March Madness

This has been the busiest late Winter of my life, the craziest March so far, and I’m not seeing any signs that Spring will be any less of a Payday bar than the rest of the year (payday = nutty? Get it?)

Entrelac On A Bike

Entrelac In My Blue Tulip Bike Pannier Bag

I’m tired. Mentally I’m tired, and physically I’m just now catching up on rest I missed in January and February.

I can sometimes ‘create’ energy for myself by exercising wisely. For me that means Yoga (when I can get my sorry butt into downward facing dog) or cycling (which I’ve been able to do quite a bit this week – YAY for a warm spell in MN!)

I’ve learned, though, that with an energy-draining condition like fibromyalgia it is difficult to catch up on rest and impossible to store it up for hard times ahead. I can only try to build up my stamina. Ride, fat girl, ride!

However, the excellent thing about working on one’s own business is that hours are fluid. Except for scheduled events like teaching engagements and fiber shows (of which I’ve had many this Winter) I can choose to rest when I need to, and work when my body is rested.

This works well for me as far as dyeing goes – I get up early and dye while I have physical strength.  Then as the day passes and my body becomes tired, and pain sets in, I withdraw to the most comfortable chair in the house and get ‘paperwork’ – computer stuff, pattern writing, emails, etc. – done.

The work I do is hard, physically and mentally, but I’m so fortunate that I’m able to compartmentalize it and work on each piece with the best part of my working self.

The Nut of an Idea

The Nut of an Idea

Right now I’m working on two new online classes for Interweave Press, Knitting With Wire and Charted Entrelac. They’re two of my favorite classes, two techniques that I return to over and over when I just want to unwind with some FUN knitting, and I’m excited to be able to offer them as online classes.

This means, however, a butt load (technical term) of previously unplanned work before Yarn Fest in Colorado April 14-16 (we’ll be recording the classes the day before Yarn Fest opens)

Step Outs for Entrelac

Step Outs for Entrelac, worked in ModeWerk Bulky

There is a lot of planning, writing scripts, and working up “Step Outs” (step by step samples of the project to be covered in the class)

I enjoy this kind of work. It’s perfect for a Virgo, a chance to try to organize what could be a chaotic TV shoot into comprehensible steps.

Today is devoted to step outs and script writing and physical resting.

Tomorrow, the world!

Williamsburg Peace

I’m sitting in bed in a beautiful room in Colonial Williamsburg, the sun streaming through the shutters and limning the rocking chairs on my balcony with a morning glow.  It’s glorious, and I’m very grateful to be here!

This weekend I taught at a brand new retreat, History Unwound, and it was one of the nicest teaching experiences I’ve had in a career of lovely teaching engagements.

Starting a retreat from scratch is one of the hardest things for a knit person to do. Kimberly Villareal (Somebunnyslove on Ravelry) put this together with the help of her husband, Chris, various helpers and volunteers (primary among them Trish – ElizabethsMommy on Ravelry)

2015-03-15 18.57.05

One of Donna D’s beautiful mittens from her upcoming book on Lithuanian Knitting Traditions.

I admire Kimberly’s ability to have a vision, make a plan, and find a way to make it happen. She acquired sponsors, found folks to supply and create goody bags, went after some excellent teachers and lecturers. She presented an amazing array for her guests!

I felt so flattered to be teaching alongside Anna Zilboorg, Franklin Habit and Donna Druchunas, three knitting ‘greats’, as well as Rohn Strong, Beth Smith and Sharon Hilgers, three folks I did NOT get enough time with!  I swear, Rohn MUST be related to me somehow, he is the spit and image of many of my cousins, a red-headed version of my late brother!)

The retreat was exactly what one should be – a chance for folks to gather, take classes, shop for some yarn and fiber related items (I bought a change purse!) and, above all, RELAX and recharge the batteries!

If I felt relaxed and recharged after teaching for 2 days, I can only imagine how good the students must have felt!

I hope this is the first of MANY History Unwound retreats! It’s such an excellent idea, and there are so many interesting historical and fiber related locations where future retreats can be held!

2015-03-14 16.12.30

“See, Apple’s in the slammer, but Little Pear’s got the cabbage to spring Apple (that is, if Officer Donut don’t get too greedy!)”

