Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wherein I Can't Stop Talking About the Mountains

I wonder if my friend Becky ever tired of me talking about the mountains that surround Salt Lake City when I visited her last month. It is her hometown, so she sees them everyday. I am sure some of their magnificence is muted for her. But, oh my, they are stunning!

Everywhere you go, there they are just hanging out in the backdrop beside the highway,

When you park your car.

While you wait at a stoplight.

Even the airport background is so pretty it looks fake!

Ok, but the mountains were not my reason for the visit. I was in town to spend time with my good friend Becky and her son Charlie and to meet her stepchildren Grace and Jack as well as meet her new husband Kyle.

Our annual visits usually happen during a trip we are both taking, so it was a new treat to partake in some of her family life. Our catching-up time was especially needed since we were both on other big trips in the fall last year and missed our visit with each other.

Becky is an aerialist and shared some of that part of her life with me when we went to a showcase at a recently opened aerial gym. It was really inspiring to see the physical strength and athleticism the aerialist in the show possessed. I am vowing to improve my upper body strength!

I visited Salt Lake City a handful of years ago, so this time we took a more mellow approach to sightseeing. We went to a cider brewery and the Red Rock Brewery,

Santa wasn't in, but we got to sit in his chair anyway.

If you visit Salt Lake, you should go to Ruby Snap because you do want her cookies.

My visit was shortly before Christmas, so Temple Square was in full holiday swing. It was super cold, but we braved it to see the lights.

It was a mob scene there so we had to park really far away. After the walk to the square and our time around the square, we were all really cold and dreading the walk back to the car. Becky had the brilliant idea of jumping into a pedicab. When our driver zippered that plastic case up around us, I nearly said "hallelujah!"

And, before I knew it, the weekend visit was over and I was on a plane back home!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Jessy Gets a Kitten

My sister Jessy has had a lot of big things happening in her life lately. She moved, got a new job, had a birthday and got a new kitty!

Her Moonchi kitty came into her life right around her birthday so her birthday presents, cards and events all tended toward a Crazy Cat Lady theme. She embraced it.

The man of the house, Atreyu, is a little taken aback by Moonchi's energy but they are finding their groove.

I wonder if Jessy wished for a year of adventure. If so, it is already coming true because we spontaneously booked a trip to Costa Rica together!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Vasa Sweater

I finished that sweater I was knitting on our Madison trip. And, I do not like it at all. I haven't had a sweater fail this big in a while. The upside is that the yarn felt wonderful to knit and after the muted legwarmers I knit this summer, the color was refreshing.

Ok, the details:
Pattern: Vasa
Yarn (both held double): Malabrigo Lace and Sun Valley Fibers MCN Lace (from really deep and fairly deep stash!)
Ravelry Project: Here

This sweater is decently comfortable but entirely unflattering to wear. The color was a poor choice for me. I was hoping the yellow would be mellowed out enough by the turquoise but it is still too yellow to look nice on my skin. The odd armholes and the horizontal stripes tip the scale too far to the unflattering side for my body. I have only worn it once and I wore it as a warm layer underneath another shirt. It is a little too bulky for that but I just wasn't ready to admit defeat without wearing it at least once!

I am chalking this one up to a process knit and will be on the lookout for the right recipient to inherit it. The yarn is really, really nice, so I hope it finds a good home.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Madison Favorites and a Pack of Dogs

The capital of Wisconsin and friends Sara and Josh beckoned us over the border for a visit in October. When we set out in the car, Uli had no idea the dog party he was headed to!

After a lot of knitting time in the car and a stop for dinner en route, we arrived!

We enjoyed a little sightseeing, a show and some good meals together.

We were only in town from Friday to Sunday, but I already have a short list of favorites for Madison:
My favorite meal was brunch at Umami (I'm still dreaming about the potstickers I ate. I had to go buy a bottle of St. Germain to try and recreate their Pamplemousse cocktail).
Favorite dessert goes to MSCo Patisserie.
Favorite art shop goes to Hatch Art House.
Favorite local pottery from Toast Ceramics.
Props to the Willy Street Coop for providing what we needed to stock up for the drive home.

