WIP Wednesday: Simple Things

I’ve been focusing on simple things this week. Removing apps from my phone that I never use (or use far too much, like Yahtzee). Reading before bed. Moving more. I’m trying to be deliberate in how I fill my hours, instead of picking up my knitting and watching TV the second I have my daily chores done and Lizzie is asleep. As a result, not a ton of progress this week.

Portage

I’m now on the second sleeve, a few decrease rounds in. I plan to focus mainly on this the next few days so I can perhaps get it done by next Wednesday.

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Matt’s Hat

I’m done! I wound up using the shaping from Roku but alternated 18 rows of k1, p1 with 18 rows  of p1, k1 to give it this fun look. When I was trying to sew up the top, I pulled so hard on the working thread that it split in half. A bit of knitting surgery was required to recover, using a separate length of yarn to sew the end back up. (Ignore my crazy eyes.)

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Rider Cowl

I decided to pull this out, after all. The yarn will be used for a basic stockinette cowl which I guess you can say is in progress, as the ribbing is done (reused from Rider). I hope to re-start the pattern in a plain color soon.

Socks for Lizzie

In typical kid fashion, she no longer wants socks, so I’ve pulled out the little progress I had and have set the yarn aside to become socks for someone else.

Started and Finished: Dishcloths

I wound up making two little dishcloths – one slightly larger than the other – using the Delightful Dishcloths pattern. Quick and easy knit. This starts me on my one 20  for 20 goal to make 10 of these for work. Perfect for carrying a hot lunch from the microwave to my cube.

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New Start: Spa Day Facecloth

Making this from the same Pima 100 yarn I used for the others. Again, plan to make two.

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BuJo – For Real, This Time

I love making lists. Love checking things off to do list and recording what goes on in my life. The thing is…I sort of stink at actually keeping up with any of it. I write a to do list during work of things I have to do at home on a trusty sticky note. The sticky note never even leaves my purse upon getting home. Just stays there to be found days later, when I roll my eyes at myself for being such a flake.

My work life is kept very separate from my home life. I have a work notebook that stays at work and a work calendar that is meticulously maintained so I’m not the one forgetting about a 10 o’clock meeting that I’m supposed to be running (which I did in the past). Those times work or home interferes with the other (e.g. in to work late due to a dentist appointment, have to stay until 6 pm for a late meeting), I try to write down. But where? One of those stickies or in whatever notebook I have in front a me. A notebook that I’ll probably toss aside at the end of a month or when I get tired of it and convince myself it’s time to buy a new notebook. If something happens weeks from now and I don’t have the right notebook/calendar in front of me, it’s a 50/50 chance it’s getting forgotten until the week of.

I tried Getting Things Done. Easy – you make a giant list of everything to do then organize all of the paper you need to do those things. One folder per project. Done with a project or putting it off until later? Stash it away. All well and good…if your life can be tracked entirely on paper. But I’m an engineer – we do print out way too many Power Point slides but most of my life is transacted electronically. Emails. Policy notes. Excel files. Models. Diagrams. Do I make a million separate files, taking up a ton of space on precious shared drives or SharePoint sites? (Yes, we still use those.) It wasn’t working. I was too focused on how to plan out every.single.thing. that I didn’t have time to actually do anything. The to do list grew and grew and grew.

I became someone who purely reacted to things as they happened, maybe getting ready for something a few days in advance. My to do lists were only the things I absolutely had to do that day, unless they could be tracked via email or calendar invites. If something was in my inbox, it meant I had to do something in response. That trusty Outlook flag used for the most important things – well, in theory. Often my entire list of opened but not yet archived email was flagged.

I’d heard about bullet journaling for years. I’d read the summary from it’s creator on its elements. I’d pinned 100s of beautiful BuJo pages on Pinterest. I’d followed converts on social media. I even tried it but realized I was doing it as a way to try to appear impressive. Look at how beautiful I can make my list of books I read this year! They look like little books! Again, nothing was getting done at a rate any better than my miss-matched system of stickies, reminders, and repeating “pack lunch” in my head until I fell asleep.

Just before the end of the year, I bought a copy of the actual book, The Bullet Journal Method and read more about the “why” of all of it. Why you need to empty your head of to do lists. Why you need to focus on the things you can do today and keep things to do in the future on a different page. Why it doesn’t have to be pretty but does have to be legible and easy to find information. Why you should just keep going, one page after the other, because your brain works like that, anyway (and you have that index to find stuff).

I started just after Christmas which is amazing as I usually put off starting until a big milestone, like a new month. I emptied my head into a big list of things I knew I had to get done, from the immediate (do laundry) to things happening weeks away (see if Sarah can cover reserving a booth on 8 Jan). I read the book in bits and pieces when I was waiting for my computer to log in or my lunch to reheat. I took notes IN THE NOTEBOOK, though these did get relegated to a random later portion of it so they could all be together.

