Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Beauty of Being Lost

 These last few weeks have found me getting wondrously lost in my favorite wintery hygge pursuits. While being on break from my classes and work, I have enjoyed more time with family and friends. There was a week of vacation spent with my husband at Christmastime, as well as cozy evenings since then of long talks by candlelight. I've had lunch with my daughter, shopped with my mother and sister, and celebrated the birthday of a special friend in a favorite coffee shop. Too often I have treated myself to pastries and goodies I typically do not eat, but that's hygge after all, and I decided to relax into it, for awhile. 
 The house has been filled with the joyous sound of grandchildren laughing, running and living in the magical world of make believe. During the times the house has been quiet, with my only company being the dogs and an aged-calico cat curled up nearby, I have done what I always do on a cold-January day. I put the kettle on, turned on an audiobook and sat down to knit.
In preparation for these glorious days that I knew would come, I ordered a few different yarns from Knit Picks that I have never tried before. What better time to try a spattering of wools I've never used than during these snug, snowy days? January is always the time I think of variety when it comes to knitting. I think small in my knitting. As in small projects like mittens or fingerless mitts that are done fairly quickly. That way I can order several individual hanks of different wools. It's like opening a box of chocolates. Each one is a divine treat! 
The first one I have fallen madly and irrevocably in love with is Provincial Tweed. Because wool with delicious little blips of Donegal tweed will always have my heart, I ordered two hanks. The first must-have color shown here is grey with a faint lavender-blue undertone. The little tweed blips (or neps, as they call them) are plum and turmeric. The entire color combination is extremely pleasing. The fiber is soft, soft, soft. As you can see it gives perfect stitch definition to cabling, which is another major love of mine in the world of all things knit.
 I also browsed through Knit Picks selection of patterns for fingerless mitts. That's another annual tradition of mine. I look for new patterns for mitts and mittens I've never made before. If they have cables, lacework or colorwork, I'm all in. Winter is the ideal time, when evening darkness is stretched out, and the weather gets up to all manner of things, to settle in with something new on my needles. The pair of fingerless mitts pictured is the gorgeous Knit Picks pattern Trilsean. You'll notice that in the mitt on the right I have light orange waste yarn stitched in where the thumb will go. This may seem a bit wonky for those of us who love a beautifully knit thumb gusset. However, follow the directions exactly, which are not difficult, and you will find it quick and easy, both while knitting and when picking stitches back up to create the thumb. 
 Also, remember the cable is not meant to ramble down the center of the hand. It travels next to the thumb, below the index finger. This is what captured my attention while browsing through patterns. One fat cable; simple, yet different. I like it. As a matter of fact, I like it (them) so much that I used the second hank of Provincial Tweed, which I purchased in the color Cream, to make a second pair.
This colorway has a lovely creamy earthiness to it, while still being liberally sprinkled with that plum and turmeric blip-type stuff I love so much. And the really awesome thing about this yarn? The yardage. With 250 yards in each 100 gram hank, I can make two pairs of fingerless mitts per hank! What can I say Knit Picks? You will always be my first love for all things yarn-y. 
Another really cool thing about this pattern, you can turn the mitts inside out and put them on the opposite hands they were made for. Voila'! You're doing a new thing, Girl! I love it! So much!
As for the other wools and patterns I have up my sleeve, I'll get there soon. Not in this post because that would be spoiling all of my delightful Knit Picks knitting surprises I have in store for you. Until then, I hope you are all enjoying some snuggly winter delights of your own making. Remember, it's okay to be lost for awhile. Just relax into it and let it be.

"I am not lost, for I know where I am. 
But however, where I am may be lost."

