Thursday, April 02, 2020

Three Indulgences

Today I'm joining with Carole and friends to talk about three ways I'm being kind to myself during these stressful times.

1. I'm journaling.
I used to write in a journal all the time as a tween, teen, and young adult, but I got out of the habit. Since this past weekend, I've been taking a few minutes each night before bed to look back on the day and, at a minimum, note three things I accomplished that day and five things that brought me small moments of joy. The accomplishments don't have to be huge, earth-shattering things; sometimes it's as simple as "I went for a walk" or "I did a load of laundry." When you're just sitting at home day after day, it can get to feel like you're not getting anything done, so this is a very easy way to see that things are getting done and I am being productive. Similarly, the moments of joy aren't necessarily big, exciting things but things I might have overlooked normally. Some recent entries have included "working on a puzzle with Rainbow" and "adding a mini skein to my granny square blanket."

2. I'm exercising.
I mentioned yesterday that getting outside to exercise feels like a treat now that we're supposed to stay in as much as possible, and I never thought I'd say something like that! I've been mainly going for long walks (and taking my time to notice small things around the neighborhood instead of getting wrapped up in my thoughts), but yesterday I started running again. I managed a total of 2.5 miles, so just 23.7 left to hit my marathon goal! The endorphins you get from exercising are a real thing, not to mention the Vitamin D from sunshine. It also felt really good last night to be physically (as opposed to emotionally) exhausted.

3. I'm using the good stuff.
You know how when you have particularly precious stuff, either because it's expensive or limited in quantity, you tend to store it away and never use it? Now is the time to use it! I'm sure many of you are suffering from extra dry hands these days like me, exacerbated from all the extra hand washing, so I'm using the good hand lotions:

Doesn't every woman have some of these little gift-size tubes of fancy lotions they've received as gifts over the years? Now is the time to use them -- your hands will thank you! Similarly, use that special skein of yarn or braid of fiber. Eat that special chocolate. Open up that special bottle of liquor or wine (if I can get some tonic water and lime, I know I'm going to be opening the special bottle of gin!).

I hope the rest of your week has plenty of self-care. Stay safe, and catch you here again on Sunday, when I should have a new skein of handspun to show off.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

My Mission: Do Not Unravel

I have a history of depression and anxiety, and giving my natural tendencies, the current state of the world would normally be something that would push me over the edge. I am really thankful right now that I have coping strategies I've learned from therapy and that I've been taking medication to help take the edge off. Even so, I'm sure that I'm not alone in feeling more anxious and sad than usual. I know that if I don't take an active role in combating those feelings that they will overtake me, and that's not an option right now. So I am choosing to focus on taking steps to ensure that I stay healthy -- both physically and mentally -- and to focus on the good things that are still there.

In yesterday's post, I talked about things that are bringing me joy. Even though I've found it something of a challenge to knit, my stash still brings me a lot of joy, and I've had a little bit of enhancement over the past week that's been extra joyful.

As you can see, these are all from Fibernymph Dye Works, which I suspect will surprise exactly none of you. Lisa is a dear friend who happens to dye yarn that I love working with, so I am always happy to buy yarn from her (not least because she lives close enough to me that shipments from her generally make it to me in one day). I actually only purchased one of these skeins, the one on the far left, which arrived yesterday and is her special ninth anniversary colorway. The other two skeins were prizes from last year's Monthly Makes programs.

Reading is generally a good way for me to get out of my head, and though it's been harder to focus on what I'm reading lately, I'm still managing a little. I finished the next Read with Us book, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, on Monday. I didn't really love it and in fact found it rather sad, but perhaps I'll appreciate it more once we start discussing it as a group. I turned next to something comforting, inspired by Katie, and decided to listen to the audiobook of Anne of Green Gables. I've read it before, of course, but it's been a while, and as last week I binged my way through the newest season of Anne with an E on Netflix, I've been wanting to escape to Anne's world again. It's been an absolute delight. Last night I also started one of the freebies I had in my Kindle library because I wanted to read something for a few minutes before bed, so I picked In an Instant at random. I've only read one chapter so far but it seems like it's only going to be so-so.