And, that dog party! This is 4/5 of the dog pack for the weekend. Sara and Josh have 3 dogs and were fostering another dog. You add Uli to the mix and it made for a lot of dog shenanigans and entertainment. Willow, the Black Lab, was kind enough to loan her crate to Uli for the weekend, so everyone got the rest they needed at night and this crew got their workout at the off leash park during the day. Can you tell which one of these dogs is used to having his picture taken by me?

You know it was a good weekend when the ride home looks like this:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Washi Dress (Again!)

Once was not enough! I had to make another Washi Dress! I made this dress just the same as my last one except this time I omitted the keyhole in the neckline. I kept the same alteration in the waistline so that it is about 2-3" lower than the pattern calls for. (Click through to my last version for more notes about sewing this dress.)

The shirring on my first dress is holding up really well, so I did that method for this version as well. Executing shirring still feels like performing a magic trick.

I left the neckline facing unattached for this version, but think I will need to go back and tack it down so it behaves better. It is a little flippy.

The fabric for this dress is:
Windham Fabrics Presents Paint by Carrie Bloomston for Such Designs
"Lotus" pattern

I think my next Washi will be the shirt/tunic version. I am digging the comfort and the silhouette this pattern produces, so I am not ready to jump off the Washi train yet!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Yoga Retreat on Leech Lake

Before the temperatures took a dive and froze all of this water, my mom and I got away for a yoga retreat on Leech Lake in northern Minnesota.

It was a rejuvenating weekend with stellar restorative yoga classes, company and food. One could even say it was "epic" :)

We ended up with a corner room on the top floor of the Chase on the Lake lodge and had a magnificent view of the lake out of 2 sides of our room. The weather was a bit cold, windy and rainy for most of our time at the lodge, but Mother Nature did put on some great shows for us on either sides of the days. I absolutely love the phenomenon of the morning fog burning off of the lake and the mellow sunsets were a peaceful sight.

We enjoyed our little getaway and are really hoping they keep offering this retreat. Late fall is a great time to focus on finding your internal balance and setting your intentions for the winter to come.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Making Soap and Celebrating Birthdays

In what has become an annual tradition, Jamie, Charleen and I got together to celebrate their birthdays, make soap, craft together and have an old school birthday sleepover.

This year we were really ambitious and made many batches. We learn a little more about the best way to do this each year and can fit in more batches each year. I am fortunate to have come away from the weekend with enough of this super gentle, goat's milk soap to tide me over until we do this again next year!

And, of course, we ate really well at Charleen's house. Our dinner included a sampling session of the many interesting ferments Charleen has been making. The surprising winner for me was fermented fennel. Putting that one on my list for next year's farmers' market season!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

KonMari and Little Free Libraries

Let me tell you a little story about how KonMari stole my summer vacation. If you are asking yourself, "What is KonMari?" you might want to check out this good summary of Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Now that everyone is up to speed on Kondo and her KonMari method, let me first say that I had not expected this book to resonate so much with me. I don't have a cluttered house (I do have areas that are disorganized but most of my house is on the minimal side). I am not a collector of things. I already had a habit of editing and purging my belongings once or twice a year. But, man oh man, did this book come at me in the right way at the right time.

Let me set the scene for the madness that happened: I heard about the book, had my interest piqued and added my name to the very long waiting list at the public library. After being on the waiting list for long enough that I had forgotten the book existed, I got the email that the book was waiting for me. It just so happened that I got this book right before a scheduled staycation in July. Paul was going out of town on a trip and I had planned to use a week of vacation time to do a cosmetic makeover of our front porch as well as soak up the summer with bike rides, beach time and hiking with Uli. That was not what happened.

