My Favorite Things

A Big Day and Lots of Cool Stuff

Last week, I celebrated my birthday.


When I was a kid, I loved having my birthday.  As an adult, though, I just kind of let my birthday slide into the background of life.  I wasn't all that excited about getting older, and I was never all that comfortable being in the birthday limelight.

Not anymore, though.

The whole cancer thing has changed my way of thinking.  Now. . . I embrace my birthday!  I want more birthdays.  Because that means I'm still around to celebrate!  And there can never - ever - be . . . too many candles!

This year's celebration lasted several days.  Lunches out with friends, dinner out with Tom, a family party yesterday (we missed you, Erin!), and it's about to last several more -- my sister arrives later this week!  I've had a great time.  And you know what else is fun about birthdays?  Cool Stuff!  Like. . .

Plants . . . from my sister


and my pal, Sandie.


A great bag (made of woven, dyed grass made by Baskets of Cambodia) from my Mom and Dad.


This bag is so cool!  The details are perfect


right down to the inside!


And Tom got me a rain barrel!


(This is not my actual rain barrel; this is the photo from the Gardener's Supply Catalog, where he ordered mine.)

It's good to have birthdays.  Bring 'em on!



Such Distractions!


Some days I wonder how I functioned without the Internet.  No blogs.  No YouTube.  No Wikipedia.  No Google Earth.  No Ravelry.  No Facebook.   No LOLCats.  What did I DO with my time?

This week, Ten on Tuesday has us exploring our Ten Favorite Non-Knitting Blogs.  This is a dangerous topic, folks.  Because I'm pretty sure I'm going to be tempted by whatever the rest of you post.  And, trust me. . . I really don't need any more distractions!

When I'm not reading knitting blogs. . . or checking in on Ravelry. . . or Facebook. . . or playing around with aerial views of the Nile River. . . or looking up old commercials from my youth ("ancient Chinese secret, huh?") I do check out some other blogs and sites quite regularly.  Here are are a few of my favorites:

Screen shot 2011-02-14 at 9.02.59 PM

  1. Tom & Lorenzo: Fabulous & Opinionated -- I won't let a day go by without checking out what T'Lo has to say . . . about fashion, television, and the red carpet.  Whether it's a critique of the designers on Project Runway, a detailed analysis of the fashion on Mad Men, or a hilarious re-cap of figure skating costumes, I can count on T'Lo to make me smile.  Witty and fun . . . with pretty pictures, too!
  2. The Oatmeal -- Nothing like a good comic to make your day!
  3. Whole Living Daily: Body + Soul in Balance -- Okay.  It's Martha Stewart.  But this site includes some great tips, recipes, and ideas.
  4. Cook's Illustrated -- Best. Cooking. Site. Ever.
  5. Cooking Light -- Another great cooking site.
  6. Everyday Food Blog -- And another great cooking site. (I get really distracted by recipes.)
  7. Fail Blog -- Because every day needs a little fun. . .
  8. PlantJotter -- Not really a blog.  At all.  But it's a great way to organize your gardening information (like. . . Ravelry without the yarn).
  9. The Morning News -- It's black and white and read all over.
  10. Pinterest -- I try to avoid this one, because the potential for distraction is HUGE!  (But what a concept!)

Check out other Ten on Tuesday posts here. . . and Get Distracted!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall


. . . who's the fairest of us all?  This week at Ten on Tuesday, we're taking a look at our Ten Favorite Health & Beauty Products.  While this seems like a simple little stroll through our shower stalls, make-up stashes, and gym bags. . . it's a little more complicated than that.

At least, it is for me.

I struggle with the whole "beauty" game.  On the one hand, I'm vain.  I use health & beauty products.  On the other hand, I hate supporting the whole "industry" of "beauty;" I hate how the "industry" creates impossible standards of "beauty" . . . and how those standards make women and girls FEEL about themselves.


And it's not just our bodies, of course.  It's the hair.  The skin.  The whole package!


Sure, I play along.  I buy the stuff; I use the stuff.  But I get grumpy when I think about it too much.  Because, when it comes right down to it, I'm vain.  But I wish I weren't.