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Next Year's Words

With each passing year I love the season of winter more and more. After giving this much thought, I've realized that I find comfort in the gaping bareness of the trees, as they twist and stretch themselves in bleak, cold skies. Rather than causing me to feel lonely or depressed, a briskly cold winter day, filled with misty grayness, clears my mind in a way that nothing else can do. Therefore, I have come to appreciate, and anticipate, this resting dormancy the earth goes through with a quiet gratitude. 
The wide-open spaces of the world around me work synergistically with the gradual decline of days, and I breathe deeply in preparation for the coming year. I enjoy reflecting on the many changes a single twelve-month span has brought into my life. Really it can be quite amazing from one year to the next just how many things, big and small, can change. One of my favorite treasures is always the people God brings into my life. Each individual is a shiny new gift. They add another layer of richness, along with those I have cherished and held in my heart for so long. The mingling of the old with the new is an exquisite thing; in it we are shown there is always more to come.
That's what I love so much about the first day of a new year, it holds out its hand, inviting us to step into 365 days of an unknown future. Some of those days will be challenging, some may be sad, and others could be complicated in ways we won't understand. However, so much of life is what we make it and the bulk of those days can be happy, joyous and extremely fulfilling. The decision lies within us. We must open ourselves to every opportunity of making the air around us alive with love, kindness and compassion for all who come in contact with us. Not only will there be a tangible difference in the atmosphere and the lives we encounter, but our own hearts will benefit greatly. 
If we want to shake off the old year and start afresh, we need to love with a love that knows no bounds. Selfless love always lifts up, supports and believes the best of and for the recipient. Over the last few weeks I've begun to dream occasionally that I am flying. Each dream is somewhat different, as I'm not always in the same place when I suddenly feel myself begin to rise up and float, gently at first. Then, as I begin to fly somewhat faster, the joy I feel is indescribable; it's like nothing I've ever known. A few nights ago Scott appeared in the dream for the first time. I was overjoyed that he finally caught me flying! I looked down and called out to him, "Scott! Look! I'm flying!!!" My dream self was expecting a huge reaction, possibly one of incredulity or fear. Instead my husband looked up at me and said, in his casual way, "I always knew you could fly."
 I hope that 2020 will be the year that finds you loving more deeply, reaching higher for your dreams and resting in personal contentment. I pray you know the love of God in your life and are able to see your fellowman through His eyes. I trust that you'll gain strength to endure the hardships, as you focus on the abundance of blessings in a single day. May it be the year that finds you flying because somebody, even if that somebody is yourself, always knew you could.
From my heart to yours...
I wish you a very
 Happy New Year.
"For last years words belong to last years language
and next year's words await another voice."
T.S. Elliot

Friday, December 20, 2019

Our Hearts at Christmas

Once again the season of Christmas is upon us, sprinkling the air with unseen particles of magic. The faces of people seem more open and cheerful this time of year. Though there is much to be done, with last-minute shopping and holiday baking, our hearts hold the wonder of all that is about to transpire. We know when the last ribbon's tied, making our final touches complete, those who are dearest will gather from near and far. The gifts they bring will be their joyous laughter and endless love. The spirit of Christmases past will soon entwine with this year's festivities, forming new memories and deeper bonds with all who are precious to us.
Invite them home in elegant style by sending a personalized card from Paperless Post. In just minutes your entire guest list will receive a lovely invitation via email with an option to respond, like the "Branches de Houx", with accompanying envelope, I chose for my Christmas Eve gathering. It saves you time, as well as money for cards and postage, and there's no extra running around in cold weather. There's also the added benefit of the paperless aspect being an environmentally conscious choice. Most of us love the ease of communicating through email and getting something festive is always fun. Also, this allows us to know immediately who is able to attend, as they send back their replies.
 Maybe you're like me and still need to send some Christmas cards. Paperless Post has literally hundreds of fabulous options to help you send your love and warmest wishes in mere moments. Let those who touch your life in so many ways know, during this season which reminds all souls what matters most, that you count them among your greatest blessings. 
Wherever this holiday season finds you, I hope you are wrapped in the warmth and happiness of those who hold you most dear. May you see out the final days of this year being the recipient of true joy and lovingkindness; so you can carry these gifts into the new year and pass them on to all you meet. If each one of us would keep a measure of what resides in our hearts at Christmastime, the world would be a kinder, gentler place the whole year round. 
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

"Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit,
which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, 
cheerful discharge of duty, kindness, and forbearance!"
Charles Dickens
"What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older"

                                    *This post is kindly sponsored by Paperless Post
                                     All sentiments and selections are my own.*

