May 9, 2018

Yarn Along {May}

Well, here it is already. Another month has passed and we are into Yarn Along for May! Time to share what we are all reading and knitting. If you would like to participate or find out more about this, here is the link to do so! Let's go!

As for my own reading, I am still slowly working through The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, and, on the recommendation of a friend, I also am listening to Mink River by Brian Doyle -- through the magic of public library digital check-out -- and to The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton through the CraftLit podcast library, presented by the always-lovely Heather Ordover. I read The House of Mirth in college, but never got around to The Age of Innocence. And since I haven't seen the Daniel Day Lewis movie of the same name, either, I figured it best to read the book first.

My 9-year-old Amy Rose and I are listening to Anne of Green Gables on the weekly schedule through CraftLit (this is Heather's current book) as well, and we are up to the third audio book in the A Wrinkle in Time series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. An aside: here is how old I am. I own the boxed set of THREE Wrinkle in Time Books, purchased in the 1970's from a grade school Scholastic book fair. Now there apparently are FIVE books in the series, the last two of which were published in 1986 and 1989. I was 17 and 20, respectively in those years and by then was no longer thinking much of those books, except as a nice grade school/awkward junior high girl memory. Looks like I am in for two books, new to me!

I know my book list sounds like reading overload -- but the books each serve their purposes. You know, one for driving alone to work, another for crafting, and the paper ones to hold in your hands when you can actually do so. The kid ones for Amy Rose's bedtime, etc. They are like knitting projects: A project to work on watching TV; another for work meeting or continuing education classes; another when you have time to really concentrate on those tough and complicated patterns (ha-ha -- like that ever happens!). Which brings me to knitting...

My current knitting: I finished one sock each of two different patterns. One from Toe-Up Socks by Wendy Johnson called "Rosebud," and I have been working on that one for a while (what was that about a more complex pattern?) and one from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks. The first one has a nice lace pattern and the second has a ribbing named "Oak Rib," and has a french heel (very fun to make as I have not branched out much from short row and flap heels!) and a round toe. That one makes me feel warm and cozy, as it is adapted from Weldon's Practical Needlework. I love feeling connected to the knitters of the past, never mind that the pattern is simple. We, present and past, are of one mind.

Here are some pics:

I am loving this self-striping  Jawoll yarn! It is a bit rough but seems very durable.
And I love the colors. The other yarn is by Dream in Color, Smooshy, colorway"Strange Harvest."

I am hoping to finish these two by next month as I want to make a bigger project for me!

April 23, 2018

My Kitchen has Been an Intermittent Mess (and my family room, dining room and pantry...)

We have been plodding away at redecorating our kitchen. And when I say plodding, I mean weeks and weeks of painting, thinking, cleaning, painting again ... and this is after months and years of contemplating, thinking, planning, scratching the plans, contemplating, thinking and planning again ... we move slower than almost anyone I know. Slower to act only than those who actually never do act.

Let's lighten it up! And, if you are a "pictures-only, please," sort of reader, scroll to the bottom of the post to see our messy, colorful redecoration.

Last summer (yes the summer of 2017), my husband had a wild idea one sunny, Sunday afternoon. "Hey!" he said, "Let's go to Fabric Depot today! I'll bet you can find some kitchen curtain fabric there!" I looked at him and his three heads. A husband saying this? I really did think it sounded fun to drive down to Fabric Depot. And I had been talking about -- at the least -- putting some curtains up on the kitchen windows, even if we did no other fresh decorating in the 13-year-old kitchen. I wanted to try sewing some roman shades.. But I hesitated as my husband stood there, waiting for an answer; what was he up to? I had to admit that it was a nice day for a longish drive. And there would be fabric at Fabric Depot. Loads of it, all smelling all fabric-y and stuff. Mmmmm.... (Yes, I know the smells are probably dangerous chemicals. Don't ruin this for me...)

If there was an ulterior motive in my husband's idea, I decided I didn't care. The smells were enough for me. I put aside any suspicions. "Let's do it!" I said cheerfully.

