Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Musings From the Pool

Five days a week, I take a fitness class in a hot water therapy pool. If you've never had the pleasure of swimming in a hot water pool, you don't know what you're missing. This one definitely should go on the bucket list. If you have any kind of arthritis or joint pain, its heaven, but it's also nice just...well…just because.

 One of the unexpected bonuses of my daily swim has been meeting all the delightful and lovely people who also swim at this particular pool. There are some incredibly interesting swimmers paddling along beside me. All ages, many different backgrounds; we've all been brought together by our common need to loosen up our joints.

 Since I'm at the pool every day, I spend quite a bit of time in the women's locker room. After an hour swim in a 94 degree pool, we're all usually quite relaxed and centered. The resulting locker room conversations are a hoot. Stream of consciousness discussions that move from one thought to the next, sometimes with no discernible reason for the direction our thoughts flow.

 Today's musings started off with my friend Ro breezing into the room to tell us about the black squirrel that lives in the trees around the pool. She brings him a peanut every day, but today chose a pistachio, which didn't appear to tickle the squirrel's fancy. This led to a discussion on the prevalence of black squirrels in Palo Alto. Another swimmer told us that there is a local urban legend which says the black squirrels are a result of medical testing gone wrong at Stanford.

 Then we all wondered why the squirrels in the area remain black and brown....why haven't they started to turn more mottled over the years? Are the squirrels racist? Do they intermingle with differently colored squirrels? Another swimmer informed us that polar bears have been known to travel west to visit with grizzly bears and black bears, and frequently interbreed.

 My curiosity got the best of me, and sure enough, it's true. The mother of all polar bears was a brown bear that lived in the British Isles. Who would have thought it? Fascinating.  So what about the black squirrels? It turns out they are the result of mutant pigment genes in gray squirrels.  And the black squirrels, while rare nowadays, were native to north America until the arrival of settlers from Europe who began to deforest the trees.  The black gave the squirrels camouflage in the dark forests, but as the woods thinned out, natural selection increased the number of gray squirrels.

So now you know. Trivia for the day. And I would never have thought to check it out if not for the musings of my friends in the locker room.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Do You Worry?

When you have a really great idea--and can't remember it 10 minutes later, do you worry?

I had this great idea for a blog post. It was just the ticket. Happiness was mine! Sat down at the computer to bang it out....and gosh darn, oh my heck....I have NO idea what it was.

None, zero, zip, nada. I can distinctly remember the glow of happiness when I came up with this great inspiration. It was just yesterday, for goodness sake. But, silly me, I didn't write it down.

And now it's gone.

I'll admit it, I do worry when these little memory blips come along. I used to remember EVERYTHING. Now I carry a Moleskine planner around everywhere. I write everything down, even the smallest minutia. I have my own Nintendo DS and play brain games in the evening. One of the reasons I knit is that I've read it's a great hobby for keeping the brain fresh. I work on fresh every chance I get.

Monday, January 3, 2011

10 Memories from 2010

I'm participating in a journaling challenge...the challenge is to journal every day. I'm not sure how long I will last, but hopefully I can keep up with the challenge, weekly if not daily.

So my first assignment is to write about 10 memories from 2010. Hmmm.

1) The biggest memory of 2010 is that we had our home of 13 years on the market for most of the year. We first listed the house in November of 2009 and really didn't think it was going to sell until this recession was over. There were so many homes for sale in our little town, and way too many foreclosures with great prices. But after a long wait, the perfect buyer came along and, YAY! We sold the house is September. After keeping the house neat as a pin for 11 months, we were outta there!

2) DH took a job in California. He had been job hunting for a while, and when the perfect chance came along, he took it. Since our house hadn't sold (see #1 above), he commuted back and forth from the west coast to the east coast, starting in May. It was a strange time, but he loves his new job, and we love living in the Bay area!

3) We moved from New England to California. I think that's all I need to say.

4) My beloved Father-in-Law passed away. He had been sick for a while and really went downhill quickly, but it was still a difficult time for us all, especially DH. May his memory be eternal.

5) Youngest DD took a semester off from school and moved home. The house had been so quiet since both girls had moved on to the college life, so we were thrilled to have one of them home again. And lucky for us, she has moved to California with us!