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Quest for Inspiration

I went into this weekend knowing that I would spend Saturday morning working on finishing an essay that I needed to write for one of the classes I'm taking this semester. I had already chosen my topic, selected my sources, done the bulk of my research, and handwritten (something I don't typically do) a sketchy rough draft. So, I was prepared
Then Saturday morning arrived and it hit me. I had that deep-down feeling of being restless. I couldn't focus as I sat down shifting papers around and opening tabs on my laptop. I tried various things like moving around the house, letting dogs in and out, applying my make-up, and very nearly overdosing myself on caffeine. It finally occurred to me that I was suffering from that dreaded condition known as writer's block (eek!).
An interesting side note on this is that I worked with several students this past week who told me they were struggling with this same issue. They lacked inspiration, knew what they wanted to say but couldn't put it into words, and so on. I doled out all sorts of little tips and tricks that I use to get myself over the hump. I saw light bulbs come on in their eyes as they happily began jotting notes or rearranging sentences on the computer. All of that went right out the window the moment I sat staring at a blinking cursor on my own computer. 
Usually I press on. However, I decided to do things differently by taking a fresh approach on Saturday. I put that essay on the back burner and looked for something else to inspire my creativity. Snatching up my crochet hooks and a couple of different skeins of alpaca, I relaxed with some crocheting. At first it was difficult to force myself not to obsess over a writing deadline (blah, blah, blah...), and being conscientious about my time, but I began to realize that it was exactly what I needed. 
   Instead of going back to writing, I spent the entire day, which was a rainy one, trailing that crochet work everywhere I went. It traveled from room-to-room with me. When we went on a few errands in the afternoon I snatched it up and kept it running through my fingers, while riding in the passenger seat. As I enjoyed my day of working with luxurious fiber, my mind not only relaxed but it returned to its creative center. Aha! It was a day off and yet it wasn't.  
Today dawned bright, beautiful, clear, and fresh from all of yesterday's rain. My mind had also been cleared, put in order and once again inspired. I arose knowing what direction to take. Not only was I able to tackle that essay, finally wrapping it up, but I awoke to a finished crochet project and another one well on its way. Something valuable was learned yesterday; when my creativity hits a brick wall I need to shift my focus to other things that inspire me. It really is just that simple.
 These are just a few of the things that inspire me:
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • love
  • family
  • reading
  • writing
  • observing nature
  • people
  • animals
What inspires you?
 What helps your creativity flow? 
What causes you to relax?
What keeps you in the pursuit of being you?
"Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard."
Anne Sexton

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Falling In Love With Fall

When speaking of the seasons, the word Fall instantly conjures a whole host of colors, smells, tastes, and memories for most of us. As we step into cooler days and crisper evenings, the thrill of anticipation begins to stimulate our senses. Soon the world around us will be transformed into breathtaking-burnished hues. We'll inhale that mystical aroma that's part smokiness, part leafiness, and somehow, part faded sunshine. Before we realize it, we'll find ourselves falling in love with Fall all over again.
There will be hayrack rides, fields of pumpkins begging to be picked, and blissful walks amidst a carpet of crunching leaves. We'll also find ourselves returning to all of our fun Fall activities that need a bit of planning. As we snuggle into our favorite sweater, and sip our beloved pumpkin-spice latte, we can let our friends at Paperless Post help us make all of our gatherings easier than ever before.
Maybe you want to host a pumpkin-carving contest in your home, so that everyone's porch will be lit up for the big night of little one's tromping through the leaf-strewn sidewalks in search of candy. Paperless Post makes it fun and easy with options like this sweet Little Pumpkin Card. By creating your own account, you will be able to choose from a variety of cards, envelopes and liners. Then you get to customize your selections with different fonts, colors, and fun postage stamps. The really awesome part is that it's all done online! Not only does this save you time and money, but it is absolutely wonderful for the environment.
You might choose to kick off the season with a simple reunion of friends and family. Let Paperless Post help you bring them together for a Fall Fete with this gorgeous Owl invitation. All it takes is a fun-filled hour or so spent online creating your personalized invitation. You'll send it to everyone via their e-mail and never have to leave the cozy comfort of your own home!
You might wish to go all out with festive goodies to eat, delicious apple cider to drink, spooky décor, and a full-blown costume party. All you have to do is exchange your own personal details on this Halloween Party invitation and send them off to everyone on your ghoulish guestlist. Although, I have to admit, if I were able to take a ghostly step back in time, I might like to join Mary and Percy Shelley at the Villa Diodati. (Some of you know how I love Frankenstein by Mary Shelley!).
However you choose to celebrate this glorious season when the sun shines more softly, the air grows misty, and the leaves swirl in magnificent abundance, let Paperless Post make sending invitations part of the fun.
"And the sun took a step back,
the leaves lulled themselves to sleep
and Autumn was awakened. "
Raquel Franco

                                    *This post is kindly sponsored by Paperless Post
                                     All sentiments and selections are my own.*

