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February 2018

The Burning Question


I'll admit it.


I jumped on the Carbeth bandwagon.

(But not without a lot of measuring, calculating, thinking, and swatching.) 

The burning question remains, though:  Can an almost-59-year-old woman (who does not own a charming, plaid kilt by the way) pull off wearing a cropped pullover???

(Tune in next week to find out.)  (Because this sweater really does fly off the needles.)

Paring Down: Another Focus Post

"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do."
                                                            -- John Carmack

About this time of year - when my garden is somewhere under inches of snow and the temperatures barely reach freezing - I really start to think about gardening.  I dream and scheme and plan.  I get that "itch" to dig in the dirt again.  I want to look out my windows and see . . . color.

I satisfy myself with my amaryllis, here in the meantime.  But the pull of the garden is getting stronger each day.


(View from the top.  A very hard-working amaryllis putting on a most-welcome show right now.)

And it's been this way for a long time -- this pull of the garden.  

In fact, 14 years ago this pull led me to seek out the Master Gardener program.  It seemed like a natural extension of my interests at the time.  I loved to garden, and I was interested in learning more about "real" gardening and maybe even garden design.  I wanted to become a more knowledgeable gardener.  Besides, we had recently moved to Kalamazoo, and I thought it would be a great way to get to know other gardeners and connect with my new community.  (There is a strong volunteer component to the Master Gardener program.)

So I did it.  I signed up for the program.  I sat through months of horticulture lectures, did my assignments, passed the test.  I worked hard as a volunteer in gardens all around the community.  And in 2006, I became a certified Master Gardener.

Which, in turn . . . introduced me to gardening friends.  Who got me involved in "ancillary" garden groups like the Hosta Society and Garden Club.

And, of course . . . there were requirements (both educational and volunteer) to re-certifiy each year.  Which led to MORE classes and new certifications and tours and conferences and events.

And here I am.  12 years later.
And WAY overcommitted -- and grumpier every year about the time I'm NOT spending in my own garden.

Last summer, when the notion that maybe it was time to let the Master Gardener thing GO . . . first crossed my mind, I was horrified.  Because I loved the program, really.  And I have so many gardening pals who are also involved.  And I had made a huge investment of time and money and passion for so many years!

But I started shedding those ancillary groups.  (It was easy to say good-bye to the Hosta Society and the Garden Club.)  And I decided to pack my Master Gardener commitment into one of those "maybe" boxes of closet cleaning fame . . . to just see if I could live without it.  I stopped attending conferences and meetings.  I cut way back on my volunteer hours.  I unsubscribed from the email alerts and newsletters.

And I discovered I didn't miss it at all.

In fact, it made me feel free!

My gardening friends think I'm nuts to quit.  And the program director is taking it personally.  But I'm very much at peace.

The Master Gardener program was great for me when I first started out.  It "fit" me then.  I was energized and excited.  But, over the years, it's just gotten a little tight and itchy.  

It's time for me to let it go. 

And now that I've decided to let it go, I'm amazed that it was such a hard decision at all.  Why was it that my personal "investment" and a sense of obligation kept me involved . . . even when I knew my heart wasn't in it anymore?  Whatever the reason, getting rid of this huge commitment in my life will make it easier to pare down even more.

(I'm looking forward to more time in my own garden this spring, y'know?)




Sometimes Mondays

. . . look like L-O-V-E!


Today, my kids should be getting these little Valentine monkeys in the mail.

(Because they're never too old for a hand-knit surprise.)

(And totally worth every fiddly stitch.)


Ravelry details here.

(Those ears just kind of kill me. . . )


Funny Valentine Monkey outtakes:

Swimming Monkeys


Monkey Mug Shots



It's Time for Another Friday Fish Wrap


I woke up to More Snow.  As in . . . Lots More Snow.  Like we're talking  . . . Full-Blown Snow Day.


(Garden Buddha says so long . . . for now.)

But snow days are good days for knitting sleeves and watching the Olympics and reading books, y'know?  (Just make it stop by March.)  And they're great for putting together another Friday Fish Wrap.  (Click here if you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about.)


First, my amaryllis blooms continue to bring me great joy.


This is my only bloomer at the moment, but I have three more waiting in the wings -- two that are getting second buds, and one that has three stalks/buds -- but hasn't bloomed yet at all.  (Some of them are very slow.  I need to remind myself of this fact every year, it seems . . . when one of my new bulbs is off to a slower-than-expected start.)  I was hoping to have continuous amaryllis blooms through January and February, and it worked.