6) We took our annual summer week at the Jersey shore, but for the first time had DH's mom staying with us. We also had a short visit with youngest DD's boyfriend, so it was a lot of people in a small house and a lot of fun. We played a ton of games, finished a few jigsaw puzzles, and ate a ton of ice cream. All in all, a memorable week.

7) DH and I started playing Super Mario Brothers for Wii in 2009, when he was still retired and we had just listed the house. We were trying to keep the house neat and tidy and couldn't find anything to do, so we decided to give it a try. This particular video game is unique because we could both play together as a team. Let's just say that neither of us was raised on video games, and we are REALLY bad, but it didn't take us long to get hooked on the game. What did take us long was finishing the game. We would spend days or even weeks on one single "land." But we persevered, learned to work together and take advantage of each other's strengths, and in 2010, we managed to beat the entire game! Yahooo! The only downside is that we haven't yet found a game that can take it's place.

8) Special Family events of 2010: my niece got married and DH's neice had a baby, the first grandchild in the family.

9) I discovered Clean Eating...which in my book means no white foods (sugar, white flour, potatoes, etc.). It's hard to do at first, but really helps keep my arthritis pain at a minimum. Now if I can just keep it up in 2011. Wait, really I need to say, "now if I can just get back to it!" LOL

10) We had both DD's here in the new house for Christmas this year. Eldest DD brought her boyfriend along, and we had a great time--lots of games, lots of ice cream, and lots of fun. We loved making new family memories in our new home.

Sending a prayer of Thanksgiving for all the blessings of the last year and a hope for continued blessings in the year to come.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

I haven't posted in quite a while. Last fall I temporarily closed my Etsy shops, and since this blog was originally designed to promote the shops, it fell by the wayside as well.

I closed my shops for a couple of reasons. DH and I were busy dealing with an upcoming move across the country, from Connecticut to California. Since a lot of my shop items were made by my mom, I wasn't sure how I would get the items out to me--I do the photography and mailing, so I need the items in my hand. It is so difficult to get a decent price for hand knits anyway, I hated to add another cost in order to ship the items across the country to me so that I could prepare them for sale.

But I am also quite discouraged at the path Etsy has taken in the last year or so. It is obvious that Etsy management has decided to allow resellers a place in Etsy. Right now, however, they allow the resellers to misrepresent "who" is actually making the item. These resellers pretend the item is handmade in the USA when it is really made in a third-world country for slave labor wages. As a handknitter in the USA, I cannot compete with these prices.

I have no problem with Etsy allowing these sellers as long as the seller is clear about where the item was made and who really made the item. Then the buyer can make an informed decision. Purchase the cheaper handknit and support the reseller rather than the actual knitter, who probably earned pennies for his/her work, or support the actual artisan who made the item, but pay a higher premium

Many buyers would probably choose the less expensive option, but at least it would be an informed purchase. As of now, there are people all over the internet complaining about making a handmade purchase on Etsy from a seller in the USA, only to find a "made in Tibet' (China, India, you name it) tag inside the item.

So for now, my shops are closed. Our move is finished, and we are loving our new life in the Bay area. I'm watching Etsy closely to see if changes are made that would warrant our revisiting the idea of selling handmade knits again.

I'm planning to use this blog for more "esoteric" musings, so feel free to stay tuned if you are interested!

And a blessed new year to all!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Childhood Memories

When we moved into our current home 13 years ago, I considered myself very lucky that the house came with a full-size unfinished attic with a finished stairway. No pull down rickety stairwell or hole in the ceiling, this is a real stairway leading to a huge empty space. At the time, I had visions of finishing off the room into a craft space.

The craft space never materialized because, all too soon, the attic became the family storage space. Every time my parents would visit, my mom would drop off a box or two full of vintage whatchamacallits. Boxes of dishes. An antique kitchen table. Boxes of dishes. Victorian jewelry. A primitive spinning wheel. A vintage dressing table. Books. Handmade quilts. Old family coffee table. Did I mention dishes?

Now the kids are in college and we've decided to downsize. We cannot take all this "stuff" with us to a smaller home, but what to do with it? Going through the boxes is such a difficult process. Most are family treasures with a story attached. The story makes them real, gives them substance, creates a history that makes that item valuable. The value may not be monetary, but rather in the sense of continuing the family legacy.

My mom knows all the stories and has told them so many times that, when I look at a piece, it "belongs" to someone and I see that person reflected in the item. The china is not just a set of pink flowered dishes , they are Florence's Dishes. That battered oak table is not just a table, it's the table Papa Harold cut off the legs so that it could serve as a Coffee Table.