I would advise anyone who is interested in this type of event to ‘like’ History Unwound on Facebook so you can stay on top of developments for future years.  I feel SO fortunate to know Kimberly, and to have had a chance to be part of this delicious event!

And NOW I get to fly home, to see my favorite place in the world (wherever Gerry is) and to see my daughter! Andy’s home from college for Spring Break, and having both she and Max home is so joyful to me! I’m a lucky, lucky woman!

My flight doesn’t leave until this afternoon, so I’ll be able to do a bit of exploring before I head out.  Or maybe I’ll just find a beautiful location and sit and knit!  Exhaustion has hounded me this Winter, more than it ever has before, and it’s been worrying.

Colonial Annie On A Bike

Colonial Annie On A ‘Hobby Horse’ Bike

I’m certain that it’s partly due to an increased travel schedule.  This marks the 5th long trip in 2 months for teaching or selling yarn. Winter’s are always hard on the Fibromyalgia, but this year all of the travel has doubly sapped my strength.

That’s why I’m so psyched to get home, to get back on my bike again and work out the kinks. Riding my bike really DOES energize me in a way nothing else does.  Immediately after a ride I’m wiped out, but within a day or so, I begin to feel the positive effects on my stamina.

This weekend I had moments when I was absolutely overwhelmed with exhaustion and pain, which is why the opportunity to sleep in today, rest in bed while I write a blog post, and just sit in the sun and knit are moments to be treasured. And I do. I’m a lucky woman.

Vacation! (?)

Gulf Coast, Post Sunset

Gulf Coast Sunset

I promised myself 8 years ago that we’d actually DO vacations. We’d find a way, through frequent flier miles and Vacation Rental By Owner, to relax a bit each year.  It’s something folks in Europe do without blinking, and something more Americans should do.  For pity’s sake, folks, we work damn hard and we deserve a bit of a break!

This year our getaway (without the kids, Andy’s in college and Max has that high school thing…) was courtesy my business partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi, and her brother. They own a lovely home down in Florida, where her mother lived, and her brother’s family only uses the upper floor.

So when Kathleen offered the space to us for a week we jumped at it – YES!

Actual Spirit Air Passenger (contemplating that death may be preferable to another Spirit flight)

Actual Spirit Air Passenger (contemplating death, which may be preferable to a Spirit Airlines flight)

If you follow my tweets, you know the trip down was not stellar. Actually, it wasn’t the trip, just the check-in and boarding. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing.

WARNING: NEVER FLY SPIRIT AIRLINES.
I’d been warned & never believed how bad it was. Now I do.

The past week had been unexpectedly difficult. I taught in NY, which was great, but got all light-headed at the end of my class and still feel like a wuss about that.

Then I got snowed in (iced in) and had to stay an additional day in the NYC area. It wasn’t bad, I was fortunate enough to get to visit with some very dear friends, but it was taxing!

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 6.15.26 PMOver the weekend there was a family emergency which compelled me to fly and drive quite a distance over a two day period, which was also taxing (physically and mentally).  When I got back to St. Paul, I jumped right into my work, attempting to get 3 days of skeining and dyeing finished in one day (which I did – sort of…) and just as I was catching my breath it was time to board the plane.

I hadn’t entirely unpacked all week.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 6.13.33 PMBut here we are, finally, in beautiful Fort Meyers Beach, FL, where it’s lovely and sunny and beautiful!

Folks here are saying it’s a lot chillier than normal, but right now in MN it’s 1º, perspective is always helpful.

Our first day here we visited the Koresh Unity Historic Site.  I’d actually visited this place back in 1991, when I took a solo 1-week vacation from grad school.

Who but me would go, alone, to Florida for Spring Break
to visit Celibate Utopian Communities?

The Hollow Earth

The Hollow Earth

I’d told Gerry about their fascinating and kooky concept that the earth was actually a hollow ball (with us on the inside edge, looking toward the center of the sphere when we gaze ‘up’ at the sky)

If I hadn’t discovered a book about the community, Hollow Earth by David Standish, I might have thought I dreamed the whole thing.

Koreshan Furniture

Koreshan Furniture

I was surprised to see it was only 5 miles from Ft. Myers, so off we went!

It’s a beautiful site, with a very interesting story. As with many 19thC ‘Utopian’ communities, the Koreshan Unity (NO relation to David Koresh) believed both in celibacy and equal rights for women.