I've been practicing mindfulness and daily meditation for a couple of years now.  I've discovered practices that work well for me, and I notice more and more the benefits of regular meditation.  Every once in a while, though, I stumble across something new and wonderful that adds either a new dimension to my practice, or that helps me understand it all in a new way.

This book . . . 


is a game-changer when it comes to understanding mindfulness and meditation.  Down-to-earth.  Science-based.  Practical applications.  This is a great introduction to mindfulness -- especially if you've always thought it all was a bit too . . . new age-y and mystical for you.  

It's also great for folks who've been meditating or practicing mindfulness for awhile.  I had no intention of purchasing this book, but picked it up to check it out at the bookstore.  After skimming through Chapter 2, I knew this book had to be part of my personal library, though.  (Seriously.  Chapter 2 kind of rocked my world.)

The book includes links for the various guided meditations described in the book, which is an extra bonus.  (Apparently there is an app in the works as well, but I haven't seen it or tried it yet.)

Speaking of meditation apps . . . 

I did find a new meditation app that I especially like.  It's called Insight Timer - available for iPhone or Android systems (and it's even free).  I've tried a few other meditation apps, but this one is my favorite.  It has a huge library of guided meditations, music, and ambient sounds that you can choose from, and it covers all types of meditations (seated, walking, waking, etc.) and a variety of topics (intention-setting, sleeping, stress, beginning/introduction to meditation, etc.).  You can also use it just as a timer -- with ambient sounds or bells.

If you're thinking of trying to develop your own meditation practice, I highly recommend this app.


Have you watched any of the Olympics yet?  Tom and I tuned in to watch a bit of the curling last night, and I'm sure we'll be watching quite a bit as the games continue.  Check out this guide to figure out when your favorite events are taking place.


I love Making magazine (brainchild of Carrie Hoge, now in partnership with Ashley Yousling).  


It's a lovely magazine about . . . well, making stuff!  Knitting and stitching and sewing and gardening and cooking and all kinds of making.  It's a high-quality publication, and the photography is just gorgeous.  They're now taking subscription orders for volumes 5 and 6 (apparently No. 5 is about color, and No. 6 is black and white; should be interesting).

Carrie and Ashley have also just started a Making podcast.  Their first episode is available, and they plan to broadcast weekly.


When I choose a "one little word" each year, I like to surround myself with visual reminders of my word.  Sometimes I order jewelry to wear; sometimes I find art pieces.  I just find it helps me keep my word in mind . . . if I see it every day.


(For example, this year I ordered this little decal with my word.  I'm planning to afix it to my laptop -- but you can see I haven't quite done it yet.)

I usually find and order my word-items on Etsy, but this year I also heard about this site.   They stamp any word (or intention) you choose on a disc, and then place them on a necklace, bracelet, or key chain.  You can even order a metal-stamping kit to create your own word pieces.  If you're looking for a way to display your word, this is seems like a great option -- and the prices are reasonable, too.


In the time it's taken me to put together this post, Garden Buddha has been almost entirely covered with snow.  So, yeah.  It's really coming down out there!


That's it for this Friday Fish Wrap.

Have a great weekend!



Snow for Days

So.  We're in the midst of one of those winter weeks where it . . . snows for days.


I'm not talking about a blizzard here.  Or even a major storm.  Nothing to shut down the schools or anything.  Just a near-constant, gentle snowfall . . . that adds up after a few days.  

It's just winter in Michigan.  
Typical for February.  
Nothing to get riled up about.  

And I thought about how grateful I am, in the midst of snow for days . . . because:

  1. The snow is beautiful.  Our otherwise dreary winter landscape is much improved with a nice frosting of snow.  Everything looks fresh and bright and a bit magical.
  2. I have all the right apparel for managing snow and cold: a warm jacket, wool hats and scarves and mittens, snow boots.  I am toasty-warm.
  3. In my trusty, all-wheel drive Subaru Outback (fitted with new tires this year -- bonus!), I can navigate winter roads with ease -- and go anywhere I want.

C'mon, winter.  Show me what you got!  (Just be sure to wrap things up by the end of month.  M'kay?)


Head on over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday posts.


Unraveling on a Wednesday

No actual unraveling around here this week . . . just lots of nitty-picky, fiddly knitting that I can't blog about because Gift.  (Tune in next week, and I'll show you.)

I did finish something I CAN show you, though . . . 


It's a very heavy cowl (free pattern courtesy of Churchmouse Yarn & Teas).  At first, I thought it was maybe too heavy for me to wear, but I gave it a spin yesterday while running errands.  It was perfectly comfortable and kept me warm on a very cold, snowy day.  

(You can find all the details here - on my Ravely page.)

Now, I'm looking forward to knitting my way through the Olympics.  I joined . . . 