So far, it’s really working for me. I’m finding myself feeling less frazzled and getting more things done. I’m focusing on why things need to be done, not just assuming if they pop into my head as needing to be done that they’re both important and need to be done by me. Also, I’m not trying to make things super pretty. I’m using mostly whatever pen is nearby, often a random black pen or marker. Stickers if they’re handy.

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The Leuchtturm I’m using comes with its own Index which makes things easy.
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Things I’d like to do this year. Made a similar list last ear but only finished half the items.
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January title page which is sort of funny as January notes and things don’t start for several pages. But this  is fine, as my Index tells me where things really start. (Stickers are from my Pipsticks subscription package from December.)
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Random daily page. I’m not normally this productive.
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Yarn stash vs planned projects. These were layer added to my Queue for better tracking, but this was how I got started with the planning of it all.

 

 

Do you BuJo? Have you before? Does it/has it worked for you?

 

One Little Word 2020: LESS

Every year for four years now, I’ve signed up for the OLW class that Ali Edwards hosts on her site. I do the January prompt and maybe even the vision board. Then, it goes to the side. I see the monthly emails about a new prompt…and toss them into the trash. But! It’s a new year. A new decade (depending on who you ask). I’m hopeful about this year and that includes being hopeful I may actually do all of the prompts.

2020 Word

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The Plan

The plan this year is really simple. Interleave my responses to the OLW monthly prompts between everything else I’m recording in my bullet journal (more on that in another post). No buying new supplies – other than a single roll of washi I bought yesterday – for the project. Respond to the prompts within a week or so of their being posted on the classroom site. Of course, if the prompt is to do something throughout a month, I’ll comply.

January Prompt Response

The prompt was the same as past years, so I won’t dwell on that. Here’s how I responded in my notebook.

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I am off to take advantage of my last day of Lizzie being at her grandparents’ house. Lots of nothing for two hours. Quick stop at the farmer’s market we’ve gone to for over 10 years. Brunch then shopping with a friend which seems so much more DC-gal-in-her-30s than I actually am. Really, we just like food and both need something from the mall and don’t want to go alone.

I’ll be back with more on this whole bullet journaling thing in a few days.

WIP Wednesday: Setting up for 2020

Howdy, everyone! As always, I’ve set myself a goal  to blog more in 2020. It happens to be Wednesday, so figured I’d take the easy way out and blog about the current status of my WIPs. 2019 was a year of getting back to old crafts, so you’ll note a reappearance of embroidery, cross stitch, and sewing plus a new addition, shashiko. We’ve got lots of ground to cover, so we should get started right away.

And, yes, a new photo background. Matt now has a comfy couch in his office, so I’ll be hanging out with him in there and taking advantage of the good natural light and plain backdrop.

Knitting

Portage

Early in 2019, my friend RR and I made an agreement to exchange handmade items: I’d make her a sweater and she’d make me a quilt. We both started in February and we’re both working hard to get our respective projects completed.

It’s hard to take photos of a dark purple sweater WIP, so excuse the photos. I’ve finished the body, edging, pockets (except for sewing them onto the body), and most of the first sleeve. I’m waiting on an arm measurement so I can finish the sleeve and move on to the second one.

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Knitting on the sleeve while watching Lizzie play at a playground in my hometown
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Working on the veryyyyy long edging parts. My guess is there were over 500 live stitches at this point.

My quilt? She’s got the top all done and the layers basted together, with intentions to complete the edging and quilting while she’s out of town for the holidays. She’s a meanie who won’t share WIP photos but I requested blues and something traditional, as far as pattern.

(Ravelry project page is here. Not that I’ve made a pretty major design change and added length to account for her long torso.)

 

Syncopation Socks

I started this sometime in the summer for my now-former manager. I’ll be honest that I put them aside when he left our team for another opportunity. He’s also a good friend, so I plan to pick these back up as soon as I finish the socks I’m making for Lizzie (which I’ll show in just a bit). These have extra stitches to account for a dude’s wider feet. Hopefully I have a note somewhere as to his foot size…

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Close up of the pattern (Syncopation)

(Ravelry project page is here.)

 

Hat for Matt

After going to take photos while on a business trip to Denver in early October, Matt requested a warmer hat. I dutifully started one for him right away…then got distracted with other projects. I’m not sure what pattern I’ll use, but probably one of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s genius ribbed hat patterns.

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Yarn is De Rarum Natura Cyrano (I think) in Merlot. (Note to self: Call fibre space and ask what yarn this actually is.)