Both were definite draws for me in grad school.

Gerry & Water Tank

Gerry & Water Tank

Along the lines of the Shakers (some of whom made up the community) they built furniture, baked bread, made clothing and ran a printing business.

Except for the celibacy thing, they might still be active today…

If you’re in Florida and have any interest in history, it’s worthwhile to visit! It’s a lovely site with many interesting activities for folks year round!

Channeling Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Koreshan Bamboo Landing

Channeling my inner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Koreshan Bamboo Landing

Rounding out our day, we visited Brisket Brothers BBQ in Fort Myers. This rib joint is owned by Kathleen’s brother, Robert, and the food is DELICIOUS!

Driving there the traffic was stop and start, and my leg was sore and achy from the braking (which I thought was odd…)

After we had our very tasty lunch (pulled pork for me, corned beef for Gerry) we headed home for an evening walk on the beach (where I felt oddly achy and chillier than I should have)

We had a drink, a ‘bucket o’ fun’ (which we shared, I couldn’t drink more than a sip or two)
and then walked home, in bed by 9:30 or so.  We are wild people, woo!

So it wasn’t a HUGE surprise when, at 3am, I began feeling terrible. Really, really terrible.

I had the flu. I am 100% positive it wasn’t due to anything I’d eaten or drunk the day before. I’m certain it’s something I picked up during our airport/plane time.

Flotsam

Flotsam

This was full-blown flu, with body aches, fever, chills (and all the less pleasant activities, too)

It always sucks to be away from home and be sick, but Gerry is the most amazing husband. He made everything much better.

Yesterday was a write off. I was OUT of commission all day.

Today was a resting day, we walked to the beach, sat in a chair, finally admitted to each other we were freezing and came home.

Yes, this is excitement at the beach!

Sunset, Ft. Myers Beach

Sunset, Ft. Myers Beach

Having said that, we’re having a great time! If nothing else, being totally away from home means an enforced no-dyeing policy is in effect for me until I return home.

And, it is about 60º warmer here than back home, that’s a very good thing!

Ironic (and fitting) that I would leave a very cold place to come to a very warm place and end up with chills.

But at least – as with everything – I have a good story!

The Virtue of Enforced Patience

Proof there is something older than me in NYC.

Proof there is something older than me in NYC.

I have become a much more patient person in my 40’s and 50’s than I was in my 20’s and 30’s. I’m not unusual in this, it’s a pretty widely recited truism that those with the most time (the young) seem to be in the biggest hurry.

I realized about a year ago that instead of seeing things as weekly or monthly deadlines, I was tending to see long term goals; yearly, decade-ly. Even century-ish.

The peace that this shift has created has become very important to me. I don’t really care if someone gets somewhere ahead of me (well, unless the place we’re going has a finite number of gluten free cookies, then I’ll be early in line…)

Winter Subway Climb

Winter Subway Climb

I’m just happy to get there eventually.  Or not. At least, that’s what I work toward – especially when driving in rush hour traffic.

So when this weekend didn’t go as I’d planned it, I tried to just swallow hard, accept it, and enjoy what DID transpire.

My classes on Saturday were, I think, good. It’s always hard to judge myself, and although I try to write good, happy things about my classes, I am also my harshest critic.

The classes were mixed skill level; very new knitters, very experienced knitters, and all levels in between.

I LOVE these mixed classes, mostly for the interplay that can happen when knitters of various levels meet. But they can also be very draining, they take a LOT of energy.

It’s like spinning plates, with each one turning at a different speed. Lots of running to and fro.

I left everything I had within me in that room for the students, and felt like a better teacher – and person – for it.

Subway Marble Mosaic Art

Subway Marble Mosaic Art

Unfortunately, because of the very hot room & the exhausting classes (and my habit of skipping meals on class days) I became very faint at the end of the day, as I discussed in my last blog post.

So the next day I rested – or I meant to.

A friend (my freshman college roommate) texted me, so we met for coffee and oatmeal.

I mentioned I wanted to pick up some bowls for Gerry’s birthday, so we took the subway down to Chelsea to FishsEddy. We walked a bit, talked a lot about our kids (her daughter is 12, she – like me – is a late-in-life mom) and shared our war stories about the early teen years.