A yarn bomb appeared on our truck as we shopped! 
Fabric Depot did not just deliver on smells, it delivered the fabric, after all. In fact, we both loved the new fabric so much that we planned to use it as our color palette and style guide. The cotton print was made to look old, whitish with faux tea/time stains and a richly hued farm-esque print with apples, vegetables, old scales and brown baskets. (Plus, while shopping, we got a random yarn bomb on our truck out of the deal -- see photo. I know, crazy!)

Once we got home, I promptly sat on the fabric from July 2017 until February, 2018. All those months later, we got it out, and looked it over again. We had both been thinking about it and decided to use spring break to paint (well, I am the painter -- I would paint after hubby had cleaned out all the cobwebs) not only the kitchen but also the butler's pantry and the family room. Why not? It needed it. Badly.

We used Home Depot's Behr paint, the semi-gloss in the "better" variety for our paint. I used a candied apple red for our butler's pantry, a hallway off the kitchen that leads to the formal dining room. We use the little room for coffee making and storing my huge collection of old dishes (well, part of my collection -- I also have a hutch and a sideboard filled with them. I have a problem). This room took 2 days and three coats. Bright red is tough to get totally smooth!

I painted the kitchen buttery yellow, and it was pretty tricky on the ladder, reaching way over the deep cabinets to get to the wall. It took three days and three coats in there (the builder's paint was a dead red-brown flat color -- one of my coats acted as pure primer over that dark color.)

And finally, I painted the family room deep brown. It was also very plain -- the builder called the color "Sawyer's Fence --" we'd call it "The-bottom-of-your-socks-after-a-long-walk-on-an-unswept-for-five-days-kitchen-floor." And once you got up close to the Sawyer's Fence walls, you could also see it was very scuffed, aged and dirty. I confess: clean as we did, I still knowingly painted a bit of dirt right into the walls -- more than once. Or twice. I'm thinking of those spots as time capsules. This room -- and I think I was sick of painting and not feeling as careful and leisurely about the activity at that point, plus spring break was over and this was the following weekend -- took me 10 hours. Granted, no high, deep cabinets in here. Just the fireplace.

Then it got crazy!

We had planned to re-tile the whole kitchen backsplash, which I was really no longer wanting to do. I said to hub, "Hey, can we paint the tile?" He got so excited it frightened me. "Yes!! We can! Why didn't we think of that? We could save so much money and time!!" We immediately set out reading up on how to do paint kitchen tiles, and it turns out it is no big deal.

To begin, I used an old dental instrument to clean out all the old caulking under the existing tile. Then, we vacuumed the questionable crumbs, and whatever else we found, from the now-revealed crevice (Whoa! the house really settled!), and cleaned the stone tiles. They were icky grey and looked really dull against the new, vibrant yellow paint. We only sanded the tops where there was grimey grease that didn't want to wash off. This was one of the only places I used tape in the whole project (painter's tape and I have a dubious past) as I knew it would work for me around the tiles; I put it on the counters and just on the wall for a nice sharp line above the tiles.

I used 2 coats of Gliddon Gripper Primer on the tiles, followed by 2 coats of Behr untinted interior semi-gloss paint. I did not wait the recommended times to put each subsequent coat on; I just did each coat as the paint was dry to the touch. I will wait the 30 days recommended to replace the caulk so the acrylic paint can totally cure.

Then I got another idea: we were thinking of replacing the backsplash over our stove. It's a wall hanging, really, from Broan. But it was stone tile/resin. And 13 years old. Why not paint that, too? So I did. I used the same wall paint in our color palette ( I also had some green I had bought, just in case) and some cheap artists brushes. I painted the whole thing white to start (avoiding the grout in some areas to make it rustic), then added color to the center. Once that was dry, I painted the white over the color again and wiped much of it off with paper towels, dabbing or wiping depending on the texture I wanted.  I think I like how it turned out! And it was cheaper than buying a new one, for sure. I finished the backsplash over the stove with 2 coats of glossy acrylic sealer.