No project link here as, well, it’s got nothing in it.

 

Bay’s Edge

I purchased one of the big 2-Ply Yummy gradient kits from the annual Miss Babs trunk show at my LYS. The first half was used for another shawl and I was left trying to figure out which of the MANY potential patterns to use the other half. I decided to combine it with one of Miss Bab’s lovely grays – think it’s Quicksilver but I’m not sure – and make Bay’s Edge. I put this aside to work smaller projects which were more portable, but it’ll get picked back up as my only-work-at-home project once Portage is done.

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(Ravelry project page here.)

 

Rider Cowl

I discovered a brand-new designer via a #knitstagram tagged post. This is her fourth design, the Rider cowl. The pattern is easy and just goregeous…if you don’t choose too busy of a yarn, as I did. I’m waffling back and forth as to whether I want to pull this out and remake it in a skein of pink Berroco Pure Wool DK I’ve had in stash for over a year. What do you guys think?

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There really is a lace pattern here, promise.

(Pattern page is here.)

 

Socks for Lizzie

I just started these the other day, after Lizzie requested a new pair of socks. I had the yarn out to make adult socks – obviously forgetting about the orange ones already in my WIP pile – and she pointed out how pretty the colors were. So, Lizzie socks they’ll be. I’m just doing a simple, vanilla sock with a short row heel.

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Barely a WIP, but a WIP, indeed.

 

Ya’ll still with me? Lots to go, still, so you may want to take a break and get more caffeine. The Internet will still be here  when you get back.

 

Cross Stitch

Mandala

I think I worked on this early in the 2019, but I’m not sure. There are still two or three more colors to add before this is complete. I’m using colors Lizzie selected and knitting on 32 count Monaco, two over two.

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Pattern is from Etsy. I need to look up who designed it.

 

Pretty Little Berlin

This was really the project that got me back into cross stitch. I started it in early November and brought it with me to Florida when my dad had surgery. I loved the city of Berlin when we visited in 2016 and snatched up the pattern from Satsuma Street right after we got back. I’d guess this is 80% complete.

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Fused bead needle holder made by my neighbor. Wrinkles in fabric are made by me.

 

Nutcracker Parade

Another new designer I found in 2019 was Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. They make the cutest patterns featuring little people and animals. I purchased the Aida kit for Nutcracker parade after the SAL started. I’m putting this aside for awhile as I’m rather Christmased out at this point.

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The sugar plum fairy and Clara and her nutcracker float are done, as well as the lettering and parts of the border you see here.

 

Embroidery

Sweet Kitty Cat

I purchased this as a kit when we were in Honfleur, France in May. The instructions were all in French but the images were  detailed enough that I could follow along. When complete, this will probably be hung in Lizzie’s room.

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If you’re ever in France, look out for the sweet patterns from this designer, whose name you can squint and see on the pattern page.

Embroidered Mandala

I picked up this pattern on a random trip to Joann’s with Lizzie, probably when we were in Florida. Not quite sure. I’ve barely, barely started this, it’s so intimidating. It’s not a pattern, per say, just an outline of one that you fill in however you would like.

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Need to work up some nerve to continue.

 

Shashiko

Sampler

I was inspired by January One to try out Shashiko. I purchased a little sampler (from Minature Rhino) and have made some good progress. By design, you’re to stab the needle through as many layers of fabric  as you can. Very therapeutic for stressful days. Guess that means it’s a good thing I haven’t felt a need to pull these out lately?

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All six tiles
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I’ve narly completed the second tile

Sewing

Gift Bags

I’ve not actually done any of the sewing for these, but I have done some prep. Fabric has been torn down to rough size for a dozen, with three actually cut out and ready to sew. I’m using the Runaway Bag pattern from Ellen Mason (via Etsy).

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Another project I’ll pick back up once Christmas over exposure has worn off, as most off the fabric is Christmas.

 

That’s it. Heh. I’m going to try and focus on completing these before I start anything new. Exceptions, of course, allowed because I make my own rules.

What’s in your WIP bin?

9 Ways to Make Your Temporary Renters Love You

We’ve chosen to stay at a series of rental apartments on this trip, especially since Lizzie is with us (second room is necessary for all to sleep well) and we like the ability to cook simple meals in order to skip going out all the time. Okay, and I also like being able to keep a Coke Zero and some non-alcoholic beer cold at all times. We stayed in lovely places each time, but we learned a few things about how a given host/hostess could improve a stay. In no particular order, here’s how to make your short-term renters love their stay.

