Friday, December 13, 2019

Finish it Friday ~ More Skirts

I had so much fun making fleece skirts last month that I had to make more. A few birthdays I needed to attend to this month provided the perfect excuse.

This photo is pre-elastic, which I needed to go out and buy.

Once again I used this pattern/tutorial for all the skirts, but I added a jaunty little pocket to each one (the recipients are Millenials, so natch they will need some place to stash their phones).

The recipients are also all skinny-minis, and I think the pattern runs a little big, so I made them in x-small (the gray and purple) and small (the blue) sizes. I hope they fit!

To customize the fit, I left the elastic casing open, with the elastic held together with a safety pin. I included thread and a needle, so they can adjust the elastic to fit and sew it together/sew the casing closed. I love a quick, fun, and satisfying project like this one!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Finish it Friday ~ NA-SO-WRIMO

Last month I set out to conduct my own version of NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month), which I called National Something Writing Month. My goal: to type up at least 1667 words every day from old journals to generate material for a few essay and memoir projects I'm working on.

I get a sticker on the calender when I reach my writing goal for the day—
sadly I ran out of autumnal stickers, but I got a lot of high fives!
And I came oh so very close—I wrote the minimum on all but three days of the month (including Thanksgiving!!). Two of those days I had all-day meetings followed by evening activities and the other one we had out-of-town guests staying with us. I totaled 46,767 words (the goal of NANO is 50,000) and I got through eight journals (only about 17 left to go!). True, they were mostly not new words (except for some editing/enhancing that took place as I typed), but they were words that needed to get out of my handwriting and into the computer, so I call that a win.

It's also the most consistent I've been about working on a writing project in a very long time, probably since writing The Book, although I didn't track either my time or my words then, so I know neither how how quickly or how often I worked (I do recall some days when I went hiking or got caught in the downward email spiral, and I think I mostly didn't work on weekends).

I discovered that I can type already-written words while a lot of other activity is going on around me—people talking, the TV on, etc, which was truly what made getting so many words possible (new words, that require a fair amount of quiet contemplation, would be much more difficult). I may employ this as a strategy in the future—doing my thinking and writing on paper and typing up later while watching Friends or Supergirl with the kids. My plan is to keep going through December with daily writing/typing, but with a lower word count goal of 1000, now that I'm back to work all day. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Holiday Countdown Week 1 ~ Greenery

Thanksgiving came so late this year that there wasn't the usual lull of late November before the Christmas rush began, but instead here we are catapulted from one holiday to the next. We actually got our tree in November this year (which is anathema in this house, but at least it was the last day in November), because M was home for the weekend and we didn't expect to see him again until the weekend before Christmas.

My brother and my sister-in-law were also visiting for the weekend, so they joined us on our tree-getting expedition, which every year involves tromping through the woods and sizing up several dozen balsam firs and making the same tired jokes about taking a 30-foot tall tree or a hemlock, and pagan ritual of thanking the tree for givin its life to bring greenery and light into our lives. The tree right now is standing naked in our living room, until another weekend comes when we can rearrange furniture and haul ornament boxes up from the basement.

Once we settled on and sawed down a tree, we collected some extra greenery for wreath-making. Most years we go to wreath-making party at a friend's house and/or buy wreaths from one of the kids. This year our friend had her party the same weekend my brother was visiting, and, though E and Z were supposed to be selling wreaths for school, they both forgot about it until the last minute and couldn't find their order forms.

This was my sister-in-law's first wreath-making experience, and she did much better than C and I did the first time we made wreaths, back in our first apartment, when we bent green boughs into somewhat circular shapes and wired them together. They were a little wonky but had gorgeous bows that C had brought home from the gardening company he worked for that year. The next time, we wired boughs onto a wreath form, but it took a few tries before we learned about making bundles of fir tips and wiring those to the form. We still don't have the symmetry thing down, but someday we'll get there.

The traditional Maine Christmas wreath is made of balsam fir, which is what we used as the base, but we also incorporated spruce, hemlock, and white pine, as well as winterberry and red dogwood stems, for variety.

C went even wilder, literally, with a disk of larvae chambers from a wasp's next, pine cones, sumac fruits, and a polypore mushroom.

My brother and sister-in-law live in a condo, so they couldn't take theirs home with them. It now hangs on the playhouse, providing a little cheer and extra cover to the chickadees who visit this feeder.

We may be slow to get this whole holiday train moving, but at least we've got the greenery, just in time for the world outside to turn white.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Writing Gratitude and Gifts

My very first piece of published writing appeared in the online journal Literary Mama more than ten years ago. In 2014, after I finished my MFA, I became co-editor of the Literary Reflections department, and a couple of years ago I joined the Senior Editor team. You can read my editor's letter for the current issue, about all of the amazing talent on our staff past and present, and all of the wonderful content in this month's issue here.