Exercise is always a good idea (gotta love those endorphins!), and it actually feels a bit like a treat now that it's one of the few reasons why we can legitimately leave the house. I've been trying to take a long walk every day, at least when the weather permits, but yesterday I realized that it was going to be the first day of April today, and April is typically when I start running again -- and then I had a somewhat crazy thought. I have no desire to run an entire marathon, and the Pittsburgh Marathon has already been canceled for this year in any case, but a fun challenge to myself might be to run enough miles to add up to the equivalent of a marathon by the time the Pittsburgh Marathon would have been held (that's Sunday, May 3). So today I slept in a bit and skipped my morning shower, and later today I'll be heading out for my first run of the season. I'm putting this out there publicly so I can be held accountable to more than just myself!

Finally, one additional strategy to ward off the feelings of helplessness that so often accompany depression and anxiety is to do something useful and productive. I love to bake and have often wanted to learn to bake bread, but yeast has been sold out at the supermarket. So what's an aspiring baker to do? Start a sourdough starter! I started the process on Monday and wasn't feeling too optimistic, but this is what I discovered when I went downstairs this morning:

Houston, we have fermentation! Clearly this jar was not big enough, so my starter has been transferred to another container. I've still got several days until I'm ready to make bread, but I'm happy to see that things are moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

One Little Word: March 2020

Well friends, we've made it to the end of March. I'm fairly confident in saying that this has been the longest month I can ever remember living through. The end of the month doesn't necessarily mean an end to these uncertain times, but at least we've adapted somewhat to the new normal.

It's also the final Tuesday of the month, which means it's time to join with Honoré and friends for a reflection on my One Little Word for the year. I think I must have been somewhat prescient to choose savor as my word this year, because these strange times of social distancing have caused me to really appreciate so many things I previously took for granted. For example, here are some things I've been especially savoring the past couple of weeks as we've been at home:
  • An extra half hour of sleep (I don't have to commute to work anymore, and my morning routine is faster, so I can use that time to sleep in a little!)
  • Time to drink my two cups of morning coffee at a leisurely pace
  • Three meals a day with my family
  • When the weather cooperates, long walks through my neighborhood
  • Sunshine, when it appears
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Snuggles with Rainbow
  • Working on a jigsaw puzzle
  • Extra time at my spinning wheel
  • Writing in my journal and focusing on daily accomplishments and joys
  • Toilet paper (especially now that we have plenty and I don't feel like I have to ration it!)
My increased focus on the good things in my life right now has really made me extra aware of how lucky we are to have what we have. Yesterday the local news showed a really long line of cars with people waiting to get food from our local food bank. For all that I might complain on what I'm missing right now, there are so many basic things that I've been taking for granted that so many people are struggling with right now. The Mister and I are able to work from home so we're still getting a paycheck. We have a roof over our heads and don't have to worry about not being able to afford our mortgage or utilities payments. We have enough food to eat and can easily get more. We'll definitely be increasing our donations to food banks and other relief organizations during this pandemic, and if you're able to, I encourage you to do the same.

One project I've been particularly savoring during this time is my granny square blanket. Here's a size check-in for you (with apologies for the odd perspective, gloomy lighting, and clutter in the background):

That's a queen-size bed, for reference. I've just joined in the second of six 20 g mini skeins I'd set aside for this, and I've used up nearly all the leftovers I had. I think it's getting close to being done. I know I'm going to miss working on it when I've decided it's finally Big Enough, so I likely will be starting another one for Rainbow. I've floated the idea of using a number of skeins of Knit Picks Felici I have in my stash, and she's considering it.

I'll end this by sharing some photos from my walks the past few days. First is a response that I found taped up to the "thank you for being such good neighbors" sign I shared previously:

It says: "Thank you for making my walk so cheerful! It will be okay!"