We also shared our complete disdain for “Thank You” notes. Yes, I’ll come out here – I do NOT like the Thank You Note – or, rather, I don’t like the expectation of them. I try to send them, and I ALWAYS say “Thank you!” for kindnesses. But I don’t like getting wrapped up in some Miss Manners vision of what is the ‘right’ thing to do. It’s exhausting.

Amazing Mosaic Subway - Thank You, MTA!

Amazing Mosaic Subway – Thank You, MTA!

There, make of it what you will, I don’t think I’m an ingrate, just often very busy…

My former roommate and I parted, and immediately I got a text from a friend in Brooklyn, a dear costuming contact from my Great Lakes Theater Fest internship days, who drove in from Park Slope, picked me up and we talked and talked in her car.

I miss my NY friends. I love Minnesota & my MN friends. It’s the perfect place for me (and our family) in most ways, but I do miss my NY friends.

Jaya Yoga

Jaya Yoga

We drove to Brooklyn, to her “Restorative Yoga” class at the Jaya Yoga Center in Park Slope. When I realized the class was ALL floor work (stretching between power naps) I joined in, & enjoyed it thoroughly. David Figueroa’s an exceptional teacher!

It was just what I needed, I felt energized, centered & happier than I had all day.

I also LOVED being a student, it felt necessary for my ‘balance’ (teaching so hard one day, learning the next!) My wise friend Sue knew what would be good for my soul.

In a perfect world, when we come together to teach anything to a group of receptive students, we, as teachers, would also be able to TAKE a class.

And we would be kind to ourselves, not judging ourselves, nor our teachers, too harshly. It never hurts to be a bit kind whenever possible.

Good Friend & Kids

Good Friend, Kids & Puppies

We went to Sue’s apartment & I become reacquainted with her two teens, who I hadn’t seen in over 12 years. We talked about kids, life & new puppies (a metaphore for my entire weekend.)

On the drive back to Manhattan we watched the colors of the Empire State Building change – a virtual scoreboard for the Superbowl! 

The Empire State Bldg colors changed with the superbowl score.I was supposed to fly home the next day (Monday) but an ice storm cancelled my flights. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until I was AT the airport. Had I known, I would have just stayed at the Hampton Inn on 39th another night (it was a really great hotel!) 

But once I was in NJ with the only open flight at 6pm on Tuesday, I had over 24 hours to kill.

Yes, I could have returned to NY, but the amount of physical energy it took to get from the hotel to Penn Station, then onto the train, then from the train to the check in counter had entirely drained me. Few things are as wearying as maneuvering through Manhattan in an ice storm with lakes of frozen water at each corner.

I’m a mass transit fan, but it can be exhausting. I was in FULL Fibro flare up – I still am – so feeling totally confused I called Gerry and wept, which is something I don’t do very often.

My office for the morning.

My office for the morning.

Gerry called some very dear friends in NJ & they welcomed me into their home. Their son and Max used to be best friends, and we parents became good friends, too!

So here I am, in a very beautiful home, on a snowy & beautiful day in beautiful Maplewood, NJ.

The weekend hasn’t been as I planned it, but it’s been a learning, growing and reflecting kind of weekend. I needed it, and I’m glad I had it.

AARP

I blame the AARP discount.

Mourning brooch of diamonds & jet

Mourning brooch of diamonds & jet

I applied for the card a weeks ago to get the AARP discount at the hotel for my NY trip (teaching at the Big Apple Guild)

Yes, I’m over 50. 52, in fact. Like a deck of cards.
Like the weeks in a year. Like President Obama.

I flew in on Friday, got all settled in my (amazingly cheap room – thanks AARP!) and headed up for the Late Night at the Metropolitan Museum to see the Death Becomes Her exhibit. When I was in grad school I wrong a lengthy (perhaps TOO lengthy) report on Mourning Dress, so it’s a topic that resonates with me.

A mourning brooch, a miniature of the deceased with a cuff woven of her hair.

Miniature of deceased woman, woven cuff of her hair.

It was a WONDERFUL exhibit, perhaps a bit too small (once again, I tend to like my costume exhibits lengthy) and, in all the excitement of seeing the show and returning to my hotel, it didn’t dawn on me that I hadn’t eaten.

You know, I love food. I really do. Skipping meals isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I just didn’t feel – hungry.

