Monday, November 10, 2014

reds fan

i have a friend who is a cincinnati reds fanatic.  she's seriously all about them redlegs.  so, for christmas i wanted to make her something that really reflected her love of the team.  but when i looked, there was NOTHING out there (just kidding, there was one thing - but it was way to big to fit on a hat).  so, i went over to tricksy knitter and tried to replicate the cincinnati "c" on my own.

disclaimer:  the pattern below is neither produced nor endorsed by the cincinnati reds, and is not licensed by the team.  any attempt to sell items with this logo will likely constitute copyright infringement, and i have no desire to be part of that.  don't do it.  seriously.  the pattern is intended as an homage with the hopes of making a friend happy.  so please, don't send me to court, because i'll come find you and make you pay my fees for me.

with that being said, here's the finished product:

turned out pretty spiffy, if i may say so.  the hat pattern is heather kinne's lined beanie, which is quickly becoming my favorite hat to give as gifts.  it has that lining inside that makes it super duper warm, and has a nice finished look about it that i love.

the chart that i came up with on my own, without any intent to sell it is below.  (see what i did there?)  anyway, i hope it makes her happy, and anyone who wants to make a reds hat or scarf or anything and not sell it for any kind of money or other form of payment whatsoever, can go ahead and use it:

the black line was to help me see where the pattern needed to stop to fit on the hat.  pay no attention to it.  anyway, go and knit in good faith, friends.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

my oh my, how time does fly

so it's now the end of october.  halloween is tomorrow and then it's november.  so, what have i been up to besides work?  well i've been a busy little bee in the crafting department... less to show for it than i want to have, but i've made better progress than i anticipated.  so win!

first, let's take a look back at that mid-september to-do list, shall we?

goal 1:  figure out who is getting handmade gifts.  ugh.  this is hard. i have to be practical about how many gifts i commit myself to finishing, and how big those gifts are, and how much time i will have and all that.  haven't even started on this goal yet. 
i haven't made the greatest progress on this one.  so far i've written a list of about 8 people, and crossed off the ones whose gifts are already done (5) but i have no idea what to do for the other ones.  this means that i can't calculate how long it will take to complete them because i seriously don't know what they are.

goal 2: finish my sister's wedding present in time to give it to her for christmas.  for those of you playing along with previous posts, you know that this is a giant cross-stitch monster that has taken me well over a year to this point.  but, the end is in sight.  if i finish one page per month starting this month, i'll have the whole thing complete by the end of november.  this should give me time to clean it, press it, and get it to the framer in time to get it back by christmas.  in my head, this plan works.  finishing page one should happen in the next couple weeks, so i'll let you know how that goes.
this one is going super well!  i finished the september page on the 23rd,

the october page on the 18th,

and i'm two columns away from finishing the november page, which is the last page, and therefore the end of the project!  i think i will be ahead of schedule on the stitching portion.  the washing and ironing and framing portion may be a different story... does anyone know if michael's will frame needlework?

goal 3: prioritize other projects (for babies and such) by when i will logically need to have them completed.  try and make a list that reflects that logical prioritization.  stop thinking that everything needs to happen today.  if a baby isn't due until march, i've probably got some time after christmas during which i can make the gift.  if i know i'm making a gift that is designed for when the baby is a little older, i can also take my time, even if the baby is born tomorrow.
this one threw the first two off a bit.  i had seriously miscalculated the due date for one of the babies on the list, and was unpleasantly surprised when i found out the shower is going to be on november 16.  this resulted in a week of furious knitting that produced an amazingly adorable dress:
which will fit the baby around her first christmas... how clever am i?  i love the way the top worked out... kinda looks like snowfall.  not to bad for a completely improvised color change, huh?
however, knitting this piece of super cuteness took me away from the aforementioned christmas gifts so now i'm ahead in one place and behind in others.

goal 4: remember that no one is expecting handmade gifts.  if i don't get them all done, it's ok.  they can wait until next year.  i'll just have to find something non-handmade to give them this year.
this is an ongoing struggle.  but i shall have to keep reminding myself daily.