And here's a painted rock I spotted in someone's front yard on Sunday and made a point of photographing on yesterday's walk:

Stay calm, friends, and savor the good in your life right now.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

My Heart in a Skein

I started spinning more than a dozen years ago, at a time when I was very very into knitting socks. I mean, I'm still into knitting socks, but back then I was really churning them out at a very high rate. My interest in spinning came primarily from wanting to spin my own sock yarn, something I achieved fairly quickly (thanks, Type A personality!). Every spinner will likely tell you they have a default yarn -- that is, the yarn they tend to spin when they don't think about what they're doing or get distracted when trying to spin something else. For me, that default is a three-ply fingering weight yarn. I have to really pay attention if I want to spin something different, but the good news is that most of the time I'm perfectly happy to spin fingering weight yarn.

Over the past couple of weeks, as I've been working (or "working," depending on the day) from home, and as the news of the world has gotten grimmer, I've been turning to my spinning more and more. I think this is mainly because it's both soothing and mindless. The treadling of my wheel is good for getting out anxious energy, keeping my hands busy keeps me from biting my nails or otherwise touching my face, and the mindless nature of spinning my default yarn means that I can zone out to some extent. It's been incredibly therapeutic. Ending up with a gorgeous skein of yarn is just a bonus.

This Hello Yarn Targhee came to me in a swap a number of years ago. It was a club shipment that my swap partner either didn't care for or felt she wasn't likely to spin, so she passed it along to me. And I loved the colors so much that I did my usual thing and hid it away in the stash to save it (yes, I know that's completely illogical). Perhaps I had a premonition of what was to come and knew that I'd need to use the good stuff, because I put it on my 20 in 2020 list to spin, and toward the beginning of this stay at home thing, I decided the time was finally right.

I did very little with the fiber before I started to spin. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to chain-ply it to preserve the colors, but I didn't want huge sections of them, so I split the top into four strips lengthwise and spun each from end to end in the same order. So now when this is knit up, it'll stripe, to some degree, but as my splitting was imperfect, it won't stripe in a predictable way, which I rather like -- I fully believe that all handspun should have some sort of imperfection or irregularity to remind you that it's made by hand.

I couldn't be more pleased with this skein. Despite spinning it under a state of near-constant anxiety, it came off the wheel well balanced (and that's unusual for me, because I tend to like a lot of plying twist and overdo it on occasion). It poofed up nicely in the finishing and has a nice spring and squoosh to it. I have approximately 389 yards, plenty for socks or a hat or a cowl. I haven't decided what I want to do with it just yet, and I don't need to. I'm perfectly happy just squishing it in the skein for the time being.

I wasted no time at all getting the next spinning project on the wheel in the form of a more recent stash enhancement:

This is the fiber that came in the October 2019 club shipment from Southern Cross Fibre. It's on Corriedale and is called New Day. It's mostly a muted, dark mix of blues and purples with a few spots of that bright burnt orange. As you can see, I've split the fiber into thirds, and for this skein I'm going back to my comfort spinning: three-ply fingering weight.

The first bobbin was started with the ball of fiber in the lower left in the photo above, so that brilliant orange is now hidden underneath all this darkness. I'm hoping that the finished yarn, once it's plied, will be dark overall with the occasional pop of orange, sort of like that last sliver of sunlight just before it slips below the horizon at dusk.

I think you may be able to tell from the tone of my writing that I'm feeling a bit calmer today than I was a few days ago. I'm still worried about the situation in the world in general, but I'm feeling a little more secure at home. My wonderful partner spent much of the weekend shopping to make sure we have enough supplies and food. He went to Costco first thing yesterday and brought home Clorox wipes and toilet paper(!) among some needed food and health supplies. He then went and bought my in-laws a huge load of groceries because they've been unable to schedule a delivery (and as they're both considered high risk, they've been avoiding supermarkets when they can). Then he went to get a new laptop for himself so he could give his old one to Rainbow to use for her schoolwork. As if all that wasn't enough, this morning he went out again to buy fresh produce, chicken, fish, and milk so that our refrigerator is now well stocked.