So Saturday I got up, had a banana and a gf muffin and took one to have for lunch, and headed over to the Big Apple Knitting Guild.

The classes were really great! The group is wonderful, I love the passion and opinions of this guild, I really did feel like I was visiting family! Entrelac went well – it’s a hard concept, and some of the newer knitters had to work very hard, but I was SO proud of everyone.  Everybody’s abilities were stretched, that’s the goal!

When I teach, I don’t so much want everyone to be at the same point when the class is over, but I DO want everyone to grow a bit, to stretch themselves, and gain a bit of confidence!

An Egyptian foot.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog post.

An Egyptian foot. This has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post.

During the lunch break I stayed in the room, which was INCREDIBLY hot. It was at a dance studio, so the heat is usually up high to loosen up muscles.  I found myself getting a bit overheated.

The second class was the Mitered Bag, which was also a lot of fun.  The many different skill levels in the class meant that there was a lot of going back and forth between students, it wasn’t a class where I sat much, and near the end of the class I found myself feeling very light headed.

This usually doesn’t happen to me, and I’m still not certain why it did.  For a bit I was scared, but sitting down, drinking some water, and then getting outside in the fresh air did a world of good.

I think I may have just been overheated, and unwise in my food choices (no real protein for most of Friday or Saturday) and working very hard.

So I’m blaming AARP for my first ‘spell’, as my mother would say.  Apparently the tradeoff for those great discounts are lightheadedness and dizziness. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My dad died of a heart attack at 56 (after a stroke at 53), and my brother died of a heart attack at 45. I haven’t been getting out on my bike lately, or even getting to the exercise bike at the gym, and I feel this is a large part of my episode yesterday.

I felt SO embarrassed. I know that sounds silly, and I’d be the first one to tell someone else, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, DON’T feel foolish!” but I did.  Aside from feeling that I’d not tied up the end of the class very well, I felt – exposed – while something odd was happening to me that I didn’t understand.  A very odd feeling.

Annette, my contact from the guild, VERY kindly walked me to my hotel (it was 4 blocks away) and up to my room.  It was very good of her, and I was grateful!  I discovered delivery.com, ordered some rice and chicken soup, and feel light years better this morning.  I don’t fly out until Monday, so I have a day to rest.

And, yes, I will eat something.  I don’t think Gerry would look very good in any of these dresses…

Yarn Works by Wendy J. Johnson

yarnworks_coverThis review is a long time coming, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write it.

It’s been difficult to write, because I love this book so much, and each time I sat down to review it I felt I couldn’t do it justice.

I finally realized that, short of reprinting entire chapters of the book here on my blog, nothing could really reflect how helpful Yarn Works is until one actually reads it.

This is a unique and incredibly useful book. It is textbook-like in it’s scholarship, it’s appendices and illustrations. But, unlike the average textbook, Yarn Works is a delight to read.

Yarn Works is broken into 4 sections; Fiber Workshop, Spin Workshop, Dye Workshop and Knit Workshop.  Each section is clearly divided into chapters which take the reader through each topic, step by step, with very clear and understandable instructions.

I don’t know what Wendy’s middle name is, but it could easily be “Clarity.”

I must confess that when I review a book, I usually don’t read it cover to cover. If it’s a pattern book I’ll peruse the garments, pick a few and read through the pattern to see if I can understand the writing style. If it’s a technique book I’ll try a few of them out, also to see if the writing style resonates with me.

In this case, I’ve been taking this book to bed with me and scanning it (heck, I took it to DC with me and read it in hotel rooms along the way…) and I’m in love with it.

2014-12-30 11.00.59My adult life has been book-ended by yarn; I learned to knit at 25, began designing hand knit garments and writing patterns in the 80’s. I took a hiatus to attend grad school and work in the theater and TV for 10 years, then returned to knit design/teaching in the early 2000’s.

Now I dye yarn, too, which takes up the lion’s share of my days, so I was most intrigued to read Wendy’s take on these aspects of my ‘life’ – dyeing and knitting.

I must admit that I didn’t spend a great deal of time on the Spin Workshop. I read the section, as I did the Fiber Workshop section, and found the information clear and concise.  I’m not a spinner; my asthma makes it difficult for me to even knit with very soft fibers (like alpaca or angora), forget about spinning fiber!

wendy_book_1My main focus, obviously, was on the dyeing section.  Wendy breaks down the dyeing process by type of dye, and by fiber, and does it so clearly and in such a non-confusing manner that just about any fiberista will walk away feeling a bit more expert in their understanding.