hey the best part has been the incredible fall weather we've been having lately.  i've been able to sit outside on my backporch, listen to my audiobooks and work on my projects...

this is truly the life.  can't wait to get home and do some more!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

In Praise of Crock Pot Liners!

so a couple weeks ago, i decided that it would be spiffy to start using my crock pot for the purpose for which it was designed, creating nutritious dinners that would be ready when i got home, rather than as a decorative object on a low kitchen shelf. 

i had seen numerous pins and blog posts about ways that you can prep ahead for several meals and then just throw one in the crock pot in the morning and voila!  dinner for a week!  so i consulted the pinterest until i found this gem:

the link to the page is here if you want to check it out! 

it seemed idiot proof... it even came with a shopping list so that i didn't have to do that either!  

i went to the store and got all the ingredients and was ready to go, when i remembered seeing an ad for the crock pot liners.  i had always kind of shrugged them off before, but when i thought about the curry in the one recipe and the maple syrup in another one and orange juice in the third, i envisioned my crock pot slowly devolving into a sticky, crusty mess that forever smelled like curry powder... 

so i dropped down the right aisle and found them: 

  now folks, they aren't cheap.  four to a box will cost you $4-5 in the grocery store... so they are about a dollar per liner.  and, at least in my kroger, there were no generic brand liners, so you have to go for the brand name. this usually makes me balk and put them back and say "screw it, i'll scrub"... but this time i didn't.  maybe it was the maple syrup.  maybe it was the threat of forever curry smell... who knows but i bought them anyway.

i made the curry dish the other night, and i actually remembered to use the liner.  it made a huge amount, so after i had my one serving, there was still an entire crock full: 

you can see that it was soupy and curry-colored and overall just kind of messy... i was smart enough to pour it into the dishes over the sink, thank goodness... maybe my common sense is growing...

but here is what my crock pot looked like after i lifted out the bag... i want to emphasize that i did not rinse, soak, or otherwise touch the interior of the crock.  i just lifted the bag out and threw it away:
AMAZING!  i expected some seepage or for the bag to stick to the pot or for there to be a place where the seam let the food get through or something. but nothing!  all i had to do was lightly wash with some dish soap and it was good to go.  

i cannot speak highly enough of these liners.  the curry dish was ok... about a C/C- in terms of flavor, but i wonder if i missed an ingredient or something.  the real winner in this situation was the liner.  i will definitely be using them forever.  certainly worth budgeting an extra dollar per meal when going to the store.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

it's good to have goals...

ok kiddos... it's the middle of september.  literally.  it's september 15.  exactly half of september is gone, which means that only half of the month is left before october.  this means that there are only 2 1/2 months left until christmas.

this doesn't seem like a big deal, except that i need to know this timeline so that any handmade christmas gifts can get made in time for that december deadline.  so i have to set goals, starting in august really, but since i'm too late for that, starting now, halfway through september:

goal 1:  figure out who is getting handmade gifts.  ugh.  this is hard. i have to be practical about how many gifts i commit myself to finishing, and how big those gifts are, and how much time i will have and all that.  haven't even started on this goal yet.

goal 2: finish my sister's wedding present in time to give it to her for christmas.  for those of you playing along with previous posts, you know that this is a giant cross-stitch monster that has taken me well over a year to this point.  but, the end is in sight.  if i finish one page per month starting this month, i'll have the whole thing complete by the end of november.  this should give me time to clean it, press it, and get it to the framer in time to get it back by christmas.  in my head, this plan works.  finishing page one should happen in the next couple weeks, so i'll let you know how that goes.

goal 3: prioritize other projects (for babies and such) by when i will logically need to have them completed.  try and make a list that reflects that logical prioritization.  stop thinking that everything needs to happen today.  if a baby isn't due until march, i've probably got some time after christmas during which i can make the gift.  if i know i'm making a gift that is designed for when the baby is a little older, i can also take my time, even if the baby is born tomorrow.

goal 4: remember that no one is expecting handmade gifts.  if i don't get them all done, it's ok.  they can wait until next year.  i'll just have to find something non-handmade to give them this year.

the overarching goal, though, the one for which these four are really sub-goals, is to not let the deadline get in the way of the joy of the crafting itself.  once it stops being a joyful experience, it stops having the meaning that i want handmade gifts to have.

i have made some progress already, though.  two of my bigger projects are done, and put away for christmas gifts already.  i made really good progress on the cross stitch, which is what inspired this post.  and it's only halfway through september.  right now, life is looking good.

talk to me when we are halfway through october...