I am now 95% of the way done with the next part, actually making the curtains for the kitchen windows. I did not make the roman shades I had planned on. Instead, I found some cute, kitschy ideas for gluing fabric onto roller/pull-down shades. Blog posts I used are here and here. They are drying and hopefully will work well! If they do, I may just do them again for the sliding door.

Through all of this, I finished listening to audiobooks The Golem and the Jinni and Jane Eyre (the last one through the Craftlit podcast, which I adore! I highly recommend it when your hands are busy!). I also knitted some while waiting for various coats of paint to dry.

There are a few more redecorating items still to address, like the fabric covers on the dining chairs, and installing a new, white sink with farm/country style faucets. But this is what I have so far:


Candied apple red butler's pantry. More to come in this special little room!! Stay tuned.

13-year-old, dry builder's paint. 

Yellow on red. Tough!

Much brighter. We all feel happier in here now!

Before: white yucky paint.

A small purdy brush really helps where tape cannot.

Warm and toasty TV/fireplace room. 

The paint does NOT look this severely yellow! I will try to get softer tones when I take real "after" photos, once
the whole thing is done.

The original.

One coat of white.

The finished wall hanging.

The windows waiting for covers. 

The famous Fabric Depot fabric. Farm motif and all!

If you do this project, you will make friends with a lot of adhesives.

I dried mine for two days plus. The spray adhesive stayed tacky for a while where I oversprayed a few spots.

Waiting to be hung!! 
More to come!

April 22, 2018

#The100DayProject: There Comes and End to the Excuses

My project: #100photosonlivingacreativelife. You can
see it all so far on Instagram.
After a small flurry of paper sorting and neatly putting the whole thing into an envelope, she stopped abruptly and looked me straight in the eye: "You need to work on your self-esteem. There are a lot of places to get help -- books, for one thing. I have a whole library of things you could read. But get help."

I was stunned. Offended.

I didn't need to "work on my self-esteem!" I had just been accepted into the very limited-entry dental hygiene program at Clark College, where, over the previous four years I felt I had already beat back many of my demons. I had, in fact, excelled in college, and I was surprised by it, but proud of it. I was a single mom, after all, with four kids at home. In addition to that, I was about to marry my now-husband, the man of my dreams. I would have never believed in my whole life that someone like him -- college-educated, smart, and an editor to boot (be still my English-loving heart!). He had a wonderful network of friends who had accepted me as their own -- and this man was tall and handsome to boot. 

Wasn't I on my way? What could she mean?

Caroline was my advocate. This is the title of the person you are assigned through the Catholic church when seeking remarriage after a divorce. While this is a big topic, I realize, and a topic for another time, it was what I was choosing. My husband-to-be and I wanted to be formally married in the church, and I personally, after several years of attending Mass with him and careful consideration of the doctrine and church history, decided that I also wanted to be a full member. (Yes, another big topic! Especially since I was coming from a Conservative Baptist background.) 

I sat with Caroline that sunny afternoon after a year-long project for the annulment, a very large writing and counseling project that ended in 50 pages of my very personal information to be sent off to the Seattle Archdiocese. It required a lot of personal and intimate excavation. It was hard. It could be alternately enlightening or upsetting. And Caroline was with me every step of the way. Now at the end she was telling me I still had work to do -- and from her tone, it sounded like a lot of work...

That day was many years ago, but I remember it well. I walked away from that conversation with my heels dug in. While I was sure that Caroline had the ability to see past other people's false fronts, with her grandmotherly ways and her sweet long gray hair, which was often held back on one side by a silk flower on her right ear, and her wise, wide brown eyes framed in a soft, Hawaiian face, she surely had nothing to see in me.

After all, I had been laid bare before her. She had seen it all, my life story, the good bad and the oh-so-ugly parts.

I still am not sure what it was that she saw specifically in my history or demeanor that caused her to call me out, beyond two especially bad marriages; in fact, maybe that was it. The history of bad relationship choices that revealed someone who thought of herself in a low way. There was also a childhood of bullying (wherein I was the the receiver), and some other happenings that I won't list here, but all those things I believed I had worked out. Through personal success and now this year of talking it all out.

