Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back...

Here we are, at the close of 2009. It's always tempting to say, "Already??" but this year has been so full and so good and so well-spent, that I can't really say that. What I can say is that for the first time in my life -- at least in my adult life -- I feel like I fully lived my year, and that is such a good feeling!

By far, the biggest thing that happened this year was the changes I made in myself physically. I lost a total of 48 pounds from the end of November 2008 (when I decided, on a whim, to take up kickboxing) until today. During that time, I not only stuck with the kickboxing, but I came to love it. It's always a challenge and is never boring. I know I am physically healthier, but the kickboxing and subsequent weight loss has changed me in other ways that I find hard to describe. I just know that I'm a happier, more fulfilled person than I've been in a very long time.

And just for the sake of comprehensive documentation, my physical activities for the year also included a day of snowshoeing in January, an orienteering hike with my family in June, an impromptu photo hike and a day on the river kayaking with Angela in July, a hike in the Laurel Mountains with the kids during an unseasonably warm spell in early November, and (mostly) weekly indoor rock climbing sessions with my daughter through most of this fall.

Related to the health improvements are the changes I made to my eating habits. I was successful in cutting from my diet a lot of refined sugars, white flour-y/starchy carbs, processed foods, and grease. For the first time, I've clearly discerned a distinct connection between what I put in my body and how my body feels and performs. This has been reinforced for me this holiday season as I've indulged in a lot of sugary crap that I hadn't been eating, and as a result, I have felt miserable from it. Not miserable as in guilty, but physically ill. Hopefully this will serve to solidify my resolve to continue eating healthily in the future.

And in my effort to eat better, I tried again -- and more successfully than ever -- to be a gardener. My little salad garden produced greens galore as well as other yummy veggies including delicious cukes and cherry tomatoes, at least until the blight hit in late summer. It was good while it lasted, though! Our large garden didn't fare as well. An early rain -- flooding rain -- destroyed a lot of it early in the summer, and it never really flourished after that. Oh, the weeds flourished mightily, but they plants couldn't really compete.

We did, however, end up with a nice crop of pumpkins by fall. And my flowers...they flourished beautifully all summer and well into fall!

Knitting continued to be a huge part of my life this year. I completed approximately 45 projects this year (which includes finishing some things that had been started the year before). The biggest project I completed was my afghan swap afghan. What's funny is that of the 20 squares in my afghan, I only knit 2 of them. But there are 18 other squares out there in the world in other people's afghans that I did made, so it all works out. I love how mine came together and I really enjoy curling up under it. I again made charity hats each month, which I love to do (I still have my stash of hats, too...they need a home! If you know of a homeless charity that could use them, please let me know.)

While I may not have learned a ton of new knitting techniques this year, I did gain a lot of knowledge when it came to spinning. Having gotten my spinning wheel at the very end of 2008, spinning itself is a skill I definitely improved in a lot this year! I also had the enjoyment of knitting with some of my own handspun yarn this year, and I got to take part in Tour de Fleece with my wheel instead of trying to drop spindle like I had previously. Much more successful!

I traveled a lot this year. Crazy a lot, especially in the first half of the year. In March, Kevin and I went on a weekend jaunt to Virgina and Maryland -- first to visit Mt. Vernon and then to attend the Handspun Yarn Party. In April, we escaped a late season snow when we went to Florida to visit my mom over Easter. In a quick turnaround, I then headed off to St. Louis for The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling knitting retreat. What fun that was! (So excited that I get to go again!) On the heels of Fling, I drove myself down to my very first fiber festival, Maryland Sheep & Wool. And if one fiber festival is good, two are better, so I drove west with Cosy to the Great Lakes Fiber Festival later in May. At this point, I was sufficiently traveled out and did not get in my car for any road trips until I went to Plymouth, PA at the end of August and again over Halloween weekend to watch my friend Sho in her two fights. Then in November, I drove my son and grandson back to NC after Thanksgiving and enjoyed a couple days' hiatus from real life.

On the family front, we continued to homeschool, beginning our tenth year this fall, which is also our first high school year. I went to my 25th (!!) high school reunion in August and then turned 43 in September. My mom and step dad came to visit in early October, which was so nice. And then Muffin came and joined our family later that month! And also this fall, Angela and I started VoaT, which we hope to continue through the new year.

There have been some rough spots in our extended family this year, with illnesses and personal trials, but I think it is safe to say we all managed through. Sometimes, that is the best you can do, you know? On a bright note, we did get to spend a lot of time with our grandson this year, as he spent several chunks of time up here in PA visiting with all his grandparents. What a blessing that was. He may not remember those times as he gets older, but I will always treasure the time we had to spend with him this year.