Friday, August 29, 2014

itchy fingers

do you ever have one of those weeks?
the weeks when you wonder if you are ever going to have time for yourself?
seriously... ever?

that's been this week for me.  and last week. and the week before.

school started on monday, but i've been back at work for three weeks now, and between being back to work full time and doing the show, let's just say my house  wouldn't necessarily recognize me right now.  

and the bear is a little stressed out:
this is how he has been sleeping lately.  see that little spot on the far side of the bed?  yeah that's where i go.  he hasn't slept like this for months.  i think it's because he doesn't like that i'm never home. 

now don't get me wrong.  i'm having a great time doing the show.  it's been so nice to be back on stage and flexing my toes in tap shoes.  my cast is amazing.  i couldn't have picked a better group of people to spend my evenings with.  we are having so much fun, and the show is super cute, and seriously, i can't express how great an atmosphere it is.  

but, i'm kinda looking forward to having my time back as my own once it's over.
i haven't had time to myself since well... almost a month now? just the last two weeks have been crazy.  last week was hell week for the show, so we were in rehearsal from sunday to wednesday, opened thursday, and had shows through sunday.  also, i helped my cousin move on saturday morning.  also my family came to the show sunday and we all had a big dinner at mom's after.  tuesday was a dinner recognizing j's mom as a volunteer - she won this big awesome award from the league of women voters and it was great.  wednesday was dinner with a friend i hadn't spent time with in weeks and really a few months.  then thursday was back to the show. these are all amazing and incredible things and i loved participating in all of them. 

but i miss being home.  my house is in dire need of cleaning.  the grass is almost as tall as the bear again.  (the plan is to cut it this afternoon if it doesn't rain, but it's the first chance i've had in two weeks) and mostly, i miss my crafts.

i have seriously itchy fingers right now.  i'm in the middle of three good sized projects, and i've made very little progress since life got all crazy.  

i don't have a picture of the third one...

and today was a little slow at work (students stood me up).  i got through my to-do list and so over my lunch, i started looking at ravelry.  that's never a good plan.  because my itchy fingers are even itchier.  i have a number of projects that are waiting in line to be started, but i want to finish the ones i'm working on first.  that means that i want time.  i want the time to myself to sit and do my crafts and make lovely things and finish something (seriously.  i have to finish something or my brain might explode) and start something new.  

i think today i'm just tired and cranky and i have so many things that i have to do and i don't want to do any of them.  i want to do crafting.  my fingers are itching to get back to my needles and it's getting worse the longer i'm away from them.  does this make me a crafting addict?  

Friday, August 15, 2014

whew! where did the summer go?

hey there kiddos... it's been a while, and i don't know where to begin.

show: happening.  me: hurting.  feeling old. bad.  so that's that.

work: back to it. tired.  almost, but not quite ready for the school year to start for real.

crafting:  hit a major goal, but nothing's finished.  i have literally no finished products to share.

this sounds like life sucks, but this summer has been wonderful.  the perfect blend of mini vacations and alone time and reading and work (yes, even work was welcome) and time with j and the bear... i don't want it to end.  but life does go on and the next adventure starts soon.

i do have some small victories to share though!

one: i grew something!  and it didn't die!  and i may actually be able to eat it! behold - my very first peppers:

two: i bought a lawn mower!  i was so terrified of the big yellow monster (no offense roni!) that i  wouldn't get on it.  so... i bought myself a lovely little push mower, and have taken quite a fancy to it.

three: reading so very many books this summer!  because life is too short not to read as many books as possible. here's a little sampler of some of the books i've read since school let out in april:

can i tell you how good it felt to read again?  like, really sit and read, and not feel guilty about it?  it has been a long time since i allowed myself multiple days of having a lie about with a good book in my hands.  it felt good.  i know we live in a society that values work and being busy, but i will always always extoll the value of sitting for hours and immersing yourself in a good book.  i happen to like fiction, but really, whatever makes you happy, you should allow yourself time to read.  i feel like a brand new person.