Team rules schmules

(Because who needs rules when it comes to knitting?)  

I think I'll knit a sleeve.

How about you?  Are you planning to knit through the Olympics?

On Cleaning Out More Than Just Closets: A Focus Post

"You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."
                                        --- Winston Churchill

Over the last few years, I've written many a blog post about clearing out my closet -- carefully culling through my collection of clothes, figuring out what to keep, what to give away, and trying not to feel bad about past shopping decisions.

Well.  That process is never-ending, I've decided.  I'm still culling.  Every once in a while, I add something new.  But for the most part, it's a whittling down.

But that's not what this blog post is about.

No.  This blog post is about a quite different collection.  But let's stay with the closet metaphor for a bit.


You see, I am a Great Chaser of Shiny Objects.

I have many commitments and interests, and I enjoy pursuing them in a rather deep way from time to time.   Gardening, for example.  Or art.  Various fiber crafts.  Photography.  Community volunteering. (I'm sure you get the idea.)  I tend to keep . . . adding things.  But rarely subtracting.  

But . . . pursuing too many things means you don't have time to pursue anything well.  It's like the Churchill quote at the top of this post.  If I keep spreading myself too thin, I'll never get anywhere.  And it's actually kind of stressful -- to have all these things I want to DO, but never have time to actually do them.

So, I've decided that it's time to do some culling . . . in this, my year of Focus.  Like my closet.  Only not with clothes.

I expect that this will be a challenging process.  Because I like All the Things.  But, realistically, I can't DO All the Things.  Now that I've admitted and accepted this, it's time to deal with it.

If I can KonMari my closet, why not the rest of my life?

Take everything out.
Really look at it.
Touch it; try it on again.
Does it bring you joy????
Sort:  Keep - Toss - Maybe

It's time to begin.



Sometimes Mondays

. . . look like comfort.


It's the middle of winter ... and I'm dealing with it.  

I long for mornings in my garden, evenings on the patio, and lazy days up north, sure.  But for now, I've gotten used to driving on icy roads, remembering to grab my mittens, and piling on the layers.  

I'm hunkering down for the rest of the winter.  And seeking comfort . . . where I can find it.

Happy Monday!


A Silent Poetry Reading

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, February 2 was Silent Poetry Day in blog-land.  Various bloggers would post their favorite poems, and it was all quite lovely.  It doesn't seem to be A Thing any longer, but the date sticks in my head.  

So here is a poem for you.  Because it's a Friday.  And still winter.  And February 2 used to be Silent Poetry Day.  

And because we can all use more poetry in our lives, y'know?


This Much I Do Remember
Billy Collins

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the ways stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row, 
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from the millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kindgom
that we pace through every day.


I hope you find some poetry in your life today!

Postcard Power

It's February.  Welcome to the Month of Letters.


I'll be sending a hand-written letter or note each mailing day during February,* and I hope to receive some letters, too.  

One thing I write year-round, though, is postcards  -- sent around the world through Postcrossing.


I first joined Postcrossing in 2015, and immediately fell into its charms.  It's free.  It's simple.  And you can be as active as you'd like be when it comes to writing and sending cards.  (The more you send, the more you receive.)

I had a hard time writing my postcards to the world last year, though, after the election.  I found I just wanted to apologize to everyone I was sending postcards to.  I felt like I needed to explain.  I felt . . . well, kind of embarrassed.  So I took a quite long break from writing any postcards.

This year, though, I've picked it back up.  I'm ready to write my cards again.  No apologies!  No explanations!  Just an opportunity to show the world that we are kind, thoughtful people here in the US -- ready to learn about and from the rest of the world.


(This week I received a very cool postcard from a fellow-knitter in Latvia.)

Here are three of the best things about Postcrossing:

  1. The stamps.  I have received the most amazing stamps from all around the world.  Little works of art!
  2. The stories.  It's amazing how much you can learn about people in 3 or 4 brief sentences on a postcard.  I've received postcards from all kinds of people of all ages (so far, my youngest postcard-sender was 14; the oldest in their 70s) -- living in countries all over the world.
  3. The connection.  The world seems much smaller and much friendlier when you reach out and connect with real people in the world.

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to connect with the world - and serve as an "ambassador" of your country to boot - check out Postcrossing.

Happy letter writing!

*  Remember, if you'd like receive a letter from me this month (and I don't already have your address), please let me know in the comments and I will reply to get your address.  Or you can send me an email directly by linking in the sidebar where it says "Email Me" (just under the "About" link at the top of the sidebar.)


Be sure to stop by Carole's blog today for more Three on Thursday posts.