For now, though, just for a little while I’m going to stop thinking about what I should be knitting. I’m going to stop plotting how to best time it all out. And I’m just going to knit. I’m going to knit what makes me happy. I’m going to make the most of these cold, quiet nights. It’s the end of February and I’m going to knit my way right into spring.

Birthday or No Birthday

My birthday has always been a weird thing for me. Falling between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a time when everyone is always very busy. As a kid, it always felt rough because it was easily overlooked. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve grown to understand my introverted ways, I find it somewhat of a blessing. Aging under the radar isn’t the worst thing, after all. The last few years I’ve asked to just not celebrate or to make it a quiet homebody kind of day. Each year though, my husband insists that we make it a special day “because it’s important to the kids,” so I reluctantly agree.

This year, I awoke to my son whispering loudly to my husband, “DON’T LET MOM COME IN THE KITCHEN!” To which my husband (jokingly) whispered super loudly, “OK!” He brought me a cup of coffee and I read for a bit while I sipped. About 15minutes later my son bounded in and handed me this…

 IMG_7565On the front is a Queztalcoatlus because he knows it’s my favorite dinosaur. This boy is the sweetest ever.

It so happened that my husband had a very brief work obligation in the Green Bay area, so we agreed to make a day of it there. The kids and I went to a big bookstore while my husband did his thing. I have definitely not been reading as many books the last few years, sticking mostly to shorter articles and blogs. I have really struggled to find things that grab & hold my attention. My husband very adeptly found this title for me for Christmas…

IMG_7576It’s completely up my alley — bizarre & random hypothetical situations answered seriously with real science. Awesome.

Add my birthday selection…

IMG_7577And I feel as though I can start off 2015 with my nose back in a book. I’m really not usually a huge reader of philosophical titles — I took one class in college and did not fair all that well, but this one hooked me so I’m excited to give it a try.

From the bookstore, we met my mom and went for a nice long hike in the sunny 16ºF air through the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. I should probably share that I’d have photos of the sanctuary and restaurant to follow for you, but the cold killed my phone about 20minutes into our hike and it took a  long time to charge back up. So we’ll have to do with words today. In any case, we all love seeing the animals at the sanctuary — there are foxes, bobcats, wolves, ravens, coyotes, deer, and lots of birds. They actually do a lot of rescue & rehab work at the sanctuary, so it’s a great place for the kids to experience. As usual my husband got the wolf pack to howl for us which is incredible every single time. To be within 20feet of a howling wolf pack is just spectacular and humbling. My husband explained very seriously that they were singing Happy Birthday to me. Of course, our daughter kept trying to howl along, but she’s a mini-person with a high pitched voice, so the wolf pack isn’t a great fit. My husband encouraged her to try her howling with the coyote. He readily joined in, much to all of our delight.

With our toes and finger and noses chilled to the bone, we headed to a special lunch at the Titletown Brewing Company where I enjoyed some of their handcrafted beer (I’m not much of a beer drinker, but when in Rome…) which was delicious along side my pan-seared salmon. The restaurant is actually in an old train station, so it has a very authentic old-school feel to it. To the delight of the kids, a train even passed right by us during our meal. Needless to say, it was a hit all around.

Thankfully, I do have something else to show you as my phone finally had enough time to charge…

IMG_7569On the way home, we had just enough time to make a quick stop at a new-to-me LYS. Yarns By Design is about an hour from my house, but the stars just hadn’t aligned to let me visit previously. I pop in their booth every year at the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and am always delighted to see their offerings and chat about their latest additions. It’s one of those perfect little shops with creaky floors, passionate & friendly staff, and lots of options from which to choose. I especially love that they have a good selection of really nice spinning fiber including some of those same breed specific wools from Louet that I spun last summer as well as the beautiful colors of Sweet Georgia Yarns. Showing heroic restraint in the presence of so many good choices, I only brought this beauty home with me…

IMG_7579Polwarth + Tussah silk in the Stormchaser colorway. Wonderfully “me” and a perfect birthday surprise.

We finished the day with a little key lime pie with cherry topping. I didn’t know, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve tried key lime pie with cherry topping. Yum.

Where I would have been happy to let this birthday pass by, I’m so glad that I didn’t. I’m thankful that I got to hear the howling wolves. That I got to see my little girl sing with a coyote. That I tried that handcrafted honey ale with my pan-seared salmon. That I got to stop at a new-to-me  lys. Most of all though, I’m so thankful for yet another spectacular day with my wonderful little family. I was reminded that celebrating these days is important. It’s not just because it’s a big deal to the kids. Birthday or no birthday, it’s because all our days are worth celebrating. Birthdays are just an excuse to be ever so slightly more indulgent.