I’ve spent the past week doing some hard-core dying, finishing up many kilograms of yarn for various clubs and shows, and I’ve felt gratified by how words from Yarn Works come to me at various parts of the process.

Through trial and error over the past year, as ModeKnit Yarn has been moving up to speed, I’ve come to many of the same conclusions that Wendy comes to in her book. However, I didn’t understand the science or theory behind many of my discoveries, and reading about them has been incredibly helpful.

wendy_book_2For instance, I knew that citric acid increased the ability of my yarn to absorb dye and exhaust the bath, but I didn’t understand WHY. Knowing this allows me to be a more complete and effective dyer.

I love Wendy’s embracing attitude that there are MANY right and good ways to create and dye fiber — as many as there are dyers — but the science behind dyeing doesn’t change from dyer to dyer.

If you have an interest in spinning, dyeing or knitting, want to understand the basics of different fiber types and what differentiates different protein fibers (or how cellulose seed fibers differ from cellulose bast fibers) and want to learn all of this in a friendly and comfortable environment, Yarn Works is the book for you.

w-j-johnson-headshotYou probably didn’t get this book for Christmas. Treat yourself and order it now.  Then order one for a friend and change their fiber life.

Yarn Works
W. J. Johnson
ISBN: 978-1-58923-788-9
Creative Publishing Int’l

Life On Hold For AMAZEMENT!

A & A at Prez's Door

A & A at Prez’s Door

I’m still reeling.

Whirlwind doesn’t BEGIN to describe the events of the last week! First, the facts: I got invited to a sort of “Tweet Summit” at the White House. It was 99% unexpected…

(I actually DID apply to go when I saw a tweet about
the event by @WhiteHouse, but I didn’t really
think for a moment that I’d be in the running.)

It was an opportunity for the people behind the scenes at The White House to meet with a group of folks who are known to be very active on social media.

My assigned crafting place

My assigned crafting place

I guess I fell into that group (THANK YOU friends & readers of my tweets & blog!)

I was SO excited to be invited.

It happened much more suddenly that I expected. When I got invited, my first impression was that it was a sort of ‘family event’ and that our whole family was invited.

Beautiful Daughter

Beautiful Daughter

Unfortunately, I misunderstood  It was more of a business / public relation than a family event.

However, the very kind folks at TWH allowed me to bring a guest when they realized that Andy is also an active social media person, AND part of an excellent demographic which happened to be underrepresented at this event.

Fog All The Way To DC

Fog All The Way To DC

Gerry didn’t want me to drive to pick up Andy at Earlham and on to DC alone, so he insisted on coming and sharing the driving burden. And it was INSANELY foggy both there and back, lots of white knuckle driving!

We wanted Max to come, too, but the suddenness make this impractical – Max had finals, too, papers to finish and a big project at his after school job (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) that he wanted to do well, so he opted to stay home. We missed him!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Beautiful Hallway

Beautiful Hallway

What The Event WASN’T

    • We did not meet POTUS, FLOTUS or DOTUS
      (Doggies of the United States)  Dang.
    • We didn’t get lunch, but we DID get delicious cider and cookies (I brought some home for Gerry & Max)

What The Event WAS

  • A chance for folks involved in social media to visit & learn about The White House
  • An opportunity to meet White House staff who explained to us
    • How White House events are put together
    • How ‘average folks’ (like me!) can attend events like the Easter Egg Roll, tours, etc.
    • How the large staff works together to make these events spectacluar!
  • A crafting opportunity (probably another reason I was asked to come!)
Laura Dowling, TWH Chief Floral Designer

Laura Dowling Chief Floral Designer

We were given talks by many interesting folks, the first part of the day was spent discussing the social media strategies TWH uses to present their messages to various audiences.

For instance, I follow a lot of folks on Twitter, but one of my favorite accounts to read is @ObamaFoodarama. That lets me, a food lover, to see a different side of The White House.

By utilizing twitter to present different sides of The White House in this way, the social media staff can allow the average citizen to feel a bit more connected to the goings on of what is, essentially, OUR house.