Literary Mama is a wonderful organization to volunteer for, with the great mission of bringing writing about motherhood out into the world. It's also a complete labor of love for its writers and staff. We have no budget and no sponsors, and we're not affiliated with any institution. But earlier this month we were delighted to announce that we have become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and as such now able to accept donations. We've begun the first modest foray into raising funds that will initially cover our operating expenses and, eventually, pay our writers.

Consider making a small contribution to this wonderful literary organization this Giving Tuesday. One of our other senior editors wrote this beautiful letter about her family's offer of $1500 in matching funds now through the end of December. If you have a mother or a writer in your life, you could make the contribution in her name as a holiday gift.

Thank you to those who have made a contribution and to all of you who read our journal each month.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Finish it Friday ~ Purple Table

We received a set of hand-me-down end tables several years ago. The previous owners had given them an antiqued finish in a color best described as Forest Service Outhouse Brown—not exactly my style. Nevertheless, they have traveled around our house, taking on various roles here and there. One of the smaller tables is serving as the piano bench right now; the other two have been doing duty as junk-collection surfaces in the basement for some time.

I decided to fix the taller, longer of the tables up and give it new life as a plant stand in our sunroom. I would have liked to use chalk paint, which people have told me requires no sanding before use, but instead I used the leftover paint from E and Z's bedroom, which, despite being latex wall paint (my dad always gives me a hard time for using latex paint on wood), had two distinct advantages over chalk paint: I didn't have to go anywhere to get it and it didn't cost me anything. But I did have to sand all the old brown paint off the table first.

C documented the process (ignore the weird sun/shadows that makes it look like I have a beard and/or a missing tooth). Then the painting began. I used to think it would be fun to buy old furniture and fix it up to sell. It was a little fun painting this table, but not fun enough for me to want to do it full time. Also, that would require being careful about drips and lumps and brush lines.

Still, it turned out pretty great, and it fits the space perfectly. I put some cork feet on a few leftover floor tiles (to keep water from getting trapped underneath) and placed them on top to help protect my paint job from leaky flower pots. I'm pretty happy with the result, so much so that I think I'll repaint one of the other tables as well. Now this room just needs a comfy place to sit (the futon that used to live in here migrated to the living room when our family got too big to fit on one couch).

Monday, November 25, 2019

Mindfulness Monday ~ Favorite Moments

I know this is the week when we (we Americans anyway) are meant to express our thankfulness for the various blessings and bounties we enjoy*. And I know that keeping a gratitude journal or other record of the things we're thankful for is supposed to be good for mental health. I also know that I've mentioned on this blog more than once my superstitions about not only saying but writing down the things I'm grateful for being an invitation for all the little demons to come and snatch those very things from my grasp. So I don't do it. I can't.

But I can write about the good things that happened on a particular day; because those events are in the past, no gremils can take them away. My sister-in-law gave me this little "favorite moment a day" journal for Christmas last year (or the year before??), and I'm sorry to say I've been very lax in using it. But I've just started to put it into practice and intend to keep it going, even (especially) once I return to work.

Right now my days are pretty good (mostly because I rarely have to deal with people, other than my husband and kids, and it strikes me that difficult people are the prime ingredients in bad days). So the journal is almost superfluous—every moment is a contender for favorite. I'm going to have to work a lot harder to have good days when I'm selling 10 hours of them to other people. Laura Vanderkam writes in Off the Clock that doing things that stand out in our memory is a good way to make time feel less fleeting. It stands to reason that a practice of writing down the good things that happen each day is a good way to manifest good things happening. I'll let you know how it works out.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Finish it Friday ~ New Noro Hat

Ten years ago, I knitted myself a Noro Spiral One-Skein Hat. Up to that point, I had been knitting for more than a dozen years, but had averaged only one project per year. That hat was the turning point, when I realied I needed to either knit or get off the pot. It was also the first project for which I remembered how to cast on without help and where I learned about stitch markers and yarn-overs. It was also a really great hat—all my favorite colors, and it fit really well, and I always got compliments on it wherever I went.

Then sometime between last hat season and this, it disappeared. I don't remember seeing it when I cleaned the mudroom over the summer (I don't remember not seeing it, either), and since then I've cleaned the entire house, top to almost bottom, so unless it's lurking in the basement somewhere, it's gone. I suspect that it got jealous of this hat, with which it had to share my head last winter, and went off to find a new home. It should have known I always have room on my head, and in my heart, for another hat.

When it became clear the hat wasn't coming back, I picked up a skein of yarn and made a new one.

I normally wouldn't choose such dark, or such neutral, colors, but I had a hankering for an autumnal-hued head-warmer, in part to go with my bright orange fall jacket, and this skein of yarn called out to me the moment I walked into the yarn store—I liked the sunset/night sky/autumn leaves feel of it. This hat knit up a lot faster than the last one, with ten more years' knitting experience (at an average of six projects per year, I'm happy to report) under my belt. I don't love it quite as much as I loved the lost one, and I wish I'd started the decreases two rounds earlier, but it's a pretty good hat, and I think it will grow on me.

Ravelry notes, such as they are, are here.
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