And then there are the books. My mom was an only child who grew up in an old Victorian home with her parents and grandparents. She lived a relatively quiet life and loved to read. When I grew up I had a huge library at my disposal full of my mom's childhood books. I read them all--The Bobbsey Twins, Anne of Avonlea, Heidi, Jane Eyre. You name it, I read it. I grew up reading all these old fashioned treasures.

Now all these books are in my own home. Two generations old; most of them have that dusty, musty smell that old books acquire. I haven't read one in years. My daughters never read a one of them. The books aren't treasures to them. While I know there is no good reason to keep these books, they are like old friends. So much of my childhood is dusted over each and every one of them.

In addition to my handmade shop, I also have a vintage shop on Etsy, Peanut and Tommy Too. Most of the vintage items in this shop are treasures I've pulled from the boxes in the attic. I wish I could say that I'm listing new items daily, that the number of boxes is going down, that the attic is empty and we're ready to go on with our new life. But that wouldn't be quite true. It takes me forever to choose an item and post it in the shop. I have to think about each one, go over the memories, visualize the owner, and decide on the perfect home. If the item has a story, I try to tell the story in the listing so the new owner will take on the history with the treasure.

Luckily for me, most of the items that I've sold in the vintage shop have gone to new owners who love them for the same reasons they were loved in my family. The books are the most fun to sell--I always get a note about the buyer's excitement at finding this specific edition. Wrapping up a book to send on to a new owner is quite satisfying--like sending a child off into the world, knowing there is a new life just around the corner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tunisian Crochet

When I was first learning to knit and crochet...long ago in my college days.....I came across an antique lap blanket that one of the great-grans had made back in the 1800's. I was so intrigued, as I'd never seen that stitch before. My mom called it "afghan stitch" and said that it was done with a very long crochet hook. Somehow, before the days of the Internet and all kinds of information right at your fingertips, I managed to find an afghan hook and instructions for the stitch. Using the long crochet hook is so amazing--it's like the best of knitting and crochet all in one. The best way to explain it is to say you are knitting with a crochet hook. Needless to say, I was "hooked!"

What I found so interesting is that the afghan stitch makes little squares in your material. The squares are just the perfect size and shape to be used for counted cross stitch. So you knit/crochet up the blanket and then you embellish it with a cross stitch design.

I was so excited that I gathered up a ton of materials and copied the antique blanket. I must have found a pattern somewhere because my cross stitch design is quite a bit different from the antique blanket I copied.
My next project was a full size afghan that I made for my parents. It took me almost a year, and was a ton of work. I loved the process of creating this work of art, but when the year was over I decided that I could make only so many blankets. At the time, I couldn't quite figure out what else could be done with the afghan stitch besides embellished blankets, so I put my long crochet hook away and forgot about it.
Recently I'd been hearing about this new technique called "Tunisian Crochet," which interestingly enough is really just the old afghan stitch with a new name. I did a little research and discovered tons of books and patterns for Tunisian Crochet. I was really surprised to discover that the stitch I had used for the blankets--that made little squares in the finished product--is really just the basic Tunisian stitch and that there are a ton of variations. You can even use a Tunisian hook to create work that looks just like knitting.

So it's no surprise that I dug out my old afghan hook and some yarn and went to work playing around with the different Tunisian stitches. Once again I am hooked! I love using a large-size Tunisian hook and thicker yarn--the project goes so quickly and the end result is so beautiful.

The scarflette to the right was my first Tunisian project. It is made with lovely, soft organic cotton. I'm working on a few more similar style scarflettes that will be in my Etsy shop soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting Ready for the Holidays

We have a new item in our shop, our latest handknit Nativity set. We try to make at least one Nativity a year. They are very time consuming and intricate work. This set includes two pieces of cotton fabric to help with your holiday decorating. One piece resembles rocky ground and the other is quite dark with small sparkly stars scattered all over it.

Each piece of cloth left unfinished so that you can cut or drape it to fit your space. In the first photo, I stacked up empty cereal boxes in different heights before draping the fabric so that I have different levels on which to place the dolls.

This set includes Mary, who is holding the baby Jesus in her arms. Joseph is holding a lantern. The Angel is carrying a heart. The Shepherd has a crook and one sheep. The three Kings are carrying their own special gifts.