Ellie Schafer, Director TWH Visitors Office

Ellie Schafer, Director TWH Visitors Office

Hands down, the most impressive person we met was Ellie Schafer. She was absolutely brilliant. The love she has for her job and her passion for presenting The White House to the world in the best way was infectious!

The room came to life as she was speaking, and I felt she was the best advertisement for the type of person we’d like to have heading the visitors office of OUR house.

She explained that The White House is a residence, an executive office AND a museum, I hadn’t thought of it in those terms.

I LOVE DC!

DC is one of my favorite places.

Union Station, DC

Union Station, DC

My first adult visit was when I was an intern with WNET in NY

(I got to fly a TV proposal down that needed to be turned in the same day it was finished, interns get to do the most unlikely things…)

It was spring, and I absolutely fell in love with the city. I’ve been back many times since then, most memorably when I was working on the Million Mom March for Gun Safety in 2000.

Gerry & Andy On Metro

Gerry & Andy On Metro

If I have any regrets about this particular trip, it was the physical difficulty for Gerry of sitting in a car for so many hours.

He insists it’s pretty much what he’d be doing at home, but I think he’ll be resting a bit over the next few days.

However, he started planning a SECOND family trip to DC on the way home!

This time we’ll take Max, too, and we’ll be able to spend more time and visit more museums!

In other news, Max came in 2nd in his Debate Meet on Saturday! GO MAXIE!!

BONUS

To see a funny video I took on the Metro Subway, click here!

One Knitter’s Road To DC

So something kind of cool happened this week…

I saw a tweet from The White House (known henceforth as TWH) asking folks who’d like to be invited to a holiday event at TWH to apply online.  I did, thinking, “They’ll NEVER invite me!”

Well, they did.

Apparently they tried to contact me several times, but for some reason our phone wasn’t connecting

The woman at TWH said it might have been because their number comes up as ‘blocked’ so depending on folks’ settings, it might not go through – odd…
We certainly have no problem getting a ton of 800 spam calls!

On Friday they emailed me, I didn’t get it until late in the day (annual ModeKnit Yarn holiday lunch at Kyoto Sushi …) so it was pretty late on Friday when I learned we were invited for Monday. Yikes!

Even if I weren’t someone who’d jump into a car and drive 16 hours without blinking an eye
(and I am), this seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

I am allowed to bring one person, so it was between Gerry and Andy. The event was explained to me as a ‘decorating & craft event’ (apparently my knitting/craft chops AND my numerous twitter followers put me up on the potential invitees list..) I’m told we will me making Christmas ornaments!

Gerry insists that it’s really more up Andy’s alley, Andy insists that Gerry should go – and Gerry won. Andy’s going with me.

The problem was, this semester Andy had only two final exams, and they were both on Monday. Yikes again. Fortunately her professors are VERY understanding and one is allowing her to take the exam on Sunday, the other later in the week.

Andy & Annie at the White House (artists rendering)

Andy & Annie at the White House (artists rendering)

Max was originally going to join us, but he confessed to us today that he just has too much he feels he needs to do at the end of his semester, and he’s helping a friend with a project at SPNN (where he has a part time job) AND he had a pretty important debate meet today (where he came in SECOND – which is amazingly good)

We allowed Max to bow out of the event and stay at home. I’ve learned that when Max has a strong feeling about not participating in something, it’s really best to trust his gut. Every time I’ve forced him to do something he wasn’t really into, something has gone terribly wrong.

Return with me now to the dreaded Lyme Disease Summer of 2011
after I forced Max to go to camp in the Boundary Waters.

Bad mommy.

Plus, the pets are VERY happy that he’s staying.

We’re doing the trip in stages, tonight we’re in Beloit and I used some Hilton points to snag a $40 room at Hampton Inn (SUCH a lovely room!)  Tomorrow we pick up Andy and continue to DC, where I’m using Starpoints for two nights at a nice hotel in Arlington. It’s such a bonus to be able to use different membership club points to make this (hotel-wise) an almost-free trip!

I have to give a nod to Awardwallet.com, they REALLY help me keep my different memberships straight and monitor how many miles I have in 25 different programs. I find I’m able to use my points much more efficiently when I can access them so easily!

So while Andy and I are at the White House, Gerry will be exploring the Smithsonian. Then we’ll meet up late in the day and have dinner, perhaps look at the lights, and sight-see.  Tuesday we’ll have some time before we have to head back to Earlham to drop Andy off, we’ll stay overnight so she can take her exam, then we’ll all come home together.