four: crafting.  i know i said i didn't have any finished projects to share, but i did hit a major milestone with that giant cross stitch project i've been working on (spoiler alert - i am about to include a photo of a gift - sister, sister in law, if you don't want to see, avert your eyes!)  i got to the end of the bottom row of pages! so now i just have the three pages of the top row to do and i'll be done. well... that's a slight lie.  there is a tiny little strip of cobblestones left to do (4 stitches deep across the width of the bottom) but it won't take long at all... and the top has no cobblestones, so hopefully they'll go faster - blocks of color are much easier to stitch!

and finally:  vacations!  i went loads of places this summer!  i already told you about our family  trip to the gorge... and after that, my bff and i went to hocking hills:

we rented a charming little cottage and basically just disconnected from the world for a few days.  we sat and read on our back deck...

and grilled and ate delicious food...
and spent a lot of time in craft central, working on projects, and watching ALL the harry potter movies!  

leaving this place was very sad. 

but i had to come back to the real world... but only long enough to get ready for my next adventure: boston!

my friends moved there about six months ago, so i took advantage of the time off to go visit them :)

they actually live in salem, so we took the ferry into boston proper:

and then we acted all touristy and took one of those trolley tours, seeing, among other things: 

a bridge that was yarn bombed, the old firehouse, fenway park, a pretty church, the boston tea party museum, MIT, the frog pond in boston common, and the boston public library!!!
we had a really great weekend together.  the weather was perfect, and it was awesome seeing my friends again.  my life really hasn't been the same since they moved far away.  i miss them bunches.  both the humans, and these awesome boys:
these danes are two of my favorite dogs in the world, and i was so happy to just snuggle with them for a minute!

then i came home, and before i knew it i was on my way to cedar point for the annual girls' day out riding roller coasters.  it is one of my favorite days every summer, and this year was no exception.  the weather held out for us until the very end, we got to ride almost everything we wanted to, and most of the lines were manageable.  the best part happened about midway through the day.  the gemini had been closed, which made us very sad.  
but then later, it reopened, and we were super duper happy!!!  
and we went on to ride it back to back to back 4 times!!
great day!  

overall i guess the summer was pretty awesome, and life is really good, and the new school year starts a week from monday, and i feel like i may actually be ready for it.  maybe.  i wouldn't mind another week or two of course...  

happy friday everyone!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

things performing taught me that i wish all people knew

so i started rehearsing a show this week.  this is a big deal for me because i haven't been onstage in 5 years, and i haven't participated in theater of any kind in 2 years.  so naturally, i'm both excited and nervous to dive back into the rehearsal schedule, the learning of dance steps and music and cues and tracks, the measuring for costumes (ugh), the sore muscles that haven't been used for dancing in a couple years, etc etc etc.

but it also got me thinking about the theater.  most specifically, it got me thinking of being a teenager/young adult in theater.  ok... that sounds weird... but it makes more sense if you know that for seven years i was the choreographer for a giant city-wide youth theater program, and i watched over a hundred kids each year put on a show and go through all the things that theater is and does for you.  i also watched them grow up from ages 13 to 19 and watched as they learned and matured and became amazing human beings.  and this is what makes me think of what it means to be a young person in theater.  

it also made me remember actually being a young person in the arts.  i didn't start on theater until college, but i was a pretty serious dancer from high school on.  and that kind of life, whether it's dancing, theater, music, etc, leaves you with some lessons that shape the way you interact with the world.  these are lessons that have helped me in much more than just the arts, but in getting through college, graduating and trying to juggle 4 or 5 jobs at once (at least one or two of which were always a show), adding grad school on top of all that, and finally in my career (which has nothing to do with theater... i work at a college... so there).  