I'm sure there are other things I could note about my year, but I'll spare you. Much of this is probably redundant in that I've already blogged a lot of it as it was happening. Writing it out in this summary form, though, helps me realize just how good a year it has full and rewarding it was. I am so thankful for this life of mine. I know it is fragile and could change in a heartbeat. So I take this time now to thank God for all that has been this year -- even the hard moments -- and pray his blessing on the year to come.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Getting ready...

What happens when you want to take advantage of the fact that the whole family is clean and dressed nicely before heading to church on Christmas Eve, but you've failed to budget time into your schedule to actually set up the tripod so that you don't have to resort to trying to balance your camera on its side on a pillow, thus ending up with shots that all look like they were taken by the dog?

This is what you get. And this was the best of the bunch. So sad. It's a shame I don't know someone who is good at taking pictures. Ahem. ;)

As for Muffin, she really couldn't have cared less that it was Christmas. Honestly, unless something smells good or involves food, she's pretty apathetic about it. Or else she's scared of it. Like in this picture:

She's been asleep on the couch, and I thought it would be fun to try and get a picture of her with the reindeer, but I knew full well if she knew it was anywhere near her, she'd take off. So I gingerly placed it there then woke her up and snapped the picture. And soon as she saw the reindeer, she jumped down off the couch. :}

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas snow!

We enjoyed a most wonderful early winter snow storm this weekend. While we got a modest 6" here, compared to what those in other areas received, I'll take it! It's beautiful!

It came down overnight Friday into Saturday and continued until Saturday night before finally coming to an end. What made it more beautiful for me was that I had nowhere to go on Saturday, so I could just enjoy being snowed in and watching it fall. I spent a good part of the day in the dining room where I had a wonderful view of this winter wonderland while I was wrapping gifts. Then I sat and spent time knitting by the light of the Christmas tree. What a perfect day it was!

This was, as far as we know, Muffin's first chance to ever be out in a big snow. Well, big for her, anyway...

It was hard to get a good picture of her because she just wanted to leap and bound around in it! Leaping was essential to her, as those six inches came up to her furry little belly. She was so cute! She kept sticking her muzzle all the way into the deep snow, then she'd snuffle and sneeze after inhaling it. Then she decided it tasted great and spent a lot of time eating it. What's funny is that Kevin actually plowed a path to the side yard where she has her potty spot, but when she walks over there and meets the wall of snow at the end of the path -- which separates her from her favorite potty tree -- she won't go unless she traverses the high snow and gets to the tree! She is not interested in going at the end of the plowed path. Too funny.

I've gotten some knitted gifts finished, but I'll wait until they get to their intended recipients before posting photos. And aside from a few minor items, I am happy to say that I am ready for Christmas! I only had one day last week where I totally went into freak-out mode, but ever since, I've been fine. Baking is done, cards are (mostly) out, gifts are all bought and (mostly) wrapped. Today will be our last day of school before taking two weeks off. And I can't quit thinking about just how blessed I feel right now. Life is good, thank you God! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm St. Louis bound again this April!

Yep! I got my TLE e-mail today informing me that I am the lucky recipient of one of the 125 lottery spots for Spring Fling 2010! Woot! I was on the fence about throwing my name in since I got in last year, and I only decided to do so at the last minute. I know hundreds of people sign up to go into the lottery, so I really did not expect to get in again. But, I did, so...woohoo! :) (Here's the link to my recap of last year's Fling.)

Bummer, though, that my roomie from last year didn't make it this time. Darn. :( I'll miss you, Janice!

Time to figure out a budget to get this puppy paid for by mid-March. And I need to keep my eye open for good airfares, too.

Merry Christmas to me! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So, Christmas is...

...less than 10 days away. Unlike some years past, when I've been insane in my plans to knit Christmas gifts out the wazoo, my plans this year have been incredibly modest. I started out with plans for four knitted gifts, three of which I would have some leeway in the deadline because I probably wouldn't see the intended receivers until after the 25th. None of these projects are particularly sweaters or afghans or anything crazy like that. Not even any socks, which though they are small are far more time consuming due to their small gauge.

So far I have done well with sticking to the plan -- four knitted gifts. Period. One is done. One is more than half done. One is started. That's pretty good.

But now I'm noticing the crazy beginning to seep in. Like, oh, maybe a hat for my hubby. I haven't knit him a new hat in a couple years, and the last one I made him is looking kinda shabby. I can whip out a hat in a few hours. So...maybe a hat can be added without increasing my stress. Sounds pretty reasonable.

But then...there's the sweater I have started for my daughter. It's more than halfway done. And I found the perfect turtle neck to go under it! That would make a nice Christmas gift, wouldn't it? Yes, it would. This would take more time and effort to get done than the hat, but still, not all together undoable.

But...if I knit something for the husband and something for the girlie, that leaves the boy child out. And though he's a boy, he does appreciate the hand knits, I gotta say. He's been bugging me for a pair of gloves for years now. To this point, I've told him I don't do fingers. But hard can they be?