Did I mention I’m getting a tooth pulled on Friday?
I wanted something to take my mind off of it, and this will certainly do that!

Apologies for the lack of book review – I promised two reviews this week and I’m afraid I’ll be lucky to get ONE done!  I can’t say I didn’t ask for this – I filled out the online request form – I just never really expected it to happen (and so QUICKLY!)

Lucky, Lucky Susan!

SA_GiftThe winner of Sock Architecture is SusanKnits! Congrats to Susan!!

I LOVED reading your comments, every one got me to thinking about how much I learn from other knitters.  Folks often show me their knitting shyly, with the implication that I’m a ‘professional knitter’ so I must be SO much better…

NOT SO! I’m an above average knitter, but not by much.

We each have our gifts, we each do different things well, and other things not so well. There are a LOT of things that I don’t do so well. So many, many ways to improve, all of them fun in their own way!

For me, the whole point of knitting is threefold:

  1. to spend time with something you love
  2. to love the process and the challenge
  3. to learn stuff (when you feel the time is right.)

Most of all, my mantra is:

We don’t knit to make THINGS,
We knit to make ourselves HAPPY!

So CONGRATULATIONS Susan! Enjoy your eBook, and for the rest of you – you can find the book here!

AND – I’ll be reviewing a new book in a few days, this one for the DYERS out there!

Here’s a thought… Perhaps you’ll want to share the link to this post to that person who’s been asking, “What can I get you for the holidays?”

The Architecture of Socks

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 1.43.35 PMWhen people ask me, “What’s your favorite thing to knit?” the immediate answer that pops into my mind has never been, “Socks, of course!”

I’ve never been a ‘sock person’ (heck, I don’t even wear socks very often!)

I’ve knit many socks, I’ve designed a sock (okay, a pair of socks…) but although they’re not my go-to project of choice, I definitely appreciate sock knitters.

I’ve long felt that most of the staying power that the popularity of knitting has experienced over the past decade is due to the army of sock knitters who keep so much excitement bubbling in the knitting world.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 1.44.54 PM

Great Illustrations

In my quest to more fully appreciate the mystery of the sock, I’ve read several great sock books (Cat Bordhi, Ann Budd, Andi Smith and Charlotte Schurch have all written amazing sock books)

I would put Lara Neel’s* new book, Sock Architecture, up there with them.

What I particularly like about Lara’s book are the instructions and images. She uses clear graphics and photographs to work,  step by step, through the techniques.

For a non-sock knitter like myself, these type of illustrations are very helpful. I can visualize a technique much better when I can see a few images, I really appreciate the amount of work that went into creating these images.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 1.45.45 PMThe book begins with an explanation of certain sock verbiage, why different heels and toes are named as they are, and the main differences between Eastern and Western socks. Foot shapes,  sizes, and tailoring a sock for a specific foot are discussed in depth, as are tips and tricks for creating a really good-looking, well fitting sock.

The remainder of the book is divided into Top-Down and Toe-Up sock construction, with myriad heels and toes discussed under each topic.  Patterns are provided for each of the variations discussed, and helpful charts allow the knitter to determine whether one of the standard sizes listed would work for their sock, or how they can do the math to create a custom fit.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 4.30.28 PMOne of the nice things about the book is – for lack of a better description – a ‘cut-and-paste’ layout which allows the knitter to either use the designs as written, or create their own design combining elements from various patterns.

As someone with rather long toes and a low arch, I find this SO helpful. Breaking down the patterns in this way also allowed me to understand more fully the actual construction of a sock.

I can’t see myself becoming a great sock knitter, but with Sock Architecture I will feel a bit less adrift when I tackle my next sock pattern.

*in full disclosure, Lara’s a friend of mine and photographed my upcoming Bolero book for Stackpole Press.

Giveaway

Cooperative Press, the publisher of Sock Architecture, is allowing me to give away a copy of the book (as an eBook) to a lucky blog reader!

Simply leave a comment below, tell me the most challenging technique (in a sock, or in any other type of knitting) you’ve attempted and you’ll be entered to win the eBook.

I’ll be selecting one winner on Monday, Dec 8th, by the end of business day.  Good luck!