I've also shamelessly copied Mary's idea of taking a bit of time each day to focus on three things I've accomplished and five things that made me happy or brought me joy. I started last night by listing them in my journal, and I plan to try to continue to do it every day for at least as long as we're holed up. You may be hearing from me more on here, as well, as I seem to find blogging sort of a public way of journaling and sometimes just getting my thoughts out helps me to feel I can breathe again.

I hope your weekend was restorative in some way and that you were able to find at least a few things to bring you joy!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Small Delights

Another day with more bad news, and I'm getting increasingly anxious. So I'm focusing more and more on little things that make me happy or bring me joy in an effort to combat the panic, and I'm joining up with Carole and friends by sharing three of them with you.

1. Baking with Rainbow

One of the gifts Rainbow received last year from my parents was the American Girl Baking cookbook. She has been looking through it ever since and drooling over the recipes, and this time at home seemed like the perfect time to make something out of it. We started with something simple, a baked apple pancake. There was no picture of the finished item in the book, but we had all the ingredients on hand (save the powdered sugar for topping, but we thought we could live without it). We prepped the apples and the batter before dinner and popped it into the oven while we were eating so it would be ready for dessert. This beauty is what came out:

Actually, it was even taller when it first came out of the oven, like a good souffle, but of course it settled as it cooled. It was very easy to make, though we agreed in the future we'd use a bit more apple (the recipe called for one large baking apple and we used two small Honeycrisps). It uses only 4 tablespoons of sugar, so it wasn't overly sweet. We all had seconds last night and Rainbow enjoyed what was left for breakfast this morning!

2. A pile of handspun

I retrieved these skeins from the stash room this morning and plan to wind them up (or at least wind some of them up) later today so they're ready to be knit.

The purple gradient, thanks to Bonny's influence, is going to become my first-ever Hitchhiker. The chocolate brown and pinky-purple skeins are bulky weight Bond and Charollais, respectively, from Southern Cross Fibre that I spun a couple of summers ago. Earlier in the week I learned that designer Whitney Hayward had made all her designs for Harrisville free (I believe just for the duration of the current public health crisis), and I fell in love with her Cleburne Cardigan. I immediately thought of these skeins of handspun, so I'm going to swatch and see if I can make it work.

3. Treat yo'self

I've realized that an easy way to boost my mood is through self-pampering, so I've been doing things like using the nice hand lotion instead of my everyday Aveeno. Yesterday I gave myself a manicure, something I rarely do because I'm usually so busy that I don't feel I can spare the time to sit and wait for the polish to dry (though I did use the quick-drying polish I have so I didn't have to wait too long). Yesterday I was listening to the Knitmore Girls episode from last week and Gigi mentioned that she'd been wearing perfume since she started staying at home. I've stopped wearing my perfume when I've been out in public so as not to bother those who are sensitive to scents, but I knew no one in my house would have a problem, so I put on a spritz after my shower this morning. That was such a tiny thing, but catching a whiff of scent injects a little joy throughout the day.

How about you? What small delights have you found or indulged in this week?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

On Keeping Calm and Carrying On

I'm now into my second week of working from home full time and have somewhat settled into the new schedule. Because I no longer have to get up and get everyone out the door on time and walk to my office, I've been able to sleep in a bit (only an extra half hour, but it makes a difference). My morning routine isn't so rushed because I'm no longer bothering to put on makeup (my family knows what I look like without it, so I'm saving it). I can linger over my email and blogs and drink all my coffee at a leisurely pace. And then I go back up to my bed room to sit in my comfy chair and log in to work.