I won't even dwell on the handful of casual friends I have who I've started thinking I'd like to knit something for, just because. That crosses over from crazy to lock-her-up-now.

To recap: there are less than 10 days until Christmas. Of the four definite knitted gifts I'm planning, only one is complete. I'm considering three more, with the fantasy of possibly another four more if I suddenly learn to exist without sleep and find a way to stretch the day to 30 hours instead of 24. And none of this even touches on the other stuff I have to do -- the mailing, the baking, the wrapping. :::sigh::: I was feeling so virtuous due to having accomplished most of my shopping earlier than usual. Karma doesn't like the virtuous.

The kicker here? I have been finding everything to do in my spare(ish) time except knit. I've even been spinning this past week, for Pete's sake! Who does that when there is gift knitting to be done??

Fa la la la la, is most definitely the season for fiber-induced insanity. And I imagine that more than a few of you might be suffering from the same malady. May we all make it out in once piece!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pattern: Call Before Digging Hat

Green CBD hat made from Queensland Collection Kathmandu DK

One of my goals for 2009 was to do more designing. I often design on the fly as I'm knitting, but it's the actual writing-it-down-for-a-pattern part that I have a hard time getting to! However, I do have a few that I've been working on, and this is the first of them.

Tan CBD hat made from Three Irish Girls Springvale Super Merino

Design ideas come about in strange ways. For instance, here where I live, signs abound near the location of underground utilities warning homeowners to "Call before digging!" lest they inadvertently dig up a gas line, water pipe or utility cable. Introducing the Call Before Digging hat, which features one cable that is buried in a ground of ribbing. Around the hat you go, and then suddenly, there is the cable!

This is a good pattern for newer knitters wanting to push their skills beyond straight knitting and purling. It is written to comfortably stretch and fit a 22" circumference head, but it is easily customized by adding or subtracting K2, P2 ribbing segments.

The pattern uses approximately 150 yards of DK weight or light worsted weight yarn and is knit in the round on 16" US7 circular needles.

Call Before Digging is available for purchase for $3.00 as a Ravelry download through the pattern page on Ravelry or by using the button below. (You do not need to be a Ravelry member to purchase the pattern through my Ravelry shop using this button.)


Friday, December 4, 2009

Winds of change...

I was just telling a friend last night that I've been feeling the winds of change blowing around me lately. Some things are changes I have no control over, others are things I either want or need to change and am still figuring out how best to accomplish those changes.

One thing I've been thinking about lately is my blog. Generally speaking, I enjoy blogging. But lately I haven't been very enthusiastic about doing it, which is why I haven't done it much. I think maybe that is reflective of some of the other changes that may or may not be happening in my world. It may just be that my blog needs an overhaul...move the furniture around a bit. Or maybe I need to reassess my purpose for the blog...regain my focus, or determine a new one.

Must ponder....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Woosh... the sound deadlines make as they go flying by. :}

Yeah. Not doing so well with the deadlines lately. My Socktoberfest socks, which I hoped to have finished by 11/30 to qualify for the prizes in the Socktoberfest group at Ravelry? Never finished. This is beginning to be a trend, as I didn't finish last year's pair on time either.

And NaNoWriMo? Never even made it to 10K words this year. In all honestly though, I hadn't been planning to do it at all and only joined at the last minute on a whim. I had no strong idea for my novel, and while I did manage about 7,000 words of an idea I've had for many years, there were so many directions I could have taken with it that I just sort of became paralyzed and stalled. Oh well. Another year, perhaps.

Thankfully, both of these things were voluntary. No huge ramifications for not meeting them. Frankly, the deadlines I've got right now for things are largely voluntary as well. I've got some Christmas knitting on the needles, which would be really good to finish by, say, Christmas. But if I don't? It's not like I can't find something else to give these people. My other current deadline things are all normal stuff -- paying bills, household stuff, etc. They'll get done.

Right now, I'm in re-entry mode. After driving my son and his son back home to NC on Sunday, and then spending an extra day down there to avoid driving 10+ hours home in the rain yesterday, I made the trek back north today. I listened to about a dozen Will Write for Wine podcasts that were backlogged on my iPod (most of which were very old, seeing as the weekly WWFW podcasts had ended over a year ago and only started up again two months ago, on a monthly basis). They made the trip go by quickly. (Listening to these podcasts has me in a want-to-write mood now, which is ironic considering my dismal NaNo performance last month.)

Anyway, it is good to be home, and the house is still remarkably neat and tidy (see, it paid to do all that pre-holiday cleaning I did last week!), which is always nice to come back to. I'm really tired now, though, so I think it will be an early bed time. Work on any deadlines will have to wait until morning.