Thursday, August 1, 2019

In the Midst of Greatness

As August arrives, ushered in by the age-old love song of cicadas, I feel myself emerging from a dreamlike world. The golden summer sun sets ever-so-softer and sooner than it did mere moments ago, or so it seems to me. Only yesterday it was early June when I began summer classes and stepped into the pages of fabulous books, causing the world to dim around the edges, as I found myself in the midst of greatness.
My days were spent with dead poets, writers, dancers, artists, and men and women who fought to make our world and our nation a better place. I read non-stop, well into the wee hours. Oftentimes reading books I would not have chosen to read and yet I enjoyed every book I read. A particular favorite was Frankenstein: The 1818 Text by Mary Shelley. 
The language is beautiful, lyrical and almost poetic. It offers exquisite details of landscapes throughout the story. Mary Shelley wrote this classic when she was only eighteen years old. Within its pages are the opportunity for deep moral contemplation on several levels. For those who love works written in the romantic style I highly recommend it, especially in this version so you get the back story. I loved it so much that I chose to write a long essay about it for one of my classes.
When I wasn't reading, and reading some more, I was writing essays. Lots and lots of essays. I discovered that I have the ability to dissect and critique a book and all of its characters down to the final word and to within a hair's breadth of their fictional lives. I also really enjoyed researching and learning as much as I could about all of the real people that I wrote about.
I know quite a bit more about Ernest Hemingway than I did before and I learned so much about Picasso, Martha Graham, Virginia Woolf, Grace Hartigan, and Betty Friedan, just to name a few. Although summer classes ended, on a very high note for me, on July 25, the voices of these remarkable people still whisper to me all night long. I cannot lay them to rest just yet. I'm still conversing with them and telling their stories the minute I fall asleep every night. 
Maybe they will slowly, gradually fade into the background as the Fall semester starts for me. Unbelievably that's just around the corner on August 19. I have a feeling some of them will linger on with me for some time yet. Especially because I may embark on another new adventure soon that will, most likely, involve a few of them.
One of my professor's sent me an email during my summer classes and asked if I would be interested in working as a Writing Consultant in the Writing Studio at the Illinois Central College East Peoria  campus. I decided I would very much like to do that. So, while I continue to take classes, I will, hopefully, work a few hours a week helping other students with their writing. The professor sent an email of recommendation and I was already contacted by the director. I have a couple of days of training to attend next week. I'm pretty excited to be given this opportunity.
Though I have an odd sense of summer having somewhat passed me by, like it's been all around me, and yet slightly out of focus and just beyond my reach, I wouldn't change a thing. My typical, languid days, usually spent knitting on my front porch, found me with a book in hand or a computer on my lap on that same swing instead. It was an adjustment, especially in the beginning. But I got the hang of it. I have always loved to read and write; so total immersion was pure ecstasy. As far as knitting goes, I do have a finished shawl that needs blocking. I'll tell the specter's who whisper in my mind to hush for a time so I can block it and possibly capture a beautiful daughter in a field of wildflowers soon for a photo shoot. Although I won't be surprised if we see a faint shadow of the late, great artist, Grace Hartigan, standing in the background painting a picture, because she refuses to be silenced.

"A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle."
Grace Hartigan

Thursday, June 27, 2019

In the Presence of Angels

Spring seems to have danced right on by. 
I've found myself at the end of June and halfway through my summer classes. 
I have loved being a college student again after all of these years.
 It has certainly kept me occupied.
 Most of my time is spent reading and writing papers.
 Thankfully, those are two of my favorite pursuits.
 Another thing I enjoy immensely is the ballet,
 especially when my granddaughter is performing.
Last weekend Gabby danced in Ballet Under the Stars. 
This was Peoria Ballet's first time to offer this free production
at the Glen Oak Park. 
It was spectacular.
 The first photo shows her dancing a number from the ballet Giselle
The evening was quite warm, 
which caused Gabby's cheeks to take on the same beautiful rosy pink as her tutu.
At one point, I caught Gabby in midair.
 She looks as though she's in flight in this photo. 
That's one of my favorite things about dance.
 I love the way the body moves and sets the spirit within free. 
The expression that is sometimes caught
on a dancer's face in a single moment can
move an audience to great depths of feeling. 
I love it when I see them working the stage with all of their passion. 
The art of dance is really in a world all its own. 
It brings the inner beauty of the dancer's soul 
out for us mere mortals to experience.
At the end of it all, we glide softly back to earth. 
Though particles of the celestial cling to us as we go.
 For no one is ever truly the same after an hour or so 
spent in the presence of angels.

"Dance is another way of putting things. 
If it could be said in words, it would be;
 but outside of words,
outside of painting, outside of sculpture, 
inside the body is an interior landscape 
which is revealed in movement."

                       *This post is kindly sponsored by Paperless Post
                                All sentiments and selections and events are my own.*