1. Don’t take too long with introducing them to the place: Your guests are probably tired from their journey, even if it was merely an hour on a train. They want to take off their shoes and have a drink. Show them the various rooms, where dishes are stored, and any quirks (e.g. The TV doesn’t respond to the remote so you’ll need to turn it on via this button. You must close the shutters if the wind picks up or you’ll regret it!) Ask if they have any pressing questions before you leave and be sure to indicate if they should text, email, or send a homing pigeon with further questions.

2. Leave a detailed list of instructions and helpful information – in both the local language and English: Include at least the procedure for checking out/leaving the apartment, any house rules – even if posted on the listing website, and a list of numbers guests would need an in emergency (fire, paramedics, local doctor, pharmacy). Other things we’ve liked are a list of local shops and restaurants our host enjoys, pamphlets for local attractions, how to decipher the laundry machine’s symbols, and a TV channel guide.

3. Clearly post WiFi connection information: Including it in an instruction booklet, posting on the wall in an obvious location, or leaving a tent card are all great ways to do this. (3.b. would be to offer WiFi, even if slow or a limited number of hours it’s on. Few are looking to do work but will probably want to save their International data plan for directions rather than Facebook before bed.)

4. Provide ability to do laundry: This doesn’t mean you have to have a washing machine in the room or even have your guest pay you to do a load, but make sure guests know how they can get their laundry done. Maybe a woman in your village does laundry part time or there’s a laundromat nearby? If no dryer – and, yes, we understand why having a dryer is very rare in Europe – have a clothesline or drying rack guests can use and plenty of clothespins.

5. Fill soap dispensers with hand soap: Not providing toothpaste and shampoo is normal, but guests won’t have to worry about where their body wash is in the suitcase the first time they want to wash their hands after the restroom.

6. Have a guestbook: Places with one will seem more like you’re having guests at your home, not just taking advantage of an extra room you have merely for the purposes of making extra income. Both you and your guests will be able to see where others have traveled from and maybe find out a good attraction or coffee place nearby. One place also had a map with pins to mark their hometowns.

7. Extra blankets and pillows: Some people (like Matt and I) are horrible at sharing blankets, so each place that had an extra one for our house was great. Extra pillows are great for folks who may have back problems.

8. Coffee buys you friends: Only applies if the apartment has a kitchen, obviously. Provide coffee and a way to make it. Instant is fine; Nespresso is heavenly. Tea should be included, too, if you’re expecting guests from tea-prefering countries.

9. Include bonues for families with children: Have a few toys or kid’s movies. Point out the children’s televesion channel, if there is one. Have a nightlight in the “kid’s room.” Have a step-stool for help reaching the bathroom sink or seeing out a picture window. Stock juice and milk in the fridge and individual packages of crackers or fruit. List in the information packet where a playground or public park with a grassy area is located. Have a good area for diaper changes which can be as simple as a waist-height horizontal surface free of trinkets and an extra towel.

La Vie Est Bonne

Picture a poster featuring a cat learning back onto a stone wall, using it as a chaise lounge. It’s got a glass of red wine held aloft and a kooky smile on it’s face. The words at the top: Le vie est bonne a Sarlat. (Life is good in Sarlat.) I must agree.

We’re a little over a week into our family vacation in France and currently relaxing in our rental apartment just outside of centre ville. The village is comprised of yellow, stone houses with dark slate roofs. It’s full of tourists yet still feels like a place people live, not just travel to in order to make money off the tourists. It’s not our first time here, though it’s been nearly 9 years since our last visit, made shortly after I graduated from college. Mind you, I don’t remember much of our last visit. Something about a giant market hall and a walkway slanting up towards a statue of a boy. And lots of duck and walnuts and their related products for sale.

The last week has been rather go-go-go. Matt’s the one who plans our trips and he decided to comprise the first part as a series of two night stays in places we’d not traveled to before: Honfleur and Bayeux in Normandy, Dinan in Brittany, and Amboise in the Loire Valley. It was really an experiment to see if we wanted to visit a given place for longer on a future trip, combined with seeing if Lizzie liked moving around that often. The last half of our trip is two longer stays, both in places we’ve visited – here in Salat and later in Paris. The verdict: Lizzie rather stay in one place for longer and two nights and we’re rather tired of Normandy apple juice and gallette. The chateaux, well, they will probably blur together if we visited more, though I think Matt would have liked some time to do a  formal Loire wine tasting.

Now that we have more than two nights in a place – and in a place with no hard and fast to do list of things to visit or see – we can relax. Cook a meal or two more complicated than eggs. Sleep in. Sit for an afternoon in a park or on the couch, doing not much of anything. The sort of thing you normally do on a long weekend, but without all those pesky chores hanging over your head.

Ahhh, life is good.

(If you want to see photos of our adventures so far, head over to my Instagram for photos and a little review of each day. I may re-post that here but not until we’re back. Trying to avoid the computer as much as I can.)