Here is what I now know: You can tell yourself all kinds of stories about why you are okay as you are; you can choose to disbelieve those who would try to help you -- all along the way. People like me (who have the deadly combination of denial and an independent mind) often ignore many signposts in life trying to point them to their own true personal direction; you could call it destiny, but that sounds trite and overplayed. Put simply, sometimes there is a just a better way to go, and we can't see it. We need help.

This is the reason I am doing The Artist's Way as my #the100daysprojecct. I am re-doing it to be sure, as I did it three years ago. That first time around, it was my oldest daughter who called me out. I guess I listened to her because she said I was a "blocked artist," which sounded better than "You need to work on your self-esteem." That time around was emotionally rough. Surprisingly, as I had said here on the blog before. But I got so much out of it that time that I wanted to do it again.

As time passed, I realized that the first time out did not feel complete. My journaling habit had become sporadic at best, and my writing (which I had once felt inspired to commit to) was like a dried up, dying plant in a hot window. I had, of course, had health issues, which are now largely resolved. But that wasn't even the biggest problem.

We sometimes put up our own roadblocks, saying almost anything to prevent ourselves from "following our bliss," as Joseph Campbell said. After all, we have to get food on the table, raise kids, work out, eat right, and commit to absolutely every school/church/work/neighborhood/community activity/committee that comes along. Right? And boy, howdy, aren't all those causes right as rain? Every last one of them.

So, overcommitted, overworked and underfed, artistically inclined folks may start to feel trampled, beaten down and just plain bad. That's where I now realize I was. I had put absolutely everything else before my writing, knitting, fun-loving, crafty self and now I was even beginning to notice new phrases crossing my mind, like am I becoming depressed?

Maybe it turns out that we have to constantly work at it -- fight against the inner and outside sources of interferences in our creative lives; fight for our need to be creative. After all, doesn't creativity problem solve? Get the work done? Come up with new and interesting ideas? It is a valid pursuit. And don't let anyone tell you differently.

April 9, 2018


Morning Pages Journal #2. I get the fattest notebooks
I can find!
I am feeling all "joiny" right now! In addition to the Yarn Along from the Small Things blog, I have decided to participate in the Instagram #The100DayProject. I came across it last Thursday, poking around on Instagram while waiting for my dad at OHSU at his cochlear implant pre-surgery appointment (You can get into a lot of trouble in 2 hours. At least I didn't buy anything ... I think. Well maybe a book or two. Thanks a lot, Amazon.)

First, I found Kim Werker's #yearofmaking2018 as I follow her (and sort of worship her). Then as I looked around at what that was, I noticed someone used Kim Werker's hashtag, and another one, the #The100DayProject one. Very interesting, I thought. In my waiting room stupor, I was weak. I joined them both. After all, they are related, right?

As I get back into my crafty self, I felt like these sorts of games/challenges/groups/participations/insanities/whatthehellamIdoings could help me along. After all, a lot can be accomplished in 100 days, or in 365 of them. And I like the framework of it all, even if am late to both games.

For my #yearofmaking, and per the rules, I am posting anything I made or worked towards finishing that day. Tonight, it was an old pair of socks that I've recently picked back up: Wendy Johnson's Rosebud Socks from her book, Toe-Up Socks for Every Body. They seemed slow and hard months ago, but now suddenly they are not only not-so-bad, they are fun! I am not feeling so terrified of getting lost in the lace pattern now -- why? Don't care; I'm just glad for it!

#The100DayProjecct seems a little more "formal," if you could say that. The rules say to name your project, and post something you make/made every day. Seemed like they should be related to each other, as in a greater project. I had to think about that one. My mission on this is still a little bit in development (I had trouble getting a project name that was not already taken, for example!), but I have decided to post one photo every day as it relates to my journey -- no, overused word -- my commitment to discover through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. 