Okay.  Now that I've had my little temper tantrum, here's my list of Ten Favorite Health & Beauty Products:

  1. The Wise Woman skin care line from Body Shop.  Really great products; good company (or, at least one I can get behind in the "industry;" at least they TRY).
  2. Almond Milk Body Lotion (again, from Body Shop).  I LOVE this stuff and stock (way) up whenever it's on sale.
  3. Almond Oil Daily Hand & Nail Cream (from . . . guess where!).  Love.  Worth every penny.
  4. Most of my makeup also comes from Body Shop.  It just works for me.
  5. Except. . . I'm sort of liking this mascara from Cover Girl!
  6. As a general staple, I love Vaseline Intensive Care lotion.  Any formulation.  Love the big pump bottle, the way it works, and the price!
  7. Another staple -- a product I'm never without -- is Burt's Bees lip balm (especially the replenishing formulation -- with pomegranate oil).
  8. When it comes to my hair, well.  Since my hair came back in. . . you could say I've been playing the field quite a bit.  Lately, I've been using Pantene products.  Shampoo.  Mousse.  Hairspray.
  9. I'm really a sucker for nail polish.  Not for my fingers (gardening and chemo have conspired to ruin my nails forever) -- but for my toes.  I do my own pedicures . . . and I use OPI nail polish. 
  10. And when it comes to . . . taking it off. . . I really like these little eye makeup remover towelettes from Neutrogena. 

Just remember, though.  We're beautiful just the way we are.  We don't need an "industry" to tell us what we should look like.  And sometimes we just need to make our peace with it all!


Trudging Along

Jenny and I go for a two-mile walk every day.


Although we used to walk in the evenings, we have recently switched to early morning (hello, 6 am!) wake-up walks.  I actually like getting up early and going for a walk.  It gives my metabolism a kick-start and begins each day with action.  And Jenny LOVES to go for a walk . . .any time!

Walking safely -- on dark, icy, unplowed, snow-covered streets (no major roads for Jenny and I) -- is a challenge in the winter.  We have plenty of warm clothes (even Jenny has a sweater and a jacket), Jenny has a flashing red light that attaches to her collar (it's sort of like walking with a police cruiser in full flasher, but it works).  But, still, I was always a bit leery of slipping and falling.  I was never able to walk at a confident, work-out style speed.

Until now!


(Sorry for the grainy pictures; it's dark at 6 am!)

After years of wondering if these would work, I picked up a pair and tried them out myself.


They stretch on over any pair of shoes or boots.


And they work!!!!

They really do make it feel that you are walking (or running, apparently) on dry pavement!  So now, instead of feeling like a Weeble (remember them?  "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!") as I walk, Jenny and I can trudge along at a good, fast, work-out pace and work up quite a sweat to start our day.  Even in deep snow.  Even on ice.  These little contraptions have just become one of my favorite things!

If you walk in the snow, or on snow-packed or icy roads, give these a try.  For a relatively small investment (under $20), you can feel a lot more solid.  You'll be trudging right along -- just like Jenny and I!

Friday Round Up: Random Edition

It's time for a Friday Round Up!  It's been a busy week here.  I was away for two weekends in a row, so I had quite a backlog of chores to catch up on.  Of course, it didn't help that my dryer broke down . . . just as I was starting my assault on Mt. Laundry!  I was stuck with a load of wet towels from "up north" (meaning . . . really old, kind of threadbare, and prone to mildew).  I started my week waiting for a new timer for the dryer. . . and displaying my "up north" towel collection on my back fence.


Luckily, the repair was completed by Wednesday, and I was back in business.  (Of course, the laundry had multiplied right before my eyes in the meantime!)

To distract me from the ever-growing laundry pile, I decided to make some ice cream.  Chocolate!  Gosh, there are a lot of calories. . . and fat. . . in ice cream!


Making it yourself, it seems like there are even MORE calories . . . because you SEE the ingredients go into the bowl. . .


and you know what's in there. 


Remember Puck?  Brian's parrot?  Well. . .


he's sort of. . . worming his way into my heart.  We still aren't the best of friends, but we like each other a whole lot more now.  He's very, very happy living in my office.  He loves music -- and I always have music playing.  He sings and whistles to the music, and even does a little "dancing" now and then.  He has a lot more social interaction now that he's closer to the center of our home, and he's responding well.  Maybe this will work out better than I thought. . .