now i see my students in my classes, learning how to navigate the world of higher education, and there are things that they don't know that i thought were common knowledge.  then i realized that they aren't common at all.  they were simply drilled into me by my upbringing in the wonderful world of performing arts.  so, here are some of the lessons i learned from the arts that i wish my students would know (aka, things that the arts teach you that have nothing to do with the arts) (aka, why every kid should participate in the arts):

1- punctuality is important.
the first rule i ever learned is that if you're 5 minutes early, you're already 5 minutes late.  get to rehearsal early so that shoes are changed and you are warmed up in time to start.  rehearsals are the epitome of "let's move along" time.  there is so much to get done, and the schedule is tight. there is no time to "pick this up tomorrow."  if you're late, we're starting without you. if we can't, the whole process starts late. if we start late, we stay late.  don't be the reason that the whole cast is stuck in rehearsal until midnight.

real world translation:  being on time shows that you are respectful of others.  whether it's to a meeting, a doctor's appointment, a class, etc, punctuality shows that you recognize that you are there for a reason, and you want to accomplish what you came for, respecting the time of everyone else who came for that reason.

2- it's not all about you.
a production is a result of many many people coming together to tell the same story.  all of the people in the story have to do their parts to make the story live.  if you are more concerned with being the focus of the scene than contributing to it, then you are probably doing more harm than good to the process of creating the world of the show.

real world translation:  you are not the center of the universe.  everyone that you meet in life has something going on that is not related to you in the slightest.  don't ask the whole world to stop and pay attention to you all the time.  recognize what is important in any moment, and let that be the focus.  sometimes it will be your thing, but most of the time it won't.

3- homework is crucial.
rehearsal (unless this is your full time job) is usually 3-4 hours long, and in that time the director is trying to block a scene, while the music director is going over music, and the choreographer is teaching -ography, and maybe the costumer is there taking measurements, and the light and sound guys and gals are trying to do stuff too.  bottom line, rehearsal is for taking the notes, keeping a record of what you need to know later, and moving on to the next thing.  there is no time for you to "learn" it.  that comes later.  at home. when you look over your notes and remember what you are supposed to do, and look over your music and lines and let the words and notes sink in, and practice the dance steps to get them in your body.  because tomorrow, you have a whole new set of blocking and choreo and music to learn.  not doing your homework can mean that you don't know what to do the next time you run that scene, which may not be for two weeks.  and if you don't know what to do, you are not only messing up the scene for you, but for the rest of the cast as well. and if you still haven't done your homework by showtime, you're the one who looks like an idiot in front of the audience.

real world translation:  do your homework.  be disciplined about your work, whatever it is.  if you are in school, do the homework so that the class can progress and you can be successful in it. if it's work, stay up on your reading and your projects so that the company/group doesn't have to teach you what you should have already taken the initiative to learn.  if you stay home, then do the work to make your home what you want it to be as it comes up, instead of waiting until it's in crisis.  prepare, do your work, and don't rely on others to bring you up to speed.

4- deadlines are non-negotiable.
the show opens on opening night.  whether you are ready or not.  there are no extensions for "not having time to rehearse." too bad.  there's an audience out there.

real world translation:  assume that deadlines are there for a reason.  the most mind-boggling thing to me when i started teaching was when students would simply turn something in a week after it was due, and then act like i was being unreasonable if i wouldn't accept it.  i still don't understand why they think this is alright.  deadlines, whether in school, work, applications, etc, are there because they need to be.  there are other things that need to happen based on that timeline, and if you miss the deadline, you either screw up the rest of the process or don't get what you were working toward at all. maybe everyone needs an experience where missing a deadline makes them look the fool (like not knowing any of your lines on opening night) for this concept to sink in.