My adult daughter handed me the book three years ago, announcing to me as she was working through it herself, "Mom, you're a blocked creative. You need to do this, too." So I did it. I went through Julia Cameron's program. It was so shockingly powerful, moving and healing. It was raw and difficult -- the sort of thing that as you work through it and you find yourself sobbing, and you are not sure if the tears are of of sadness, anger, relief or all three. Sometimes they might feel really happy and you may find yourself sobbing and laughing at yourself at once.

I will be posting more blog entries about this experience, but I can tell you: thinking back now, and re-reading my morning pages (journal entries as named by Julia Cameron, the author), I believe I only scratched the surface that first time around.

Me painting my kitchen ... YELLOW! Totally
crazy, I know...
This past week was serendipitous. I was not working. My kids were on Spring Break and visiting relatives. I had time to reflect while I took my parents to appointments and painted my kitchen and pantry. I had quiet time to write and read, knit, journal and write ... and think. And it was during this week that it occured to me that I should probably do the Artist's Way again, to revisit it, and to learn more. And it was this week that these other opportunities knocked to help me along.

So, here I go. Maybe you want to come with me. I have provided links to all the pertinent information above. Who knows what we will find?

My project for #The100DaysProject : #100photosonlivingacreativelife .  As I said, I plan to post one photo per day, and mention something important to me that was revealed by working through Julia Cameron's program. I realize some of the things I will say will be universally true, but they became true for me for the first time in my life three years ago. I am still working towards living freely as a creative and I love that the passage into that life never ends.

My "Cool Morning Socks," all finished! 

April 4, 2018

Yarn Along {April}

I recently started following a knitting blog called Small Things. I have really been enjoying it. The blog is lovely to look at, with soft, ethereal photos of writer Ginny's large family and homestead. It is a peaceful place of beauty and you can check it out here.  In her latest blog post, Ginny is encouraging all of us knitters/crocheters and otherwise fibery folks to share monthly what we are working on and what we are reading. Let's face it, in our group, we also tend to be bookish. You can follow along -- and play along -- by following the instructions over at Small Things on the Yarn Along blog page here.

I am following along, too, using the blog here, and Instagram! You can find me over at Instagram as freckledgirlknits.

Here is my entry for this month:

I just finished listening to The Golem and the Jinni on audiobook from our local library's digital checkout system, Overdrive. I loved the book. It is a fresh sort of fantasy story, with a lot of middle eastern and Jewish folklore and legends woven in. I feel like I learned a lot of new things while reading a compelling story about two mythical creatures brought to New York against their will in 1899. I will say no more, except that the book is not just an adventure. It raises a lot of questions and will get you thinking.

Now I am reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James. I didn't have high hopes for a book like this one, as I was uncertain that a modern person -- even an English scholar -- could capture a voice for the story that rang true. After a trusted bookish friend told me how much she loved this book, I borrowed it from her. Now, halfway through the book, I purchased my own copy! I am simultaneously listening to (re-reading) Jane Eyre through the CraftLit podcast (binge listening to that last one, as this book was done on the podcast some time ago), and the two are wonderful together! Heather Ordover of CraftLit, English teacher/professor brings wonderful insights into the writing and times of the authors, which makes the books she presents thoroughly rich. Amy Rose and I are also listening weekly to the current CraftLit book, Anne of Green Gables once a week. For you knitterly readers, Heather Ordover also happens to be the author of What Would Madame Defarge Knit? and What Else Would Madame Defarge Knit?

The socks I am working on currently are a free pattern on Ravelry called Cool Morning Socklet by Marlene Berghout. I really like the pattern. The designer is very thorough in her instructions and even includes a little tutorial for her unusual short rows (new to me, anyway!) which include "twin/shadow stitches." I am using some old leftover yarn from the very first sock class I took years ago from local Portland designer Chrissy Gardiner. The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy in Happy Forest colorway. I only had 46 grams left (if I frogged the little sample sock from the class... which I had to do) and it is just going to finish the second sock!

Said goodbye to this tiny sample sock from my first knitting class ever. The lace on the back was horrendous,
anyway! I had no idea what I was doing.

Love the easy-to-follow lace pattern on these socks

The unusual gusset and short rows are pretty attractive