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February 2018

January 2018

Mining for a Heart of Gold

First, let's set the tone with some Neil Young.

Last August, I stopped in at the Michigan Fiber Festival.  Just to look around, y'know?  Not to buy anything.  (Because heaven knows I don't need any yarn.)  But I'm kind of a sucker for Briar Rose yarn.  (The colors!  The squish factor!  And it's made just up the highway!)  So there I was.

In the booth, I spied this great skein of kind of a harvest-y gold-y color yarn.  I really fell hard for it . . .  but there was only one skien.  Really not enough to do anything WITH.  So I dug around.  And the Briar Rose representative dug around with me.  But she wasn't very hopeful, because she mentioned they might not be using this particular base much anymore - and there probably wasn't more of that particular color.

We dug.

We nearly upended the entire booth.

You might say we were . . . mining for a heart of gold, even.

In the end, we found one!


Keep me searching for a heart of gold
You keep me searching and I'm growing old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
I've been a miner for a heart of gold


You can find the details here on my Ravelry page.



On Creating an Area of Refuge

I'm working hard this year to beat back the cloud of doom that descended on me last year.  To bring more happiness into my life.  To celebrate the good.  To live with intention  And gratitude.  And hope.

But it's hard.

Because there is just so much negativity out there in the world.  So many disturbing things happening.  So much bad news bombarding us every day.  And, of course, like most of us, I struggle with "negativity bias."  (You can read about it here, but, basically, negativity bias is the psychological phenomenon whereby people react more strongly and persistently to bad than they do to comparable good.)

In other words, it's easy (and part of our nature) to get bogged down in the moody-broody places in our head . . . unless we actively counter our negativity bias with lots (and lots) of positive thoughts.


My plan is to build what happiness-expert Gretchen Rubin calls "Areas of Refuge" for myself.  When I'm feeling overwhelmed by the moody-broody, I'm looking for places to go - in my head - that can calm and cheer me.

Journaling helps.  So does making a quick gratitude list.  Or looking at photos of my family.  Petting my dogs.  Reading poetry or a few of my favorite quotes.  Something quick -- to just remind me of the good things.  So I can stop dwelling in the negative.

Last November, Michelle GD shared an interview with Jen Tulson on her blog.  Jen has a blog of her own, and a big following on Instagram.  In the interview, she talked about a new product she was launching - a deck of 48 cards, each with an image and a single word, designed to help people "slow down, go inward, honor what's sacred, and live a more meaningful life."

Now . . . that's a pretty tall order!  But I was intrigued by her Sacred Invitation Deck.  I commented on Michelle's blog that day - which entered me in a contest to win a deck of my own.

And I won.

So now I have this deck of . . . invitations.  (The cards are really lovely, by the way.)  There are no instructions for how to use the cards, although Jen makes a few suggestions.


One day last week, I decided to just pull a random card from the deck.  To just . . . live with it for awhile.  To see if it spoke to me in some way -- especially because I could feel a moody-broody spell coming on.

I pulled this card . . .


and I propped it up on my desk.  I found myself returning to this word all week and into the weekend.  I started noticing what I was doing -- and how I savored doing these things.

Just little things.

  • The coziness of my flannel sheets and how inviting it is to climb into bed.
  • The way the ink flows in a particularly satisfying way when I write with my favorite pen.
  • How natural and joyful it is laugh with Tom about silly things on the tv.
  • How relaxing it is to just watch the sun go down - without rushing for my camera.
  • To look down at the gym and smile because of the bright blue shoelaces on my gym shoes.
  • To catch the joy in watching my dogs romp in the yard with a stick.
  • How delightful it is to catching the morning light as it breaks over the fence in my garden.
  • How comforting to light candles in the evening after the sun goes down.

I realized that this random card I pulled out of a random deck of inspiration-cards that I won in a random drawing because I read a random blog post one day . . . was helping me create an "Area of Refuge" for myself.  A way to calm my brain and take me out of the moody-broody place in my head.

I'm going to live with this card for a few more days.  And then, when I feel like it, I'm going to choose another card . . . and see where it takes me.

Happy Monday.

At the Movies

As you've probably heard by now, the Oscar nominations for 2018 were announced earlier this week.  The speculating is over!  It's time to get serious about going to the movies!

Tom and I have been on our annual Movie Mission since October.  This year we've stayed pretty much ahead of the Oscar-watching game (we've already seen 7 of the 9 movies nominated for Best Picture) -- and we're looking forward to rounding out our viewing before March 4.


Want to jump on the Oscar-watching bandwagon?  (Because there are some very good movies out there this year!)  Here are 3 tips from Tom and I:

1 -- Make a list.  Just google "oscar nominations 2018" and you'll find boatloads of nominee lists.  This one is particularly good, and includes some analysis, too.