I read the book and thought, "Hmm. I should apply this method to my house gradually because surely there are things that I have that I don't need." And then, in the days leading up to my vacation, I started sorting through things. When cleaning and organizing areas of my house, I used to ask myself, "Should I get rid of this? Is it ever going to be useful to me? Would I miss it if I didn't have it anymore?" But, at Kondo's suggestion, this time I sorted by category and asked, "Does this spark joy? Do I have a really good reason to keep this? Is this useful to me right now?" The slight flip of my screening questions along with tackling stuff by category instead of by area helped me see that I was unnecessarily holding on to tons of things.

This dabbling took on great momentum and ended up consuming my vacation week. I dove deep, deep into it and touched nearly everything in my house that is exclusively mine (Paul's stuff and our shared possessions were off limits since he was out of town). It also spiraled off into addressing projects that would make my house more "finished" like better lighting in one room, a rug in another, hanging curtain rods and curtains, shuffling around furniture and a list of finishing touches to be addressed in the future. 

To really get fully immersed and honest in this experience, I went completely offline for a week and worked on this project from sunrise to sunset for 5 full days. It was intense and super satisfying! My sense of what could go and what needed to stay got pretty well honed by the end. It was a far more therapeutic experience than might seem on the surface. In order to make your decisions, you really have to face who you were, who you are and the uncertainty of who you will become. 

I also realized as I was in the midst of this project, that I could not have done this earlier in my life as this was an extremely privileged activity. I think that I needed to reach a place of stability in my life where I could calm myself with the thought that in the unlikely even that I regretted letting go of something, I had the resources to get it again. It is a privilege thing to have too much stuff and it is also a privilege to live minimally with the notion of a financial safety net large enough to not feel like you will ever have to go without if you really want something. Holding on to things "just in case" is an understandable thing to do when you don't have a lot of resources. I experienced a lot of gratitude for being in a position of faith in future abundance, if needed.

In addition to the unaddressed privilege in her method, I also feel the KonMari method is lacking when it comes to how you are instructed to get rid of your things. She does not have environmental sustainability in mind when it comes to disposing of those items that don't pass the test. I realize it is more work to find ways to donate and recycle your unwanted possessions and that the extra work might be a barrier to some, but it is the responsible thing to do. 

Kondo does mention asking others in your life if there is anything that they have been wanting that they are considering buying for themselves. If you are getting rid of that thing, you are encouraged to give it to them. And, in the long run, living by her method will mean you acquire less things in the future. But I just can't get on board with her directions to just toss it all and ended up taking multiple carloads of things to Goodwill, sold a few things and, of course, I must tell you about the books... 

This method helped me to recognize that I had a lot of books that I just didn't need to keep. I was holding on to books that I got when I worked in publishing, books I thought I might read someday, books I read and liked, art books, cookbooks and reference books. When I am honest with myself, I find that I primarily read ebooks these days. I look up reference info and consume most of my visual art online. I only consult about half of the cookbooks I own. All of that adds up to a major purge of my bookshelves. 

I brought a box of books to the used book store and found it to be depressing how little value they hold. I figured there had to be a more worthy and satisfying way of getting rid of books that I once treasured and, in some cases, felt like contained a bit of my personal history. Enter the Little Free Library system! From their website:
A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.
Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called "mini-town squares."
Minneapolis and St. Paul are rich in Little Free Libraries. Pair that with the fact that I was biking to and from work past a slew of them every day and I found my book disposal solution! I made it my goal to drop a book or two into new libraries and altered my bike routes to go past new spots to leave my books. I would load a couple of books into my bike bag in the morning and take a meandering ride home to drop it off (if my coworkers didn't want to claim the books first!). I took pictures of most of my donations as a fun way to remember it for myself and then realized a collage would be fun to see when I was done. 

Here they are!

While Kondo's method is not without its flaws and extremes, you can safely add me to the list of people who benefited from the experience and have enjoyed talking about applying the method to my home. A number of months afterwards, I am happy to report that I haven't missed anything that I donated and have enjoyed the ease of living in a tidier space.

PS I didn't mention her folding methods for tanks and tshirts, but I give those a thumbs up, too!

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