The lack of the normal frenetic pace in the morning is helping to keep me calm, as is staying mostly away from the news during the day (I'll still peek at Twitter a few times during the day, but I usually wait until the evening news to see what's happened because it's rarely anything good). And I'm doing as much crafting as I can whenever I can -- I suppose that's one major benefit to working at home, because during my down time I no longer have to look busy. Yesterday after I finished up what I needed to do, I read a book and worked on a sock for Rainbow:

As you can see, I'm now past the heel, for which I used some of the coordinating mini skein that came with the self-striping yarn to do a garter stitch Fish Lips Kiss Heel. The heel itself is a little shorter/shallower than the usual stockinette heel, but it's nice and squishy and I've also made the sock a bit bigger than Rainbow's foot on purpose so that she won't outgrow it right away. She mostly wears her hand-knit socks around the house and to bed anyway, so I'm not concerned about this not fitting in a shoe.

Today featured two other crafts. First, this morning, I did some spinning. Then, during a large conference call this afternoon, I pulled out my granny square blanket, which is frankly starting to get a bit unwieldy.

I've found that I've been reaching for this project quite a lot, probably because it's very soothing and easy to work on. I have officially finished up the last of my holiday mini skeins and have started adding in the remaining sock leftovers I had in my project bag. I also have a small number of minis in a separate bag that I can add in when I get through all the leftovers if I want the blanket to be bigger. I honestly thought this blanket would be in progress throughout the year, but if I continue at this rate, it might be done in another week or two!

The yarn that you saw me unraveling over the weekend has now been washed and caked up, ready to be knit:

The colors are terribly off in this photo, but at least you can see that I have a decent amount -- in fact, not including the half skein leftover from Rainbow's mittens, I have about 1,160 yards salvaged from the sweater, so I'd say probably enough to make about 10 pairs of mittens. I keep thinking about how great it would be to come out of this pandemic (because, let's be honest, we could be at home a while) with a bunch of warm things to donate come next winter.

It's making me feel better to think about helping others, and having something like this to contemplate and plan for gives me a little sense of control. I'd say feeling like there's nothing I can do to stop or help with the crises is what's most stressing me at the moment (well, that and not being able to see my family in person). As of 8 p.m. last night, my county is officially under a stay at home order, so at least I know everyone else is stuck, too! I will say this for these extraordinary times: Thanks to the current situation, I was able to have a virtual meet-up of my old knitting group last night, something we haven't managed in person in many years!

So how are you doing? Are you finding comfort in yarn? Do you miss going to places? I hope we can continue to support each other for as long as this crisis lasts.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Making Yarn Two Ways

Spinning continues, and I'm now probably a bit more than halfway done with my singles because I am on the third of four balls of fiber:

I spun quite a bit yesterday while watching video podcasts and during a virtual knitting group that Mary hosted this afternoon. If the pace continues, I expect to be plying by next weekend.

Meanwhile, I made yarn a slightly different way this morning. After doing a lot of snipping and unweaving of ends last night, this morning I was able to unravel my sweater.

I wasn't able to salvage all the yarn and in fact lost quite a bit due to some haphazard snipping last night, but I did end up with a decent pile of yarn ramen:

All this yarn has now been washed and is hanging to dry, and once it's dry I'll wind it into cakes and weigh it to see how much I have to work with. Seeing as we may end up being home for a while, I figure I can at least use some of that time to make some charity items, and this pile is all destined to become felted mittens (though I'm planning to keep one pair for myself).

This weekend seemed a little less surreal than last, though I still only left my house to take a long walk each day -- thankfully the sun was out both days though it's been a little chilly. Rainbow and I had our Hebrew class via Zoom this morning and then she had Sunday School, and the Mister went out to brave the supermarket. We're well stocked with food and have a lot of flour, butter, and eggs (but they were out of yeast; I thought I might try making challah for this coming Friday night), so it appears that I might have to try my hand at making pastry. Somehow I don't think that's entirely a bad thing! I'm really trying to focus on the good things, even if they seem inconsequential, like how neatly I managed to fold the sheets this morning and how lovely the sunshine feels on my face. Then I saw this hanging from a tree in front of one of the houses in our neighborhood on my walk this afternoon and nearly lost it:

Be kind to each other, friends. I think it's the only way we're all going to get through this.