My herb garden is really flourishing!  Although I snip fresh herbs to use in cooking all the time, it's now Herb Harvest Time.  I picked these first thing this morning . . .


and will spend some time this evening freezing some. . . and drying others. . . for use during the winter.  Last week, Kim put together a fabulous post about preserving herbs.  Check it out! 

I also have begun my pepper harvest.  Besides the bell peppers, I'm growing jalapeno and cayenne peppers this year.


Actually, it looks like I'm going to have a bumper crop of the jalapenos and cayenne -- so I'm going to string them and dry them for use later.  I'm also planning to try to pickle some of the jalapenos!

With all these herbs around, I've been getting a lot of use out of this nifty little herb chopper.


Works like a charm!


As for what's blooming this week in my garden. . . we have PeeGee Hydrangea. . .


. . . grass "plumes". . .


. . . and brown-eyed Susan.


Have a wonderful weekend!


Just a little follow-up note.  Remember this project?


The lovely little cardigan with the totally messed up pattern?  Well, I just wanted to let you all know that the designer was very receptive to my notes and suggestions.  For the time being, she has pulled the pattern from distribution/sale and is working out the bugs.  The Ravelry page for this design now carries this note from the designer:

July 18, 2010: Guinevere is temporarily unavailable. I am working on making it a little clearer and to address some errata that has come to my attention. I hope it will be back up for sale in 2 weeks.

I'm so pleased that she is handling things this way.  I just wanted to pass it along. . .

Bloomin' Favorite

It's that time of year. . . when most of the things in my garden are looking good.  June is a satisfying time to be a gardener.  Lots of easy success.  Lots of color.  Lots of thriving and growing and blooming. 

Here's my favorite thing in the garden right now. . .


It's my "living succulent wreath."  I planted this (and ruined my fingernails forever) a while ago.  I left it laying flat -- so the roots could take hold -- until last weekend.  But now, it defies gravity -- hanging on my back gate and welcoming any garden visitors.

I especially like the little purslane blooms. . .


They add such a nice little punch of color here and there.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  I'm going to do a little gardening, catch up on some paperwork, finish listening to "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," knit when I can, and generally avoid housework.

Friday Roundup: Blooming Edition

Every day, there seems to be something new blooming in my garden.

Brunnera and hellebores. . .

Blooms april 22 002

crabapple. . .

Blooms april 22 008

fothergilla. . .

Blooms april 22 014

Bradford pear. . .

Blooms april 22 025 

euphorbia. . .

Blooms april 22 033 

tulip. . .

Blooms april 22 035 

Lovely time of year!


Purchase of the Week #1:

My best gardening pal, Sandie, and I took a road-trip to one of our favorite West Michigan nurseries today.  I couldn't resist this planter!

Tea cup planter 001 

I'm not sure what I'll plant in here, yet, but I'm thinking. . . maybe an assortment of tea-making herbs!


Purchase of the Week #2:

Look what I found at Eddie Bauer this week:

EB Vest 007 

I love this vest!  It's 55%linen/45% cotton; it looks great dressed up or down - with long sleeves, short sleeves, or no sleeves.  It has a tie belt -- and even looks good tied in front.

EB Vest 005 

I know I'll wear it a lot.  Hmmmmmm.  Maybe I should go back and pick up the green one, too. . .


In the Guilty-Pleasures category. . . I enjoyed watching the finale of Project Runway last night.  I was excited that the Nice Guy won!  (He's been my favorite all along. . .)



Trillium watch:

Getting close to bloom-time.

Blooms april 22 011 


Have a terrific weekend!  Continue to celebrate Earth Day. . .


The Real Winner

A month or so ago, I noticed I had a "blog milestone" approaching, so I had a little contest.  I offered to make a minion for the 1,000th commenter on my blog.  After a flurry of comments, Sharon was declared . . . The Winner! 

I made a little, round minion with a tuque for Sharon. . . and sent it off to New Jersey just in time for Valentine's Day.

Sharon's minion 005 

I love reading all of your comments, and I'm so happy to have made so many new friends through my blog.  I was really excited to send this little minion off to Sharon -- and so pleased to learn that the little round gal (this minion is a girl. . .) makes Sharon smile!