5- sometimes you don't get the part.
performing means auditioning.  there are almost no productions for which you can just show up and be in it.  that means you have to go to an audition, do your best, and wait to hear if you got cast or not.  and sometimes, the answer is not.  sometimes the part isn't right for you, or someone else is better for it, or you just plain had a bad audition.  it sucks, being told no.  but it happens.  a lot. get over it.

real world translation:  you don't always get to win.  call me a meany-head if you want, but i think that we do a real disservice to our children by giving them a trophy every time they play a game, or doing the whole "e for effort" thing, or making sure everyone gets a "turn" to be whatever they want.  i'm not saying that kids need to be told they are stupid or anything, but there is an element of realism that kids are growing up without these days, and it's becoming an epidemic.  if you suck at basketball, you don't win.  you lose the game.  the world keeps score, and if you lose, you don't get the trophy.  and that is a lesson that we all need to learn: how to lose with grace.  (for more of my ramblings on this topic, see this post here)

6- be grateful to the crew.
sometimes it's easy to think that the only people that matter are the ones onstage.  but if it weren't for the DOZENS of people in the background, nothing would ever get on its feet.  designers, technicians, wardrobe, carpenters, stage management, run crew, business manager, artistic director - if not for all of these people, there would be a whole bunch of people in their street clothes on a bare patch of ground with no costumes, lights, sets, sound, heat, a/c, props, or even an audience to play to.  and if none of those things are there, then it's hardly a production.  being haughty and treating these people as "lesser" is the height of douchey-ness, and very few things make me more upset to witness.  everyone has a part to play in creating the world of the show, and everyone's part is integral to the show's success.  so be grateful, be kind, and be humble.

real world translation: everyone's job is important.  the world would not function as we know it without people to do all the jobs that need doing.  i see kids making fun of the janitors in a school and i want to ask them what they think would happen if there were no janitors.  if, when they stuffed the sink drain full of paper towels and let it run, no one came along to clean up the water and discard the sopping mess in the sink, what would they think?  would they realize that keeping the school clean is everyone's responsibility?  would they think that maybe being a jerk to the janitor is not a very good way to acknowledge that the janitor is a human being who is just doing his part to keep the school running?  would they stop being a**h*les and grow up to be human beings with respect for all the different types of people needed to make the world go round?  the bottom line is that everyone is needed and you shouldn't be a jerk.

7- no one cares how busy you are.
you chose to be in a show.  no one forced you to do it.  no one held a gun to your head and said "you will sing and dance and act, or you will die!"  remember that when you are complaining about balancing life with rehearsal and acting like you don't have time to be there.  if you commit to something, you are adding it to the other things you already do.  you know what those things are, and how much time they take.  if you don't have the time to add in a show, then don't.  if you decide to be in the show, then manage your time so that you can get things done.  that power is in your hands.  do it, don't complain about it, and get to rehearsal on time (see #1).

real world translation: manage your time.  and shut up about it.  everyone is busy.  EVERYONE is busy.  it may be a different kind of busy, but everyone has many things pulling on their time.  and everyone makes choices about adding other activities in to that time.  managing your time is YOUR responsibility, and whether or not someone else is busy in the same way is not at all your concern.  so shut up and just do it.

8- let the rest of the world go for a while.
when you are on stage, there is no taking a quick phone call, or leaving in the middle of the scene to deal with a family crisis or have a fight with your significant other.  no matter what is going on in the rest of your life, the hours that you are on stage can only be about being onstage.  the rest of the world has to wait, because that phone call, the family crisis, the fight, whatever it is, doesn't exist in the world of the show.  let it go. it'll still be there when you come back to the real world.

real world translation:  it's ok to be out of reach for a little bit. the world will not end.  in this age of being constantly available via mobile phone, people forget that this is not a necessity, but rather a luxury of the digital communications age.  there were hundreds of years before the invention of the cell phone (lasting all the way up to my own lifetime) when people couldn't be reached while they were away from home.  the world did not end. in fact, people seemed to be more connected to what they were doing at the moment rather than being preoccupied with the person on the other end of the line.  this was a good thing.  so turn off the phone, let it go to voicemail, check it at the end of the class/meeting/movie/lunch/dinner/whatever you are doing.  it's a wonderful thing.

so there you have it.  these are lessons that a life in the arts taught me.  these and many many more having to do with friendship and being present in the moment and hard work and discipline and the reward that comes with seeing the result of hard work that feels like play.  it also taught me that hard work can be fun, and that life can be fun.  it taught me to be empathetic, and live in someone else's life for a while, taking on their backstory and history and struggles and concerns.  but that's the topic for another post.  this one is long enough and i have to get ready for rehearsal now.