2 -- Watch what you can at home.  Several of the nominated movies are already available for streaming at home (Get Out, Dunkirk, The Big Sick) -- and more will be available by the time March 4 comes around.  Here is a list of nominees currently available for screening (and where to screen them).  It's especially helpful if you're interested in seeing some of the films in more obscure categories.

3 -- Get to the theater.  You're going to have to go to the theatre if you want to see most of the movies in the Best Picture category, I'm afraid.  But that's fun, too!  If you aren't a regular movie-goer, you may be surprised to discover you can order your tickets online ahead of time (even days ahead of time if you plan early) -- and you can choose your own reserved seats.  (If you're really lucky, you might find that your theatre has recliner-seats and a full bar.  The times they are a'changing when it comes to the movie theater experience.)

So.  Which movie are you most excited about this year in the Best Picture category???


Head over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday lists!

Cleansing the Palate

In high school, I was in French Club.  Each year, we had a big outing to a French restaurant down in Colorado.  We got really dressed up.  We could only speak en français.  We ate French cuisine ordered from French menus.  We always tried escargot.  It was a Big Deal.

I remember being so surprised, my first time at the French restaurant, when they brought out a citrus sorbet between the first and second courses.

To cleanse the palate, they said.  (In French, of course.)

Huh? I said.  (Also in French.)

Because, yeah.  Palate cleansers weren't A Thing in my casserole-eating family.

Let's just say . . . I've come a long way since then.  Not that I typically serve palate cleansers on a regular basis or anything.  But at least I know what they are now -- and the purpose they serve in preparing one for . . . the next course.


I guess you could say I'm knitting the equivalent of a palate cleanser right now.

I finished my sweater on Sunday (but haven't had a chance to weave in the ends or block it), and I'm not ready to jump in to another big project quite yet.  So I'm . . . cleansing my knitting palate . . . with a simple little project.  (This one.)  Quick.  Satisfying.  Different.  By the time I'm finished knitting it, maybe I should be ready for my next big project.

My reading is tending toward the palate cleansing as well, it seems.  Feeling rather weighed down by the books I was reading, I decided I needed a little break. . . and gobbled up the sixth book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland series, Thin Air.  It turned out to be just what I needed.

Sometimes a little palate cleanser really does the trick!


Focus. Or . . . Ferris Was Right

When I try to explain why I chose FOCUS as my one little word for 2018, I start here.  With Ferris Bueller. 

And that's it, really, in a nutshell. 

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

I want to stop and look around for awhile.  

I want to focus . . . on what I might be missing; what I'm not seeing . . . because I'm too busy looking at what I'm already seeing.  

I want to find out what happens if I . . . adjust my focus?


I think it's going to be an interesting year!

Sometimes Mondays

. . . require a fresh perspective.


When I went to bed last night (early and exhausted), I was feeling particularly rotten about myself -- and how I'd managed to have such a busy weekend, yet gotten "nothing done." (Y'know . . . things on my weekend to-do list.  The laundry, for example.  Cleaning my bathroom.  Sorting through the mail on my desk.  Preparing for a big meeting today.)

Tom challenged me to think about it differently.  He reminded me that I did a lot of things this weekend - really good and important things.  (Things on my calendar, but not on my weekend to-do list.  Working out, for example.  Meeting a friend for coffee.  A League of Women Voters program meeting.  Going to a movie.  The Women's March.)

I'm thinking I made the wrong to-do list for the weekend.  Maybe it was a super-successful weekend after all.  And the laundry can wait.
(And THAT's a re-freshing perspective.)

The Friday Fish Wrap

Once upon a time, I had a Real Job that I really loved.  Every Friday, I used to put together a weekly email wrap-up for my board -- just a quick little weekly update with interesting things happening at the foundation, tasty tidbits of information they might like, links just in case they wanted to dive a little deeper.  Really, it was just a lot of random-but-interesting This and That.  When I sent it out each week, I referred to it as the "Weekly Wrap Up" in the email subject line.

At a meeting, one of the board members commented to the group how much she loved the "Friday Fish Wrap" each week.  Everyone just kind of looked at her blankly.  Then she went on to describe my "Weekly Wrap Up" email.  We all laughed.  But from that moment on, my "Weekly Wrap Up" became known as the "Friday Fish Wrap."

Eventually, I gave up and just called it that in the email subject line each week.  (Some things just take on a life of their own, y'know?)


That long introduction is an explanation for this post:  a collection of This and That.  The blog-version of the Friday Fish Wrap!


Let's begin with some cheerful blooms . . . 


I've got quite a lovely line up of amaryllis blooms in my living room right now (and three more plants almost ready to pop).  They are especially gorgeous this year, and especially this one (possibly my favorite of all time) . . .