But, you know, even though Sharon won my contest, I realized that I'm the REAL winner here.  Not only do I get all of my new blog friendships, but today . . .  I got a really cool prize of my own!  Sharon sent me this gorgeous handmade totebag to carry my gardening books and magazines.

Gifts from sharon 001 

Her timing couldn't be better!  It's snowing again.  It's cold and grey and dark.  If feels like spring will never, ever arrive.  And I really have the itch to garden.  So, this bright, lovely garden bag just made my day!

Gifts from sharon 002 

I put it right to work, hauling my new magazines and catalogs.  The size is perfect. 

And look --  Sharon has personalized tags!  So cute.

Gifts from sharon 003 

Thanks so much for brightening my day -- with your comments, and your friendships, and (Wow!) with surprises!

I AM the Real Winner!

Another Friday RoundUp

I had fun with my Friday RoundUp last week, so I'm doing it again. . .

On the Needles

Not much knitting news this week.  I'm plugging away on my Psychic Heart Mittens.  One is done.  One is not.  Blocking is sorely needed.

Random stuff 012210 002 

I really don't like the yellow.  It looks like it will play so nicely with the other colors. . . just sitting there in the skein.  Once it gets out in the open, though.  Yikes!  So bright!  It screams at the other colors!  I also discovered that I'm not really liking the "Latvian" shape of the the top of the mitten (which you can't see in this photo) -- but it comes to a point.  I much prefer a rounded shape on my mittens.  These mittens will be. . . fine. . . when they're finished.  They need a good blocking, and they do look better on my hand than just laying there.  All in all, it's been good to get back into color work -- and I've learned some important color lessons.

Because these mittens are futzy (although the pattern is easy to memorize), I have a simple project going for tv-watching and phone-talking. 

Random stuff 012210 006 

Yet another Noro-stripe-scarf (without the Noro).  Apparently, I will never tire of watching the colors change and blend together.  

I also took some time to sit back with a cup of tea and some new knitting magazines yesterday.  Knitting magazines seem to be totally hit or miss with me.  Either I hate every design, or I like a bunch of them.  I don't know why that is. . . but I rarely just like one design!  Yesterday, I was completely charmed by these---

Random stuff 012210 003

The top sweater is in knitsimple (Winter 09/10), and the bottom one is in Verena Knitting (Winter 2010).  This one, though, (also from Verena) is the one that's really calling to me ---

Random stuff 012210 004 

The collar, though???  What is it doing?  I really can't tell from the photo or the schematic in the directions.  I would need to see the collar before ever committing to making this!


In the Ears

Here's what I'm listening to right now.

Random stuff 012210 015 

I love Louise Erdrich's work.  I'm not sure how I missed reading this one when it first came out, but I did.  I'm listening now, though.  I'm listening while I do my household chores. . . while I walk the dog. . .  while I knit. . .while Brian tries to talk to me.  How did I manage before my favorite-of-all-combinations -- iPod and Audible -- came to be?


My Favorite Things

When I was a little girl, I loved The Sound of Music.  I knew every song by heart.  Although it wasn't my favorite song from the movie, I always liked the concept behind "My Favorite Things."  Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. . . bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. . . brown paper packages tied up with string. . .  What I always liked about the song was that the "favorite things" were such minor, little things.  I think, as an 8-year-old, I was totally taken with the notion that things didn't need to be "fancy" or "big" to be "favorite."  I've always found that comforting.

And, I'm always discovering my own "favorite things."  Simple little things that make me smile.  Things like . . .my new teapot!

Stump pot 001 

It's just the most perfect little teapot!  It's bright and cheerful, AND it brews two cups of tea -- with a little infuser insert (so it's really simple to use loose leaf tea).

Stump pot 003 

Definitely one of my new "favorite things!"


Make it Work!

I used to be a big Project Runway fan.  It was a perfect show for me --- I like fashion; I like to sew.  I was always impressed by the things the designers could produce from odd and limited materials over such a short, pressure-filled time period.  I thought it was completely fun.  Until last season, that is, which was a total snooze-fest.

Well.  So glad I decided to give it one more try and watch the new season.  Last night, the designers had to make their models "look good in a potato sack!"  They went from this. . .


To this. . .


So far, WAY more entertaining!


  And, Some Mind Candy

Ice cream

Have a great weekend -- full of ice cream or any other treats you may desire!