It's called 'Fantasy' and it's from White Flower Farm.  It is really stunning.  I've never seen anything quite like it.


Moving on, here's something kind of fun that I learned about at my book group last night.  I was the hostess, and one of the wines I served was 19 Crimes.  


By now, I'm sure you are all aware that you can collect the corks to create a complete list of the crimes committed by the 19 criminals featured on the labels.  (Sorry, Mary.  I checked through my crime-collection of corks, and I have none of the ones you're missing.)


Did you know there is also an app to go with 19 Crimes wine?  If you scan the label with your phone, the criminal on the label comes to life - and moves and talks to you à la Harry Potter.

It works!  (Although it does seem to be a bit . . . touchy.  Just sayin.)  It's a fun party-trick.  Give it a try.  
(And let Mary know if you find corks # 3, 7 10, and 12 to complete her collection.)


Speaking of hosting my book group . . . I wanted to make a fun dessert that was a bit unexpected -- and that could be tolerated by one of our members who is currently experiencing a troublesome health issue.

I wanted . . . something smooth and custard-y and not-chocolate . . . and delicious.

I found this recipe for Butterscotch Budino.  And WOW -- so perfect!


(This is actually one of the leftovers this morning.  They looked much more elegant arranged on a cake plate last night.  I should have taken a picture - but didn't.)

Anyway.  I've not made custard before, and was actually quite intimidated by it, but this recipe was pretty simple (with good explanations as to timing and visual clues).  If you're looking for an unexpected dessert -- that is super tasty and that you can make ahead -- maybe give this one a try.

(These little treats were also a great addition.  I put a little dollop of whipped cream on each budino, and stuck these cookies in like a little straw.)



Wondering what to knit next?  Need a new scarf?  Want to try a new knitting technique?  Charmed by interesting color combinations?  Look no further!

Vicki and Mary are hosting a friendly Knit-a-Long for Parallelogram Scarf (from the latest Mason-Dixon Field Guide) beginning this Saturday.  You can find the details here.

(I won't be joining the KAL, but I will be cheering all participants from the sidelines.  Go, Team! Go!)


 As you may recall, February (coming right up) is also known as the Month of Letters!


I'll be participating again this year by sending a handwritten note, letter, or card each mailing-day in February.  As always, if you'd like to exchange letters with me, send me an email with your mailing address!  (See the Email Me link in the sidebar, or just comment that you'd like a letter and I'll email you back for your address.)


Earlier this week, I was shopping at Michaels and I came across this Washi tape collection in the clearance bin. . . 


I declared it the Most Awesome Washi Tape ever!  Well worth the $5.99-marked-down-even-further clearance price.  Fun, non?


And . . . that's it for the first-ever Friday Fish Wrap.

Have a great weekend!



Three on Thursday . . . Times Six

I am a regular listener of Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast -- and if you are too, you know that she and her sister, Liz, have been talking a lot about their "18 for 2018" lists lately.

Just in case you're not a regular listener (something I highly recommend, by the way; this is a great weekly podcast), "18 for 2018" is a list of 18 action items (or goals) you hope to accomplish during 2018.  

This is a fun exercise -- and perfect for the beginning of the new year.  Just think about 18 things you'd like to accomplish during the next 12 months. . . and make a list.

Here's mine (taken right out of my daily journal):


Now, we're talking goals (rather than intentions) here.  These are specific and tangible things I want to do or achieve in the future -- external achievements (action items) that I can cross off my list once I've accomplished them.  My list is a mix of . . .

relatively easy things,
things I can do now,
things I can't do until later in the year,
things that will take all year to accomplish,
and things that have been on my "action plans" for years and years (I'm talking about you, re-paint-the-dining-room!).

This list is not a place for my intentions or for any resolutions.  Nope.  We're talking pure goals here!

It's fun.  Give it a try.   What's on YOUR list . . . of 18 for 2018?


See more Three on Thursday posts over at Carole's!



Determined to Finish

In knitting news . . . 


we have progress!

I took this photo sometime last weekend to check the length of that sleeve.  Since then, I finished that sleeve, and I'm well on my way with the next.

I'm determined!  I'm going to finish soon.  (Mostly because every time I try this sweater on, I just want to keep wearing it.  Very comfortable.  I think I'm going to love it.) (But also because I'm ready to knit something else.)

As far as reading goes, I just finished two duds that I really can't recommend.  So I'll just leave it right there.  (If you want more details, you can check out my Goodreads reviews.)  I've just started reading Reservoir 13, which is much more promising from the start, although reviews are mixed . . . so we'll see.

How about you?  What are you knitting and/or reading this week?


Be sure to hop on over to Kat's to read other Unraveled Wednesday posts.